Sexual misconduct

The Bluffton University Policy and Procedures on Sexual and Gender-Based Misconduct and other Forms of Interpersonal Violence

Bluffton University (“university”) affirms the principle that students, faculty and staff have the right to be free from all forms of sexual misconduct, examples of which can include acts of sexual assault, sex/gender harassment, sex/gender discrimination, sexual exploitation and indecent exposure. Oftentimes, incidents of sexual misconduct also involve other prohibited conduct such as bullying/intimidation, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking. The university prohibits such conduct, regardless of whether it is related to an instance of sexual misconduct. All of the conduct referenced in the prior sentences will be referred to collectively throughout this policy as “prohibited conduct.”

Bluffton University, as an educational community, will promptly and equitably respond to all reports of sexual misconduct in order to eliminate the misconduct, prevent its recurrence and address its effects on any individual and/or the community.

This policy applies to all members of the university community, including students, employees, volunteers, independent contractors, visitors and any individuals regularly or temporarily employed, studying, living, visiting, conducting business or having any official capacity at the university.

Notice of Prohibition of Sex Discrimination
Bluffton University does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, creed, gender, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, ethnicity, national origin, age, disability or any status protected by law in its education programs, employment or activities.

The Bluffton University Policy and Procedures on Sexual and Gender-Based Misconduct and other Forms of Interpersonal Violence (Policy) addresses all forms of sexual discrimination, including sexual misconduct and sexual harassment. Bluffton University does not discriminate on the basis of sex or gender identity in its educational, extracurricular, athletic or other programs or in the context of admissions or employment in accordance with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. Title IX is a federal law that provides, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”


The Policy applies to all of the following areas: 

  •  On the Bluffton University campus including the Nature Preserve
  •  Off campus, including online or electronic conduct if the conduct occurs: 
    • In houses owned by the university in which faculty, staff or students may be living. 
    • In connection with a university-related program or activity including university-sponsored study abroad, internships and athletic contests.
    • When the behavior may pose a serious threat of harm to any member(s) of the university community.
    • When the behavior may have the effect of creating a hostile environment for any member(s) of the university community. 

Regardless of when or where the conduct occurs, the university will offer resources and assistance to community members who experience and/or are affected by prohibited conduct. In those instances when this Policy does not apply, the university will assist Reporting Party in identifying and contacting external law enforcement. 


The definitions below include, but are not limited to, the following:

Sexual harassment
Sexual assault
Sexual exploitation
Bullying and intimidation
Indecent exposure
Intimate-partner violence

Sexual harassment is any unwelcome sexual advance, request for sexual favors, or other unwanted verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. Sexual harassment also includes harassment based on gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression, which may include acts of verbal, nonverbal, or physical aggression, intimidation, or hostility based on sex/gender or sex/gender-stereotyping, even if the acts do not involve conduct of a sexual nature.

Sexual harassment may include conduct that creates a hostile environment, takes the form of quid pro quo harassment, or is retaliatory in nature.

Hostile Environment

A hostile environment is created when sexual harassment is sufficiently severe, or persistent or pervasive, and objectively offensive, resulting in unreasonable interference with, denial of or limitation of someone’s ability to participate in or benefit from the university’s educational, employment, social and/or residential programs.   The university will assess objective and subjective factors in determining whether a hostile environment exists.   A single, isolated incident of sexual harassment alone may create a hostile environment if the incident is sufficiently severe, such as rape or other forms of sexual assault. The more severe the conduct, the less need there is to show that the conduct was persistent or pervasive in nature.

Quid Pro Quo Harassment

Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature by a person having power or authority over another constitutes sexual harassment when submission to such sexual conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of rating or evaluating an individual’s educational or employment progress, development or performance.

Includes when submission to such conduct would be a condition for access to receiving the benefits of any educational or employment program.

Examples of sexual harassment include, but are not limited to:

  • An attempt to coerce an unwilling person into a sexual relationship
  • Repeatedly subjecting a person to egregious, unwelcome sexual attention
  • Punishment for a refusal to comply with a sexual-based request
  • Conditioning a benefit on submitting to sexual advances
  • Sexual violence
  • Intimate partner violence
  • Stalking
  • Gender-based bullying

It is important to Bluffton that individuals feel free to come forward, and not wait until issues of sexual harassment become severe or pervasive prior to reporting the conduct and seeking assistance. Reports of sexual harassment that may not rise to the level of creating a hostile environment will still be investigated and addressed by the university so as to prevent further incidents from occurring.

Sexual Assault
Sexual assault is any intentional sexual contact, however slight, by a person upon another person, without consent.


  • Any sexual intercourse which includes: vaginal or anal penetration by a penis, object, tongue or finger, and oral copulation (mouth to genital contact), no matter how slight the penetration or contact, by a person upon another person.
  • Intentional contact with another person’s breasts, buttock, groin or genitals, or touching another with any of these body parts, or making another touch you or themselves with or on any of these body parts.
  • Any other intentional bodily contact in a sexual manner.

Consent means an informed, freely given agreement, communicated by clearly understandable words or actions, to participate in each form of sexual activity.

Guidance for consent:

  • Consent cannot be inferred from silence, passivity or lack of active resistance.
  • A current or previous dating or sexual relationship is not sufficient to constitute consent, and consent to one form of sexual activity does not imply consent to other forms of sexual activity.
  • When consent is requested verbally, absence of any explicit verbal response constitutes lack of consent.
  • A verbal “no” constitutes lack of consent, even if it sounds insincere or indecisive.
  • Consent is not freely given when it is obtained by force or violence, a threat of force or violence or any other form of physical or psychological coercion or intimidation.
  • Either person may withdraw consent at any time. Withdrawal of consent may be demonstrated by words or actions that express a desire to end sexual activity. Once withdrawal of consent has been expressed, sexual activity must cease.
  • A person who is the object of sexual aggression is not required to physically or otherwise resist the aggressor; the lack of informed, freely given consent to sexual contact constitutes sexual misconduct.
  • Intoxication is not an excuse for failure to obtain consent.
  • A person incapacitated by alcohol or drug consumption, or who is unconscious or asleep or otherwise physically or mentally impaired, is incapable of giving consent.
  • A person who is below the legal age of consent is incapable of giving consent.

Sexual Exploitation
Sexual exploitation occurs when one person takes nonconsensual or abusive sexual advantage of another for her/his own advantage or benefit, or to benefit or advantage anyone other than the one being exploited, and that behavior does not otherwise constitute one of the other sexual misconduct offenses.

Examples of sexual exploitation include, but are not limited to:

  • Invasion of sexual privacy
  • Prostituting another person
  • Non-consensual digital, video or audio recording of nudity or sexual activity
  • Unauthorized sharing or distribution of digital, video or audio recording of nudity or sexual activity
  • Engaging in voyeurism
  • Going beyond the boundaries of consent (such as letting your friend hide in the closet to watch you having consensual sex)
  • Knowingly exposing someone to or transmitting a sexually transmitted infection or HIV to another person
  • Intentionally or recklessly exposing one’s genitals in non-consensual circumstances
  • Sexually-based stalking and/or bullying may also be forms of sexual exploitation

Bullying and Intimidation
Bullying includes any intentional electronic, written, verbal or physical act or a series of acts directed at another person or persons on the basis of sex, gender, gender identity or sexual orientation, that is severe, persistent or pervasive and that has the intended effect of substantially interfering with a person’s education or work; creating a threatening environment; or substantially disrupting the orderly operation of the university.

Intimidation includes any verbal, written or electronic threats of violence or other threatening behavior directed toward another person or group on the basis of sex, gender, gender identity or sexual orientation that reasonably leads the person(s) in the group to fear for her/his physical well-being.

Stalking includes repeated conduct involving unwanted attention, harassment, physical or verbal contact or any other repeated conduct that would place a reasonable person in fear of physical, emotional or psychological harm.

Stalking includes the concept of cyberstalking. Cyberstalking is a particular form of stalking in which electronic media such as the Internet, social networks, blogs, cell phones, texts, or other similar devices or forms of contact are used to pursue, harass or to make unwelcome contact with another person in an unsolicited fashion.

Examples of stalking include, but are not limited to:

  • Unwelcome and repeated visual or physical proximity to a person
  • Repeated oral or written threats
  • Extortion of money or valuables
  • Unwelcome/unsolicited written communication, including letters, cards, emails, instant messages and messages on online bulletin boards and/or social media
  • Unwelcome/unsolicited communications about a person, her/his family, friends, or co-workers
  • Sending/posting unwelcome/unsolicited messages with an assumed identity
  • Direct physical and/or verbal threats against a victim or a victim’s loved ones
  •  Vandalism
  •  Trespassing
  • Unsolicited and unwanted gifts
  • Manipulative and controlling behaviors such as threats to harm oneself, or someone close to the victim
  • Any combination of these behaviors directed toward an individual person

 Indecent exposure
A person commits indecent exposure if that person exposes her/his genitals or any female exposes her breasts in any public place or in any place where there are other persons present under circumstances in which one knows or should know that this conduct is likely to offend, affront or alarm.

 Intimate-Partner Violence
Intimate-partner violence, also referred to as dating violence, domestic violence and relationship violence, includes any act of violence or threatened act of violence against a person who is or has been involved in a sexual, dating, domestic or other intimate relationship with that person. It may involve one act or an ongoing pattern of behavior. Intimate-partner violence can encompass a broad range of behavior including, but not limited to, physical violence, sexual violence, emotional violence, and economic abuse. Intimate-partner violence may take the form of threats, assault, property damage, violence or threat of violence to one’s self, one’s sexual or romantic partner, or to the family members or friends of the sexual or romantic partner.

Bluffton University utilizes the Ohio Revised Code definition of an incapacitated person which means “a person who is impaired for any reason to the extent that he/she lacks sufficient understanding or capacity to make and carry out reasonable decisions concerning the person’s self or resources.”

In evaluating consent in cases of alleged incapacitation, the university asks two questions: (1) Did the person initiating sexual activity know that the other party was incapacitated? and, if not, (2) Should a sober, reasonable person, in the same situation, have known that the other party was incapacitated? If the answer to either of these questions is “yes,” consent was absent and the conduct is likely a violation of this Policy.

One is not expected to be a medical expert in assessing incapacitation. One must look for the common and obvious warning signs that show that a person may be incapacitated or approaching incapacitation. Although every individual may manifest signs of incapacitation differently, typical signs often include slurred or incomprehensible speech, unsteady manner of walking, combativeness, emotional volatility, vomiting or incontinence. A person who is incapacitated may not be able to understand some or all of the following questions: Do you know where you are? Do you know how you got here? Do you know what is happening? Do you know whom you are with?

Coercion is conduct, including intimidation and express or implied threats of immediate or future physical, emotional, reputational, financial, or other harm toward another, that would reasonably place the other in fear, and that is used to compel the other individual to engage in an activity.

Force is the use or threat of violence or intimidation to overcome an individual’s freedom of will to choose whether to participate in an activity

Title IX Coordinator and Team

The Title IX Coordinator is the designated university official with primary responsibility for coordinating the university’s compliance with Title IX and overseeing the implementation of grievance procedures, which include notification, investigation and disposition of reports of sexual misconduct. The Title IX Coordinator will coordinate the provision of educational materials and training for the campus community, and will ensure a fair and neutral process for all parties and monitor all other aspects of the university’s Title IX compliance.

The president of the university has appointed Mark Bourassa, associate director of student life, as the Title IX Coordinator. Additionally, the president has appointed Scott Sharik, director of human resources, as the Title IX Deputy Coordinator.


Making a Report
Bluffton University strongly supports and encourages prompt reporting of sexual misconduct. Prompt reporting helps to provide immediate resources to victims and contributes to keeping the campus safe. Additionally, prompt reporting helps to ensure preservation of evidence that may assist in proving a violation of university Policy and/or a criminal offense. All Bluffton community members (students, staff and faculty) should help ensure that violations of Title IX are promptly reported. Most employees are mandatory reporters as defined by state law. Normally, this means reporting any witnessed violations, or violations learned about through the disclosure of others. Reporting is not the same as filing a formal report.

If a person believes he or she, or someone he or she knows, has been the victim of sexual misconduct, he or she must promptly make a report to the university’s Title IX Coordinator, the university’s Title IX Deputy Coordinator, or a member of the Bluffton University residence life staff.

A person filing a report will be provided a copy of the Policy.

Instances of sexual misconduct may violate both university Policy and the law. As a result, the university encourages victims to pursue their complaints through both the university’s processes and the criminal justice system. The Bluffton Police Department, which can be reached at 419-358-4050, can explain the procedures for pursuing a criminal investigation. The Bluffton Police Department will investigate every incident reported to it to determine if a crime has been committed.

Finally, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights is a federal entity charged with enforcing Title IX compliance. Inquiries about these issues and complaints regarding violations of rights guaranteed under Title IX may also be referred to the Office for Civil Rights/Cleveland at U.S. Department of Education, 600 Superior Avenue East, Suite 750, Cleveland, OH 44114, or by calling 216-522-4970.

In the event that the university receives a report of prohibited conduct from a minor, the university will make all necessary reports and disclosures pursuant to Ohio law. The university will take any further steps necessary to protect the minor from further prohibited conduct and/or harm.

Administrative Report
The university has the authority to institute an administrative complaint against any student, faculty member, administrator, or staff member if a violation of the Policy occurs.

Criminal Proceedings
Because sexual misconduct can constitute both a violation of university policy and criminal activity, the university encourages people to report alleged acts promptly to the Bluffton Police Department. In addition to helping ensure protection for the campus community, criminal investigations may be useful in gathering of relevant evidence, particularly forensic evidence.

University proceedings will be instituted against a person charged with conduct that potentially violates both the criminal law and the Policy without regard to the pendency of civil or criminal litigation. University proceedings may be carried out prior to, simultaneously with, or following civil or criminal proceedings. Determinations made or sanctions imposed by the university will not necessarily be subject to change because criminal charges arising out of the same facts giving rise to violation of university policy were dismissed, reduced, or resolved in favor of or against the criminal law defendant.

False Reports
The university will not tolerate intentional false reporting of incidents. It is a violation of the Student Code of Conduct to make an intentionally false report of any Policy violation, and it may also violate state criminal statutes and civil defamation laws.

Amnesty for Those Who Report Sexual Misconduct
The university encourages reporting and seeks to remove any barriers to reporting by making the procedures for reporting transparent and straightforward. The university recognizes that an individual who has been violating other campus policies (alcohol, drug, open hours, etc.) at the time of an act of sexual misconduct may be hesitant to make a report because of potential consequences for her/his own conduct. An individual who reports sexual misconduct, either as a Reporting Party or a third-party witness, will not be subject to disciplinary action by the university for her/his own personal violation of campus policy at or near the time of the incident, provided that any such violations did not and do not place the health or safety of any other person at risk. The university may, however, initiate an educational discussion or pursue other educational remedies regarding alcohol or other drugs.

Privacy of Information
The Title IX Coordinator or designee will seek consent from the Reporting Party before beginning a formal investigation. If the Reporting Party requests confidentiality or asks that the report not be pursued, the university will take all reasonable steps to investigate and respond to the report consistent with the request for confidentiality or the request not to pursue an investigation. The university will evaluate such requests in the context of its responsibility to provide a safe and nondiscriminatory environment for all members of the community. Thus, the university may weigh the request for confidentiality against factors including but not limited to the following: the seriousness of the alleged harassment; the Reporting Party’s age; whether there have been other harassment complaints about the same individual; and the alleged harasser’s rights to receive information about the allegations if the information is maintained by the school as an “education record” under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), 20 U.S.C. § 1232g; 34 C.F.R. Part 99.15

If the university determines that it cannot ensure confidentiality, it will notify the Reporting Party of that determination. If a Reporting Party insists that his or her name or other identifiable information not be disclosed to the alleged perpetrator, the university will inform the Reporting Party that the university’s ability to respond may be limited. Even if the university cannot take disciplinary action against the alleged perpetrator because the Reporting Party insists on confidentiality, the university will attempt to pursue other steps to limit the effects of the improper conduct and prevent its recurrence.

The university will also inform the Reporting Party that Title IX prohibits retaliation, and that it will take action to prevent retaliation as well as action against anyone who engages in retaliation.

Campus and Pastoral Counseling
If a Reporting Party would like to discuss the details of the incident but not report the incident to the university’s Title IX Coordinator, the Reporting Party may speak with:

  • Campus Counselor Ms. Rae Staton; Health and Counseling Center, lower level of Ropp Hall; 419-358-3449;
  • Campus Pastor Stephen “Tig” Intagliata, Room 224, Schultz Hall, Riley Court; 419-358-3219;

The above employees will maintain confidentiality except in extreme cases of immediate threat or danger, or abuse of a minor. Campus counselors are available to help students free of charge and can be seen on an emergency basis during normal business hours. These employees will submit per semester anonymous, aggregate statistical information for Clery Act purposes unless they believe it would be harmful to a specific student. No personally identifiable information will be disclosed when reporting this statistical information.

While campus and pastoral counselors are not required, in most cases, to make a report to the Title IX Coordinator, the university encourages the campus and pastoral counselors, if and when they deem it appropriate, to inform the person they are counseling to consult this Policy for information in the event that the person wishes to ultimately make a report to the Title IX Coordinator.

Counseling and health services are also available to the Responding Party.

 Initial Assessment

After receiving a report of prohibited conduct committed by a student, the Title IX Coordinator or designee will make an initial assessment of the reported information and respond to any immediate health or safety concerns raised by the report. As part of the initial assessment, the Title IX Coordinator will assess the Reporting Party’s safety and well-being and offer the university’s immediate support and assistance; assess the nature and circumstances of the report, including whether it provides the names and/or any other information that personally identifies the Reporting Party, the Respondent, any witness and/or any other individual with knowledge of the reported incident; and ascertain the ages of the Reporting Party and Respondent, if known, and, if either of the parties is a minor (under 18), take all necessary actions based upon the facts and circumstances of the case, including contacting the appropriate child protective service agency, if required by law. The Title IX Coordinator will also ensure that the Reporting Party receives a written explanation of all available resources and options, including the following:

  • Immediate support and assistance available through university resources and the Reporting Parties right to supportive measures regardless of whether they choose to participate in a university or law enforcement investigation;
  • The Reporting Party’s right to seek medical treatment and information on preserving potentially key forensic and other evidence;
  • The Reporting Party’s right to seek protective measures when the university pursues an investigation;
  • The university’s prohibition against retaliation, that the university will take prompt action when retaliation is reported and how to report acts of retaliation; and
  • The opportunity to meet with the Title IX Coordinator in person to discuss their resources, rights and options.

When the Title IX Coordinator decides to initiate an investigation, impose protective measures, or take any other action that impacts a Respondent, the Title IX Coordinator will meet with the Respondent to also ensure that Respondent is notified and receives written information on available resources and options. The Title IX Coordinator will ensure that a Respondent is informed of:

  • The nature of the investigation, the identities of the parties (if known), the Reporting Party’s written statement or if there is no written statement, a concise summary of the conduct at issue, and potential Policy violations;
  • The immediate support and assistance available through university resources;
  • The university’s prohibition against retaliation, that the university will take prompt action when retaliation is reported and how to report acts of retaliation; and
  • The opportunity to meet with the Title IX Coordinator in person to discuss their resources and options.

Protective Measures
Upon notification of sexual misconduct, the university will offer interim support and reasonable protective measures designed to prevent further acts of misconduct and to provide a safe educational and/or work environment. The university will determine the necessity and scope of any interim measures. Even if a Reporting Party or Responding Party does not specifically request that protective action be taken, the university may choose to impose interim measures at its discretion to ensure the safety of any individual, the broader university community or the integrity of the review process.

Persons seeking such assistance should speak with the Title IX Coordinator or the Title IX Deputy Coordinator, who will coordinate such requests on behalf of the person. The university will maintain contact with the parties to ensure that all concerns regarding safety and emotional or physical well-being are being addressed.

All individuals are encouraged to report concerns about failure of another individual to abide by any restrictions imposed by an interim measure. The university will take immediate and responsive action to enforce measures previously ordered or implemented by the university.

The university may impose any remedy that can be tailored to the involved parties to achieve the goals of this Policy, even if not specifically listed here. The range of interim measures may include:

  • NO CONTACT ORDER: A Reporting Party or Responding Party may request, or the university may impose, communication and contact restrictions to prevent further potentially harmful interaction. These communication and contact restrictions generally prohibit in-person, telephone, electronic or third-party communications. In some cases, an individual may also wish to consider a protection order from the local courts. This is a civil proceeding independent of the university. If a court order is issued, the university will, to the best of the institution’s ability, assist the protected person in benefiting from the restrictions imposed by the court and facilitate on-campus compliance with the order. The university may also limit an individual’s or organization’s access to certain university facilities or activities as part of the no-contact order.

    A Reporting Party will be offered the ability to request an academic or employment accommodation or a change in residence after a report of sexual misconduct. An individual who requests assistance in changing his or her academic, employment or living situation after an incident of sexual misconduct will receive appropriate and reasonably available accommodations. The university will keep all such accommodations confidential, unless maintaining such confidentiality would impair the university’s ability to provide the accommodation(s).

    These accommodations may include, but are not limited to:

    • Academic accommodations, including a change in class schedule, taking an incomplete, dropping a course without penalty, attending a class via electronic or other alternative means, providing an academic tutor, or extending deadlines for assignments.
    • Change of residential living assignment.
    • Change in work assignment or schedule..
    • Providing an escort to ensure safe movement around campus.
    • Emotional support, including access to counseling services through the Health and Counseling Center or assistance in obtaining a referral to off‑campus agencies.
  • INTERIM SEPARATION: Where the report of sexual misconduct poses an ongoing risk of harm to the safety or well-being of an individual or members of the campus community, the university may place an individual or organization on interim suspension or impose leave for an employee. Pending resolution of the report, the individual or organization may be denied access to campus. When interim suspension or leave is imposed, the university will make reasonable efforts to complete the investigation and resolution in an expedited time frame. If a decision is made to impose an interim separation, the notification and appeal procedures of the emergency withdrawl process will be followed. This information can be found in the student handbook by following the link

Victim Support Information
Bluffton University is committed to providing support for students who have been victims of sexual misconduct in any form. Below is a brief description of resources available. For more information or to request accommodation which may not be listed, victims should contact the Title IX Coordinator or the Title IX Deputy Coordinator.

Available Resources:

  • Assistance finding confidential counseling and support either through the on-campus Health and Counseling Center or off-campus at Crime Victim Services, at 877-867-7273.
  • Assistance finding confidential medical services either through the on-campus Health and Counseling Center or through referrals to an outside agency.
  • Assistance making a police report, which could include accessing a trained victim’s advocate from Crime Victim Services. A victim may seek support from Crime Victim Services by contacting that agency at 877-867-7273.


A complete and thorough investigation into a complaint or report will be conducted by the Title IX team or its designee. The preliminary investigation shall be concluded within a reasonable amount of time. Unless extenuating circumstances necessitate a longer time frame, the report and resolution will be completed within sixty (60) days. The investigation will be conducted in a manner that is thorough, reliable, and impartial, and will likely include interviews of the parties involved, interviews of witnesses, and gathering of other relevant information and documentation.

If a conflict of interest between the university and the Reporting and/or Responding Parties is identified by the Title IX Coordinator, Deputy Coordinators or president of the university, investigators from outside of the institution may be employed to complete the investigation.

Campus Conduct Process for Formal Complaints

    • Reporting Party: any person who submits a charge alleging a violation of the Policy.
    • Responding Party: any person accused of violating the Policy.
    • Investigator: any person formally trained and employed by the university to gather information and present a report of the information gathered related to the report.
    • Review Panel: the group of three trained faculty, staff and administrators employed by the university to review the report and initial recommendation from the investigators and make final determinations as to whether the Responding Party is in violation of the Policy and possible sanctions.

    • Advocate: any one person who is invited by the Reporting Party or the Responding Party to attend any meetings, sessions or conferences with the intent to advise the Reporting Party or the Responding Party. The Advocate’s role is advisory only; the Advocate is not permitted to question conference participants, speak to the Investigators or Review Panel or make public comments during any meetings, sessions or conferences.

    • Support Person: any one person invited by the Reporting Party or Responding Party to attend meetings, sessions or conferences with the intent of supporting the Reporting Party or Responding Party. The Support Person is not permitted to question conference participants, speak to the investigators or review panel or make public comments during any meetings, sessions or conferences.

      Parties should select individuals as an Advocate and/or Support Person whose schedule allows attendance at the scheduled date and time for all meetings, sessions or conferences. Delays will not normally be allowed due to the scheduling conflicts of an Advocate.


    Preliminary Investigation:

    • Once the university receives notice of a possible violation of the Policy, the Title IX Coordinator (Coordinator) or Deputy Coordinator (Deputy) will conduct a preliminary inquiry to determine if the allegations fit within the parameters of the Policy and if there is a Reporting Party who desires to move forward with a formal investigation. Unless extenuating circumstances exist, the preliminary inquiry will be completed within five (5) business days.
    • The Responding Party will be given an opportunity to respond to the report.
    • If the Coordinator or Deputy determines an investigation is appropriate, he or she will officially notify the Reporting and Responding Party of the allegation and investigation in writing and provide each party with a copy of this Policy. In this notice, each Party will be alerted that he/she can identify up to two individuals to attend meetings in the capacity of an Advocate and a Support Person (one of each).

    • Upon completion of preliminary investigation, the Coordinator or designee will determine the course of action under this Policy, which may include:

      • Formal resolution: includes (a) an investigation to determine, by a preponderance of the evidence, if there has been a Policy violation; (b) the imposition of sanctions and other appropriate remedies if there has been a finding; and (c) the opportunity to challenge the outcome of the investigation or the sanction through an appeal;
      • Student conduct system: if a responding party accepts responsibility for the alleged violation, the process will be handled through the regular student conduct system (; or
      • Additional remedies: may include training and other educational measures to members of the university community

The Title IX Coordinator’s course of action will be guided by: (1) whether the Reporting Party wishes to pursue formal resolution, requests anonymity, requests that an investigation not be pursued, and/or requests that no disciplinary action be taken; (2) the availability of information or evidence suggesting that a Policy violation may have occurred; and (3) the university’s Title IX obligation to investigate or otherwise determine what happened and take corrective action as appropriate to eliminate, prevent and address the effects of the prohibited conduct.

    • The Coordinator or Deputy will assign two formally trained Title IX investigators to gather information relating to the Reporting Party’s report. The names of the investigators will be reviewed with both the Reporting and Responding Parties for input as to a possible conflict of interest. In the event that the Coordinator or Deputy concludes that a conflict of interest exists, a new investigator(s) will be selected.

    • Investigators will interview those involved in the incident including witnesses identified by the Reporting and Responding Parties. Investigators will review the notes from interviews with the interviewees to ensure that the notes reflect a complete and accurate representation of the interview. Comments regarding notes on which the interviewer and Reporting or Responding Party do not agree will be included as part of the final report presented to the Review Panel. Investigators will also review any written documentation identified by either Party as relevant, so long as the Investigator is able to obtain such documentation.
    • Investigators will produce a final report. Unless extenuating circumstances exist, the Investigator(s) will author a final report within sixty (60) days of the Investigator’s assignment to the investigation.
    • Investigators will promptly schedule separate meetings with the Reporting and Responding Parties to present the Investigator’s final report. At this time, the Parties will be given the opportunity to respond in writing to the report.

    • The Investigators will then review the Review Panel Process with the Reporting and Responding Parties, provide this process in writing and answer any questions the parties may have regarding the process.

    • The Title IX Coordinator will assign a three member review panel to determine if a violation occurred based on a preponderance of evidence standard (is it more likely than not that a violation occurred) and if necessary, sanctions for the violation(s).
    • The three-member hearing panel will consist of the chair of the campus conduct board committee, a trained investigator (one who has not been assigned to the case) and a Title IX Deputy Coordinator.
    • The Reporting and Responding Parties and their support and/or advocates as well as the two investigators will meet with the review panel to allow for questions and responses to the final report. Witnesses may also be present. Parties can choose to be present via electronic means to allow for the two parties to not be physically present in the room at the same time.

    • At the panel review hearing the Reporting and Responding Parties have an opportunity to make opening statements. The review panel will then have an opportunity to ask questions of both parties. If witnesses are present, they would make their statements and then be questioned by the panel and/or either Party. The Reporting and Responding Parties may also address questions to each other, the witnesses and/or the panel members after these individuals present.

    • The Deputy Coordinator (the one who serves on the hearing panel) will notify the Reporting Party and Responding Party in writing of the panel’s decision. The review panel will have five (5) business days to render a decision. The Reporting and Responding Party will also be provided written notification of the university’s appeal procedures.

Any notifications sent pursuant to this Policy will not constitute a violation of section 444 of the General Education Provisions Act (20 U.S.C. § 1232g), commonly known as the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA).

Sanctions: The following sanctions may be imposed upon any member of the community found to have violated the Policy. The following are the typical sanctions that may be imposed upon students or employees:

STUDENT SANCTIONS (listed below and defined in Student Handbook)

Written warning
Community service
Organizational sanctions
Other actions
Withholding diploma

The following are the typical sanctions that may be imposed upon an employee:

EMPLOYEE SANCTIONS (as defined in Employee Handbook)

Warning – written or verbal
Performance improvement plan
Required counseling
Required training or education
Suspension without pay
Suspension with pay
Revocation of tenure

Examples of Sanctioning for Sexual Misconduct

  • Any person found responsible for nonconsensual sexual contact (where no intercourse has occurred) will likely receive a sanction ranging from probation to expulsion, depending on the severity of the incident, and taking into account any previous disciplinary violations.*
  • Any person found responsible for nonconsensual sexual intercourse will likely face a recommended sanction of suspension or expulsion (student) or suspension or termination (employee).*
  • Any person found responsible for sexual exploitation or sexual harassment will likely receive a recommended sanction ranging from warning to expulsion or termination, depending on the severity of the incident, and taking into account any previous disciplinary violations.*

*The decision-making body reserves the right to broaden or lessen any range of recommended sanctions in the case of serious mitigating circumstances or egregiously offensive behavior. Neither the review panel nor any appeals body or officer will deviate from the range of recommended sanctions unless compelling justification exists to do so.

A decision reached by the Review Panel may be appealed by the Reporting or Responding Party to the vice president for enrollment management (vice president) or a designee. An appeal must be submitted in writing within five (5) business days of receiving the decision of the Review Panel. An appeal will only be considered if it falls within one of the following categories:

  •  A procedural error or omission occurred that significantly impacted the outcome of the Review Panel.
  • Sanction(s) imposed were substantially disproportionate to the severity of the violation of the Policy which the Responding Party was found to have committed.
  • To consider new information, sufficient to alter a decision, or other relevant facts not brought out in the original investigation, because such information and/or facts were not known to the person appealing at the time of the original investigation. If the Reporting or Responding Party claims a “Conflict of Interest” with the Title IX Coordinator, their appeal will be assigned to a Deputy Coordinator for review and decision.

The vice president or designee will notify the opposing party of the appeal and afford that party the opportunity to author a written response within five (5) business days of the notification.

The vice president or designee will notify the Reporting and Responding Parties in writing within five (5) business days of the appeal decision. The appeal decision of the vice president or designee is the final decision of the university.

If an appeal is upheld by the vice president or designee, the matter shall be returned to the original Review Panel to allow reconsideration of the original determination and/or sanction(s). The vice president or designee may also remand the hearing back to a new panel or order a new investigation.

If an appeal is not upheld, the matter shall be considered final and binding upon all involved.

The university prohibits any forms of retaliation against an individual or the individual’s family or friends for the purpose of interfering with that individual’s rights or privileges secured under Title IX. This means that the university will not tolerate any form of retaliation taken against anyone who reports or publicly opposes conduct prohibited by this Policy, or anyone who cooperates in the investigation of a report of conduct prohibited by this Policy.

Bystander intervention

The university offers programs regarding bystander intervention. The bystander intervention programs are designed to provide safe and positive options that may be carried out by an individual or individuals to prevent harm or intervene when there is a risk of dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking. Bystander intervention includes recognizing situations of potential harm, understanding institutional structures and cultural conditions that facilitate violence, overcoming barriers to intervening, identifying safe and effective intervention options and taking action to intervene.

The university expects all community members to take reasonable and prudent actions to prevent or stop an act of sexual misconduct. Taking action may include direct intervention, calling law enforcement or seeking assistance from a person in authority. The university will support its members who choose to intervene in this fashion.

Education and programs

The university provides educational programming to prevent dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking, which would also include promoting the awareness of rape, acquaintance rape, other forcible and non-forcible sex offenses and procedures to follow when a sex offense occurs. This programming involves primary prevention programs, awareness programs and ongoing prevention programs.

The primary prevention programs offered by the university include programming, initiatives and strategies informed by research or assessed for value, effectiveness or outcome that are intended to stop dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking before they occur through the promotion of positive behaviors that foster healthy, mutually, respectful relationships and sexuality; encourage safe bystander intervention; and seek to change behavior and social norms in healthy and safe directions.

The university will also offer ongoing prevention and awareness campaigns, which include programming, initiatives and strategies that are sustained and focused on increasing understanding of topics relevant to and skill for addressing dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking.

This information delivered in these programs, as well as the programs offered regarding bystander intervention, is designed to assist in reducing the risk of violence in the campus community. Risk reduction information is designed to decrease perpetration and bystander inaction, and to increase empowerment for victims in order to promote safety and to help individuals and communities address conditions that facilitate violence.

All new full-time students and employees complete an online training module which addresses the issues surrounding sex discrimination and behaviors that may be associated with violations of university Policy. Incoming students are required to prove they have completed the online training module prior to attending classes.

Employees must complete the module within the first month of their employment start date.

Additional programming is offered to both new and upper-class students, faculty and staff, including passive and active programs.

The Title IX team and investigators receive yearly training focused on adjudicating cases of sex discrimination.

Access to policy

The Policy is published online on the Bluffton University website. It is included in the Student Handbook distributed electronically yearly to all students, and can be found in the Faculty and Employee Handbooks. The most up-to-date version of the Policy is available online and can be updated any time throughout the academic year.

Policy review

This Policy is maintained by Title IX Coordinator. The university will review and update this Policy, as appropriate, each year. The university will evaluate, among other things, any changes in legal requirements, existing university resources and the resolution of cases from the preceding year.


If you are in need of help, please contact the Title IX Coordinator or the Title IX Deputy

Title IX Coordinator: mark bourassa

Marbeck Center  •  1 University Drive  •  Bluffton, Ohio 45817
419-358-3248  •

Title IX Deputy Coordinator: Scott Sharik

College Hall  •  1 University Drive  •  Bluffton, Ohio 45817
419-358-3377  •  

Title IX Deputy Coordinator: Iris Neufeld

College Hall  •  1 University Drive  •  Bluffton, Ohio 45817
419-358-3322  •


Campus Counselor: Ms. Rae Staton 

Health and Counseling Center in the lower level of Ropp Hall
419-358-3449 •



Room 224 of Schultz Hall in Riley Court
419-358-3219  •