Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education -Student Misconduct

The Pennsylvania System

Pennsylvania's legislature formed the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education in 1983 out of several universities having much longer histories. Today, the Penn State System includes fourteen member universities serving nearly 100,000 students through over 2,300 degree and certificate programs. With about 800,000 living alumni, the Penn State System has provided the state and nation a vast economic and educational benefit. By enrollment and impact, the Penn State System is one of the top fifty university systems in the world. Penn State System universities, spread north to south and east to west across the large state, include Bloomsburg, California, Cheyney, Clarion, East Stroudsburg, Edinboro, Indiana, Kutztown, Lock Haven, Mansfield, Millersville, Shippensburg, Slippery Rock, and Westchester. If you face Penn State System student misconduct charges, national college misconduct defense attorney Joseph Lento is licensed to practice in Pennsylvania and available to represent you at any Penn State System campus.

Penn State System Governance

A 20-member Board of Governors oversees the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. Because the Penn State System is a public entity, policies that the Penn State System Board of Governors adopt are state administrative regulations. The Board of Governors appoints a Penn State System chancellor and a president over each Penn State System university. The Penn State System chancellor maintains an Office of Academic and Student Affairs to help the System develop policies on student conduct and other subjects affecting academic programs. While the Board of Governors oversees the whole system, each Penn State System university has its own Council of Trustees to set policy for the individual university. The Pennsylvania Association of Councils of Trustees (PACT) helps each university council coordinate policy with other Penn State System universities, such as by providing Title IX sexual misconduct training. Student policies at each Penn State System university will thus generally differ in their details but look similar in scope and nature.

Penn State System Student Conduct Codes

The same is true for student conduct codes across the Penn State System that they will generally differ in detail but look similar in scope and substance. The Penn State System Board of Governors has delegated to each university president the authority and responsibility to adopt student conduct codes ensuring the safety and integrity of university facilities and programs. Board of Governors Policy 1984-13-A provides:

Each university president, with trustee approval, shall create rules of student conduct and judicial procedures, consistent with these regulations, which shall provide substantive rules defining with reasonable specificity disciplinary offenses; penalties or sanctions; and procedural guidelines to adjudicate rules violations.

If you face student misconduct charges at any Penn State System university, then you must look to the university's own student conduct codes for your procedural rights and substantive responsibilities.

Penn State System Minimum Procedural Guarantees

Although the Penn State System Board of Governors looks to each university president to adopt student conduct codes, the Board's Policy 1984-13-A sets minimum procedural standards. As a public institution, the Penn State System must provide constitutional due process before depriving any student of property or liberty interests. Earning a Penn State System university degree is a substantial property interest in which you and other students invest substantial time, money, and effort. To ensure that each Penn State System university meets its constitutional requirement for providing due process before disciplining students, the Board's Policy 1984-13-A guarantees these procedural protections:

  • Reasonably specific advance written notice of charges containing a description of the alleged acts of misconduct, including time, date, and place of occurrence, and the rules of conduct the student allegedly violated
  • Reasonable advance written notice of the date, time, and place of the hearing, unless the student waives hearing in writing
  • Reasonably sufficient time between the date of service of charges and the date of the hearing to allow the student to prepare a defense
  • Opportunity for submission of written, physical, and testimonial evidence and for reasonable questioning of witnesses by both parties
  • An impartial hearing before a committee, board, panel, or individual whom the university appoints
  • A written summary or audiotape record of the hearing at university expense, though students may be required to pay the cost of copies of requested records
  • A decision based upon presented evidence sufficient to make a reasonable person believe that asserted facts are more likely true than not
  • A written adjudication setting forth the facts and reasons for the decision with reasonable specificity within thirty working days after the close of the proceedings
  • That accused students may retain an advisor who may be an attorney to be present at hearings, although only to consult and interact privately with the student unless the university otherwise determines or other law requires

The Board's Policy 1984-13-A further requires that any hearing must ensure that the accused student has “a fair and reasonable opportunity to answer, explain, and defend against the charges” and that “all evidence must be inherently reliable.” These procedural safeguards can ensure your fair treatment in a Penn State System disciplinary proceeding, but only if you know and exercise your procedural rights. To do so, retain national college misconduct defense attorney Joseph Lento and the expert team at the Lento Law Firm. Attorney Lento has successfully represented hundreds of college and university students nationwide and is available to assist you at any Penn State System university.

Penn State System University Student Conduct Codes

Your Penn State System university publishes its student conduct codes on its website or otherwise makes those codes available to you for your review. Each Penn State System university has one or more student conduct codes addressing different forms of student misconduct. Each Penn State System university will prohibit (1) certain forms of behavioral misconduct like alcohol or drug abuse, falsifying university identification or records, and property crimes, (2) academic misconduct like cheating and plagiarism, and (3) sexual misconduct uniformly, including Title IX forms like sexual assault and sexual harassment but possibly also including non-Title IX forms like sexual exploitation. Here are representative student conduct codes at several Penn State System universities:

The Penn State System universities East Stroudsburg, Edinboro, Indiana, Kutztown, Lock Haven, Mansfield, Millersville, Shippensburg, Slippery Rock, and Westchester each have similar policies. If you face Penn State System misconduct charges, then you and your retained academic administrative defense attorney will be evaluating and defending those charges under a specific university policy like the ones shown above. Those specific university policies also provide for the detailed procedures that university officials must follow to determine the charges. Retain national college misconduct defense attorney Joseph Lento to help you evaluate misconduct charges and use the available procedures for your best defense. Don't give up or get discouraged simply because you face Penn State System misconduct charges. Charges are simply allegations of wrongdoing. Those allegations may be false, unfair, exaggerated, or mistaken. Get the expert attorney help you need. Do as hundreds of other college and university students nationwide have done and retain expert academic administrative attorney Joseph Lento.

Example Penn State System Prohibited Conduct

While each Penn State System university has its own student conduct codes, the Clarion University of Pennsylvania student conduct policies provide well-developed examples of the prohibitions and procedures you may face at your Penn State System university. Those prohibitions fall into the three classes of (1) behavioral misconduct, (2) academic misconduct, and (3) sexual misconduct. Consider each example in turn, likely representative of your Penn State System university.

Behavioral Misconduct. Penn State System students may find it especially easy to run afoul, whether accidentally or even innocently, of their university's behavioral conduct code because of the many behaviors those codes tend to address. For example, Clarion University of Pennsylvania's student code of conduct addressing behavioral misconduct prohibits these many acts:

  • Knowingly furnishing or possessing falsified or forged materials, documents, accounts, records, identification, or financial instruments
  • Unauthorized access to university buildings, unauthorized possession, duplication, or use of means of access to university buildings, or failing to timely report a lost university identification card or key
  • Violations of positions of trust within the university community
  • Tampering with the election of university-recognized student organizations
  • Intentional unauthorized taking of university property or the personal property of another
  • Knowingly taking or maintaining possession of stolen property
  • Substantial disruption of university operations, including obstruction of teaching, research, administration, or activities on or off-campus
  • Causing, inciting, or participating in any disturbance that presents a clear and present danger to self or others, causes physical harm to others, or damage or destruction of property
  • Misuse of access privileges to university premises or unauthorized entry to or use of buildings, including trespassing or propping or unauthorized use of alarmed doors for entry into or exit from a university building
  • Unauthorized use or misuse of university or organizational names and images in trademark violation
  • Intentional, reckless, or unauthorized damage to or destruction of university property or the personal property of another
  • Violating university computer-use policies
  • Gambling as prohibited by the Pennsylvania laws, including raffles, lotteries, sports pools, and online betting activities
  • Possession, use, or distribution of explosives, fireworks, ammunition, guns, air guns, bb guns, paintball guns, facsimile weapons, pellet guns, or other weapons or dangerous objects such as arrows, axes, machetes, nunchucks, throwing stars, or knives with a blade of longer than four inches
  • Smoking or tobacco use, including use of electronic smoking devices in any area of campus, where prohibited
  • Violation of local, state, federal, or campus fire policies, including intentionally or recklessly causing a fire, failing to evacuate during a fire alarm
  • Discrimination or harassment based on sex, gender identity or expression, race, color, age, national or ethnic origin, physical or mental disability, veteran status, pregnancy status, religion or creed, or sexual orientation, genetic characteristic, or other protected status that is sufficiently severe that it limits or denies the ability to participate in or benefit from educational program or activities
  • Abuse of the disciplinary process including falsification, distortion, or misrepresentation of information, failure to provide, destroying or concealing information during an investigation, attempting to discourage an individual's proper participation, intimidation of a member of a campus conduct body before, during, or after a proceeding, failing to comply with a sanction, or influencing another person to commit an abuse of the campus conduct system
  • Intentionally or recklessly causing physical harm or endangering the health or safety of any person
  • Written or verbal conduct that causes a reasonable expectation of injury to the health or safety of any person or damage to any property, or implied threats or acts that cause a reasonable fear of harm in another
  • Bullying and cyberbullying through repeated or severe aggressive behaviors that intimidate or intentionally harm or control another person physically or emotionally and are not protected by freedom of expression
  • Hazing, defined as an act that endangers the mental or physical health or safety of a student or that destroys or removes public or private property for the purpose of initiation, admission into, affiliation with, or as a condition for continued membership in a group or organization

Academic Misconduct. While behavioral misconduct can be especially easy to commit or appear to commit because of the many behavioral prohibitions, academic misconduct can also present several gray areas that could implicate students who are innocent, unaware, or perhaps only modestly careless. Don't let unfair or exaggerated academic misconduct charges ruin your educational record. A charge of academic misconduct is not the same as a finding of misconduct. Retain national college misconduct defense attorney Joseph Lento to help you defend and defeat academic misconduct charges at your Penn State System university. Academic misconduct policies can be subject to interpretation, mistake, and misunderstanding. For example, Clarion University of Pennsylvania's academic integrity policy addressing cheating and other forms of academic dishonesty prohibits these acts:

  • Plagiarism, defined as the use of another's words without attribution, without enclosing the words in quotation marks, by taking the ideas or expressions of another person to represent as one's own, even by paraphrase or other modification, including a close or extended paraphrase even if the accused student names the source, or by downloading, copying, and pasting partial or entire texts from one or more internet sources
  • Collusion, defined as collaborating with another person in the preparation of notes, themes, reports, or other written work offered for credit unless specifically permitted by the instructor
  • Cheating on an examination or quiz, defined as giving or receiving information or using prepared material without authorization
  • Falsification of data, defined as manufacturing or falsifying information, including providing false or misleading information, or selective use of data to support a particular conclusion or to avoid conducting actual research

Sexual Misconduct. Sexual misconduct charges within the Penn State System are a serious matter, as they are at other colleges and universities. Sexual misconduct charges carry an implication that the accused student is not only untrustworthy but also potentially dangerous. If you face sexual misconduct charges at a Penn State System university, retain national college misconduct defense attorney Joseph Lento to help you defend and defeat those charges. Penn State System's sexual misconduct policies can implicate a range of social conduct that, to some persons and in some circles, would be normal. Students can easily run afoul of broad sexual misconduct policies at Penn State System universities, just as at other colleges and universities. For example, Clarion University of Pennsylvania's Title IX policyprohibits these forms of sexual misconduct:

  • Dating violence by a person who is or has been in a social relationship of a romantic or intimate nature with the complainant, including sexual or physical abuse or the threat of such abuse
  • Domestic violence committed by a current or former spouse or intimate partner of the complainant, by a person with whom the complainant shares a child in common, by a person who is cohabitating with or has cohabitated with the complainant as a spouse or intimate partner, or by any other person against an adult or youth complainant whom Pennsylvania family violence laws protect
  • Retaliation including any action, directly or through others, aimed to deter a reasonable person from reporting sexual misconduct or participating in an investigation or hearing or action that is done in response to such activities
  • Sexual assault, including any sexual act directed against another person without consent, including where the person is incapable of consent, including penetration, knowingly touching or fondling directly or indirectly through clothing, bodily fluids, or with an object, or statutory sexual assault below Pennsylvania's age sixteen for consent for sexual activity in Pennsylvania is 16
  • Sexual exploitation engaging in sexual behaviors directed toward or involving another person or use of another person's sexuality for purposes of sexual gratification, financial gain, personal gain, or personal advantage when consent is not present, including sexual voyeurism or permitting others to witness or observe the sexual or intimate activity of another person without consent, indecent exposure, recording or distributing information, images, or recordings of any person engaged in sexual or intimate activity without consent, prostituting another individual, knowingly exposing another individual to a sexually transmitted disease without that individual's knowledge, or inducing incapacitation for the purpose of making another person vulnerable to nonconsensual sexual activity
  • Quid pro quo sexual harassment conditioning the provision of university aid, benefit, or service on participation in unwelcome sexual conduct
  • Hostile environment sexual harassment in the form of unwelcome sexual conduct that a reasonable person would regard as so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it denies a person equal access to the university educational programs or activities
  • Stalking, defined as a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to fear for their safety or the safety of others or suffer substantial emotional distress, including cyberstalking through the internet, social networks, blogs, cell phones, texts, email, or other similar forms of contact

Example Penn State System Misconduct Procedures

Each Penn State System campus will have its own procedures for determining charges of behavioral, academic, or sexual misconduct. Those procedures must meet the minimum procedural protections that the Penn State System Board of Governors Policy 1984-13-A, summarized above, guarantees. Your Penn State System university's procedures for addressing and resolving misconduct charges can be critical to your successful handling of misconduct charges. But to take appropriate advantage of your university's misconduct procedures, you need expert representation from an experienced academic administrative attorney. Don't retain a local criminal defense lawyer who is unfamiliar with academic administrative proceedings. Instead, retain national college misconduct defense attorney Joseph Lento who has helped hundreds of students nationwide defend and defeat false, unfair, and exaggerated misconduct charges. Example Penn State System university misconduct procedures follow.

Preliminary Procedures. Each Penn State System university may have different procedures depending on the form of charged misconduct, especially Title IX sexual misconduct, although the procedures may be similar or overlap. Clarion University of Pennsylvania's three separate policies for student conduct, academic integrity, and Title IX sexual misconduct all rely on the university's student code of conduct for basic disciplinary procedures. Clarion's student conduct code, similar to other Penn State System university conduct codes, first provides for elaborate notice to the accused student. The notice must include a description of the allegations forming the basis for the charges. The notice must also assure the accused student that the student may retain an academic administrative attorney to advise the student in the misconduct proceeding. The investigating official must permit the accused student to review the evidence against the student before the official completes the investigation. The administrator responsible for the proceeding may then conduct an informal conference, inviting the accused student to accept the proposed findings and any sanction.

Don't wait to retain an academic administrative attorney advisor. Your best opportunity to resolve Penn State System misconduct charges may be at the preliminary stage. When retained early in a proceeding, national college misconduct defense attorney Joseph Lento is often able to gather exonerating and mitigating evidence to convince discipline officials to dismiss the charges. Attorney Lento may also show university officials that the better resolution is an informal one that educates and informs the accused student while avoiding permanent records of discipline.

Hearing Procedures. If a Clarion University student rejects the investigation recommendations, the matter proceeds to a formal hearing before a University Conduct Board, as would be typical at other Penn State System universities. The Conduct Board decides the matter on the evidence presented at the hearing, at which the accused student may have an attorney representative. Clarion University of Pennsylvania's student code of conduct assures that the accused student's retained attorney has ample opportunity to advise the student:

The parties may be accompanied by their advisor in all meetings and interviews at which the party is entitled to be present, including intake and interviews. … Advisors may ask questions pertaining to the investigation, meeting or hearing and do have the opportunity, in the case of Title IX cases to ask cross examination questions of the complainant, respondent, or other witnesses. … An Advisor's role for Title IX related cases is further defined in the Sexual Misconduct Policy.

Title IX Procedures. As the above hearing procedures suggest, Penn State System universities must, under federal Title IX regulations, provide the accused student with additional procedural safeguards when the allegations involve Title IX sexual misconduct. For example, Clarion University of Pennsylvania's student conduct code includes Special Hearing Provisions for sexual misconduct charges. Those special provisions include these special rights of the accused student:

  • The right to good faith investigation and appropriate resolution of sexual misconduct charges
  • The right to be informed in advance of any public release of information regarding the charges
  • The right to be treated with respect by university officials
  • The right to have university policies and procedures followed without material deviation
  • The right to be informed of and have access to campus resources for medical, health, counseling, and advisory services
  • The right to timely official written notice of all alleged violations, including the nature of the violation, the applicable policies and procedures, and possible sanctions
  • The right to review all documentary evidence regarding the report, subject to privacy limitations imposed by state and federal law, before any findings
  • The right to learn the names of all witnesses whose information the university may use to support a finding before final determination
  • The right not to have irrelevant prior sexual history admitted as evidence
  • The right to have reports addressed by unbiased investigators and appropriate administrators who have received annual training
  • The right to petition that the university recuse any representative from the resolution process on the basis of demonstrated bias or conflict of interest
  • The right to meetings and interviews that are closed to the public
  • The right to have the university compel the participation of student, faculty, and staff witnesses
  • The right to provide investigators with a list of potential questions to ask of witnesses
  • The right to challenge documentary evidence
  • The right to have an attorney-advisor of their choice accompany and assist throughout the proceeding, including to cross-examine all witnesses
  • The right to a fundamentally fair resolution
  • The right to a decision based solely on credible, relevant, fact-based evidence presented during the proceeding, without prejudice
  • The right to be promptly informed of the outcome and sanction of the resolution process in writing
  • The right to be informed in writing of when a decision is final and of the right to appeal the finding and sanction, including the appeal procedures

Penn State System Misconduct Sanctions

Each Penn State System university also provides for its own sanctions for student misconduct. Sanctions, though, tend to have even more similarity or uniformity than the substantive and procedural aspects of the various Penn State System university codes. Be cautious when estimating potential sanctions, even for seemingly minor misconduct charges. At many universities, the default sanction to which administrators often turn is suspension, not merely reprimand. Suspension can be a serious sanction, not only delaying graduation but potentially placing the student at risk of dismissal for inadequate progress. Almost any sanction can also affect honors, awards, scholarships, internships, references, recommendation letters, graduate school admission, professional licensure, and job opportunities. Retain national college misconduct defense attorney Joseph Lento to ensure that you do not suffer an unjust, punitive, and destructive sanction. Clarion University of Pennsylvania's student conduct code provides these sanctions typical of the sanctions at other Penn State System universities:

  • Warning that the student has violated university policies or rules and that further misconduct may result in more-severe sanctions
  • Restitution to compensate for damage caused to the university or any person's property, not as a fine but to repay repair costs or the value of property destroyed, damaged, consumed, or stolen
  • Education such as online modules, workshops for alcohol and controlled substances, judicial mentoring programs, or other opportunities tailored to preventing recidivism
  • Reasonable fines
  • Community or university service
  • Loss of specified university privileges for a designated time
  • Confiscation of prohibited property
  • Behavioral contract such as for academic counseling, substance abuse screening, or writing a letter of apology
  • Restriction of visitation privileges on a resident or non-resident student
  • University housing probation including regular probationary meetings
  • University housing reassignment
  • University housing suspension
  • University housing expulsion
  • Probation so that further violations may result in suspension or expulsion
  • Eligibility restriction limiting participation in student organizations, the study abroad program, conferences, official functions, events, or intercollegiate competition as a player, manager, or student coach
  • Suspension from the university for a specified minimum time with eligibility to return contingent on satisfaction of conditions
  • Expulsion from the university, barring the student from the campus
  • Withholding a degree earned but not yet awarded
  • Revocation of a degree already awarded

Penn State System Misconduct Appeals

If you have already suffered Penn State System misconduct discipline, up to and including suspension or dismissal, all hope is not lost. Your Penn State System university likely has an appeal procedure. While each Penn State System university has its own disciplinary procedures, Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania's student code of conduct provides a representative appeal procedure for other Penn State System universities. Bloomsburg's appeal procedure requires the student suffering the sanction to file an appeal on the university's form within the time that the sanction notice specifies. Bloomsburg appeals go to the Office of the Dean of Students. Other Penn State System universities may assign appeals to the university president or other high-ranking official.

Although an appeal is a second chance at redemption, a successful appeal takes much more than simply filing the requisite form asking for a second review by another official. Appeals generally require obtaining the hearing record, examining it closely for reversible error, and timely drafting and filing a compelling written appeal brief documenting the reversible error. The error must also fall within one of the allowable appeal grounds. National college misconduct defense attorney Joseph Lento and his expert team at the Lento Law Firm have these expert appeal skills. At Bloomsburg, as at other Penn State System universities, an appeal must demonstrate one or more of the specified grounds for reversing the sanction, including:

  • Newly discovered evidence that could substantially affect the outcome of the hearing, if the evidence was not available at the original hearing through no fault of the accused student
  • Disciplinary action disproportionate to the violation, as the appeal must demonstrate
  • Denial of due process, in that the university did not conduct the process in conformity with prescribed procedures, resulting in substantial prejudice to the accused student

Alternative Special Relief

Depending on your individual circumstances and case, you may have alternative special relief available to you, even if you have already lost an appeal of disciplinary sanctions at your Penn State System university. Don't give up all hope. Instead, retain national college misconduct defense attorney Joseph Lento to explore alternative special relief. Penn State System universities, like other colleges and universities, have general counsel offices. The academic attorneys in those general counsel offices generally have broad authority to review university actions to ensure that they meet the university's legal and contractual obligations. Attorney Lento has the substantial skill, reputation, and relationships to communicate with university general counsel and their outside retained attorneys about alternative special relief from sanctions. In short, your reinstatement in good standing may be possible even if you have exhausted the published disciplinary procedures.

How to Defend Penn State System Misconduct Charges

Representation. The best approach to defending Penn State System misconduct charges is like the best approach to other technical challenges. First, you should ensure that you have on your side the expert professional services that give you the best chance for success. You wouldn't hire a plumber to fix your electricity. And you wouldn't hire a general medical practitioner to perform heart surgery. When you face a significant technical challenge, get the technical expertise that will meet and defeat the challenge. National college misconduct defense attorney Joseph Lento has devoted his career and practice to defending college and university students across the country. Attorney Lento knows how Penn State System disciplinary officials proceed because he has the experience of dealing with hundreds of such college and university officials. Don't retain a local criminal defense lawyer who is unfamiliar with academic administrative matters. Instead, get the expert academic attorney representation you need. Retain attorney Joseph Lento.

Education. Then, educate yourself about your Penn State System misconduct charges, rights, and responsibilities. National college misconduct defense attorney Joseph Lento can point you to the constitutional law, statutory law, and case law, both federal and state, that governs your Penn State System misconduct matter. Your Penn State System university disciplinary officials don't have unfettered discretion to do as they please. Instead, they owe you certain constitutional and contractual rights and other obligations under your university's procedures. If you don't know those rights and procedures, then you can't rely on them. Attorney Lento has the expert knowledge you need to take appropriate advantage of rights designed to ensure your best outcome. Knowledge is power. Put that power to use.

Negotiation. Third, authorize national college misconduct defense attorney Joseph Lento to communicate, meet, and negotiate with your Penn State System university's disciplinary officials. Your Penn State System university is an educational institution, not a judicial or penal institution. Your university is not in the business of punishing students but instead of educating students. Disciplinary officials can lose sight of the university's educational mission unless your expert academic administrative attorney reminds them of their obligation to you. Resolving misconduct charges can also involve showing those disciplinary officials the creative options available to them that will preserve and promote your education while meeting your university's other interests in honesty, integrity, and safety. National college misconduct defense attorney Joseph Lento has helped hundreds of college and university students nationwide with creative, win-win resolutions to threatening misconduct charges.

National College Misconduct Defense Attorney Available

University misconduct charges are daunting, putting at risk everything that the student has invested in the education. Fortunately, you have available to you at your Penn State System university campus a premier national college misconduct defense attorney Joseph Lento and his expert team at the Lento Law Firm. Attorney Lento has successfully represented hundreds of college and university students nationwide against false, unfair, unsupported, and exaggerated misconduct charges. Call 888-535-3686 now to schedule a consultation or use the online service.

Contact Us Today!

If you, or your student, are facing any kind of disciplinary action, or other negative academic sanction, and are having feelings of uncertainty and anxiety for what the future may hold, contact the Lento Law Firm today, and let us help secure your academic career.

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