Information for Witnesses

Frequently Asked Questions for Witnesses

Last updated December 2020

These FAQs are intended to provide information for students, faculty, and staff members who are contacted by the Office of Gender Equity and Title IX Administration to be interviewed as “witnesses” in Title IX Sexual Harassment or University Sexual Misconduct investigations.

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1. Why am I being called for an interview?

You are likely being called for an interview because a party (complainant or respondent) or another witness identified you as someone who may have relevant information regarding allegations being investigated by the University. Even if you did not witness a particular interaction, you may have information that is relevant to the investigation.

2. Who will be contacting me for the interview?

If the University is contacting you for an interview, the interviewer will identify themselves as a University investigator and they will write to you from a princeton.edu email address.  If you have any concerns regarding the identity of someone reaching out to you regarding an investigation, please contact the Office of Gender Equity and Title IX Administration  (ptitleix@princeton.edu).

3. Can I decline to attend the interview with a University investigator?

No. Members of the University community are expected to cooperate fully in the disciplinary process, and anyone (whether a party or a witness) who refuses to cooperate may be subject to discipline. Failing to respond to multiple attempts by an administrator or University investigator to contact or meet with a member of the University community may be considered a refusal to cooperate. See Rights, Rules, Responsibilities section 1.1.5.

4. What if a party’s Adviser or someone working on their behalf contacts me?

You are not obligated to speak to anyone other than the University investigator(s).  To the contrary, individuals involved in investigations are encouraged to exercise discretion in sharing information in order to safeguard the integrity of the process.  Moreover, if you speak to a party’s Adviser or someone working on their behalf, you may be questioned regarding your interaction with them, and such interaction may be taken into account in the adjudication (for example, the adjudicators may consider whether you independently recalled certain information or whether the Adviser/someone working on their behalf “coached” you regarding certain information).

5. May I bring an adviser to the interview?

No. While parties (the complainant and the respondent) may each have a Title IX/Sexual Misconduct adviser, witnesses are not entitled to have advisers during the process. However, even though you are not permitted to have an adviser accompany you to your interview, we understand that serving as a witness can be a stressful experience, and we encourage you to seek support from Confidential Resources.

6. May I record the interview?

The investigators will record all interviews, or notes of the interviews will be taken by the investigators. Any other recording of interviews is prohibited and violations may result in discipline.

7. What should I expect during the interview?

You will be interviewed by a panel of investigators. 

It is important that the investigators obtain all possible relevant information from witnesses. Therefore, witnesses may anticipate that they will be asked detailed questions which may relate to very personal and sensitive matters. The investigators are trained to do so in a sensitive and respectful manner, but we recognize that such questioning can be difficult to experience. In addition, investigators may ask questions related to alcohol and drug use in order to ascertain parties’ and witnesses’ levels of intoxication, which may have implications related to memory and/or to incapacitation. We recognize that for a variety of reasons (e.g., the length of time since the incident, the use of alcohol or other drugs, or trauma), witnesses may not clearly recall every aspect of an incident. However, it is important for interviewees to be honest with the investigators regarding what they recall clearly, what they recall to some extent, and what they do not recall.

Interviewees make take breaks at any time; however, we ask that they answer any pending questions before doing so.

8. What types of evidence might I be asked to provide?

Investigators will ask witnesses to provide specific evidence if the investigators determine that such evidence may be relevant to the investigation. The most common types of evidence submitted by witnesses in these cases include: messages (texts, Facebook, Snapchat, etc.), emails, letters, diary/journal entries, medical records, photographs, and videos.

9. What happens with the information that I provide?

Both the complainant and the respondent will receive either a transcript or a written summary of your interview. 

As a witness, you will not receive such documents.

10. Can I remain anonymous?

Complainants and respondents are permitted to know the identities of witnesses who are interviewed as part of their cases.  Therefore, as a witness, you will be unable to remain anonymous.

11. Does the University provide amnesty regarding other types of violations (for example, drug use or underage alcohol use)?

In order to encourage reports of conduct that is prohibited under the Title IX Sexual Harassment policy and/or the University Sexual Misconduct policy, the University may offer leniency with respect to other violations which may come to light as a result of such reports, depending on the circumstances involved. For more information, see the Title IX Sexual Harassment policy section VI(4) and the University Sexual Misconduct policy section VI(4).

12. Can I decline to participate in live cross examination by a party’s adviser in a Title IX grievance hearing?

If you are a witness in a Title IX grievance proceeding, the parties’ advisers are entitled to cross examine you at the hearing (i.e., they may ask you relevant questions at the hearing).    If you decline to participate in live cross examination, the adjudicators are not permitted to rely on any information that you have provided during the investigation process (including your written statements and other information you may have provided, such as text messages, etc.), and the adjudicators will be unable to make their decision based on all relevant information. 

Please note that the cross examination requirements in the Title IX grievance proceedings do not apply to cases that fall under the University Sexual Misconduct policy. 

13. Will I be notified regarding the outcome of the investigation?

No. As a witness, you will not be notified regarding the outcome of the investigation.

14. Can I discuss my interview with others?

Individuals involved in investigations are encouraged to exercise discretion in sharing information in order to safeguard the integrity of the process and to avoid the appearance of retaliation.

15. What if I am worried about retaliation?

Witnesses are both protected from being retaliated against for their participation in a disciplinary process and prohibited from engaging in Retaliation against others. Retaliatory behavior is subject to investigation and if substantiated, will result in discipline proportionate to the conduct. Witnesses are encouraged to share any concerns related to retaliation (both throughout and following the investigation) with Director of Gender Equity and Title IX Administration, Regan Crotty (rehunt@princeton.edu). For more information relating to Retaliation, please see the Retaliation FAQs.

16. What if I have a disability?

If a witness needs reasonable accommodations due to a qualifying disability in order to fully and meaningfully participate in the investigative/adjudicative process, please contact Director for Disability Services Liz Erickson (eerickso@princeton.edu) prior to any meeting or interview in which reasonable accommodations may be needed.  Further information regarding the Office of Disability Services is available here

17. What if I have questions or concerns about the process?

If you have questions or concerns about the process, please contact the Office of Gender Equity and Title IX Administration.