Georgian Court University (GCU) is located in Lakewood, New Jersey and has a total enrollment of roughly 2,400. The institution strives to uphold a “safe and secure working and learning environment.” GCU's approach to disciplinary actions is centered on a “restorative justice” philosophy. This is based on holding people accountable for all acts of misconduct.
Should I Retain Legal Representation for Student Disciplinary Matters?
Students and their parents may question whether to consider retaining an attorney for disciplinary matters at colleges and universities. One way to view it is to ask yourself whether you can afford not to do so. Those who have decided to pursue a college education are making sacrifices that include time and significant resources.
In today's post-secondary educational environment, violations related to misconduct are taken very seriously. A student may have their hopes and dreams abruptly shattered. The majority of schools allow for all parties to these actions to select an advisor for support. It is very important to retain an attorney with a wealth of experience in student disciplinary matters.
Having legal counsel is critical for proper interpretation of the school's unique policies and rules. Your attorney will represent your best interests and ensure that your rights are protected. He or she may reevaluate the evidence and subject it to scrutiny. Your attorney will also accompany you to hearings, interviews, and other related events.
An attorney may engage in negotiations on your behalf at times. This may involve administrators from a disciplinary office, academic integrity office, a Title IX Coordinator, and others. Students who are faced with allegations should secure legal counsel promptly, as doing so later in the process places you at a disadvantage.
Student Rights Lawyer
Disciplinary matters are typically grouped into three key categories. There are “general” disciplinary matters, those of academic misconduct, and those associated with federal Title IX guidelines.
Title IX Matters
The administration at GCU has created its guidelines of Title IX in its Sexual and Gender-Based Misconduct Program. This program addresses issues including “sexual violence, sexual gender-based misconduct, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking.”
The Educational Amendments of 1972 were implemented by the U.S. Department of Education. Title IX is a measure that sought to prevent sexual discrimination in educational institutions. The Office of Civil Rights (OCR) is tasked with enforcement and provides ongoing guidance to all schools.
Schools that fail to adhere to Title IX may lose their eligibility for federal educations funding. Federal guidelines regarding Title IX have been changing in recent years. This is a reason why those facing allegations should retain the services of an attorney that regularly works in this realm of practice.
There are a host of potential actions that are prohibited according to Title IX including the following:
- Sexual harassment: Includes acts that create a hostile educational environment for a victim. Examples may include unwelcome sexual advances or appeals for sexual favors.
- Sexual violence: Includes physical acts of a sexual nature that are made against the will of the victim. Sexual assault or coercion may involve a victim who has not given consent to participate in sexual activity. It may also relate to victims that are deemed as incapable of consenting to such activity. This may apply to minors or others unable to consent due to intoxication or mental incapacitation.
- Gender-based harassment: Title IX governs actions that may be verbal or nonverbal. These types of harassment may be hostile or intimidating. Comments may involve stereotypes or hateful slurs that are “based on a student's actual or perceived sex.”
The Title IX Coordinator at GCU is located at the Dean of Student's Office in Jeffries Hall. The Deputy Title IX Coordinator is in the Vice President for Enrollment and Retention Office.
General Disciplinary Issues
The primary resource that explains the expectations of student behavior is the Student Handbook and/or the Residence Life Handbook. General disciplinary violations are often alcohol or drug-related. These may involve incidents of underage possession or consumption of alcohol or possession of illegal drugs.
Other violations may include disorderly or unruly behavior such as fighting. Hazing is also strictly prohibited. This is a type of misconduct that involves abusive acts among athletic teams, fraternities, and sororities. Students living in campus or university housing are also subject to residential disciplinary actions for certain violations. Common examples include excessive noise, disorderly behavior, smoking, and more.
At GCU, the Student Handbook contains an Academic Honesty section that describes potential violations. These include acts of “cheating, fabrication, plagiarism, abusing resources, forgery of academic documents, dissimulation, or sabotage, or any act of aiding and abetting academic dishonesty.”
Rulings, Sanctions, and Penalties
In the majority of disciplinary actions, the individual or panel that is responsible for rendering a decision will use a preponderance of the evidence standard. This is often translated to mean that “there is a greater than 50% chance” that the allegations were proven.
Recent federal rules related to Title IX explained that institutions may use a clear and convincing evidence standard as well. Both of these evidentiary standards require a lower burden of proof compared to beyond a reasonable doubt that is used in criminal cases.
An unfavorable ruling may result in a student being suspended or expelled from the school. This can hinder a student's future educational plans. The majority of schools have provisions that allow for an appeal. Always consult with your attorney regarding the appeals process.
What if Criminal Charges are Involved?
In some cases, these disciplinary matters may coincide with criminal charges from a campus police department or other local agencies of law enforcement. Attorney Joseph D. Lento is very experienced in defending against criminal charges. He can provide you with effective legal representation inside and outside of the courtroom.
Experienced Legal Representation for Students in Disciplinary Matters in New Jersey
Are you a student or a parent of a college or university student that has been accused of acts of disciplinary misconduct? The Lento Law Firm aggressively defends clients facing these and many other challenges. Contact the office today at (888) 535-3686.