Eastern University in Philadelphia was originally founded as Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1925. The institution now boasts an enrollment of more than 3,300 students spanning several regional satellite campuses. The school outlines its standards and expectations for conduct in the Student Handbook. Some of the core principles include honesty, respect, scholarly integrity, sexual fidelity within marriage, and preventing any misuse of power.
How Can a Student Rights Lawyer Assist?
Are you a student or parent of a student that has been alleged of disciplinary misconduct at a college or university? Those who choose to pursue post-secondary education are often making a tremendous commitment of time and financial resources. In today's collegiate institutions, acts of misconduct are increasingly taken more seriously. An unfavorable outcome in a disciplinary matter can quickly destroy your long-term plans.
Most colleges and universities allow for all parties involved in these actions to choose an advisor for support. Retaining a seasoned student rights attorney to serve in this capacity is critical. Having experienced counsel better ensures your school's unique policies and rules are correctly interpreted.
Your attorney functions as an advocate to protect your rights and best interests. He or she can reassess the evidence from a different perspective and challenge its validity. Your attorney will likely accompany you to hearings, interviews, and other events when allowable.
An attorney may engage in negotiations. These conversations may involve those responsible for disciplinary student affairs, the academic integrity officer, a Title IX Coordinator, and others. Students faced with disciplinary allegations should retain legal counsel promptly, as doing so later in the process places you at a distinct disadvantage.
College and university administrators today are increasingly asked to manage additional responsibilities. This translates to having administrators handle disciplinary matters in addition to their primary functions. In light of this, these individuals may move hastily and not fully acknowledge the rights of accused students.
Student Rights Attorney
Colleges and university disciplinary actions are generally grouped into three distinct categories. These include “general” disciplinary matters, those associated with academic misconduct, and those involving a violation of Title IX.
Title IX Overview
Educational institutions in the U.S. must adopt a policy of compliance with Title IX guidelines. This was a 1972 federal civil rights amendment initiated by the Department of Education that prohibits sexually-oriented discrimination. A failure in compliance may trigger a loss of eligibility for much needed federal education funds. Day-to-day guidance and support is the responsibility of the Office of Civil Rights (OCR).
Schools must designate a Title IX Coordinator who is responsible for developing written procedures about how complaints are handled. These institutions are given some leeway to create such processes, with the primary emphasis on impartiality and preventing conflicts of interest.
Documentation concerning the school's Title IX compliance is addressed in Sexual Discrimination and Title IX Policies. The primary focus is to create an atmosphere that is free of “sexual discrimination, to include sexual assault, sexual violence, and sexual harassment.” The administration emphasizes that these provisions are also applicable to “visitors, contractors, and other third parties.”
The institution has clearly defined the meaning of consent in terms of sexual activity. Consent is considered to be a “clear, voluntary, unambiguous, and positive agreement” to participate in sexual activity. Consent must be demonstrated verbally or through actions; however, it is “not inferred from the absence of a no.”
At Eastern University, the Title IX Coordinator is the Vice Provost for Student Development who resides on St. David's (main) Campus. All complaints received are investigated within 10 days and confidentiality is maintained “to the extent possible.” The goal is to issue rulings or findings within 30 business days.
“General” Disciplinary Violations
The Student Handbook contains the provisions regarding the student disciplinary process.
- Drug or alcohol-related: Underage consumption of alcohol is among the most common violations. Students may be subject to disciplinary action for using false identification to purchase alcohol. The same applies to unlawful possession of a controlled substance.
- Hazing: All forms of hazing are strictly prohibited. These tend to occur among organizations such as fraternities, sororities, and athletic teams.
- Residential misconduct: Those who reside in college or university housing must adhere to a set of provisions. Examples of violations include surpassing unit occupancy limits, excessive noise or other disruptive behavior, smoking, etc. Those found to have violated the rules may lose eligibility for campus housing.
The University's Academic Honesty and Integrity guidelines discuss what constitutes academic misconduct. The institution believes that dishonesty is an “egregious violation of both academic and spiritual principles.” The Undergraduate Program states that academic dishonesty may be demonstrated in four primary ways as follows:
- Cheating: May involve unauthorized communications with others or usage of unauthorized devices or materials during a quiz, exam, etc.
- Plagiarism: Submitting someone's words or ideas “as if they were your own.”
- Furnishing false information: May involve knowingly submitting an assignment that contains false data or facts.
- Altering documents with fraudulent intent:
Disciplinary Process Overview at Eastern University
Any complaint or allegation is investigated by a Conduct Review Officer. A decision or ruling is ultimately the responsibility of a University Conduct Review Board. During hearings, the Complainant and Respondent are afforded the right to make statements and have witness testimony. The standard of evidence used is by a “preponderance of the evidence.”
A student may appeal an adverse disciplinary outcome within seven days of a ruling. The grounds for appealing a finding are that there was a procedural error in the process or new evidence has surfaced. An appeal may also be made specifically to the sanctions imposed. This is permitted when a party believes that the sanctions are not proportionate to the violation.
Representation for Potential Criminal Charges
Attorney Joseph D. Lento also provides a very effective defense against criminal charges. The charges may stem from a disciplinary violation where there was involvement from the campus or local police. This versatility allows for excellent legal representation on both fronts.
Effective Legal Representation for Pennsylvania Students
You can expect the Lento Law Firm to aggressively protect your rights. This applies to students facing general disciplinary proceedings, alleged acts of academic misconduct, and much more. Contact the office today at (888) 535-3686 for more information.