Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Tuesday, June 19, 2018

AU closes investigation on former SG presidential candidate Bryan Paz

Clarifications appended.

Update: May 2

The Office of the Dean of Students did not refer Chichester’s complaint to Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution Services, according to an email provided to The Eagle by Paz.

Chichester may open a separate investigation within the conduct office at any point in the next year, the email said.

Original Story:

The University has ended its investigation of former Student Government presidential candidate Bryan Paz. The Eagle could not independently confirm the outcome of the investigation, and therefore, will not report the results at this time.

The University could not comment on the case because of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, which prevents the University from revealing information about conduct cases, Regina Curran, the assistant director of Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution Services, said in an email.

The investigation, the only one initiated against Paz at the time of publication, was started after freshman Jalen Chichester brought a complaint to the University.

Chichester, who was a member of former SG presidential candidate Martin Slezak’s campaign, said he filed a sexual misconduct complaint to the Office of the Dean of Students after the SG Presidential Town Hall on March 26. At the Town Hall, Shannon Lynch, another freshman, accused Paz of making unwanted romantic and sexual advances toward four students, The Eagle previously reported.

Lynch’s public accusation encouraged Chichester to file the complaint, according to Chichester.

“When I heard that this was happening to other people by the same person, that made me realize that me adding my voice could either help someone come forward or stop someone from being affected,” he said.

Chichester said he started speaking to Paz before starting his freshman year at AU. Chichester said he and Paz became sexually intimate in one instance in the spring 2015 semester. During this intimacy, Chichester said that Paz and he engaged in a particular sexual activity that made him feel uncomfortable.

Paz declined to comment on the accusations in an interview with the Eagle on March 28 and declined multiple subsequent interview requests on April 7, April 8 and April 15.

Lynch and two other students who told The Eagle they had experienced unwanted romantic or sexual advances from Paz had not filed formal misconduct complaints at time of publication.

Conduct code explained

Sexual misconduct complaints fall under the category of Title IX, a portion of the United States Education Amendments of 1972, which illegalizes discrimination on the basis of sex under any education program that receives government funding.

In Title IX cases, once AU’s Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution Services receives a complaint from the Dean of Students, the University notifies both the complainant and the respondent, according to Curran. The complainant is the individual filing the complaint, and the respondent is the person who allegedly violated the code.

After the University notifies both parties, Curran said her office has informational meetings with the students. At this meeting, the SCCRS goes through the hearing process with the complainant and the respondent.

The University requires the complainant to attend the hearing and gives the respondent the chance to attend. The complainant and the respondent are able to have an advisor if they choose.

Curran said the first portion of the hearing involves “fact finding,” where a panel (panels consist of one student and two faculty or staff) examines any information that may be in violation of the Student Conduct Code.

At the end of the “fact finding” portion, the panel decides whether or not the respondent has responsibility for the accusation. The panel rules on whether or not the respondent is responsible based on a “preponderance of evidence,” according to Curran.

A complaint has a “preponderance of evidence” when it is backed by enough “credible information” to make the complaint more likely true than not.

“We are not a court of law, and I cannot make that clear enough,” Curran said. “We do not decide guilt or innocence. That is not something that we have the authority of the ability to do. We decide responsibility or not responsible.”

Witnesses serve as the main form of evidence for the panel, Curran said. Witnesses include the parties involved in the allegation and anyone who may have saw or heard the alleged conduct violations.

Beyond witnesses, Curran said the panel examines any documents, photographs or messages that could support or refute the alleged situation.

If the panel finds the respondent responsible, the panel goes into a sanctioning phase, which is where the panel decides on the appropriate penalties for the respondent, according to Curran. If the panel does not find the respondent responsible, then the case ends and neither party is penalized.

Not responsible means the preponderance of evidence shows the allegation was less likely to have happened, according to Curran.

Finding someone not responsible is also not the same as a ruling of “not guilty,” she said.

frodriguez@theeagleonline.com

Clarifications: A respondent have the right to face the complainant, but is not required to attend the hearing. 

The "fact-finding" panel consists of two faculty or staff members.


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