As a student at an Oregon college or university, there's a high likelihood that your school expects you to abide by their code of conduct. Often the code of conduct is found within a student handbook, although it may also stand alone. The code of conduct usually requires you to follow state, local, and federal laws, as well as the school's own regulations. When you face an accusation of a code of conduct violation, your future is at stake. Sanctions, if you are found responsible for the allegation, can have a lifelong impact. They may affect whether or not you're admitted to graduate school, your earnings potential, and future employment. In this guide, we'll take a closer look at some of the types of code of conduct violations, and we'll discuss some of what you need to know in order to navigate the allegations.
First and foremost, however, you should always check your school's specific Code of Conduct. Additionally, some schools may have separate Honor Codes which address academic integrity expectations. Your Oregon college or university will detail everything you need to know in the student handbook (or their version of it), from expectations to disciplinary proceedings to sanctions and beyond. We'll begin by taking a closer look at academic dishonesty.
Academic Misconduct at Oregon Colleges and Universities
Academic integrity is critical to maintaining fair, knowledge-based learning…. Academic misconduct… undermines the bonds of trust and honesty between members of our academic community, degrades the value of a degree and puts at risk those who may eventually depend upon our students' knowledge and integrity.
Often an Oregon school will have one academic integrity policy for its undergraduates and other, albeit similar, ones for its various graduate schools.
Some colleges or universities will list specific examples of behavior that constitutes academic dishonesty. This might include actions such as:
- Plagiarism: copying someone else's work without proper attribution. The specific definition for this is often broad and quite inclusive
- Self-plagiarism: copying your own work from a previous assignment
- Unauthorized assistance: getting help that a professor did not explicitly allow
- Collaboration: working with someone on an assignment that wasn't specified as something that you could work with someone else on
- Bribery: attempting to influence the outcome of an assignment or exam by offering a faculty member money or another valuable item
- Falsifying or fabricating data, citations, or other information: this is self-explanatory
- Forging academic documents: sometimes this includes adjusting the grade written on an assignment
- Helping someone else commit an act of academic misconduct
- Cheating on an exam or assignment: this could be cheating using a variety of methods, whether it's via electronics or in-person
Concerns About How Oregon Universities Evaluate Academic Dishonesty
Frequently, however, colleges and universities will include phrasing such as “academic misconduct/integrity violations/dishonesty may include, but is not limited” or “here is a non-exhaustive list of sample behavior.” As a result, most Oregon colleges and universities allow themselves a wide berth when it comes to determining what constitutes an academic integrity violation. This may offer faculty members—and graduate student TAs—a disproportionate amount of power when it comes to students and the students' rights. Although professors and teaching assistants may have the students' best interests at heart, confirmation bias is a real concern and can influence someone's perception that academic misconduct has occurred.
Students also may be unaware that their actions constitute academic dishonesty. For example, how often do you participate in study groups when you are preparing for an exam? It's a frequent approach to studying, however, some schools may categorize such behavior as unauthorized collaboration. Or did you know that many professors consider using a search engine to constitute academic misconduct?
The increase in the use of anti-cheating software, such as Honorlock, is also of concern, as there is much debate as to its usefulness and accuracy. Additionally, there are concerns of bias regarding how the software programs function.
What Are Some Types of Code of Conduct Disciplinary Charges?
Apart from academic integrity expectations, your student handbook should also detail a code of conduct with behavioral expectations. This may or may not include local or state regulations, such as a prohibition against underage drinking. Frequently universities will consider breaking local, state, or federal law to be a violation of the student code as well.
It's important to understand, however, that even if a local/state/federal law is broken, the violation that your Oregon school is concerned with is the violation of the code of conduct. This means that any disciplinary proceedings (which we'll discuss more below) will not take place in a courtroom. They will most likely occur in a room at the university or college or remotely. Practically speaking, this means that the standards of evidence, right to representation and due process, and so on might not be the same as those you would expect in a courtroom. These requirements are often weaker, in fact, which can have a negative impact on the outcome of your case. For example, hearsay might be allowed at your school, even though it would not usually be allowed in an actual courtroom.
What are some potential behaviors that might result in a code of conduct disciplinary charge? Again, your university or college will likely have its own list, however, here are some examples of behaviors you might expect to see in your handbook.
- Hazing or other fraternity/sorority-related charges
- Classroom disruption
- Possession of alcohol or underage drinking
- Drug Possession
- Noise Violations
- Residential misconduct
- Fire safety violations
- Theft or possession of stolen property
- Disorderly conduct
- Possessing or using weapons or explosives
Allegations about these behaviors should quickly be brought to an expert so that an attorney-advisor can help you navigate your school's process.
College Sexual Misconduct and Title IX Allegations at Oregon Colleges or Universities
Colleges and universities in Oregon take sexual misconduct and Title IX allegations very seriously. You can learn more about Title IX and how these allegations may differ from sexual misconduct allegations, however, the bottom line is that Title IX guidelines are nationally determined, and the sexual misconduct regulations are set by each school. Your college or university handbook will have more specifics about how they address the distinction. For example, Oregon State University has two processes for handling allegations, depending on whether they fall under “Title IX sexual misconduct” or under their own policies, designated as “OSU sexual misconduct.”
What are some behaviors that might be included? Here's a possible list.
- Sexual activity that is non-consensual
- Stalking, whether it's in-person stalking or cyberstalking
- Sexual exploitation
- Sexual assault
- Domestic or dating violence
The new specifics for Title IX allegations include:
- A narrower definition of sexual misconduct
- A narrowing of geographic scope — only activities that occur on campus qualify
- A potential for a higher standard of proof (the option to use “clear and convincing evidence” rather than the “preponderance of the evidence” standard)
College sexual misconduct and Title IX accusations are some of the most serious allegations a student can face. They should absolutely be handled with the assistance of an attorney-advisor who can make sure that your rights are protected, and your best interest is taken into consideration. These types of allegations, if determined to be true, can follow you far into your future and impact all areas of your life.
How Do Colleges and Universities in Oregon Handle Code of Conduct Violations?
Your Oregon university or college may address academic integrity violations and Title IX allegations separate from its other code of conduct processes. As mentioned before, it's critical that you examine your college's student handbook or code of conduct in order to understand your institution's policies and procedures. Often, however, there are some basic components that may be included in the disciplinary process for all violations. Some schools may have two or three layers at each level, but most will have at least one thing that resembles each level. Let's take a closer look at the four main aspects now.
- A preliminary or formal investigation
Most colleges and universities begin with this step. If the allegations are for an academic integrity violation, the faculty member (or student) who suspects the misconduct will most likely fill out a form that your school provides. Occasionally, Oregon colleges or universities will have a faculty member hold an initial conversation prior to filing a report. Often, at either this first meeting or possibly another early meeting, if the student claims responsibility for the action, then the faculty or staff member involved may have the ability to assign what they deem to be appropriate sanctions.
Once an investigation begins, a third party is usually responsible for gathering information about the circumstances. This could include speaking to witnesses, speaking to individuals who were allegedly involved, examining relevant documents or security footage, and more. This stage could take as long as four months (120 days) or as little as one week. Check your school's code of conduct for the exact amount of time that is allotted to the investigation stage.
2) A disciplinary hearing
Unless you waive your right to a hearing, this will often be the next step. At most schools, an offense that could result in an expulsion or suspension will have to go to a hearing. Your school may refer to this board as a hearing panel, a disciplinary hearing, or perhaps a hearing committee. This group is most often comprised of a mix of faculty members and students — as few as three members or as many as ten or more. Often the members have been selected for a term to serve in this role. Although this may *seem* like a hearing that you might see on tv, you need to know that it is not. There isn't due process, it isn't a legal courtroom, and you may be severely disadvantaged. The hearing committee will usually hear from witnesses, and they may ask clarifying questions. Some schools allow an attorney-advisor to be present at the actual hearing, but even if they don't, an attorney-advisor can still help you plan.
3) A decision and recommendation for sanctions
When the hearing is concluded, the committee or hearing board will frequently either select sanctions or recommend sanctions. If they assign sanctions, the sanctions might include any of the following:
- Loss of financial aid or scholarships
- Grade reduction
- Educational workshops or assignments
- Temporary ban on extracurricular activities
- Change in or loss of housing
- On-campus Restrictions—where you can and cannot go
- Formal reprimand
- Failure of the assignment or of the course
Some schools will have specific levels of sanctions assigned to particular types of infractions. Another potential configuration is that first offenses receive a certain level of sanctions, and with each subsequent offense, the sanction increases. Again, check your Oregon university or college's actual student handbook or code of conduct and familiarize yourself with your school's particular sanctions.
4) A process to appeal
Many schools have different levels of appeal — and different routes depending on when responsibility was determined — but they usually begin with an appeal of the initial decision. If you have participated in a hearing, there are often only three reasons that an appeal might be possible. First, if there's new evidence that's come to light, and it could have a significant impact on the outcome. Second, if there was a procedural error. Finally, if someone on the committee might have had a bias or predisposition that could have negatively affected the outcome, that is also often grounds for appeal.
There's usually a window for you to file your appeal, so you'll want to be aware of the parameters before you need them.
What Should I Do If I'm Responding to Charges of Code of Conduct Violations?
If you're facing code of conduct allegations, there are several simple steps you can take to protect yourself as much as possible.
Read through your handbook
The very first thing you should do if you're facing allegations of a code of conduct violation of any type is to find your Oregon college or university's policies. These may be listed solely in the student handbook, or they may have their own listing under “code of conduct,” “student conduct regulations,” or some other phrasing. However they're called, you want to make sure to familiarize yourself with your school's policies and procedures.
Consult with an attorney-advisor
Once you've done that, you'll want to speak with an attorney-advisor in order to find out the best approach to navigating the allegations. It's important not to wait until the process is underway at your school—it's much easier to address allegations beforeresponsibility is determined. Families will sometimes wait; a strong defense, however, is a much better approach. An attorney-advisor can recommend a strategy after learning more about the facts of your situation.
Don't discuss the situation with anyone at the school
You may be tempted to speak with your friends or peers about the allegations, whether they're academic, behavioral, or for sexual misconduct. It makes sense that you'd want to reach out to your community during this frightening time. But don't. If you speak with anyone at your Oregon university or college, they may be required to speak at the misconduct hearing. A better option is to speak with a family member or loved one who is outside of your university community. Or discuss the situation with your attorney-advisor. This will help protect you in the long run.
While your memory is fresh, you'll want to write down any pertinent information about the allegations. This could also include capturing communication you might have had with any other parties who may be involved in the situation. Keep track of all relevant documents and gather them together for your attorney-advisor's review and recommendation.
Take the situation seriously
Whatever you do, you should treat these allegations with seriousness. Make sure that you set aside enough time to handle them appropriately and diligently.
Work With the Best Attorney-Advisor for Oregon Code of Conduct Violations
Whether you're facing allegations of a code of conduct behavior violation, accusations of academic misconduct, or an allegation of Title IX/sexual misconduct offense, you can be sure of one thing: Your academic career is on the line. An experienced attorney-advisor can ensure you have a chance at the best possible outcome. Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm have worked with hundreds of students (and their families) across the nation and have many years of experience. They bring heart and passion to every client interaction—Mr. Lento feels strongly that students deserve due process. Let Mr. Lento and his team use their experience to work on your behalf. Call them today at 888.535.3686 or contact them online to see how they can assist you or your loved one.