Missouri State University

Complaint Procedures

Missouri State University is a community of people with respect for diversity. The University emphasizes the dignity and equality common to all persons and adheres to a strict nondiscrimination policy regarding the treatment of individual faculty, staff, and students. In accord with federal law and applicable Missouri statutes, the University does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, ancestry, age, disability, or veteran status in employment or in any program or activity offered or sponsored by the University. Prohibited sex discrimination encompasses sexual harassment, which includes sexual violence. In addition, the University does not discriminate on any basis (including, but not limited to, political affiliation and sexual orientation) not related to the applicable educational requirements for students or the applicable job requirements for employees.

This policy shall not be interpreted in a manner as to violate the legal rights of religious organizations or military organizations associated with the Armed Forces of the United States of America.

The University maintains a grievance procedure incorporating due process available to any person who believes he or she has been discriminated against. Missouri State University is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action employer. Inquiries concerning the grievance procedure, Affirmative Action Plan, or compliance with federal and state laws and guidelines should be addressed to the Equal Opportunity Officer, Office for Institutional Equity and Compliance, 901 South National Avenue, Springfield, Missouri 65897, equity@missouristate.edu, 417-836-4252, or to the Office for Civil Rights. (Res. Board Policies No. 70-11; Bd. Min. 10-28-11.)

Purpose for Policy:

All University students and employees are free to seek relief from discrimination or harassment without fear of restraint, reprisal, interference, or coercion.  No employee or student’s status with the University shall be adversely affected in any way because he or she utilizes these procedures. Any member of the University community who feels that he or she has been discriminated against or harassed may meet in consultation with the Equal Opportunity Officer. 

The following informal and formal complaint procedures are designed to ensure fairness and consistency in the University’s relations with its employees and students.  Nothing in these procedures shall be construed as abridging the right of an employee or student alleging discrimination to exercise constitutional or statutory rights, which may be available. 

Entities Affected by this Policy:

All members of the Missouri State University community. 

Lines of Authority:

Responsible Administrator and Office: Equal Opportunity Officer, Office for Institutional Equity and Compliance


1.0 Policy and Principles

1.1 Nondiscrimination Policy

Missouri State University is a community of people with respect for diversity. The University emphasizes the dignity and equality common to all persons and adheres to a strict nondiscrimination policy regarding the treatment of individual faculty, staff, and students. In accord with federal law and applicable Missouri statutes, the University does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, ancestry, age, disability, or veteran status in employment or in any program or activity offered or sponsored by the University. Prohibited sex discrimination encompasses sexual harassment, which includes sexual violence. In addition, the University does not discriminate on any basis (including, but not limited to, political affiliation and sexual orientation) not related to the applicable educational requirements for students or the applicable job requirements for employees.

This policy shall not be interpreted in a manner as to violate the legal rights of religious organizations or military organizations associated with the Armed Forces of the United States of America.

The University maintains a grievance procedure incorporating due process available to any person who believes he or she has been discriminated against. Missouri State University is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action employer. Inquiries concerning the grievance procedure, Affirmative Action Plan, or compliance with federal and state laws and guidelines should be addressed to the Equal Opportunity Officer, Office for Institutional Equity and Compliance, 901 South National Avenue, Springfield, Missouri 65897, equity@missouristate.edu, 417-836-4252, or to the Office for Civil Rights. (Res. Board Policies No. 70-11; Bd. Min. 10-28-11.)

1.2 Declaration of University Community Principles

The community of scholars that is Missouri State University is committed to developing educated persons.  It is believed that educated persons will accept responsibility to act in accordance with the following principles: 

  • Practicing personal and academic integrity.
  • Being a full participant in the educational process, and respecting the right of all to contribute to the “Marketplace of Ideas.”
  • Treating all persons with civility, while understanding that tolerating an idea is not the same as supporting it. 
  • Being a steward of the shared resources of the community of scholars.

 Choosing to accept these principles suggests that each participant of the community refrains from and discourages behavior that threatens the freedom and respect each member deserves.

2.0 General Information Regarding Complaints

All University students and employees are free to seek relief from discrimination or harassment without fear of restraint, reprisal, interference, or coercion.  No employee or student’s status with the University shall be adversely affected in any way because he or she utilizes these procedures. Any member of the University community who feels that he or she has been discriminated against or harassed may meet in consultation with the Equal Opportunity Officer. 

The following informal and formal complaint procedures are designed to ensure fairness and consistency in the University’s relations with its employees and students.  Nothing in these procedures shall be construed as abridging the right of an employee or student alleging discrimination to exercise constitutional or statutory rights, which may be available. 

2.1 Application of Procedures

These procedures apply to complaints by members of the University community alleging that their rights under the University’s Non-Discrimination Policy, the Prohibition of Discrimination and Harassment Policy, or the Affirmative Action Plan have been violated.  These procedures are also applicable to complaints which may arise under Titles VI and VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended; Title IX of the 1972 Educational Amendments to Higher Education Act; the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967; Sections 503/504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended; Section 402 of the Vietnam Era Veterans Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974; the Equal Pay Act of 1963; the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990; the Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act of 2008; Executive Order 11246, as amended; and related federal and state laws and mandates. 

Copies of the above-mentioned regulations are available in the Office for Institutional Equity and Compliance, Meyer Library, and at http://www.missouristate.edu/equity.

If members of the University community (e.g., faculty, staff or students) believe that their rights have been violated and wish further information, advice or assistance in filing a complaint, they should contact:

Office for Institutional Equity and Compliance
Missouri State University
901 S. National Avenue
Springfield, Missouri 65897

417-836-4252
toll free:  877-967-8636
TTY:  417-836-6974

equity@missouristate.edu

For all complaints on the West Plains campus, the Equal Opportunity Officer and the Affirmative Action Liaison have shared responsibilities.  If members of the University community on the West Plains campus (e.g. faculty, staff, or students) believe that their rights have been violated and wish further information, advice or assistance in filing a complaint, they may contact:

Institutional Equity and Compliance Liaison
Missouri State University - West Plains
Office of University/Community Programs
128 Garfield Street
West Plains, Missouri 65775
417-255-7966

2.2 Limitations

2.2.1    The employee or student, with the assistance of the Equal Opportunity Officer if desired, may elect which available complaint procedure to use–Employee Handbook, Faculty Handbook, Student Conduct, Union Joint Statement of Intent, or Office for Institutional Equity and Compliance. In circumstances where there may be concurrent jurisdiction between administrative procedures, the complainant may select which procedure he or she desires to utilize.  Processing a claim through one administrative procedure will not extend any applicable time limits that might be stated in another procedure.

In the event that a person files a complaint involving a student as the alleged offender (hereinafter referred to as respondent), the Office for Institutional Equity and Compliance and the Office of Student Conduct will determine which office will proceed with the processing of the complaint.  Proceedings involving complaints against students must comply with the procedural guidelines contained in the Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities. 

2.2.2    All complaints must be filed directly with the Office for Institutional Equity and Compliance within 180 calendar days of the occurrence of the alleged discriminatory act.  While the following procedures are designed to affect a fair resolution of the complaint, the complainant should be aware that legal access to agencies outside the University must normally be initiated within the time period established by those agencies.  

2.2.3    All parties meeting with the Equal Opportunity Officer may be accompanied by an individual of his or her choice for support.  This support person may not act as an attorney, have a voice in the proceedings, or have any formal role other than to accompany and communicate with the party requesting support.  The employee or student may be required to sign a consent permitting the support person to have access to the employee or student confidential information.  The support person may not have access to confidential information regarding any other person.  Proceedings under these complaint procedures will not be tape-recorded.

2.2.4    Any member of the Missouri State University community who has been subject to or witnessed discrimination (including harassment), on any basis not related to the applicable educational requirements for students or the applicable job requirements for employees, is encouraged to report it immediately to their supervisor and/or the Office for Institutional Equity and Compliance.  One does not have to be the direct target of the discrimination or harassment to report it. The University is committed to handling complaints and reports of discrimination and harassment swiftly, fairly, and with sensitivity.

While the Office for Institutional Equity and Compliance is formally charged with enforcing compliance with the Missouri State University Nondiscrimination Policy, ensuring that the campuses are free of discrimination (including harassment), on any basis not related to the applicable educational requirements for students or the applicable job requirements for employees, is a shared responsibility of all members of the University community. 

2.2.5    If discrimination, harassment, or retaliation is observed by or reported to a member of the University community:

  1. who has the authority to redress the discrimination or harassment;
  2. who has the duty to report to appropriate University officials discrimination and harassment (including sexual assault[1], which is a form of sexual harassment);

the individual must either take appropriate action to resolve the matter or is required to report the case to the Office for Institutional Equity and Compliance within three (3) business days. If the individual takes action to resolve the matter, s/he must still report the incident and the resolution to the Office for Institutional Equity and Compliance. The fact that the alleged victim does not wish to file a complaint does not relieve the official of this responsibility. 

2.2.6    Cases involving discrimination against a group or class of individuals, reflecting a pattern and practice of discrimination, involving criminal violations or direct violations of federal or state mandates will be investigated and/or acted upon by the Equal Opportunity Officer whether or not there is an identified complainant. 

2.2.7    Time limits listed herein apply except when availability of the parties involved necessitates an extension.

2.3 Prohibition of Retaliatory Actions

Complaints involving discrimination or harassment will be responded to promptly and equitably.  The confidentiality of all members of the University community will be respected in each step of the complaint procedure, insofar as that is reasonably practicable.  In addition, retaliation against individuals for bringing complaints of discrimination or harassment or for participating in investigations is strictly prohibited.  Similarly, retaliatory conduct against an individual simply because he or she has been accused of discrimination or harassment is strictly prohibited.  An individual found to have engaged in harassment or discrimination or retaliation in violation of University policy will be subject to disciplinary action.   Conversely, if a complaint is made in bad faith, then the complainant may be subject to disciplinary action.

Individuals who believe they have been retaliated against must follow the complaint procedures outlined herein, and such complaints will be processed in accordance with these procedures.

2.4 Confidentiality Provisions

Any member of the University community who in any way participates in proceedings regarding a complaint, response, investigation and/or disciplinary action shall keep all information and documents related thereto confidential.

Further, it is the policy of Missouri State University to protect the confidentiality of members of the community who may be involved in discrimination or harassment complaint procedures, insofar as that is reasonably practicable.  Specifically, the identity of the individual making the complaint (complainant), the identity of the accused (respondent) and information relating to the complaint will be disseminated only to those individuals who have a legitimate need to know, or as reasonably necessary for the purpose of investigating or resolving the complaint.  Any person who is the custodian of confidential information shall maintain a record of the dissemination and review of such information.

2.4.1. Waiver of Confidentiality
A complainant or a respondent may be deemed to have waived, directly or indirectly, the confidentiality provisions of the policy by voluntarily disclosing information about the complaint or the complaint proceedings to parties within or outside the University community who are not directly involved in the investigation or complaint process.  For instance, if a complainant or a respondent makes any public statement regarding an investigation or complaint proceeding, the University shall have the right to disclose whatever information is reasonably required to address the statement.

3.0 Specific Complaint Procedures

3.1 Initial Consultation

Any employee or student is urged to communicate his or her complaint to the appropriate supervisor or department head, and each supervisor or department head should encourage such informal meetings.  Every effort should be made to resolve a complaint informally within the department.  Should, however, an employee or student feel that he or she is unable to discuss the complaint with the appropriate supervisor, then that employee or student should go to the major administrator of that unit, department, or division to discuss the issue.  The employee or student may exercise his or her rights to resolve disputes with the assistance of the Equal Opportunity Officer.

Any employee or student of the University who feels that he or she has been discriminated against or harassed may meet in consultation with the Equal Opportunity Officer.  The Equal Opportunity Officer will establish with the complainant a time and date for consultation.  In consultation, the Equal Opportunity Officer will discuss the individual’s concerns, review the complaint process, describe the available resolution options (informal resolution, mediation, formal resolution, and alternative grievance procedures), and provide the complainant a copy of the complaint procedures.

As a result of the initial consultation, the Equal Opportunity Officer will draw preliminary conclusions as to whether or not the subject matter is appropriate to the Office for Institutional Equity and Compliance.  The Equal Opportunity Officer may contact any other pertinent individuals who may have knowledge of or information relating to the matter.  If it is determined that the case should not be addressed by the Office for Institutional Equity and Compliance, the Equal Opportunity Officer will refer the complainant to the appropriate office or department.

The complainant will be asked to make a decision regarding confidentiality.  A request for confidentiality will be honored by the University, to the extent permitted by law and University policy.  However, it must be understood that while some concerns or complaints can be resolved without disclosing the complainant’s identity, often successful resolution cannot be achieved under such circumstances.  Further, individuals who are directly accused of unlawful and/or discriminatory behavior and who, as a result, may be subject to disciplinary action, are entitled to notice of the complaint and/or a summary of the charges against them.

If, during the initial consultation, the Equal Opportunity Officer determines that immediate action may be necessary to protect the rights or interests of the complainant, respondent or the University community, the Equal Opportunity Officer will conduct a preliminary inquiry to verify the need for immediate action and will advise the University General Counsel of the situation.  Upon consultation with appropriate University officials, immediate action may be taken which may include temporary changes in duties and responsibilities, directives to complainant and respondent regarding personal contact, and warnings to the respondent.

3.2 Informal Resolution

This informal procedure is intended to affect a resolution of the matter by reconciling the parties’ differences and/or rectifying the alleged discriminatory action(s).  If, after preliminary review of the matter, it is the judgment of the Equal Opportunity Officer that the Office for Institutional Equity and Compliance should not address the case, the informal procedure shall be terminated and the Equal Opportunity Officer shall advise the complainant of other University offices and/or grievance procedures that may be applicable.

If the Equal Opportunity Officer finds the Office for Institutional Equity and Compliance should address the complaint, the Equal Opportunity Officer will initiate the informal complaint procedure.   The Equal Opportunity Officer may communicate directly with the respondent, specifically describing the behavior objected to without naming the complainant, if the complainant so desires.  If this resolves the complaint, no other person will be contacted, although necessary supervisory and administrative personnel may be informed.  The Equal Opportunity Officer may also meet with both parties, make inquiries to ascertain pertinent facts, and consult with other personnel to facilitate the process.  If this option does not resolve the matter, all other options remain open to the complainant.

The Equal Opportunity Officer will make all reasonable attempts to resolve the matter within thirty (30) business days.  The specific details of each case will determine the best possible means for achieving a satisfactory resolution.  If attempts at informal resolution are not effective or the terms of the informal resolution are subsequently broken, the complainant may exercise either of the remaining options.

3.3 Mediation

Mediation is an option that the complainant may select.  It is neither mandated nor required by the University.  Upon preliminary review of the allegations, the Equal Opportunity Officer will determine whether the case is appropriate for mediation.  Examples of those that may not be appropriate for mediation include complaints that involve discrimination against a group or class of individuals, reflect a pattern and practice of discrimination, involve criminal violations or in which there is a significant imbalance of power or authority between parties.  (Note:  This is not an exhaustive listing.)

If the complainant’s selection of mediation is appropriate, the Equal Opportunity Officer will contact the respondent to determine if the respondent is willing to participate cooperatively.  If the respondent does not give consent, the complainant has the right to exercise either the informal or formal resolution option.

If all parties agree to the mediation process, the Equal Opportunity Officer will initiate the mediation process within fifteen (15) business days.  The Equal Opportunity Officer may serve as the mediator or assign the case to a mediator. The University Center for Dispute Resolution will usually conduct the mediation.  The mediator must be neutral, objective and agreeable to both parties.  The mediator will promptly arrange a meeting of both parties, during which the parties will develop a memorandum of understanding as to the purposes, goals and scheduling of the mediation session(s). The mediator will preserve this documentation in writing.

At the conclusion of the successful mediation, the parties will develop and the mediator will preserve in writing, a plan for resolution of the complaint and future interactions between the parties.  The written plan will be signed by both parties and submitted to the Equal Opportunity Officer for review and approval.  The Equal Opportunity Officer will not approve any plan that violates University guidelines, state and/or federal laws, regulations or mandates.  If the Equal Opportunity Officer approves the plan, the plan will take effect immediately according to its own terms. 

If the Equal Opportunity Officer disapproves of the plan, or if the mediation fails to result in a written resolution, the complainant may exercise the right to proceed to formal resolution.

3.4 Formal Resolution

The Formal Resolution procedures described below are established for those kinds of discrimination/harassment issues which remain unresolved after informal resolution or mediation has occurred, or in which the Equal Opportunity Officer determines the alleged behavior is egregious to such a degree that informal resolution or mediation is not likely to be successful.  Formal resolution is available for all the same types of allegations as informal resolution and mediation.

3.4.1 Written Complaint
If the complaint has not been reduced to writing in the informal process, a written complaint signed by the complainant will be required for formal resolution.  The complaint must contain a detailed description of the conduct being complained about, the name of the alleged offender(s), the name of the victim(s), and the name of the person filing the complaint.  Further, the complainant must confirm the veracity of the allegations.  A written statement of allegations will be accepted in lieu of a complaint form, if the written statement contains the necessary elements listed above. The Office for Institutional Equity and Compliance will provide assistance to anyone for whom completion of the complaint form is difficult or impractical.

3.4.2 Notification
Within ten (10) business days of the receipt of a signed complaint, the Equal Opportunity Officer will notify the respondent and the respondent’s major administrator of the complaint.  In providing notice to the parties, the Equal Opportunity Officer will provide a summary of the charges, identify the pertinent policies and procedures involved, and provide information regarding the investigative process and the rights and responsibilities of all parties.  Notice will be delivered in writing by hand or certified mail. The respondent will be provided an opportunity to make a formal statement in rebuttal.  The respondent has ten (10) business days after receipt of the complaint in which to respond to the allegations in the complaint in writing and submit the reply to the Equal Opportunity Officer. 

Within ten (10) business days of the receipt of the reply, the Equal Opportunity Officer shall discuss the reply with the complainant, and ask both the complainant and respondent if they will enter into mediation to resolve the complaint.  If so, the Equal Opportunity Officer will initiate the mediation process within fifteen (15) business days of receiving the reply.

3.4.3 Investigation
If the complaint is unresolved after mediation, or if either party refuses to mediate, the Equal Opportunity Officer, or a qualified designee, will act as investigator.  If the respondent elects not to participate in the formal resolution process, the case may be investigated without the respondent’s involvement. 

If, during the investigation, the complainant indicates a desire to withdraw the complaint, the case will be closed and the complainant will not be permitted to re-file the complaint absent extraordinary circumstances.  However, in cases where the investigation discloses a clear violation of University policy and/or state or federal statutory mandates, the Equal Opportunity Officer will take action to address those violations regardless of the complainant’s wishes.

The Equal Opportunity Officer, or qualified designee, is authorized to contact any and all University personnel and other individuals (e.g. agents, subcontractors, volunteers, or guests) who may have information relevant to the complaint.  The Equal Opportunity Officer, or qualified designee, will have access to all relevant records.  The investigator will maintain a written record of interviews and investigation.  The Office for Institutional Equity and Compliance retains this document as a permanent confidential record.

At the discretion of the Equal Opportunity Officer, the Equal Opportunity Advisory Committee may review (by hearing, if so requested by the Equal Opportunity Officer) the circumstances of the case and provide the Equal Opportunity Officer with recommendations. The Equal Opportunity Advisory Committee shall determine hearing procedures and the constitution of the hearing committee.  The hearing procedures will be informal, and the purpose will be to permit both the complainant and respondent an opportunity to present their case.

3.4.4. Report of Findings
Based on the findings of the investigation, the Equal Opportunity Officer shall prepare a Report of Findings which shall include:  a description of the alleged discriminatory acts, a summary of the evidence collected, an evaluation of the pertinent evidence, and a finding of probable cause or no probable cause as to whether the conduct constitutes discrimination/harassment and/or a violation of University policies and procedures.  Potential violations of University policies and procedures, which are discovered during the investigation but which are outside the jurisdiction of the Office for Institutional Equity and Compliance, will be referred to the appropriate University office or department for resolution.  The Report of Findings will be issued within sixty (60) business days after the commencement of formal procedures.  Again, the time may be extended by mutual agreement or as is permitted in this policy. The Equal Opportunity Officer will provide copies of the report to the complainant, respondent and appropriate administrator(s).  The complainant and respondent will be advised of the appeal process at that time.

3.4.5 Final Determination
When charges of discrimination, harassment and/or retaliation are substantiated and probable cause is determined, the Provost or appropriate vice president, in consultation with the Equal Opportunity Officer, will render a determination regarding the proposed disciplinary and/or corrective action within twenty (20) days of receipt of the Report of Findings.  The Equal Opportunity Officer’s input will be limited to issues presented in the case and specific questions regarding compliance with federal and state mandates.  Decisions regarding disciplinary action shall be exclusively the province of the Provost or appropriate vice president.  The Provost or appropriate vice president will be responsible for the implementation of all such disciplinary/corrective action.  The Provost or appropriate vice president may refer the proposed disciplinary action to the appropriate dean and/or supervisor.  At a minimum, the action taken should be designed to protect the complainant from future discrimination, harassment or retaliation and resolve any procedural or statutory violations.  Depending on the case, substantiated evidence of discrimination, harassment and/or retaliation can result in suspension or termination.  Consistent with the University’s employee confidentiality policies, the complainant may not be fully advised of disciplinary actions imposed.  The Provost or appropriate vice president, in consultation with General Counsel, will determine whether further hearing opportunities are required prior to determination of proposed discipline.

When charges of discrimination, harassment and/or retaliation are not substantiated and no probable cause is determined, notification of such findings shall go to the Provost or appropriate vice president.

3.4.6 Appeal Process
If either party (complainant or respondent) is not satisfied with the outcome of the investigation, that person may appeal to the President of the University. Any such appeal shall be in writing, stating the basis for the appeal, and shall be filed in the Office of the President within ten (10) business days of the date of the finding of no probable cause, or the date of the Provost’s or appropriate vice president’s determination of proposed sanctions, whichever is appropriate. If there is no appeal within the time limit set forth, the finding of no probable cause shall become final, or the proposed sanctions will be imposed, as the case may be.  When an appeal is filed, the Equal Opportunity Officer and/or the Provost or appropriate vice president shall forward information regarding the complaint to the President, and the complainant or respondent may submit any further information as desired or requested.  The President shall, within twenty (20) days, communicate in writing to the complainant and respondent a decision with a copy to the Equal Opportunity Officer.

If the other sources of appeal have failed to satisfy the complainant or the respondent, he or she may submit an appeal to the Board of Governors.  The appeal to the Board of Governors must be in writing and filed within ten (10) business days following receipt of the President's decision; otherwise, the President's findings will become final.  Upon receipt of the written appeal to the Board of Governors, the President shall notify the Chair of the Board of Governors, who may schedule the complaint appeal for consideration at the next regular Board meeting, or call a special meeting of the Board to consider the appeal, or he or she may name a committee of the Board to act on the appeal.  The Board may refuse to hear the appeal, thereby affirming the findings of the President; or, it may hear the appeal.  The complainant and respondent will be notified, in writing, whether or not the Board will hear the appeal.  The hearing may be formal or informal, and the time and place of such hearing shall be communicated within a reasonable time to all parties involved. Formal rules of evidence shall not apply. The Chair of the Board or other member of the Board designated as chair of the appeal committee shall control the appeal hearing and determine questions of evidence and procedure.  The Board, or its designated committee, shall have access to all facts and information it believes relevant to the case.  Parties involved in the appeal may be represented by counsel at the hearing.  Upon conclusion of such hearings, the Board or its designated committee shall render a decision in writing, and a copy will be provided to both complainant and respondent.  That decision shall be final.

A record of the outcome of each case will remain a part of the permanent confidential file maintained by the Office for Institutional Equity and Compliance.  All records of Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action complaints are closed except as required by the Missouri Open Meetings and Records Law (Sunshine Law), other laws, or in defense of claims against the University.

Following closure of a case, the Equal Opportunity Officer may monitor the actions of the complainant and the respondent to ensure continued compliance.


[1] Under the Campus Security Act,  university officials who have responsibilities for student activities are required to report any crime that they become aware of, or if anyone reveals to them that they were the victim of, perpetrator of, or witness to a crime to the Missouri State University Police substation and/or the Office of Student Conduct immediately.  Any other university official includes the entire athletic staff and administration, coaches, advisors to student organizations, other university officials who have responsibility for student activities.