The College of Saint Elizabeth (CSE) in Morristown, New Jersey was founded back in 1899. Over the years, they have adopted processes “designed to deal swiftly and appropriately with any act or behavior that disrupts” the goals of the institution. This includes any activity that hinders academic progress or somehow “infringes upon the rights or safety” of anyone in the campus community.
How Can an Attorney Assist in Maintaining Student Rights?
Post-secondary educational institutions are increasingly conscious of the importance of their reputation. They seek to preserve an image that reflects safety and academic integrity. In a study of 100 colleges and universities, more than 70% of student respondents stated they were very concerned with campus safety.
In recent years, these institutions have been placing an emphasis on accountability within the student community. This often translates to overzealous sanctioning in the realm of the student disciplinary system. Also, institutional administrators are increasingly overworked and tasked with handling more responsibility.
For example, all schools are now required to name a Title IX Coordinator. In more than 60% of institutions these individuals are wearing “multiple hats.” The majority of the administrators have assumed this role in addition to their primary job functions. This may result in overworked administrators that are seeking to quickly resolve disciplinary matters without properly acknowledging the rights of the accused.
Students named as the subject of a disciplinary investigation should retain legal representation that is well-versed in this realm of practice. Your attorney will be of assistance in interpreting your school's policies and guidelines. Your attorney will better ensure that the process is equitable and that any evidence is closely scrutinized. He or she may also be able to accompany you to interviews, hearings, and other proceedings depending on the nature of the case.
Your attorney may also be able to engage the appropriate administrator to negotiate on your behalf. Examples of those in these roles include an academic integrity official, Title IX Coordinator, and others. Students should consult with an attorney at the onset of the process, as doing so following an adverse ruling puts you at a disadvantage.
Student Rights Lawyer
Most institutions allow parties in the disciplinary process to choose and be accompanied by an advisor. It is recommended that an attorney be carefully chosen to serve in this role. This will ensure you have a better idea of when to expect and that you are well-prepared.
There are three primary types or categories of disciplinary action seen at colleges and universities. These include “general” disciplinary matters, those related to academic misconduct, and those involving Title IX.
Title IX Matters
The CSE is committed to compliance with federal Title IX guidelines and maintains a Sexual Misconduct and Discrimination Policy. Title IX was implemented by the U.S. Department of Education in 1972. These provisions address how institutions handle allegations of sexual discrimination. Significant emphasis is placed on maintaining fairness and avoiding conflicts of interest when handling complaints.
The principle is that no person will be “excluded from participation in, be denied benefits, or be subjected to discrimination.” A school that fails to comply may have their eligibility for federal education funds revoked. Discrimination may arise in university admissions, obtaining benefits, participation in athletics or other campus activities.
Some of the actions that may constitute a violation of Title IX guidelines include:
- Sexually-based harassment: Examples include unwelcomed sexual advances or inappropriate requests for sexual favors.
- Sexual violence: Forms of physical harassment committed against an unwilling victim or someone incapable of giving consent. Victims that may be incapable include minors, those under the influence of drugs or alcohol or those with a mental impairment. Common examples are sexual assault or coercion.
- Gender harassment: This often involves slurs or stereotypes “based on a student's actual or perceived sex.” The victims are often those who self-identify as having a non-traditional sexual orientation.
At the College of Saint Elizabeth, the Director of Human Resources is also the Title IX Coordinator. There is also a Deputy Title IX Coordinator that is based in the office of the Vice President for Student Life.
General Disciplinary Issues
- Alcohol or drug-related: May involve underage possession or consumption of alcohol, possession of illegal drugs or using false identification to purchase alcohol.
- Hazing: May involve abusive or intimidating acts associated with initiation in athletic teams, fraternities, and sororities.
- Residential misconduct: Students who reside in campus housing are subject to certain rules and behavioral guidelines. Violations may include loud or otherwise disruptive behavior, smoking or tampering with fire-safety devices.
Acts of Academic Misconduct
The CSE also has an Academic Behavior Policy that is enforced by an Academic Review Board. Acts of academic misconduct are typically those that are contrary to the institutional commitment to scholastic integrity. These include dishonest acts such as cheating on an examination or submitting a report that was plagiarized.
Sanctions and Penalties
Although institutions have different disciplinary processes, they all result in rendering a ruling or decision and potentially imposing penalties. These sanctions typically include suspension or expulsion from the institution. Most schools have some type of appeals process in place. Having assistance from an attorney is critical in these circumstances.
Negative information related to a student's disciplinary history may be retained in their records or transcripts. This may result in longer-term difficulties such as if seeking admission to another school or graduate-level program.
Potential Criminal Charges
In some cases, student disciplinary matters may also involve criminal charges from local or campus police. Students that are charged with criminal offenses can benefit from having the Lento Law Firm represent you in both.
New Jersey Student Rights Attorney Provides Aggressive Representation
Joseph D. Lento is a lawyer with many years of experience defending the rights and best interests of those facing disciplinary or criminal allegations in college or university settings. He is familiar with these matters and creates a comprehensive strategy that strives to protect your future. Take the first step today by contacting the office at (888) 535-3686 for assistance.