One essential item for a Delaware college or university student to understand is their school's code of conduct. This set of rules and regulations governing student life applies to everything from acceptable dorm room décor and authorized parking areas to standards for satisfactory academic progress and sexual misconduct offenses.
As young adults embark on the college experience and engage in extracurricular activities, meet new friends, and work hard at their studies, sometimes mistakes can happen. Even well-meaning students can find themselves subject to stringent and intimidating grievance processes that seek to protect the institution they attend and address misconduct.
If you or a loved one attends a Delaware school, you and your parents need to be conscious of what can happen when misconduct allegations arise. More importantly, they should understand how a student defense advisor can provide much-needed assistance in the process and defend your academic career.
Delaware Code of Conduct Issues: What Types of Misconduct Are There?
How institutions of higher education in Delaware categorize misconduct varies by school. Typically, there are three main types detailed in the code of conduct:
- Academic misconduct
- Non-academic misconduct
- Title IX and sexual misconduct
Academic Misconduct: Delaware colleges and universities will have full-time enrollment guidelines that will include specific academic progress policies tied to a student's financial aid eligibility requirements. The code of conduct will illustrate the school's minimum standards for grade point average (GPA), per semester credit load, and completion requirements. Students who fall below these marks for consecutive semesters may be subject to academic probation and even more severe disciplinary measures like suspension or expulsion.
Delaware State University requires students on academic probation to complete the following within their Academic Recovery Program:
- Creation of an academic plan of action and recovery in conjunction with an academic advisor
- Maintaining a specific GPA (above 2.0 for undergraduate students, 3.0 for graduate students)
- Mandatory support classes (behavioral, academic, family, and career)
- Evaluation of student progress at the end of the term of probation
If these requirements aren't fulfilled within a specific timeframe—typically within two semesters—students will lose their eligibility for financial aid and be brought up on code of conduct violations.
Other academic code of conduct violations include how students complete their work, such as plagiarism, cheating, and computer misuse. While plagiarism mostly surrounds the duplication of publications without proper attribution, writing assistance programs and other online shared study aids often violate codes of conduct. Students also have the responsibility to determine if their school's code of conduct or specific classroom syllabus prohibits group studying or collaboration techniques.
Computer misuse can also land a student in big trouble. At Wilmington University, violations that can lead to a loss of privileges and use include:
- Accessing sites that are "contrary to standards of decency" (i.e., hate sites, pornographic material)
- Allowing computer access to anyone not a student of the college, faculty, or staff member
- Copying, distributing, or transmitting copyrighted materials
- Engaging in activities that threaten the safety, well-being, or integrity of the university or any other person
- Installing or distributing "inappropriate" or unlicensed software
- Intentionally causing a security concern, including launching viruses or malware
- Sharing personal authentication credentials or confidential information
- Unethical, unauthorized, illegal, or criminal computer or network use that violates federal, state, or local laws
Non-academic misconduct: The code of conduct applies to much more than a school's academic rigors. One of the most common code of conduct violations on college and university grounds is underage alcohol possession. Whether you are of legal drinking age or not, most institutions of higher education in Delaware have specific alcohol possession and consumption rules. For example, Goldey-Beacom College prohibits alcohol possession and consumption in any publicly-accessed building, including the shared spaces of residence halls.
The code of conduct dictates requirements for young adults living in or visiting student residence halls or dorm rooms. For example, the University of Delaware code of conduct includes housing guidelines that detail rules and regulations regarding things like:
- Appropriate room décor
- Campus parking and transportation
- Damages to dorm room furniture and residence infrastructure
- Knives, firearms, and explosives
- Pets and service animals
- Tobacco and electronic vaping use
- Unauthorized appliances and devices
Sexual Misconduct and Title IX violations: Title IX is a federal law that prohibits sex and gender-based discrimination or harassment in education settings. Since Title IX is linked to a school's federal funding, colleges and universities must act swiftly and harshly when allegations arise. All Delaware schools have similar Title IX policies as they are federal guidelines.
According to guidelines from Delaware College of Art & Design, Title IX violations include:
- Dating/Domestic violence
- Quid pro quo harassment
- Sexual assault, discrimination, and harassment
- Unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature
Hazing, bullying, and other acts or rituals involving embarrassment, harm, or exclusion for entrance into groups or clubs may also fall under Title IX governance. Violations can quickly tarnish a school's public perception, so the Title IX grievance process is grueling. Even if a student is found not responsible for having committed misconduct, even going through the investigation process can have long-lasting consequences on students and affect their academic and career opportunities.
How Delaware Colleges and Universities Handle Code of Conduct Allegations
If you're a Delaware student alleged to have violated your school's code of conduct, it will trigger an unyielding grievance process to investigate and, if necessary, punish instances of misconduct. The school will first understand whether an investigation is warranted per the code of conduct. If an investigation is undertaken, the school's disciplinary body will send the accused student a notice of violation that can be found in their student mailbox or an electronic copy sent to their email inbox.
The notice of violation will explain the allegation, time and date of a hearing, and due process rights for the accused, including the opportunity to retain a professional advisor to assist them in the process. This advisor can—and should be—an experienced student defense advisor.
Once you receive a notice of violation:
- Educate yourself on your college or university's code of conduct
- Locate the code of conduct violation and grievance procedures
- Gather evidence (papers, emails, texts, screenshots)
- Hire student defense advisor Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm at (888) 535-3686 or schedule a confidential consultation online
Code of conduct violations can derail your future academic career. Students and their parents must understand that when misconduct allegations arise, the school's mission isn't to protect you—it's to defend the institution.
Student cases are usually won or lost during the investigation stage, with the hearing phase serving to affirm evidence uncovered. As soon as the school is made aware of code of conduct violations, they will start building their case against you. Therefore, you need to consult with a professional from the beginning.
Your Delaware School's Disciplinary Hearing: What to Expect
Disciplinary hearing guidelines are uncompromising. Depending on the allegations—academic, non-academic, Title IX—varying proceedings may be used. Nevertheless, all timeframes for responding to investigators, whether your student defense advisor may be present with you at the hearing, and possible sanctions for misconduct will be located in the school's code of conduct.
For example, at the University of Delaware, a disciplinary hearing proceeds in the following manner:
- The accused (Respondent) and accuser (Complainant) will be allowed to make opening statements to the Administrative Hearing Officer (AHO).
- The AHO questions the Respondent, accuser (Complainant), and any witnesses.
- Parties may ask questions to each other and witnesses in the order determined by the AHO.
- The Respondent and Complainant may cross-examine witnesses.
- The Respondent and Complainant will be allowed to make closing statements.
- The AHO will send a written decision to the Office of Student Conduct after the conclusion of the hearing. The decision notice shall contain:
- A summary of the charges and the incident from which these charges originate
- The AHO's findings and determination of responsibility based on a preponderance of evidence (at least 50 percent convinced that the Respondent committed the alleged misconduct
- Sanctions imposed by the AHO
- A statement describing the Respondent's right to appeal
The Office of Student Conduct will notify the students and reporting parties via email of the outcome, rationale, sanctions, and the right of appeal. Depending on the misconduct the disciplinary hearing addresses, you may or may not be permitted to have your student defense advisor with you in the hearing for assistance. Even if this is the case, hiring professional help will bolster your defense for these important reasons:
- A student defense advisor can teach you how to provide a coherent defense
- A student defense advisor can inform you of any precedent relating to the code of conduct to help your case
- A student defense advisor will ensure that your school's disciplinary body provides you due process and doesn't levy excessive sanctions
If you hire an experienced student defense advisor to assist you in your Delaware school's code of conduct case, the institution's administration will most likely take you more seriously. Additionally, suppose your school's disciplinary board decides to instate harsh sanctions. In that case, your advisor will already know what has occurred throughout the grievance process and can help you negotiate a reduced punishment.
Sanctions Delaware College and University Students Can Face
Punishments for code of conduct violations are wide-ranging, and many have long-lasting consequences. According to Wilmington University, sanctions include:
- Academic or disciplinary probation
- Behavioral evaluation
- Community service
- Loss of extracurricular privileges/university employment status
- Revocation or withholding admission, degree, or award
Even if violating the code of conduct doesn't separate you from your academic career, the school will list any disciplinary action taken against the student on their transcript. You will be required to disclose any previous punitive measures, sometimes including investigated allegations, on applications for specific professional licenses and any jobs that require a background check. Employers and graduate school admissions personnel may become concerned if they see this, preventing you from continuing your studies and leaving you unable to start your dream career. You need to build a strong defense as early as possible to keep your prospects intact. A student defense advisor may be able to negotiate a reduced punishment to keep your record clean.
Best Practices for Responding to Delaware College Code of Conduct Charges
If you're facing student disciplinary charges at your Delaware college or university, you can do a few common-sense things to defend yourself throughout the process. The more prepared you are now, the better the resolution will favor you.
After the Accusation
Your school may invite you to represent yourself at your code of conduct hearing. Although it can be tempting, it can quickly ruin your chances for a favorable outcome.
Avoid local lawyers touting their courtroom experience. An attorney's courtroom prowess doesn't equate to a proven student defense strategy. You need a professional student defense advisor who understands the school adjudicative process and how to proceed from the start.
Take the situation seriously and remember:
- Don't discuss the allegations with friends
- Keep any school-related correspondence
- Stay off social media
- Steer clear of your accuser
- Retain the experience of a professional student defense advisor
Before and During Your Hearing
When code of conduct violations arise, your Delaware school should inform you through a letter in your student mailbox or an email in your student inbox. That correspondence will include what your accuser is alleging and any anticipated witnesses. After receiving this information, you and your student defense advisor can develop a strategy to prepare you for the in-person hearing.
Filing an Appeal
The appeals process at each Delaware college or university will vary. You and your student defense advisor will have the opportunity to review your school's specific rights and procedures to ensure you don't waive your appeal and file it within the allotted time. Delaware State University explains in its code of conduct that students may appeal disciplinary decisions if the following criteria are met:
- Appropriateness of the penalty: The appeals board may consider student grievances wherein the sanctions handed down were excessive based on the findings of the allegations and their determination of responsibility.
- New evidence: In matters appealed on the grounds of new evidence, such evidence must have been undiscoverable during the review process.
- Due Process: The parties must demonstrate that the adjudicatory process lacked conformity with the procedures outlined in the school's code of conduct. This could include bias regarding any school administration officials.
After your college authority reviews your appeal, they may affirm or overturn the disciplinary board's decision, grant you a new hearing, or affirm the board's decision but modify or overturn the recommended sanctions. This decision is final, with no additional chance to appeal further to the school.
Hire a Proven Student Defense Advisor for Your Appeal
You only have one chance to appeal the school disciplinary board's decision. A student defense advisor can help develop the most effective appeal, and they will understand:
- How to identify and prove procedural errors in the hearing process
- What constitutes new evidence that was not available before or during the disciplinary hearing
- If the punishment handed down by the school is excessive
If the school denies your appeal or doesn't modify or overturn the sanctions, your options include:
- Negotiations with your school's Office of General Counsel (OGC)
- Litigation against your school
A lawsuit should be your last resort, but it will immediately get your school's attention. Nevertheless, what you need is prompt, private, negotiated relief that brings you back to class quickly.
You Need the Expertise of Student Defense Advisor Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm
If you face a code of conduct violation, you need skilled guidance during the grievance process. Navigating this system is daunting. Don't try to handle the situation alone.
Student defense advisor Joseph D. Lento has handled student misconduct matters, negotiations with school administration officials, and litigation involving hundreds of college and university students in Delaware and across the U.S. He and his team have formed valued relationships with many internal OGCs and those representing Delaware schools hired from law firms. They understand how to help school disciplinary boards see positive options that serve both the student and the institution better than suspension, expulsion, or other harsh punishments.
For expert advice from a proven college code of conduct student defense advisor defending students in Delaware, call 888-535-3686 to discuss how Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm can protect you or use the online consultation form. Your reputation and future depend on it.