Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some of the most commonly asked questions regarding University’s sexual misconduct policy and procedures.

To whom does it apply?

This policy applies to all students, employees, and to others, as appropriate, with respect to activities occurring on any University property and University-related activities occurring off-campus, including University programs outside the United States. This policy also applies to the activities of recognized student organizations including, but not limited to, fraternities, sororities, clubs, and cooperatives. It also applies to persons conducting business with or visiting the University, even though such persons are not directly affiliated with the University.

Where does it apply?

On-Campus Violations: The campus includes the geographic confines of the University, including its land, institutional roads and buildings, its leased premises, common areas at leased premises, the property, facilities and leased premises of organizations affiliated with the University, such as university housing, and university-recognized housing. University housing includes all types of university residence housing such as halls and apartments. University-recognized housing includes fraternity and sorority chapter dwellings.

Off-Campus Violations: Students and employees should be aware that off-campus violations that affect a clear and distinct interest of the University are subject to disciplinary sanctions. As examples, sexual misconduct and harassment are within the University's interests when the behavior:

  • Involves conduct directed at or by a University student or other member of the University community (e.g., private house party, outside employment);
  • Occurs during University-sponsored events (e.g., field trips, social or educational functions, University-related travel, student recruitment activities, internships and service learning experiences);
  • Occurs during the events of organizations affiliated with the University, including the events of student organizations;
  • Occurs during a Study Abroad Program or other international travel; or
  • Poses a disruption or threat to the University community.

How do I file a complaint?

You must complete the complaint form here. This will link to a form in PDF format.  For a free PDF reader, click here.  After the form is complete, contact Dr. Rebecca N. Woodrick, Title IX Coordinator, at rebecca.woodrick@usm.edu or 601.266.6618.

Does information about a complaint remain private?

The privacy of all parties to a complaint of sexual misconduct must be respected, except insofar as it interferes with the university’s obligation to fully investigate allegations of sexual misconduct. Where privacy it not strictly kept, it will still be tightly controlled on a need-to-know basis. Dissemination of information and/or written materials to persons not involved in the complaint procedure is not permitted. Violations of the privacy of the complainant or the accused student may lead to conduct action by the university.

 In all complaints of sexual misconduct, all parties will be informed of the outcome. In some instances, the administration also may choose to make a brief public announcement of the nature of the violation and the action taken, without using the name or identifiable information of the alleged victim. Certain university administrators are informed of the outcome within the bounds of student privacy (e.g., the President of the university, Dean of Students). If there is a report of an act of alleged sexual misconduct to a conduct officer of the university and there is evidence that a felony has occurred, local police will be notified. This does not mean charges will be automatically filed or that a victim must speak with the police, but the institution is legally required to notify law enforcement authorities. The institution also must statistically report the occurrence on campus of major violent crimes, including certain sex offenses, in an annual report of campus crime statistics. This statistical report does not include personally identifiable information.

* Felony reporting is required in some locales. This practice of automatic reporting without victim consent is to be avoided if possible, and likely would violate FERPA. Many campuses are negotiating Memoranda of Understanding (MOUSs) with local law enforcement agencies to clarify reporting expectations. Often, anonymous reports will be enough to satisfy local law enforcement.

 

Will my parents and/or family members be told?

No, not unless you tell them. Whether you are the complainant or the accused student, the University’s primary relationship is to the student and not to the parent. However, in the event of major medical, disciplinary, or academic jeopardy, students are strongly encouraged to inform their parents. University officials will directly inform parents when requested to do so by a student, in a life-threatening situation, [or if an accused student has signed the permission form at registration which allows such communication].

Will the accused know my identity?

Yes, if you file a formal complaint. Sexual misconduct is a serious offense and the accused student has the right to know the identity of the complainant/alleged victim. If there is a hearing, the university does provide options for questioning without confrontation, including closed-circuit testimony, Skype, using a room divider or using separate hearing rooms.

Do I have to name the perpetrator?

Yes, if you want formal disciplinary action to be taken against the alleged perpetrator. No, if you choose to respond informally and do not file a formal complaint (but you should consult the complete confidentiality policy above to better understand the university’s legal obligations depending on what information you share with different university officials). Victims should be aware that not identifying the perpetrator may limit the institution’s ability to respond comprehensively.

What do I do if I am accused of sexual misconduct?  

DO NOT contact the alleged victim. Make an appointment to meet with the Title IX Coordinator, Dr. Rebecca Woodrick, if she has not yet contacted you.

Will I (as a victim) have to pay for counseling/or medical care?  

Not typically, if the institution provides these services already. If a victim is accessing community and non-institutional services, payment for these will be subject to state/local laws, insurance requirements, etc.

What should I do about preserving evidence of a sexual assault?

Police are in the best position to secure evidence of a crime. Physical evidence of a criminal sexual assault must be collected from the alleged victim’s person within 120 hours, though evidence can often be obtained from towels, sheets, clothes, etc. for much longer periods of time. If you believe you have been a victim of a criminal sexual assault, you should go to the Hospital Emergency Room, before washing yourself or your clothing. The Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (a specially trained nurse) at the hospital is usually on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week (call the Emergency Room if you first want to speak to the nurse; ER will refer you). If a victim goes to the hospital, local police will be called, but s/he is not obligated to talk to the police or to pursue prosecution. Having the evidence collected in this manner will help to keep all options available to a victim, but will not obligation him or her to any course of action. Collecting evidence can assist the authorities in pursuing criminal charges, should the victim decide later to exercise it.

For the Victim: the hospital staff will collect evidence, check for injuries, address pregnancy concerns and address the possibility of exposure to sexually transmitted infections. If you have changed clothing since the assault, bring the clothing you had on at the time of the assault with you to the hospital in a clean, sanitary container such as a clean paper grocery bag or wrapped in a clean sheet (plastic containers do not breathe, and may render evidence useless). If you have not changed clothes, bring a change of clothes with you to the hospital, if possible, as they will likely keep the clothes you are wearing as evidence. You can take a support person with you to the hospital, and they can accompany you through the exam, if you want. Do not disturb the crime scene—leave all sheets, towels, etc. that may bear evidence for the police to collect.

 
Will a victim be sanctioned when reporting a sexual misconduct policy violation if he/she has illegally used drugs or alcohol?

No. The severity of the infraction will determine the nature of the university’s response, but whenever possible the university will respond educationally rather than punitively to the illegal use of drugs and/or alcohol. The seriousness of sexual misconduct is a major concern and the university does not want any of the circumstances (e.g., drug or alcohol use) to inhibit the reporting of sexual misconduct.

Will the use of drugs or alcohol affect the outcome of a sexual misconduct conduct complaint?

The use of alcohol and/or drugs by either party will not diminish the accused student’s responsibility. On the other hand, alcohol and/or drug use is likely to affect the complainant’s memory and, therefore, may affect the outcome of the complaint. A person bringing a complaint of sexual misconduct must either remember the alleged incident or have sufficient circumstantial evidence, physical evidence and/or witnesses to prove his/her complaint. If the complainant does not remember the circumstances of the alleged incident, it may not be possible to impose sanctions on the accused without further corroborating information. Use of alcohol and/or other drugs will never excuse a violation by an accused student.

Will either party’s prior use of drugs and/or alcohol be a factor when reporting sexual misconduct?

Not unless there is a compelling reason to believe that prior use or abuse is relevant to the present complaint.

What should I do if I am uncertain about what happened?

If you believe that you have experienced sexual misconduct, but are unsure of whether it was a violation of the institution’s sexual misconduct policy, you should contact any of these Hattiesburg campus university employees/offices:  Dr. Rebecca Woodrick, Title IX coordinator; University Police Department; University Health Center; University Counseling Services; Human Resources, Dean of Students.  Gulf coast based employees and students should contact:  Dr. Woodrick; local police department; USM Security, located at Long Beach campus; Human Resources at the Long Beach campus; Associate Vice President for Student Affairs, Ms. Ann Billings.