Procedures and Rules for Decorum for Adjudication under the Sexual Misconduct Policy

The elements established in the Sexual Misconduct Policy for Faculty, Staff, and Students have no effect and are not transferable to any other policy of Rice University for any violation of the Code of Student Conduct, employment policies, or any civil rights violation, except as narrowly defined in the Sexual Misconduct Policy for Faculty, Staff, and Students. This Policy does not set a precedent for other policies or processes of Rice University and may not be cited for or against any right or aspect of any other policy or process.

In the event of a discrepancy between this document and Policy 828, 829, 830 or the Code of Student Conduct then those policies take precedence.

This procedure is issued by the Title IX Coordinator and may be updated as necessary, in consultation with Student Judicial Programs and Office of General Counsel.


  1. If a student provides notice that they require assistance in filing a formal complaint of sexual misconduct, the student will be provided a Title IX navigator and will be provided support.
  2. To file a formal complaint, a complainant must provide the Title IX Coordinator a written, signed complaint describing the basis of their complaint in accordance with the Sexual Misconduct Policy for Faculty, Staff, and Students. Complainants are only able to file a formal complaint under this policy if they are currently participating in, or attempting to participate in, the education programs or activities of Rice, including as an employee. For complainants who do not meet these criteria, Rice will utilize existing policy in the Code of Student Conduct or the Discrimination and Harassment policy.
  3. If the complaint involves multiple parties or multiple complaints, the Title IX Coordinator may consolidate Formal Complaints alleging covered sexual harassment against more than one respondent, or by more than one complainant against one or more respondents, or by one party against the other party, where the allegations of covered sexual harassment arising out of the same facts or circumstances.
  4. As soon as practicable and if there are no extenuating circumstances, once a complaint is submitted in accordance with Sexual Misconduct Policy for Faculty, Staff, and Students, the Title IX Coordinator will simultaneously provide both the complainant and the respondent (“the Parties”) written notice to their institutional email account the following information:
    • Notice of the institution’s Sexual Misconduct Policy for Faculty, Staff, and Students and a hyperlink to a copy of the process;
    • Notice of the allegations potentially constituting covered sexual harassment, and sufficient details known at the time the notice is issued, such as the identities of the parties involved in the incident, if known, including the complainant; the conduct allegedly constituting covered sexual harassment; and the date and location of the alleged incident, if known;
    • A statement that the respondent is presumed not responsible for the alleged conduct until otherwise proven and that a determination regarding responsibility will be made at the conclusion of the grievance process;
    • A statement that the parties may have an advisor of their choice, who may be, but is not required to be, an attorney
    • A statement that before the conclusion of the investigation, the parties may inspect and review evidence obtained as part of the investigation that is directly related to the allegations raised in the Formal Complaint, including the evidence upon which the institution does not intend to rely in reaching a determination regarding responsibility, and evidence that tends to prove or disprove the allegations, whether obtained from a party or other source
    • A statement that providing false or misleading information to the responding office investigator and other officials involved in the process
    • Rights and Resources (Supportive Measures) Letter;
    • Access to information about advisors
    • Summary of the Informal Resolution Process;
    • Deadline for Respondent’s initial response.
  5. After notice is provided to the parties, the complaint is reviewed by the Title IX Coordinator. It will provide notice to the parties in writing of, among other things, its decision to designate the alleged prohibited conduct as Title IX prohibited conduct or not, the reasons for this decision, and the parties’ right to appeal this decision.
  6. If the complaint fails to meet the definition of sexual harassment, it must be sent back to the complainant for modification and resubmitted. If the complainant refuses to modify their complaint or it is resubmitted and concluded to not meet the definition of sexual harassment, it must be dismissed. Dismissal may occur fifteen (15) business days after the notice is sent by the Title IX Coordinator to the complainant.
  7. If the complaint is sufficiently pled and the complainant expresses a preference for resolution through the formal grievance process, it is forwarded to Student Judicial Programs or AEEO (“Responding Office”) for review. If the complaint is between two students, the complaint will be forwarded to Student Judicial Programs (SJP). If the complaint is between a student and an employee (staff or faculty) or between employees, the complaint will be sent to Access, Equity and Equal Opportunity (AEEO).
  8. Rice will provide sufficient time for respondents to review the Notice of Allegations and prepare a response before any initial interview. Staff from either Responding Office may or may not meet with the parties to review the complaint for follow up and answer any questions they may have about the process. However, if a meeting is held with one party, an invitation must be sent to the other party. During the meeting, either party may identify whether they want to engage in the informal resolution process. If so, they will be referred to the SAFE Office. In order to pursue an informal resolution, a signed resolution agreement must be completed by the parties in accordance with the Sexual Misconduct Policy for Faculty, Staff and Students and sent to the office responding to the complaint. Once the completed form is received by the responding office, all investigation activity related to the case by the office is suspended until the process has concluded (including without resolution).
  9. Once all the respondents submit their responses or the deadline for doing so passes (whichever comes first), the Responding Office will conduct an investigation and review all relevant information that it has in its possession. Via the responding office, the responsibility of gathering evidence for both parties falls on Rice and not on the parties. This burden does not rest with either party, and either party may decide not to share their account of what occurred or may decide not to participate in an investigation or hearing. This does not shift the burden of proof away from the Rice and does not indicate responsibility. Rice cannot access, consider, or disclose medical records without a waiver from the party (or parent, if applicable) to whom the records belong or about whom the records include information. Rice will provide an equal opportunity for the parties to present witnesses, including fact and expert witnesses, and other inculpatory and exculpatory evidence, (i.e. evidence that tends to prove and disprove the allegations) as described below.
  10. Prior to the completion of the investigation, the parties will have an equal opportunity to inspect and review the evidence obtained through the investigation. The purpose of the inspection and review process is to allow each party the equal opportunity to respond meaningfully to the evidence prior to conclusion of the investigation. Once all the evidence has been gathered and the responding office has concluded its investigation, it will simultaneously provide an investigation report to the both the complainant and the respondent (“the Parties”) and provide them with at least 10 days to respond to the report. At the conclusion of that period, the report and the Parties respective responses will be included in the case file which will be sent to the Hearing officer for their review.


  1. With the assistance of the Responding Office and the Title IX Coordinator, the Hearing officer will facilitate an exchange of the lists of exhibits the parties intend to introduce at the hearing no later than ten (10) business days prior to the hearing. This exchange will be conducted in accordance with the Sexual Misconduct Policy for Faculty, Staff, and Students (Policy 828).
  2. The hearing officer may also schedule a Pre-Hearing Conference. During that conference, the parties may discuss the hearing setting, schedule, and other matters in accordance with the Sexual Misconduct Policy for Faculty, Staff, and Students.
  3. The hearing officer will decide, in advance of the hearing, which witnesses and which evidence is pertinent and will be included in the hearing. The hearing officer may also request that particular witnesses be invited to participate in the hearing. No advisor, witness, or document, or tangible evidence will be permitted at the hearing unless such information was timely submitted.


  1. Setting and Schedule
    1. The responsibility for setting the hearing location solely rests with the hearing officer. In making their decision, the hearing officer may consult with the parties to determine their preferences for certain aspects of the hearing. Those aspects may include:
      1. Location: The live hearing may be conducted with all parties physically present in the same geographic location, venue where all parties and witnesses are present, along with their advisors and the hearing officer.
      2. Parties and witnesses may be through remote video conferencing applications, such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams. This technology will enable participants simultaneously to see and hear each other. At its discretion, Rice may delay or adjourn a hearing based on technological errors not within Rice’s, a party’s, or a witness’s control.
    2. The hearing schedule will be decided by the hearing officer in accordance with the Sexual Misconduct Policy for Faculty, Staff, and Students. In determining the schedule, the hearing officer should consider the following:
      1. Equal and fair presentation of all relevant evidence. In determining a schedule, a hearing officer should consider how long each party will need in order to fully present their evidence. This presentation may include document, video, witness and expert testimony, and cross-examination by the other party and the hearing officer themself. The hearing officer should be provided a complete list of all of the evidence that each party intends to present and determine how much time will be needed to present that evidence. Before the start of the hearing (possibly during the prehearing conference) the hearing officer should notify the parties of the time given to them. While there is no appeal mechanism for party dissatisfaction to the allotted time they are provided, parties may note this decision on their appeal to the appropriate administrator if they decide to appeal the charge finding by the hearing officer.
      2. Breaks and overall hearing length. The hearing officer should determine breaks and the length of the hearing in accordance with the Sexual Misconduct Policy for Faculty, Staff, and Students. For example, the hearing will generally be scheduled in 2, 3, or 4-hour blocks, with sufficient breaks in between. The hearing officer may shorten or extend a block based on the needs of the parties or the evidence being presented. As a guideline, a single block should generally not last more than four (4) hours.
      3. Due to the difficulty of scheduling a hearing on multiple days, the hearing officer should balance the needs of both parties equally and how such a schedule will impact their presentations. Once the impact is determined, the hearing officer should set the schedule in a way that minimizes any impact to the parties.
  2. A party or advisor may not photograph, download, or print any document or record submitted by another party or witness, and may not publish such documents or records to any third party.
  3. Introductions
    1. The hearing officer will introduce themself.
    2. The parties, their advisors, and support persons will introduce themselves.
    3. The hearing officer may provide a brief overview of the proceedings, including:
      1. The hearing schedule:
      2. That only advisors are allowed to ask questions during the hearing, not the parties themselves.
      3. That the questions posed to the parties and the witnesses will be screened by the hearing officer to ensure that only relevant questions are asked. Meaning, the advisor will ask the question live and the hearing officer will deem it as relevant or not.
      4. During cross-examination, advisors may ask follow-up questions, including those that challenge the credibility of the other party. The hearing officer has the authority to allow or disallow any question. A party or witness may choose not to answer a particular question. h
      5. The hearing officer should disclose that they can not make an inference on a party's culpability or credibility solely based on their refusal to answer questions.
    4. The hearing officer will present each party with the Rules of Decorum and confirm with the parties that they understand the Rules and that they will be expected to adhere to them.
  4. Review of the complaint and alleged violations
  5. Complainant’s Opportunity to Address the Hearing Officer
    1. The complainant may make an opening statement.
    2. The hearing officer may ask questions of the complainant
    3. The respondent’s advisor may ask questions of the complainant.
    4. (If applicable) Complainant’s witness
      • The witness will be brought in and asked to introduce themselves.
      • The hearing officer may ask questions of the witness.
      • The complainant and respondent may ask questions of the witness at designated times.
      • The witness will be excused and leave the hearing room/Zoom. They may be asked to remain available should follow-up be necessary.
      • This process will be repeated until all of the complainant’s witnesses (who have been approved by the hearing officer) have appeared. Witnesses may be asked to stay in case the hearing officer wishes to call them for additional questions.
  6. Respondent’s Opportunity to Address the Hearing Officer
    1. The respondent may make an opening statement.
    2. The hearing officer may ask questions of the respondent.
    3. The complainant’s advisor may ask questions of the respondent.
    4. (If applicable) Respondent’s witness
      • The witness will be brought in and asked to introduce themselves.
      • The hearing officer may ask questions of the witness.
      • The complainant and respondent may ask questions of the witness at designated times.
      • The witness will be excused.  They may be asked to remain available should follow-up be necessary.
      • This process will be repeated until all of the respondent’s witnesses (who have been approved by the hearing officer) have appeared. Witnesses may be asked to stay in case the hearing officer wishes to call them for additional questions.
  7. General Questions
    1. Time will be available for the hearing officer to ask questions of either party as well as for the parties to ask questions of each other (through their advisors).
    2. The hearing officer may call nonparty witnesses to be questioned.
    3. At this time, the hearing officer may recall any witnesses for additional questions. 
  8. Concluding Statements
    1. The complainant may make a closing statement.
    2. The respondent may make a closing statement.
    3. The complainant, respondent, and all witnesses are excused. The hearing is concluded. 
  9. Deliberations and Follow-up
    1. After the live hearing, the hearing officer will deliberate and assess whether or not the evidence presented during the hearing has met the preponderance of evidence and support a finding that the complainant's allegations are more likely than not true.
    2. If the respondent is found not in violation, deliberations conclude.  If the respondent is found in violation of any or all of the charges, the hearing officer will determine the sanction in consultation with the appropriate university administrator in accordance with Policy 828.
    3. Once a finding is determined, the hearing officer will draft a report and a decision letter explaining their determination.


  1. Once the report and outcome letter are complete, the Title IX Coordinator and/or the hearing officer will schedule an outcome meeting with both parties and their advisors and support persons. During this meeting, the outcome letter is delivered and the respondent can ask questions. Copies/summaries of the outcome letter are delivered to other Rice personnel who require the outcome to do their work. A copy of the hearing recording, hearing officer report and outcome letters will be placed in the case file.
  2. If either party disagrees with the finding, they may appeal in accordance with the Sexual Misconduct Policy for Faculty, Staff, and Students.
  3. Parties wishing to appeal must submit a written letter of appeal to the Title IX Coordinator in accordance with the Sexual Misconduct Policy for Faculty, Staff and Students. Appeal grounds must be stated in the appeal.
  4. Following the submission of an appeal, the appropriate administrator receives the case file, reviews this material, and makes a decision.  During deliberations, the appropriate administrator may consult with others, including the hearing officer, and General Counsel.
  5. The parties then receive the appeal decision, as does the Responding Office and others who received the original decision and need to know.

Addendum A

Purpose of the Rules of Decorum

Title IX hearings are not civil or criminal proceedings, and are not designed to mimic formal trial proceedings. They are primarily educational in nature, and the U.S. Department of Education, writing about Title IX in the Final Rule “purposefully designed these final regulations to allow recipients to retain flexibility to adopt rules of decorum that prohibit any party advisor or decision-maker from questioning witnesses in an abusive, intimidating, or disrespectful manner.” 85 Fed. Reg. 30026, 30319 (May 19, 2020). The Department has determined that institutions “are in a better position than the Department to craft rules of decorum best suited to their educational environment” and build a hearing process that will reassure the parties that the institution “is not throwing a party to the proverbial wolves.”

To achieve this purpose, institutions may provide for reasonable rules of order and decorum, which may be enforced through the removal of an advisor who refuses to comply with the rules. Id., at 30320. As the Department explains, the removal process “incentivizes a party to work with an advisor of choice in a manner that complies with a recipient’s rules that govern the conduct of a hearing, and incentivizes colleges and universities to appoint advisors who also will comply with such rules, so that hearings are conducted with respect for all participants.”

At base, these Rules of Decorum require that all parties, advisors of choice, and institutional staff treat others who are engaged in the process with respect.
The rules and standards apply equally to all parties and their advisors regardless of sex, gender, or other protected class, and regardless of whether they are in the role of complainant or respondent.

Rules of Decorum

The following Rules of Decorum are to be observed in the hearing and applied equally to all parties (meaning the complainant and respondent) and advisors:
Decorum by Participants for In-Person Hearings

  1. To avoid disruption to the hearing, please do not leave the room or the virtual meeting during the hearing proceedings. Parties, their support person and advisors (“parties”), may leave quietly at the conclusion and before the presentation and cross-examination period begins.
  2. To alleviate security concerns, no party shall bring purses, backpacks, briefcases, or other large bags to the hearing. Documents provided during the exchange will be available for both parties to use.
  3. No hats, caps, or other non-medical headgear shall be worn, except for apparel required by religious observation. No apparel is permitted that is harassing or indicates bias or support for one party over another.
  4. With the exception of the investigators from the responding office, any witness to a hearing must be kept in a space that is separate from the hearing proceeding.
  5. Any party or witness will not engage in any activity that may be disruptive. Impermissible activities may include, but are not limited to, unnecessary conversation, loud whispering, texting or typing on personal devices, or newspaper or magazine reading.
  6. Cellular telephones should be turned to the “OFF” setting during proceedings, or better yet, should not be brought into the room. Even phones on a “vibrate” setting can be disruptive.
  7. Recordings of any type by the parties are prohibited.
  8. In order to protect the security of the parties and the hearing participants, the hearing officer may enlist the assistance of Rice University Police Department or other law enforcement personnel to enforce these rules and, if necessary, remove disruptive individuals from the room.

Decorum by the Parties

  1. No party will address the other for any reason unless given express permission by the hearing officer.
  2. During cross examination, only a party’s advisor may speak or address the other party or their witnesses.
  3. No party will interrupt the proceedings with applause, heckling, outbursts or other disruptive behavior.
  4. Any threat of violence expressly made by either party will be immediately reported by the hearing officer to the appropriate office for review.

Decorum by Advisors

  1. Questions must be conveyed in a neutral tone.
  2. Parties and advisors will refer to other parties, witnesses, advisors, and institutional staff using the name and gender used by the person and shall not intentionally mis-name or mis-gender that person in communication or questioning.
  3. No party may act abusively or disrespectfully during the hearing toward any other party or to witnesses, advisors, or decision-makers.
  4. While an advisor may be an attorney, no duty of zealous advocacy should be inferred or enforced within this forum.
  5. The advisor may not yell, scream, badger, or physically ‘‘lean in’’ to a party or witness’s personal space. Advisors may not approach the other party or witnesses without obtaining permission from the hearing officer.
  6. The advisor may not use profanity or make irrelevant ad hominem attacks upon a party or witness. Questions are meant to be interrogative statements used to test knowledge or understand a fact; they may not include accusations within the text of the question.
  7. The advisor may not ask repetitive questions. This includes questions that have already been asked by the hearing officer or the advisor in cross-examination. When the hearing officer determines a question has been “asked and answered” or is otherwise not relevant, the advisor must move on.
  8. Parties and advisors may take no action at the hearing that a reasonable person in the shoes of the affected party would view as intended to intimidate that person (whether party, witness, or official) into not participating in the process or meaningfully modifying their participation in the process.

Warning and Removal Process

The hearing officer shall have sole discretion to determine if the Rules of Decorum have been violated. The hearing officer will notify the offending person of any violation of the Rules.

The hearing officer shall have discretion to remove the offending person or allow them to continue participating in the hearing or another part of the process.

Where the hearing officer removes a party’s advisor, the party may select a different advisor of their choice, or accept an advisor provided by Rice University for the limited purpose of cross-examination at the hearing. Reasonable delays, including the temporary adjournment of the hearing, may be anticipated should an advisor be removed. A party cannot serve as their own advisor in this circumstance.

The hearing officer shall document any decision to remove an advisor in the written determination regarding responsibility.

For flagrant, multiple, or continual violations of this Rule, in one or more proceedings, advisors may be prohibited from participating in future proceedings at the institution in the advisor role on a temporary or permanent basis. Evidence of violation(s) of this agreement will be determined by the Title IX Coordinator or their designee.

Relevant Questions Asked in Violation of the Rules of Decorum

Where an advisor asks a relevant question in a manner that violates the Rules, such as yelling, screaming, badgering, or leaning-in to the witness or party’s personal space, the question may not be deemed irrelevant by the hearing officer simply because of the manner it was delivered. Under that circumstance, the hearing officer will notify the advisor of the violation of the Rules, and, if the question is relevant, will allow the question to be re-asked in a respectful, non-abusive manner by the advisor (or by a replacement advisor, should the advisor be removed for violation of the Rules). See, 85 Fed. Reg. 30331.