Statement Regarding Privacy
The College is committed to protecting the privacy of all individuals involved in a report of sexual assault and harassment. In any report under this policy, every effort will be made to protect the privacy interests of all individuals involved in a manner consistent with the need for a thorough review of the allegation.
The privacy of the parties will be respected and safeguarded at all times. All College employees who are involved in the College’s Title IX response, including hearing panel members, receive specific training and guidance about safeguarding private information.
Privacy and confidentiality have distinct meanings under this policy.
Privacy. Privacy generally means that information related to a report of misconduct will only be shared with a limited circle of individuals. The use of this information is limited to those College employees who “need to know” in order to assist in the active review, investigation, or resolution of the report. While not bound by confidentiality, these individuals will be discreet and respect the privacy of all individuals involved in the process.
Confidentiality. Confidentiality means that information shared by an individual with designated campus or community professionals cannot be revealed to any other individual without express permission of the individual. Those campus and community professionals include medical providers, mental health providers, ordained clergy, and rape crisis counselors, all of whom have legally protected confidentiality. These individuals are prohibited from breaking confidentiality unless there is an imminent threat of harm to self or others.
Community members wishing to seek completely confidential assistance may do so by speaking with professionals who are mandated by law to protect the confidentiality of a disclosure. On campus, these professionals include the counselors at Counseling and Psychological Services, the medical staff at Worth Health Center, and Religious Advisers. Information shared with these confidential resources will not be shared with the College without consent, unless there are circumstances posing an imminent risk of harm to self or others.
When a report involves suspected abuse of a minor under the age of 18, these confidential resources are required by state law to notify Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare division of Child Welfare Services and/or local law enforcement.
Any other College employee who is not designated as a confidential resource under this policy is required to share a report of sexual assault or harassment with a member of the College’s Title IX assessment team. This team, led by the interim Title IX coordinator, will conduct an initial assessment of the conduct, the complainant’s desired course of action, and the necessity for any interim remedies or accommodations to protect the safety of the complainant or the community. The goal is to eliminate any hostile environment.
The College will seek action consistent with the complainant’s request where possible. Where a complainant makes a report but requests that a name or other identifiable information not be shared with the respondent or that no formal action be taken, the College will balance this request with its dual obligation to provide a safe and non-discriminatory environment for all Swarthmore College community members and to remain true to principles of fundamental fairness that require notice and an opportunity to respond before action is taken against a respondent. In making this determination, the College will consider, among other factors, whether the complainant has requested confidentiality, whether the complainant wants to participate in an investigation or judicial hearing, the severity and impact of the sexual assault or harassment, the respective ages of the parties, whether the complainant is a minor under the age of 18, whether the respondent has admitted to the sexual assault or harassment, whether the respondent has a pattern of committing sexual assault or harassment, the existence of independent evidence, and the extent of prior remedial methods taken with the respondent.
The College will take all reasonable steps to investigate and respond to the complaint consistent with the request for confidentiality or request not to pursue an investigation or disciplinary action, but its ability to do so may be limited based on the nature of the request by the complainant. The College will assess any barriers to proceeding, including retaliation, and will inform the complainant that Title IX prohibits retaliation and the College will take strong responsive action to protect the complainant.
Where the College is unable to take action consistent with the request of the complainant, a member of the Title IX team will communicate with the complainant about the College’s chosen course of action, which may include the College choosing to seek disciplinary action against a respondent. Alternatively, the course of action may also include steps to limit the effects of the alleged harassment and prevent its recurrence that do not involve formal disciplinary action against a respondent or revealing the identity of the complainant.
If a report of misconduct discloses a serious and immediate threat to the campus community, the College will issue a timely notification to the community to protect the health or safety of the community. The timely notification will not include any identifying information about the complainant. The College may also share non-identifying information about reports received in aggregate form, including data about outcomes and sanctions. At no time will the College release the name of the complainant to the general public without the express consent of the complainant or as otherwise permitted or required by law.
All College proceedings are conducted in compliance with the requirements of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), the Clery Act, Title IX, state and local law, and College policy. No information shall be released from such proceedings except as required or permitted by law and College policy.