University or College Codes of Conduct: Rules to Study By
Take a look at your college or university's student handbook, and you'll likely find a lengthy chapter on the school's code of conduct. Nearly every institution of high learning in the United States have this codified set of rules or regulations to help maintain ethical, professional, and legal standards across the entire campus community. Students, faculty, and employees are all expected to follow this code – and not doing so can have serious consequences.
When you hear the term “code of conduct,” your mind may immediately conjure expectations regarding academic honesty or perhaps policies about alcohol use in the dormitories. But most codes of conduct contain much more than that: you can expect to see a variety of regulations and responsibilities that cover everything from appropriate technology use to how you interact with other members of the campus community. It's an important document to read before you set foot on campus as compliance is mandatory – these vital standards of behavior are the backbone of any school's mission to maintain a fair, just, and open learning community. You can think of the code of conduct a bit like an internal body of laws for your school – just as you'd find in a town or other small community – and they are there to protect the entire university community.
That said, a college or university is not a town – and codes of conduct cannot be enforced in the same ways local area laws may be. But breaking the code is not without consequences. If you fail to comply with one of the code's rules, you will likely face some sort of sanction or penalty. Those accused of violating the code of conduct will usually receive a notice of disciplinary violation, which will outline the allegation in varying degrees of detail. You will then likely be called before a disciplinary panel or administrative hearing committee. That panel is usually made up of faculty and administrators from the school, but it is not unheard of to also include students. What's important to understand about this group is that they are the people who will make a determination whether you are innocent or guilty of a violation.
Do You Know Your Rights?
If you have been accused of a code of conduct violation, it's important to take the allegation seriously. If you are found guilty, you could be looking at significant penalties, ranging from some sort of monetary restitution to a suspension or expulsion. Most importantly, a finding of guilt has the potential to become part of your permanent academic record – the very thing future schools or employers are looking at when it's time for you to leave school and start your adult life.
It's important to know that a student code of conduct hearing is not like an appearance in an official court of law. The fact that you are a die-hard fan of Law & Order re-runs won't help you here. While state and federal laws guarantee that you have certain Constitutional rights that will protect you during any legal proceeding, including the right to representation and a speedy trial, you should not expect campus judicial systems to operate in the same way. University and college systems not only have their own rules and regulations – they have their own way of conducting hearings. While campus disciplinary hearings are expected to be handled consistently across the school, specific procedures do vary. So do your rights and protections. It's important to understand the rights guaranteed to you in federal or state court may not be upheld in front of the disciplinary panel. In particular, your rights regarding due process, evidence gathering, and confidentiality may be quite different. And those little variations, too often, make a big difference to the outcome of cases.
You've worked hard to get where you are – and your tuition dollars, your degree, and your future are at risk if you are accused of a code of conduct violation. It can be easy to think a violation may not be a big deal (or to be so embarrassed about a notice of violation that you just ignore it), but by stepping foot on campus that first day, you agreed to adhere to your university's code. A guilty finding can have serious long-term consequences. That's why it's so important, if you are accused of a code of conduct violation, to consult with an experienced attorney-advocate who understands university judicial proceedings and can help you mount a strong defense.
In the past decade, more colleges and universities have added stalking statutes to their codes of conduct. Simply defined, stalking is repeated behaviors directed at a specific person that might cause that person to reasonably fear for his or her own safety – or the safety of others. Your school may also consider certain behaviors as stalking if the person they are directed toward experiences serious emotional distress in response to them.
What kind of repeated behaviors might we be talking about here? Most schools talk about a “course of conduct,” which is defined as two or more acts in which a student contacts, follows, observes, surveils, or monitors another student through some action or means. Basically, stalking involves recurring, unwanted communication or contact between two students. It may involve frequently showing up at another student's dorm room or class without invitation or making a number of unwelcome phone calls.
It's also important to note that stalking could be direct, where one person is physically following another, or indirect, with one person having a third-party make the calls or visits in their stead. It's important that you carefully read the rules and regulations set forth in your university's code so you understand how exactly they define stalking – and what might constitute a violation.
The college years play an important role in developing interpersonal skills – and many students start freshman year with varying degrees of emotional intelligence. If you or a loved one is charged with a stalking code violation, it is important to understand this allegation is extremely serious – and, if found guilty, you may be facing significant penalties that will stay with you long beyond your time at school. Consequences can include a formal reprimand that appears on your permanent school record, the loss of financial aid, or even suspension or expulsion. Stalking is a serious allegation – and if you are found guilty of this violation, it will be documented and available to future schools or employers who will review your academic record before admitting you to graduate school or offering you a job.
What Should I Do If I Am Accused of a Stalking Violation?
If you are charged with a stalking violation, it is important to reach out to an attorney-advocate immediately. Often, these situations are the result of a misunderstanding of some sort – and, if you stay calm and follow procedure, can be effectively mitigated. Nonetheless, this is not a situation you can ignore or try to talk your way out of. The consequences are dire – and it is important that you understand the charge and what to expect from the very beginning of the disciplinary process. While you may not think you need representation – it's just a college disciplinary panel, after all – nothing could be farther from the truth. When you have a lawyer with national experience with these sorts of code of conduct violations, like Lento Law Firm, you are in a better position to understand your rights, fully participate in a strong defense, and move toward the best possible outcome.
Attorney-advocate Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm have successfully defended thousands of students across the United States facing code violations, including stalking violations. He is here to help – and can provide the necessary guidance to help you resolve your situation in a favorable manner. Don't wait: get in touch with an experienced lawyer who will fight for you – and your future. To schedule a confidential consultation, call (888) 535-3686 or contact us online.