Availability of Informal Measures versus Formal Process

Some concerns or complaints may require more concentrated attention. In such cases, issues may be addressed through either formal process or informal measures.

Informal measures are available to resolve alleged violations of Law School or university policies, as well as to address a broader set of concerns. For instance, informal measures are available to address conduct that implicates community standards, but does not implicate a particular violation of policy. Informal measures are also an appropriate means by which a student might seek to initiate conversation about organizational policies or practices, community standards, or other areas of interest that do not entail assignation of blame or fact-finding, but rather contemplate collaborative dialogue, mutual agreement, and prospective change. 

Formal procedures are available to resolve complaints that allege a violation of Law School or university policies. Formal procedures are required whenever the sanction or remedy will include formal discipline of any kind, such as expulsion, suspension, or notations on academic or other official records. 

A. Applicability of informal measures and formal process as defined in Parts IV and V.

1. Allegations of sexual misconduct, relationship violence, or stalking excluded.  

The NYU Policy on Sexual Misconduct, Relationship Violence, and Stalking applies to all members of the NYU Law community, whether student or employee, and defines prohibited behaviors. All complaints or concerns covered by that policy must be governed exclusively by that policy and its associated procedures (which are described in documents that address complaints against employees or students). 

NYU requires Responsible Employees (those Employees in a leadership or supervisory position, or who have significant responsibility for the welfare of students or employees) to immediately report any known or suspected violations of the policy to the university Title IX Coordinator, even if such a report is against the wishes of the complainant. The policy also details privacy and confidentiality protections applicable to complainants and members of the community who receive notice of or witness a violation, and expressly forbids retaliation. NYU provides information on policies and procedures related to Title IX that describes these rules and procedures in greater detail, and also provides various guides, examples of available remedies and accommodations, and information about support and resources available through the Wellness Exchange. 

2. Availability of formal process versus informal measures

Apart from allegations of Sexual Misconduct, Relationship Violence, or Stalking that must be handled as described in III.A.1, student questions, complaints, or concerns typically fall into one of four categories:

  • Complaints or concerns involving conduct or actions of NYU Law students
  • Complaints or concerns involving conduct or actions of NYU students not affiliated with the Law School
  • Complaints or concerns involving conduct or actions of NYU employees, including faculty, staff, and administrators of NYU Law
  • Complaints or concerns involving conduct or actions of members of the NYU community who are neither students nor employees

This subsection explains the available approaches for each of these categories. Subsection B, which follows, explains the factors that might influence the decision to seek informal or formal resolution of an issue, when both options are available. This policy does not address complaints or concerns raised by employees of NYU Law against the university, which are typically handled through direct petition to the Dean of the Law School or relevant university officials, or through policies specifically applicable to NYU employees.

a.  Conduct or actions of NYU Law students (1)

Complaints or concerns involving conduct or actions of an NYU Law student are typically resolved according to the informal measures outlined in Part IV, or the formal procedures outlined in Part V. Both approaches are available to resolve questions, complaints, or concerns about the conduct of an NYU Law student whether raised by:

  • another NYU Law student 
  • a member of the Law School community, such as faculty, staff or administrators
  • a non-member of the Law School community, such as a vendor, employer, or contractor; in these cases, however, the Dean of Students in consultation with the Dean of the Law School shall determine whether the matter is of concern to the Law School, and if so, initiate formal process or informal measures as appropriate 

b. Conduct or actions of NYU students not affiliated with NYU Law

Complaints against NYU students not affiliated with the Law School are generally resolved at the university level. For example, the Student Conduct Procedures outline the manner in which alleged violations of the University Student Conduct Policy shall be addressed. The Non-Discrimination and Anti-Harassment Policy for Students outlines procedures applicable when the alleged violation involves discrimination or harassment against a student. Additional procedures for specific situations, such as those applicable when a violation involves a NYU residential housing, may be found in the NYU Overview of Student Conduct Policies.

c. Conduct or actions of university employees, including NYU Law faculty, staff, and administrators  

Complaints or concerns against employees of NYU, including faculty, staff, and administrators of NYU Law, must be resolved consistent with applicable federal and state law, collective bargaining agreements, employment contracts, and university policy.  

For many such complaints or concerns, the measures for informal resolution as outlined in Part IV are available. But in some cases, more formal procedures may be required, including any allegation for which formal sanction or discipline is sought.   

When formal procedures are invoked or required, the precise nature of those processes are detailed in an array of policies tailored to the nature of the complaint (e.g., bias and harassment committed against an employee, bias and harassment committed against a student, research misconduct, conflicts of interest, revocation of tenure, etc.) and the university’s legal obligations.  A Student Grievance Procedure is also available for complaints that the student seeks to lodge at the university level, typically pertaining to general compliance with university practices or policies rather than a specific person’s conduct or behavior. Finally, as described in III.A.1, any and all allegations of Sexual Misconduct, Relationship Violence, or Stalking must be handled according to the NYU Policy on Sexual Misconduct, Relationship Violence, and Stalking.  

d.  Conduct or actions of members of the NYU Law community who are neither students nor employees

Complaints or concerns against members of the NYU Law community (such as vendors or recruiters) who are not employees or students of NYU are governed by the informal measures detailed in Section IV.  

B. Choosing between formal process and informal measures

Generally speaking, the determination to proceed formally or informally rests primarily with the student who wishes to raise the issue, concern, or complaint.  However, regardless of the identities of the parties, complaints or concerns that do not allege any rule or policy violation may be addressed only through informal measures.  

In rare cases, an allegation may involve such a clear and severe violation of university or Law School policy that it requires resolution through formal procedures. In such instances, the decision to address the issue formally will be made with the cooperative consultation of the student alleging the violation, but the Dean retains the ultimate discretion to invoke the formal procedure process.  Examples of situations that may result in removal to formal proceedings include: serious violations of academic integrity or threats or acts that imminently endanger members of the community. 

Typically, however, the initial determination to pursue informal resolution of an issue or complaint rests within the sole discretion of the student. Because informal measures are voluntary and cooperative in character, the respondent may refuse to participate in an informal process; either party may also opt out or terminate informal measures at any time. In either event, formal procedures may be invoked so long as the complaint involves an alleged violation of a campus rule or policy.  

When either formal process or an informal measure is available, the considerations that might guide whether a student elects a particular approach include:

  • The nature of the complaint or concern. Issues alleging serious, intentional, or pervasive violations of campus policies or codes of conduct, particularly those indicating that other students may be at risk, typically require formal procedures. In contrast, issues arising from unintentional or inadvertent acts, an isolated violation of policy that is amenable to voluntary correction, or institutional or structural concerns may be better suited to informal resolution. 
  • Assignation of blame. Informal measures are restorative and educational in tone and character. Although accusations of blameworthiness may occur, the informal process is not focused on establishing wrong-doing; rather, its primary object is to identify routes of reconciliation and mutual understanding or agreement. 
  • The remedy sought. Certain remedies are available only through formal procedures (such as another student’s expulsion, suspension, or official transcript notation; an investigation or findings that clearly implicate character and fitness evaluations by the bar; or an employee’s sanction or termination). 
  • Privacy and confidentiality. Formal procedures require a student to file a written complaint, and afford certain rights to the respondent (such as the right to be present during the taking of evidence); they also involve adjudication by a multi-member disciplinary committee composed of faculty and a student representative. Accordingly, although formal procedures are typically confidential to the extent feasible (see Section V.B.5), the complaint is necessarily shared with others and formally recorded. Because informal measures do not include any formal factfinding, there is often greater flexibility to maintain the anonymity or privacy of the parties involved. The assumption is that informal measures will preserve confidentiality as appropriate under the circumstances. Aggregate information about concerns raised may be tracked by select administrators (e.g., the Dean, Dean of Students, and Assistant Dean for Diversity and Inclusion) as a means of assessing community climate, but, where appropriate, such information is stripped of identifying data.
  • Records. Because the purpose of an informal approach is to resolve the issue without formal adjudicative procedures, informal measures do not include any formal or individualized factfinding or the deliberate creation of official Law School records. There is no policy to generate or maintain any kind of documentation regarding informal measures, although the administration also cannot guarantee that informal records (e.g., electronic communications, notes, etc.) will be routinely destroyed. Aggregate data about informal complaints may be noted or shared, but stripped of any identifying data where appropriate.

    (1)  As used herein, “student” includes students enrolled in any academic program of the Law School as well as a student organization belonging to or affiliated with the Law School.  Some students may also be employed by the Law School, such as paid teaching or research assistants.  Generally, the policies and processes that apply depend upon what role the individual was acting in – i.e., student or employee – at the time of any alleged misconduct; certain conduct may implicate both student and employee policies.  NYU reserves its discretion to determine which policies apply.