Frequently Asked Questions

What is Title IX?

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 is a law that forbids exclusion or discrimination on the basis of sex in any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance. This includes conventional forms of discrimination, such as differential treatment in academic programs. It also includes discrimination in the form of sexual harassment or violence.

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Does Title IX apply to employees as well as students? Men as well as women?

Yes and yes. Title IX prohibits sex discrimination in “any education program or activity.” MSU’s Sexual Misconduct Policy therefore applies to all members of the university community, including students, faculty and staff. It also applies to independent contractors, visitors on campus, and those participating in university programs such as summer camps and conferences. It applies regardless of a person’s sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

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How does Mississippi State University ensure compliance with Title IX?

The university is committed to maintaining an educational environment free from sex discrimination, sexual violence, or sexual misconduct of any type. The Title IX Coordinator oversees MSU’s efforts to prevent discrimination and misconduct, and to respond effectively when they occur.

The university strongly encourages reporting all forms of sexual misconduct. MSU’s policy is to investigate reports promptly, thoroughly and fairly, in order to ensure the safety of students, employees, and others who participate in our programs. Retaliation against those who report misconduct is not tolerated.

All members of the university community should take time to familiarize themselves with the Sexual Misconduct Policy, which can be found here.

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What is sexual misconduct?

For purposes of university policy, the term “sexual misconduct” refers to unwelcome behavior of a sexual nature committed without effective consent. This includes but is not limited to the following:

  • Sexual Harassment is unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature. It can include verbal or non-verbal communication or physical conduct. Examples of prohibited sexual harassment include, but are not limited to (a) repeated sexual solicitations toward a person who has not indicated they are welcome; (b) conditioning favorable treatment in connection with any university program upon sexual favors; (c) threats of a sexual nature that do not rise to the level of sexual assault or domestic violence; and (d) severe, pervasive, or persistent insults or derisive comments related to sex, gender, or sexual orientation directed at a specific individual.
  • Sexual Assault refers to rape or other physical sexual acts perpetrated against a person without their consent. Sexual assault includes sexual penetration or intercourse or any other physical contact of a sexual nature that occurs without consent.
  • Sexual Exploitation is taking sexual advantage of another person in a way that deliberately infringes on their reasonable expectation of privacy and/or security, but does not involve actual or attempted physical contact. An example of sexual exploitation would be recording images, video or audio of another person engaged in sexual activity or in a state of undress without that person’s consent, even if the sexual activity itself is consensual.
  • Stalking means engaging in a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to fear for their safety or suffer substantial emotional distress. Examples of stalking include but are not limited to physically pursuing a person against their wishes, or sending repeated, unwanted messages by electronic or other means.
  • Domestic/Dating Violence refers to acts of physical violence, or threats of physical violence, committed by a person who is or has been in a social relationship of a romantic or intimate nature with the victim. The violent act itself may or may not be sexual in nature.

The university’s Sexual Misconduct Policy is interpreted in accordance with the rights to free expression held by members of the university community. Thus, the mere expression of opinions, ideas, words or symbols that another person finds objectionable will not, without more, constitute sexual misconduct.

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What is consent to sexual activity?

Consent refers to words or actions that clearly show an active, knowing and voluntary agreement to engage in a particular sexual activity. Consent is determined objectively. This means that an individual is deemed to have given consent when a reasonable person, under the particular circumstances of the encounter, would understand the individual’s words and/or actions as indicating the required agreement.

Consent may be withdrawn at any time by words and/or actions that clearly show the individual no longer wishes to participate. Silence and/or the absence of resistance by themselves are not consent. Consent to engage in sexual activity in the past by itself is not consent to future sexual activity. Consent to engage in sexual activity with one person is not consent to engage in sexual activity with another person.

Other factors that may preclude consent are:

  • Force or coercion. There is no consent when a person submits to sexual activity due to physical force, the threat of physical force, or coercion. Coercion refers to threatening an adverse consequence that would prevent a reasonable person from exercising free will in the decision whether to consent. Coercion is not merely words of persuasion one might reasonably use to seek voluntary consent.
  • Incapacity or impairment. There is no consent if a person is mentally or physically incapacitated or impaired such that they cannot understand the fact, nature, or extent of the sexual situation. This includes impairment or incapacitation due to alcohol or drug consumption if it prevents the person from having such an understanding, as well as being asleep or unconscious. It also includes instances in which a person lacks the required understanding due to medical conditions, or cognitive or other disabilities.
  • Age. There is no consent for purposes of university policy where a person is too young to give effective consent under applicable law. Under Mississippi law, persons under fourteen cannot give effective consent to sexual activity with any person who is more than twenty-four months older. Persons between fourteen and sixteen cannot give consent to anyone who is more than thirty-six months older.

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What should I do if I have experienced sexual assault or other sexual misconduct?

First, you need to ensure your physical safety. Go to a safe place. If you are in danger or need emergency assistance, call 911. If you are not in danger, you can call the MSU Safeline at 662-325-3333. The Safeline is available 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. You will talk to a trained counselor, who will assist you in getting the help you need, including appointing a Sexual Assault Advocate (SAA). This conversation is confidential. You are not required to submit a formal report to the university, although the Safeline can provide information on how to report if you choose to do so.

In addition to the Safeline, there are other options for reporting to the university, or for seeking confidential assistance. You may choose any or all of them, in any order.

1. Reporting to the university

The university encourages anyone who experiences sexual assault or other misconduct to report it. Reporting allows us to provide victims with immediate and longer-term assistance. Reporting also helps us ensure the safety of others on campus by investigating and pursuing appropriate disciplinary action.

While there are many people who are trained to receive your report, the most direct route is to contact one of the following individuals:

2. Confidential assistance.

When you report to the university, we will strive to keep your information as private as possible, but we will have to share it with some people. However, there are people at MSU who can provide fully confidential assistance. They include:

  • Student Counseling Services (662-325-2091) allows students to meet confidentially with mental health counselors. Additionally, Counseling Services can provide a Sexual Assault Advocate, who can offer confidential assistance, including (1) explaining reporting options; (2) providing accompaniment and assistance in seeking medical care or police protection; and (3) seeking other assistance without disclosing the victim’s identity.
  • The Longest Student Health Center (662-325-2431) provides medical care, including emergency care, to members of the university community. Health Center staff also are able to perform a Physical Evidence Recovery Kit (PERK) in cases of rape or sexual assault. Information shared with Health Center staff, including information pertaining to sexual assault or other misconduct, is confidential.
  • The Employee Assistance Program (1-866-219-1232) provides confidential assistance to employees covering a wide range of family, marital, and other issues. The EAP offers telephone counseling and can refer employees for in-person counseling sessions.

Please note that these groups are not required to convey information regarding sexual misconduct to the Title IX Coordinator or anyone else. Consequently, communication with them does not put the university on notice of sexual misconduct, and will not trigger an investigation by the university or any disciplinary proceedings.

3. Anonymous disclosure.

Anonymous complaints of discrimination, sexual misconduct, or other unethical or unlawful behavior can be made through the MSU Ethics Line, a comprehensive and confidential online reporting tool. An online report can be completed via the Ethics Line web page. To submit a report by telephone, dial 877-310-0424.

The MSU Ethics Line is not a 911 or emergency service. If your situation involves any immediate threat, call the MSU Police Department, not the Ethics Line. Also, please note that the Ethics Line is not equivalent to reporting sexual misconduct to the Title IX coordinator. While the university will take appropriate steps to address threats to safety or other ongoing problems identified by anonymous disclosures, its ability to respond, impose discipline, and/or assist the complainant normally will be significantly limited. Members of the community are therefore strongly encouraged to consider the other options for reporting.

4. Reporting to law enforcement.

Sexual misconduct may involve violations of criminal laws. Members of the university community always retain the right to report sexual misconduct to the police, but are not required to do so. Reporting to law enforcement is separate and independent from reporting to the university. If requested, the university can assist you in contacting law enforcement to file a report.

In an emergency, the MSU and Starkville Police Departments can be reached by calling 911. Non-emergency contact information for these agencies is as follows:

MSU Police Department 662-325-2121
Starkville Police Department 662-323-4131
Oktibbeha County Sherriff’s Office 662-323-2421
U.S. Department of Justice - Office of Civil Rights 404-562-7886

Reporting to the MSU Police Department will alert the university and trigger a response by the Title IX Coordinator. Reporting to other law enforcement agencies will not trigger these responses unless and until that agency or the complainant elects to share that information with the university.

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What if I report sexual misconduct to a university employee other than those listed above?

Whenever possible, the university encourages reporting to the Title IX Coordinator or the other individuals listed above, as their positions and training allow them to respond most directly.

If a report is made to an employee of the university other than those listed above, that employee may or may not have a duty to report the complaint to the Title IX Coordinator, depending on the employee’s position and job duties.

Certain university employees are considered “Responsible Employees” for purposes of Title IX and university policy. When a Responsible Employee receives a report of sexual misconduct in which an alleged victim is a student, he or she has a mandatory duty to report that allegation to the Title IX Coordinator.

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Who are MSU’s Responsible Employees?

A Responsible Employee is any MSU employee (a) who has actual authority to redress sexual misconduct by students; (b) who has been given the duty of reporting incidents of sexual misconduct or any other misconduct by students to appropriate university authorities; or (c) who a student would reasonably but mistakenly believe has this authority or duty.  If any of these three elements apply to you, you have a mandatory duty to report sexual misconduct.

The Responsible Employee designation applies to most university employees, including professors and other faculty, deans and department heads, athletic coaches and administrators, personnel in the Dean of Students Office, university Police Department personnel, resident assistants and directors, and any other employee who meets any of the three elements above.  

If you hold a position not listed here, you should assume that you are a Responsible Employee and have a mandatory duty to report sexual misconduct, absent explicit instruction to the contrary from your supervisor.

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What are my reporting obligations as a Responsible Employee?

Responsible Employees are required to notify the university’s Title IX Coordinator when they learn of (1) sexual misconduct involving any member of the university community, or (2) any other sexual misconduct on campus or involving any MSU program or activity. To that end, Responsible Employees should keep the following in mind:

  • Reporting should be prompt. A Responsible Employee should report an incident of sexual misconduct to the Title IX Coordinator as soon as is practical under the circumstances.
  • Reporting is not discretionary. The obligation to report sexual misconduct is not discretionary. A Responsible Employee may not, for example, decide that a matter is not sufficiently serious to report. That is a decision for the Title IX Coordinator and appropriate university officials to make.
  • Independent responses are prohibited. Under no circumstances may any employee, department, organization, or division of the university attempt to resolve unilaterally a complaint of sexual misconduct that is required to be reported under university policy. The Responsible Employee must always notify the Title IX Coordinator, who will determine the correct response after consultation with appropriate officials.
  • Inform students of your obligations. Many Responsible Employees can reasonably anticipate students reporting sexual misconduct to them. The university encourages these employees to inform students of their reporting obligations in advance. When sexual misconduct is actually reported, the employee should tell the reporting person as early in the conversation as possible that any information provided will have to be relayed to the Title IX Coordinator, and that if the reporting person prefers to keep the information confidential, the university has resources such as the Student Counseling Center and Longest Health Center that can provide confidential assistance.
  • Tell the reporting person what will happen next. A Responsible Employees should tell the person reporting sexual misconduct (1) that they will be informing the Title IX Coordinator of the incident; (2) why they are sharing this information—i.e., their obligation to inform those on campus in a position to respond; and (3) that the university will contact them to provide additional information and support.
  • Do not share the information with others. Once you have informed the Title IX Coordinator, your reporting duties are complete. You may not share the information with anyone else. If your supervisor or someone you report to expects to be notified of such reports, you may inform them that you have relayed a complaint to the Title IX Coordinator, and that they may contact the coordinator directly with questions or concerns.

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What about employees with jobs involving confidentiality, like counselors?

Certain employees are specifically exempted from Responsible Employee status. These include (1) licensed counselors, such as those at Student Counseling Services, and their staff members; (2) health care providers and staff, such as those at the Longest Student Health Center; and (3) pastoral counselors.

University policy does not require these employees to relay any information about sexual misconduct that is reported to them. Conferring with these employees is not considered a report to the university, and will not put the university on notice of alleged sexual misconduct or trigger any university investigation or disciplinary proceedings.

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What will happen when I report sexual misconduct to the university?

The Title IX Coordinator or a designee will contact you to learn more about what you have reported. They will inform you of your options for seeking assistance, such as interim housing accommodations, or changes to class or work schedules. The university may also take other interim steps, such as entering a no-contact order between the reporting person and the accused person. The person who contacts you also will explain the investigation and adjudication process.

Under normal circumstances, the university will strive to complete a full investigation within sixty days of a report of sexual misconduct. Depending on the results of the investigation, the university may go forward with disciplinary proceedings against the accused party. For information on the adjudication process, please see below.

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Is there anything I can do to preserve evidence of a sexual assault?

In many cases, yes. The following steps will help to preserve evidence of a rape or other sexual assault:

  • Do not shower or douche.
  • Try not to urinate. Urinating may reduce the ability to detect “date rape” drugs.
  • If there was oral contact, do not smoke, eat, or brush your teeth.
  • Do not change clothes. If you have already changed your clothes, place them in a paper bag, as plastic may destroy evidence. If you haven’t changed, keep the original clothes on and bring an extra set to wear home.
  • A Physical Evidence Recovery Kit (PERK) will preserve help preserve forensic evidence of an assault, and can be performed by staff at the Longest Student Health Center or the OCH Regional Medical Center. Inform your medical care provider that you wish to have a PERK performed as soon as possible.

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What types of assistance can the university provide if I report sexual assault or misconduct?

The university will take steps to assist and protect individuals who report sexual misconduct or seek confidential assistance. The Title IX Coordinator or a designee will discuss potential assistance during an initial meeting with the complaining party. Persons who wish to remain confidential should contact Student Counseling Services, which can refer them to a Sexual Assault Advocate, who can help obtain assistance without triggering a formal investigation.

Assistance may include, but is not limited to:

  • Modifying class or work schedules as necessary;
  • Making alternate housing or workplace arrangements;
  • Addressing other academic or workplace concerns (e.g. assignments, leaves of absence, and withdrawal); and
  • Providing additional and/or targeted educational programming and training.

The university may also issue orders prohibiting contact between the complainant, the accused, and/or any other member of the university community. While these accommodations are most commonly provided to complainants, the university may also make accommodations for the accused or any other person, where it deems them necessary for a prompt, fair, and impartial resolution.

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Will information I convey to the university remain confidential?

The university will strive to keep reported information about sexual misconduct private to the greatest extent possible, but cannot guarantee that all information will be kept confidential. Once a report is submitted to a Responsible Employee, the university has a duty to investigate the matter and ensure the safety of all members of the community. In some instances, this means that certain information must be provided to individuals involved in an investigation.

If a person reports sexual misconduct and requests that their identity or other information be kept private, or that no disciplinary action be pursued, the university will give careful consideration to that request. However, there may be instances in which such requests cannot be honored, as they would impair the university’s ability to ensure a safe and non-discriminatory environment for all students.

If the university determines it can honor a request to keep information private, it will take steps consistent with that request to ensure the safety of the reporting party and others. However, honoring a request for privacy necessarily will impair the university’s ability to investigate and normally will prevent any disciplinary action from being taken against the accused.

If the university determines it cannot honor a request for privacy, it will inform the complainant before any disclosure is made. The university will take whatever steps it deems necessary to protect the complainant and to ensure that information is available only to those who have a legitimate need to know.

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What will happen if the university goes forward with disciplinary proceedings?

All investigations and disciplinary proceedings concerning alleged sexual misconduct or sex discrimination will be conducted in a prompt, fair, and impartial manner by individuals who have received appropriate training on domestic violence, sexual assault and related issues. Procedures for investigation and adjudication are included in the Sexual Misconduct Policy.

Briefly, the Title IX Coordinator will select an appropriately trained person or persons to conduct an investigation. The parties will be advised of the nature of the charges, their rights, and the procedures to be followed at any hearing. The parties will have equal rights throughout the resolution process, and will have an equal opportunity to present relevant witnesses and other evidence if a hearing is necessary.

Hearings will be conducted by appropriately-trained individuals. No student will sit on any Student Conduct Board or other board assigned to hear any charge of sexual misconduct. Both parties will have the right to an advisor at any hearing or meeting related to a sexual misconduct investigation. The advisor may not speak directly to any other party or adjudicator, but may advise the party during the course of the proceeding.

The standard of proof for adjudicating any sexual misconduct charge is a preponderance of the evidence standard. In other words, the evidence must show that it is more likely than not that the alleged sexual misconduct occurred.

Both the complainant and the accused person will be informed simultaneously and in writing of (i) the outcome of any disciplinary proceeding, (ii) the procedures to appeal any result, (iii) any change in the outcome prior to the results becoming final; and (iv) when such results become final.

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What sanctions may be imposed if a person is found responsible for sexual misconduct?

Sanctions for violations of the Sexual Misconduct Policy must be determined based on the facts of each individual case. Sanctions are distinct from non-punitive interventions—such as no-contact orders or changes in housing assignments—which the university may impose to insure the safety of community members.

Sanctions may include, but are not limited to, expulsion, suspension, conduct probation, loss of campus housing, community service, restrictions on privileges, termination of employment, reassignment of employment, restitution, educational requirements, or a formal warning.

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Can a complaint of sexual misconduct be resolved by informal agreement?

It depends on the nature of the misconduct. Informal resolution is never appropriate in cases of alleged sexual assault or physical violence. In addition, the university may determine that other alleged violations are sufficiently serious that informal resolution would be inappropriate. In such cases, the matter will be resolved through formal adjudication.

If the complainant requests informal resolution under circumstances in which it would be appropriate, the university will make reasonable efforts to facilitate it. Informal resolution is strictly voluntary. No one, whether complainant or accused, will be compelled to participate in any mediation or other informal resolution. Further, informal resolution efforts always will be supervised by a properly-trained person, such as an administrator or counselor.

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What if someone attempts to retaliate against me for reporting sexual misconduct?

Retaliation against those who report sex discrimination or sexual misconduct, or who cooperate with an investigation of alleged discrimination or misconduct, whether conducted by the university or any law enforcement agency, is strictly prohibited.

Retaliation is an independent basis for disciplinary action, regardless of the outcome of the underlying complaint. Retaliation includes any adverse action that would deter a reasonable person from reporting, testifying, or otherwise cooperating with an investigation or proceeding. Any such retaliation should be reported immediately to the Title IX Coordinator or the Dean of Students.

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What happens if a deliberately false report of sexual misconduct is submitted?

Submitting a deliberately false report or providing false information in bad faith is prohibited and is grounds for disciplinary action. A report is made in bad faith when the person making it actually knew it was false or made it with reckless disregard for the truth. A report is not made in bad faith merely because the facts asserted later turn out not to be accurate.

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Who is the university’s Title IX Coordinator?

The university’s Title IX Coordinator is:

Brett Harvey
Director of Title IX and EEO Programs
56 Morgan Avenue
Mississippi State, MS 39762
Office: 662-325-8124
Email: titleix@msstate.edu

The Title IX Coordinator is responsible for overseeing the university’s efforts to prevent sexual misconduct, and to respond effectively when it occurs. This includes overseeing training and awareness efforts, investigations, disciplinary proceedings, and other matters. If you have questions about university policy or other matters relating to Title IX, please feel free to contact the coordinator’s office.

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What information about Title IX should course syllabi contain?

All course syllabi should contain the university’s standardized statement on Title IX and sexual misconduct. The statement is:

MSU is committed to complying with Title IX, a federal law that prohibits discrimination, including violence and harassment, based on sex. This means that MSU’s educational programs and activities must be free from sex discrimination, sexual harassment, and other forms of sexual misconduct. If you or someone you know has experienced sex discrimination, sexual violence and/or harassment by any member of the university community, you are encouraged to report the conduct to MSU’s Director of Title IX/EEO Programs at 325-8124 or by e-mail to titleix@msstate.edu. Additional resources are available at http://www.msstate.edu/web/security, or at http://students.msstate.edu/sexualmisconduct/.

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What steps does the university take to improve awareness of sexual misconduct and related issues?

The university’s policy is to provide ongoing training and education to all students and employees on the provisions of this policy and their duties under the same. Training and education programs will include, without limitation:

  • A clear statement of the university’s prohibition of sexual misconduct, including sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking.
  • Information designed to enhance awareness of rape, acquaintance rape, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking.
  • Information on the definition of consent.
  • Information on bystander intervention strategies to safely prevent harm where a threat of sexual misconduct exists.
  • Information on risk reduction, recognizing signs of abusive behavior, and avoiding potential attacks.

The Title IX Coordinator oversees and monitors the university’s training and education efforts to ensure their adequacy for these purposes and their compliance with applicable laws. For information on training, education, and awareness programs available at MSU, please contact the Title IX Coordinator.

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