Discrimination & Harassment Complaints

To file a complaint of discrimination or harassment, please contact:

Office of Equal Opportunity and Access
Sarah M. Brown, Director
1800 Sherman Ave., Suite 4500
Evanston, IL 60208
Phone:  847-491-7458
Fax:  847-467-0698

To file a complaint of sexual harassment, please contact:

University Sexual Harassment Prevention Office
Joan Slavin, Director
1800 Sherman Ave., Suite 4500
Evanston, IL
Phone:  847-491-3745
Fax:  847-491-2506

You may also file a complaint with any of the individuals listed under “Where to Get Advice and Help.”

Complaint Resolution Guidelines


All reports of conduct that is inconsistent with Northwestern’s Policy on Discrimination and Harassment will be promptly and thoroughly investigated.  Investigation will commence as soon as practicable following receipt of the complaint by the Office of Equal Opportunity and Access, generally within one week.  Investigations will be conducted as expeditiously as possible and are usually completed within 30-60 days, though this may vary based on the availability of witnesses, the scope of the investigation, or unforeseen circumstances.  Depending upon the circumstances, the investigator will be from the Office of Equal Opportunity and Access (OEOA), the University Sexual Harassment Prevention Office, or the Office of Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution.

During an investigation, the complainant (the person filing the complaint) will have the opportunity to describe his or her allegations and present supporting witnesses or other evidence.  The respondent (the person complained about) will have the opportunity to respond to each allegation and present supporting witnesses or other evidence.  The investigator will review evidence presented and will meet with additional witnesses identified by the complainant, the respondent, or third parties, as determined appropriate by the investigator.  All parties involved in the investigation are expected to cooperate and provide truthful information throughout the investigation process. 

Any participant in an investigation who has a complaint regarding the conduct of the investigator or who believes the investigator has a conflict of interest should contact one of the individuals listed under “Where to Get Advice and Help,” who shall take appropriate actions to address the issue in a prompt and equitable manner.

Support Person/Legal Counsel

During the investigation process, both the complainant and the respondent may ask a non-attorney support person from the University community to accompany him or her.  The support person must be a member of the Northwestern community (faculty, staff, or student), cannot be a family member, and cannot be a potential witness in the matter, or another complainant or respondent in the same or a related matter.  Since investigations are internal University proceedings, the persons involved may not have legal counsel present at any interview during the investigation.  The support person does not serve as an advocate on behalf of the complainant or respondent, and he or she must agree to maintain the confidentiality of the investigative process.  Witnesses and others involved in an investigation are not entitled to have a support person accompany them to interviews.    


The purpose of the Northwestern Policy on Discrimination and Harassment is to provide the University community with a positive working and educational environment that is free of discrimination and harassment.  Complaints of discrimination or harassment will be investigated in a manner that is consistent with this goal. 

Northwestern cannot promise total confidentiality in its handling of discrimination and harassment complaints.  Northwestern makes every reasonable effort to handle inquiries, complaints, and related proceedings in a manner that protects the privacy of all parties.  Each situation is reviewed as discreetly as possible, with information shared only with those who need to know about it in order to investigate and resolve the problem. 

In certain circumstances, the University may be able to address discrimination or harassment concerns and stop problematic behavior without revealing to the alleged respondent the identity of the person who complained and/or the individuals involved in the investigation.  However, this is not possible in every matter, as situations may require the disclosure of the complainant’s identity in order to fully investigate the matter and/or to enable the respondent the ability to fully respond to the allegations against him or her.

Throughout its proceedings, Northwestern will be sensitive to the feelings and situation of the alleged victim and/or reporter of discrimination or harassment.  Nevertheless, the University has a compelling interest to address all allegations of discrimination or harassment brought to its attention.  Northwestern reserves the right to take appropriate action in such circumstances, even in cases when the complainant is reluctant to proceed.

Retaliation is Strictly Prohibited

Northwestern prohibits retaliation against anyone for inquiring about suspected breaches of Northwestern policy, registering a complaint pursuant to its policies, assisting another in making a complaint, or participating in an investigation under its policies.  Retaliation is a serious violation that can subject the offender to sanctions, regardless of whether there is a finding that a complaint of discrimination or harassment has merit.  Anyone experiencing any conduct that he or she believes to be retaliatory should report it immediately to one of the individuals listed in “Where to Get Advice and Help.”


At the conclusion of an investigation, the investigator will determine whether the preponderance of the evidence indicates that the respondent violated the Policy on Discrimination and Harassment.  The investigator will provide his or her conclusions and any recommended actions to the appropriate University office.  The complainant and the respondent will be notified in writing of the outcome of the investigation upon its conclusion.

When a violation of the Policy on Discrimination and Harassment is found, the University’s response is based on several factors, including the severity of the conduct, and aims to prevent problems from recurring.  In addition, the University may recommend steps to address the effects of the conduct on the complainant and others.  Violators of the policy will be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment, in accordance with relevant University policies and/or procedures and other requirements set forth in the Staff Handbook, Faculty Handbook, or Student Handbook.


The complainant or respondent may request a reconsideration of the case in instances where he or she is dissatisfied with the outcome.  The appeal must be made within ten (10) business days of the party’s receipt of the investigator’s written notification of the conclusion of the investigation.  An appeal must be in writing, submitted to one of the individuals listed below, as appropriate, and specify the substantive and/or procedural basis for the appeal.  The appropriate individual below will review the appeal and issue a written decision, which shall be final and not subject to further appeal.  The decision will be issued within a reasonable period of time, generally no longer than ninety (90) days after receipt of the appeal.

An appeal by an employee or third party should be addressed to:

Vice President for Human Resources
720 University Place
Evanston, IL  60208
Phone: (847) 491-7505
Fax: (847) 467-2688

An appeal by a student should be addressed to:

Vice President for Student Affairs
633 Clark Street
Rebecca Crown Center
Evanston, IL  60208
Phone: (847) 491-8430
Fax: (847) 467-2523

An appeal by a faculty member should be addressed to:

633 Clark Street
Rebecca Crown Center
Evanston, IL  60208
Phone: (847) 491-5117
Fax: (847) 467-1630

These guidelines supersede previously published procedures and guidelines for complaint resolution.