As a college student in Georgia, you have a lot to juggle: Keeping up with schoolwork, participating in extracurricular activities, and possibly working part-time. It's not easy being a college student, especially when your school expects you to follow high standards of behavior. You want to avoid getting into trouble so you can have a positive academic experience and make progress toward your degree.
Not following your school's behavior standards can lead to harsh disciplinary actions. Fortunately, you have a resource to help you know what's allowed and what happens if you break the rules. This resource is your university's code of conduct. Almost every school has one and usually provides access to it online for all students.
A university's code of conduct contains all your rights and responsibilities as a student. It outlines which behavior is prohibited, what happens when a student allegedly engages in one of these behaviors, and your rights when you are accused.
As a student attending or planning to attend a college in Georgia, you need to read your school's code of conduct and try to understand it as best you can. If you do get accused of violating the code of conduct, saying that you weren't aware of the rules is not an adequate defense.
This guide will help you better understand your school's code of conduct and let you know what to expect if you end up going through a disciplinary procedure with your school.
Georgia Code of Conduct Issues
Most Georgia schools prohibit three types of common misconduct:
- Academic dishonesty
- Sexual misconduct
- General misconduct
Your school will take any form of misconduct seriously, no matter which category it falls under. Let's look in more detail at academic and sexual misconduct.
Academic misconduct may also be referred to as an academic integrity infraction. Almost all colleges and universities prohibit dishonesty in academic work and impose sanctions on students found responsible for such violations. Academic misconduct refers to any actions intended to give an unfair advantage over other students. Common examples are cheating, plagiarism, fabrication of data, destruction of library materials, and unauthorized collaboration.
Some schools allow instructors to impose sanctions such as a lowered or failing grade on an assignment, a requirement to do extra coursework, or a failing grade in the course. For severe or repeated cases of academic misconduct, students could face suspension or even expulsion.
Most Georgia schools impose strict sanctions on students found responsible for sexual misconduct. Sexual activity that occurs without the direct, freely-given consent of all involved is considered sexual misconduct. Some examples include sexual harassment, rape, incest, domestic violence, dating violence, stalking, and sexual exploitation.
Your school may cover sexual misconduct in the general code of conduct policy, or it may have a separate document exclusively dealing with sexual misconduct. All educational institutions in the US that want to be eligible for federal funding must follow Title IX rules as well. Title IX prohibits sexual misconduct on college campuses. It's possible your school has two distinct sexual misconduct policies: one for Title IX and one for non-Title IX offenses which fall outside the scope of Title IX. If your school chooses to adjudicate a claim of sexual misconduct against you using its non-Title IX policy, you may not have as many protections as you would with Title IX.
General Code of Conduct Issues
Academic and sexual misconduct are serious offenses at most Georgia schools, but they aren't the only types of behavior that can land students in trouble. Infractions that don't fall into either category may be considered general code of conduct violations, and they can also result in harsh penalties for students.
It's important to check your school's specific policy to know exactly which behaviors can lead to disciplinary action. Generally, however, the following universal behaviors are prohibited at Georgia colleges and universities.
Possession of alcohol
As consuming, buying, or possessing alcohol is illegal for anyone under the age of 21 in Georgia, universities do not allow underage students to have alcohol on college campuses. Some colleges prohibit alcohol entirely on campus, even for students legally old enough to consume or possess it. If you are caught breaking any rules concerning alcohol, the penalties could be strict.
Possession of drugs
Most Georgia colleges prohibit the sale, use, and distribution of controlled substances on campus or at university-related events. Some schools even place limits on prescription drugs and steroids.
Hazing is a serious problem at many universities across North America, including at Georgia schools. It's defined as compelling prospective members of teams, fraternities, sororities, or other student organizations to perform introductory rituals that cause pain or embarrassment as a condition for becoming a member. Hazing has led to injuries and even death for some students, so many universities do not allow it to take place and impose sanctions on those students who are responsible for hazing.
At colleges and universities, many students choose to live in shared housing provided by the school. Living with other students can be an enriching part of the college experience, but it does have some challenges. Schools that do have student housing typically impose rules for living in these residence halls. Some of these rules may prohibit fighting or making too much noise or pertain to general safety. Since violating residential rules can affect other students' wellbeing in their living space, schools take residential misconduct very seriously.
A hate crime is considered an offense committed by a student who has certain beliefs about a victim's gender, color, religion, race, age, or sexual orientation. If a school learns about a potential hate crime committed by a student, it will most likely initiate disciplinary action.
The above examples are only illustrative, they are not a comprehensive list of code of conduct violations. Check your school's code of conduct policy to be sure you are aware of all the behavior that could lead to penalties.
The next section explores how Georgia colleges and universities handle suspected code of conduct violations.
How Georgia Colleges Handle Code of Conduct Issues
Each school has its own procedure for dealing with alleged code of conduct violations. The process is similar at most schools, however, so you can expect your school's procedure to resemble the below steps.
You will know you are accused of violating the code of conduct when your school sends you a formal notification about the matter either via letter or email. Then, your school may open an investigation to look into the issue further.
The investigative phase of the disciplinary process can make or break your case. The most important thing to remember about the investigation is not to speak to anyone about your accusation. You can talk it over with your parents or a student defense attorney, but you shouldn't discuss it with anyone at your university.
During the investigation, your school may assign an administrator to gather information about the accusation. This investigator might speak with you, your friends, any potential witnesses, or your instructors. They may also have access to your academic record or try to look through your social media accounts for more information. If the investigator invites you to speak with them informally, you should bring your student defense attorney-advisor with you to help you feel at ease and ensure you answer questions strategically.
The Disciplinary Hearing
After the investigator finishes collecting information about your allegation, your school may hold a disciplinary hearing or meeting. The hearing will have a significant impact on your overall disciplinary experience and end with a recommendation for sanctions if you are found responsible for a violation.
The hearing may take place in front of a hearing board, which typically consists of faculty, staff, or even students. The hearing board will hear your arguments and evaluate your evidence. It may also pose questions to you and your witnesses. Once the hearing has concluded, the board votes or decides if you are responsible for the infraction you are accused of and, if so, recommends sanctions.
Some schools allow students to bring a legal advisor with them to the hearing or even let the advisor speak on the student's behalf. Even if your school does not allow an external advisor to be present with you, you should still consult with one prior to the hearing. An advisor can still help you prepare a defense and coach you on how to present yourself during the hearing. An advisor can also help you ensure your rights are protected throughout the entire process.
If the hearing panel finds you responsible for a code of conduct infraction, it will recommend sanctions. These sanctions may take effect immediately or may need approval by a university administrator, pending an appeal.
Sanctions vary by school, but some of the most common are:
- Being banned from extracurricular activities such as sports or student organizations
- Loss of scholarship
- Loss of student housing
- Academic or disciplinary probation
Some sanctions seem less severe than others, but they all have short- and long-term effects. For example, a suspension is a temporary leave from your studies, but it can impact your future for years afterward. What might seem like one semester off right now can actually prevent you from landing the job or internship of your dreams. A suspension leaves a gap on your transcript, which not only slows down your progress toward your degree but also forces you to disclose your disciplinary history when potential employers or graduate schools ask you about it.
It's important to start building a strong defense as soon as possible so you can negotiate for reduced sanctions.
Best Practices for Students Accused of Code of Conduct Violations at Georgia Colleges
If you've never gone through a university disciplinary process before (and most students have not), then you may not know the best way to react to your accusation or conduct yourself throughout the process. Follow these best practices at each stage of the process to improve your chances of devising a strategic defense.
When You Are First Accused
Remember, when you first learn about the accusation against you, don't speak to anyone at your university about it. You may be tempted to discuss the matter with friends or a trusted professor, but anything you say could potentially be used against you later. A small slip-up due to stress during an informal conversation could prevent you from obtaining a favorable outcome later. You will want to defend yourself right away, but it's better to keep to yourself and speak with a student defense specialist instead.
As soon as you learn about the code of conduct violation, contact an attorney-advisor. These situations easily spiral out of control, and later in the process, you'll wish you had advice early on.
Prior to and During the Hearing
In the days or weeks leading up to your hearing, work with your advisor to prepare your defense so you feel comfortable presenting your arguments during the hearing. Your attorney can also help you gather evidence. During the hearing, be respectful and try not to let yourself become emotional. If your school allows you to have an advisor represent you, they can handle most of the hearing for you.
Filing an Appeal
If the result of the hearing panel is negative, your next step should be filing an appeal. Most schools have an appeal process that requires students to submit an appeal within five to ten days after receiving the hearing decision. An appeal typically requires filling out some paperwork and crafting a statement to submit to the appeal board.
Usually, schools do not allow you to go before the appeal board. An appeal review is not a second hearing. At most schools, the reasoning for filing an appeal is limited to one of the following:
- Your hearing didn't follow stated procedures
- New information has come to light after the hearing has taken place
The administrator or appeal board that reviews your appeal may have the authority to lessen a sanction, remand the case for a new hearing, or uphold the decision. Generally, the appeal decision is considered final.
What to Do If the Appeal Fails
Your appeal may not be successful, but that doesn't mean you have no further action to take. If your appeal fails, you may consider one of the following steps:
- Filing a complaint with Georgia's board of education. Your college or university must answer to your state's education authority, which may have a complaint process for students.
- Asking your attorney to speak with your school's legal team. It might be possible for your attorney and your school's general counsel to find a resolution that satisfies both you and the university without having to resort to more drastic action. If the matter does go further, it's also good to have made contact first.
- Initiating litigation against your school. A final step you can take is to sue your school. It's important to note that bringing legal action against your university will sever your ties with the institution permanently; you'll most likely never be able to resume your student status again. If you are threatened with expulsion anyway, a lawsuit might be an appropriate option for you.
To pursue one of the above three steps, you will need the assistance of a specialized attorney.
Rely On the Student Defense Expertise at Lento Law Firm
Have you been accused of a code of conduct violation at your school? Are you feeling overwhelmed by the disciplinary procedures?
Your Georgia university no doubt has high standards of behavior for its students. Fully understanding your rights and responsibilities as a student can be tricky, especially when the code of conduct is full of nuances. Making sense of the rules for student behavior can easily overwhelm you; when the disciplinary process starts, it can feel even more intimidating. You may feel like you're going through this process alone.
At the Lento Law Firm, we don't want you to feel isolated during a difficult disciplinary procedure at your Georgia university. Furthermore, we don't believe one accusation should jeopardize your entire future. When you rely on us to guide you through the process, it puts your mind at ease. You need a student defense attorney who has helped thousands of students in the same situation as you. You can feel more confident standing up for your rights with your school when you have an experienced advisor on your side.
If you're facing an accusation for violating your school's code of conduct, it shouldn't threaten your academic career or your future. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has worked on student defense issues across Georgia and the rest of the country and has the firsthand experience needed to negotiate with your university. From the investigation to the final appeal, attorney Joseph D. Lento will guide you through your school's disciplinary process each step of the way.
Call attorney Joseph D. Lento and Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 to schedule a consultation or contact us online.
Georgia colleges and universities where Joseph D. Lento can help as your or your student's code of conduct defense advisor during investigations, hearings, and appeals include, but are not limited to, the following schools:
- Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College
- Agnes Scott College
- Albany State University
- Albany Technical College
- Altamaha Technical College
- American InterContinental University Atlanta
- Andrew College
- Argosy University Atlanta
- Armstrong State University
- Athens Technical College
- Atlanta Metropolitan College
- Atlanta Technical College
- Augusta State University
- Augusta Technical College
- Bainbridge College
- Bauder College
- Berry College
- Beulah Heights University
- Brenau University
- Brewton Parker College
- Brown College of Court Reporting
- Brown Mackie College Atlanta
- Carver Bible College
- Central Georgia Technical College
- Chattahoochee Technical College
- Clark Atlanta University
- Clayton State University
- College of Coastal Georgia
- Columbus State University
- Columbus Technical College
- Covenant College
- Dalton State College
- Darton College
- DeVry University Georgia
- East Georgia College
- Emmanuel College
- Emory University
- Everest Institute Norcross
- Fort Valley State University
- Fortis College
- Gainesville State College
- Georgia Christian University
- Georgia College & State University
- Georgia Gwinnett College
- Georgia Highlands College
- Georgia Institute of Technology Main Campus
- Georgia Military College Atlanta Campus
- Georgia Military College Augusta Campus
- Georgia Military College Columbus Campus
- Georgia Military College Milledgeville Campus
- Georgia Military College Valdosta Campus
- Georgia Military College Warner Robins Campus
- Georgia Northwestern Technical College
- Georgia Perimeter College
- Georgia Piedmont Technical College
- Georgia Southern University
- Georgia Southwestern State University
- Georgia State University
- Gordon College
- Gupton Jones College of Funeral Service
- Gwinnett College Lilburn
- Gwinnett Technical College
- Herzing University Atlanta
- Interactive College of Technology Chamblee
- ITT Technical Institute Atlanta
- ITT Technical Institute Duluth
- ITT Technical Institute Kennesaw
- Kennesaw State University
- LaGrange College
- Lanier Technical College
- Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts Atlanta
- Life University
- Luther Rice University
- Macon State College
- Mercer University
- Middle Georgia College
- Middle Georgia Technical College
- Miller Motte Technical College
- Miller Motte Technical College Columbus
- Miller Motte Technical College Macon
- Morehouse College
- Moultrie Technical College
- North Georgia College & State University
- North Georgia Technical College
- Oconee Fall Line Technical College
- Ogeechee Technical College
- Oglethorpe University
- Okefenokee Technical College
- Paine College
- Piedmont College
- Point University
- Reinhardt University
- Sanford Brown College Atlanta
- Savannah College of Art and Design
- Savannah State University
- Savannah Technical College
- Shorter University
- Shorter University College of Adult & Professional Programs
- South Georgia College
- South Georgia Technical College
- South University Savannah
- South University Savannah Online
- Southeastern Technical College
- Southern Crescent Technical College
- Southern Polytechnic State University
- Southwest Georgia Technical College
- Spelman College
- The Art Institute of Atlanta
- Thomas University
- Toccoa Falls College
- Truett McConnell College
- University of Georgia
- University of Phoenix Atlanta Campus
- University of Phoenix Augusta Campus
- University of Phoenix Columbus Georgia Campus
- University of Phoenix Savannah Campus
- University of West Georgia
- Valdosta State University
- Virginia College
- Virginia College Augusta
- Waycross College
- Wesleyan College
- West Georgia Technical College
- Westwood College Atlanta Midtown
- Westwood College Northlake
- Wiregrass Georgia Technical College
- Young Harris College