Arizona Colleges and Universities

Are you a student or the parent of student at an Arizona school, college, or university facing a school-related issue or concern?  Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm can help. The world of academia is unique, and the Lento Law Firm has unparalleled national experience bringing its problem-solving approach and fighting spirit to address school-related injustice.  Attorney Lento and his Firm have helped countless students and families in Arizona and across the United States at the school level and in court.  Please click on the following links for more information.  Please also see our expanded list of school practice areas

Joseph D. Lento has helped countless students and others in academia in Arizona protect their academic and professional future, and he can do the same for you.  Contact him today at 888-535-3686.

An Overview of Arizona Student Discipline and Student Rights

Arizona has several major universities, including both the Arizona State University and University of Arizona systems, along with many community colleges. While college should be some of the best years of your life, it can quickly become scary if your school accuses you of misconduct or you face adverse consequences due to other school-related issues or concerns. With massive administrative weight coming down hard on you, you may feel like there's no way out. Fortunately, there's help available. An experienced student misconduct and student rights attorney-advisor can help you take on the behemoth school and protect your rights.

Misconduct Allegations in Arizona

Arizona schools generally handle misconduct similarly. Any public university or college must provide students with a clear process and apply their process uniformly for all misconduct violations.

Arizona State University System

The Arizona State University system is one of the largest in the country, enrolling about 150,000 current students. Arizona State University, commonly known as ASU, has four campuses:

  • Tempe Campus (main campus)
  • Downtown Phoenix Campus
  • Polytechnic Campus
  • West Campus (Lake Havasu City)

The ASU Student Code of Conduct is a document outlining the rights and responsibilities of every student. It covers the community values, standards for behavior, grounds for discipline, and the process for misconduct violations. The Student Code of Conduct Procedures were recently revised.

Grounds for Discipline

Grounds for discipline at ASU are vast. Pursuant to the school's code of conduct, disciplinary violations include:

  • All forms of academic dishonesty, including cheating, fabrication, and plagiarism
  • Endangering, threatening, or causing physical harm to any member of the university community or to oneself, causing reasonable apprehension of such harm or engaging in conduct or communications that a reasonable person would interpret as a serious expression of intent to harm
  • Impersonation of another, using another person's identity, or furnishing materially false information, including manufacturing or possession of false identification
  • Initiating, causing, or contributing to any false report, warning, or threat of fire, explosion, or other emergency
  • Forgery, falsification, fabrication, unauthorized alteration, or misuse of campus documents, records, or identification, including, but not limited to, electronic software and records
  • Interfering with or disrupting university or university-sponsored activities, including but not limited to classroom related activities, studying, teaching, research, intellectual or creative endeavor, administration, service or the provision of communication, computing or emergency services
  • Possession of property the student knows or has reason to believe may be stolen or misappropriated
  • Misuse, theft, misappropriation, destruction, damage, or unauthorized use, access, or reproduction of property, data, records, equipment or services belonging to the university or belonging to another person or entity
  • Violation of the board or university rules or applicable laws governing alcohol, including consumption, distribution, unauthorized sale, or possession of alcoholic beverages
  • Unauthorized use, sale, possession, or distribution of any controlled substance or illegal drug or possession of drug paraphernalia that would violate the law
  • Off-campus conduct that a reasonable person would believe may present a risk or danger to the health, safety or security of the university community
  • Gambling as prohibited by applicable law, university policy, or associated with any university event
  • Engaging in, supporting, promoting, or sponsoring hazing or violating the board or university rules governing hazing
  • Stalking or engaging in repeated or significant behavior toward another individual, whether in person, in writing, or through electronic means, after having been asked to stop
  • Engaging in discriminatory activities, including harassment and retaliation
  • Interfering with any university review, investigative or disciplinary process, including but not limited to tampering with physical evidence or inducing a witness to provide false information or to withhold information
  • Sexual misconduct
  • Use, possession, display, or storage of any weapon, dangerous instrument, explosive material or device, torch, device with open flames, fireworks, bomb-making materials or dangerous chemical on university property, at a university-sponsored activity or in violation of law or university policy
  • Photographing, videotaping, filming, digitally recording, or by any other means secretly viewing, with or without a device, another person without that person's consent in any location where the person has a reasonable expectation of privacy, or in a manner that violates a reasonable expectation of privacy
  • Commission of any offense prohibited by state or federal law or local ordinance
  • Smoking, the use of and the sale of tobacco products, and the use of and the sale of smokeless tobacco products, including all electronic smoking devices, in or on all university property

ASU sets out the steps for what happens if a student is accused of violating any of these policies. In the Student Code of Conduct Procedures, ASU describes the process as an investigation, interim action, determination, appeal, and final decision.

Possible Sanctions

The possible sanctions for students accused of misconduct, including Title IX allegations, include:

  • Expulsion
  • Suspension
  • Degree revocation
  • Probation
  • Warning
  • Administrative Hold
  • Removal from University Property
  • Restitution
  • Other sanctions

University of Arizona System

The University of Arizona system is smaller than ASU. The main campus is in Tucson, and there are several smaller campuses spread across Arizona, mostly in the south. The University of Arizona lays out similar guidelines in its conduct procedures.

Grounds for Discipline

The grounds for disciplinary action at the University of Arizona, pursuant to the school's code of conduct, are:

  • All forms of student academic dishonesty, including but not limited to cheating, fabrication, facilitating academic dishonesty, and plagiarism
  • Endangering, threatening, or causing physical harm to any member of the university community or to oneself, causing reasonable apprehension of such harm or engaging in conduct or communications that a reasonable person would interpret as a serious expression of intent to harm.
  • Impersonation of another, using another person's identity, or furnishing materially false information, including manufacturing or possession of false identification
  • Initiating, causing, or contributing to any false report, warning, or threat of fire, explosion, or other emergency
  • Forgery, falsification, fabrication, unauthorized alteration, or misuse of campus documents, records, or identification, including, but not limited to, electronic software and records
  • Interfering with or disrupting university or university-sponsored activities, including but not limited to classroom related activities, studying, teaching, research, intellectual or creative endeavor, administration, service or the provision of communication, computing or emergency services
  • Possession of property the student knows or has reason to believe may be stolen or misappropriated
  • Misuse, theft, misappropriation, destruction, damage, or unauthorized use, access, or reproduction of property, data, records, equipment or services belonging to the university or belonging to another person or entity
  • Violation of the board or university rules or applicable laws governing alcohol, including consumption, distribution, unauthorized sale, or possession of alcoholic beverages
  • Unauthorized use, sale, possession, or distribution of any controlled substance or illegal drug or possession of drug paraphernalia
  • Off-campus conduct that a reasonable person would believe may present a risk or danger to the health, safety or security of the university community
  • Gambling as prohibited by applicable law, university policy, or associated with any university event
  • Engaging in, supporting, promoting, or sponsoring hazing or violating the board or university rules governing hazing
  • Stalking or engaging in repeated or significant behavior toward another individual, whether in person, in writing, or through electronic means, after having been asked to stop
  • Engaging in discriminatory activities, including harassment and retaliation
  • Sexual misconduct
  • Use, possession, display, or storage of any weapon, dangerous instrument, explosive material or device, torch, device with open flames, fireworks, bomb-making materials or dangerous chemical on university property, at a university sponsored activity or in violation of law or university policy
  • Photographing, videotaping, filming, digitally recording, or by any other means secretly viewing, with or without a device, another person without that person's consent in any location where the person has a reasonable expectation of privacy, or in a manner that violates a reasonable expectation of privacy
  • Commission of any offense prohibited by state or federal law or local ordinance
  • Smoking, the use of and the sale of tobacco products, and the use of and the sale of smokeless tobacco products, including all electronic smoking devices, in or on all university property unless an express exception is provided by the university president for certain leased property or pursuant to university policy

The University of Arizona provides students with a flowchart to help them understand the process better. The flowchart includes the process for sanctions but does not describe them.

Possible Sanctions

To spell out the sanctions for you, here are the potential punishments for a student accused of misconduct:

  • Expulsion
  • Suspension
  • Degree revocation
  • Probation
  • Warning
  • Administrative hold
  • Removal from university property
  • Organizational sanctions
  • Restitution
  • Other sanctions

Arizona Community College System

The Arizona Community College System contains 20 community colleges. The colleges combine to enroll nearly 200,000 Arizona students.

One set of rules does not govern the Arizona Community College System, unlike some other state college systems. According to Arizona state law, jurisdiction and control over each community college is vested in the individual college's governing board. While the schools have their own codes of conduct, they are extremely similar to each other and to the ASU and University of Arizona codes, both in description of prohibited conduct and the consequences of such violations.

Disciplinary Procedures

Since the process for Arizona schools is so similar, we're going to broadly look at the way the process works. To accuse a student of misconduct in violation of their school's code of conduct, a student must first file a complaint with their school, alleging that another student has violated the code of conduct. This is the action that triggers the rest of the process.

Review: A dean or designated administrator of the school reviews the complaint, attempting to resolve the matter based on the information provided, or recommends sanctions

Hearing: A hearing is scheduled for both parties to present their case in front of a board made up of faculty and administrators, and for the accused to have an opportunity to rebut the allegations

Sanctions: If the accused student is found to have violated the school's code of conduct at the hearing, the board will recommend sanctions

Determination: Based on the recommendation of the hearing board, the president or other designated representative of the school will make a final decision as to the sanctions

Appeal: Upon determination of sanctions, the accused student can appeal to the board of trustees

If the process makes its way to appeal and the board decides the sanctions are fair and correct, then a final determination is made and the accused student has no further recourse.

What is Title IX?

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 is a federal law that prohibiting discrimination based on sex in federally funded schools. This includes public schools from kindergarten through college. Because ASU, the University of Arizona, and the Arizona community college system receive federal funds, they are all subject to Title IX.

Title IX protects students from discrimination in the admissions process, participation in sports, employment, and financial aid. Sexual harassment and misconduct are also Title IX violations. The law states that whenever a school learns of a sexual harassment complaint, the school must investigate. This becomes a quasi-judicial process and can impede on the rights of accused students.

Title IX Regulations

Whenever someone is facing the loss of rights because of misconduct, the law requires the person to receive due process, meaning that the accused receives a right to hear the charges against them and defend themselves. The full list of what due process requires is:

  • Written notice of the charges against the person with enough detail that the student can defend themself
  • The notice must provide the student with adequate time to prepare before a hearing
  • The hearing must be unbiased
  • The accused student must have the chance to provide evidence and witnesses, as well as cross-examine other witnesses
  • The right to consult an attorney or advisor
  • The right to inspect and review evidence
  • The right to have an attorney or advisor present to guide and consult
  • The right to receive a written investigative report at least ten days prior to a hearing

Arizona colleges and universities may choose a more informal hearing process, but both parties must consent in writing. Title IX regulations do not require informal procedures, but it does require the use of one of two standards of proof:

  • Preponderance of the evidence: This is the lowest standard of proof where the accuser must simply prove that it's more likely than not that the accused committed the violation.
  • Clear and convincing evidence: This is a higher standard of proof but less than what you frequently see on TV and in criminal courts of beyond a reasonable doubt.

At present, Arizona schools are using the lower burden of proof, preponderance of the evidence.

Title IX Hearing Procedures

Title IX hearings do not require the use of Arizona or federal rules of evidence. This means that if your school accuses you of wrongdoing, more evidence may be available, and it will not be subject to the same strict requirements that it would in court. As a result, it's common that hearsay enters a student misconduct hearing, something that is rare in a courtroom.

After a hearing, the committee overseeing the hearing will provide a recommendation on a course of action and potential sanctions. The president or other designated official from the school will render a final decision, which you can appeal.

How Due Process Rights Apply to Arizona Schools

While due process is a right afforded to every person accused of any wrongdoing, the protections due process provides may vary. For example, an allegation against you that could result in expulsion would provide you a greater level of due process rights than an allegation which would provide a maximum punishment of a written reprimand.

Due Process Origins

We think of due process rights as things only the government is involved in. Because Arizona schools take public money, they are agents of the government, as far as your due process rights are concerned. So when the school tries to take something from you, like your education, because they are an agent of the government, you are entitled to due process rights.

There are two types of due process: procedural and substantive. Procedural due process includes the way your school goes about taking away your rights, the actual steps involved. Substantive due process restricts the government and government agents from taking away your rights without providing you due process. So if your school discriminates against you based on your sex, for example, it may have violated your due process rights.

Property Interest

One of the things your school may try to take away from you during a misconduct hearing is your property interest in your education. Seeing your education as your property sounds odd but you pay money to take classes that eventually earn you a degree. That degree may land you a good job and, ultimately, a career, giving that degree substantial value.

When another person accuses you of wrongdoing under your Arizona school's code of conduct, if your school takes action against you, they cannot simply take away your property interest in your education without first affording you due process. The level of due process you are afforded directly relates to the severity of your punishment. The more serious the possible punishment, the more due process you must receive.

Liberty Interest

You have a liberty interest in your intangibles. Think of things like your reputation and integrity. When those things are at stake, your Arizona college or university must afford you due process rights. According to the U.S. Supreme Court, when “a person's good name, reputation, honor, or integrity is at stake because of what the government is doing to him,” this is enough to invoke a liberty interest and require due process.

It's important to recognize your liberty interest in your good name. Just like your degree can set you up for success, your reputation can negate all that hard work. If you are accused of misconduct that would degrade your integrity, that requires your school to provide you ample due process protections.

Litigation Against Your Arizona School

If your Arizona school has violated your due process rights, you may need to take them to court. You may have several grounds for doing so, and speaking with a skilled student misconduct attorney-advisor can help you move in the right direction.

Title IX Violation

You may have a valid Title IX violation against your Arizona school if you can prove:

  • The outcome was wrong, and you can show actual evidence of bias, or
  • Statements by the school demonstrating gender bias

Breach of Contract

You may be able to sue your school under a breach of contract claim, alleging the school breached the contract established by the code of conduct. If the school violated their own procedures for rendering a sanction against you, they violated the contract that you relied on to your detriment.

Due Process Violations

It's also possible that your school violated your due process rights by not following proper protocol. If you were accused of a Title IX misconduct violation, for example, and your school did not provide you with adequate notice before a hearing, that would be a due process violation.

Statutes of Limitations

Every state has a statute of limitations, setting a time limit for the time you have to file a claim against your school for a violation of your rights.

Breach of Contract

In Arizona, you have six years to bring a breach of contract claim from the date of the breach. But don't wait this long. Witnesses will forget, and evidence will go missing. The longer you wait to challenge your school, the larger your uphill battle.

Due Process Violations

This one gets tricky. Depending on the severity of the sanction you faced and whether Arizona law, federal law, or both, are at play, the statute of limitations here will vary.

Hire an Experienced Student Discipline Attorney-Advisor

When you face a student misconduct violation, it may initially seem like a trivial matter. But soon it will sink in just how severe even minor violations can be.

To help you get through this, you need an attorney-advisor with years of experience helping students like you with a wide range of student misconduct matters. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has unparalleled experience as an attorney-advisor negotiating with, and litigating against when necessary, countless colleges and universities nationwide. He can help you, but you have to call today. Contact Attorney Lento online or at 888.535.3686.

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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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