No college or graduate school student expects to encounter a disciplinary matter during their studies. Still, if you or a loved one are attending a college or university in Illinois, you may want to know what can happen. Running afoul of the student code of conduct at your school can affect your entire college experience and even your future career.
Fortunately, your college has some resources available to help you, and your first stop should be your Illinois school's online student code of conduct. The code of conduct should include your school's expectations for student behavior, the rules you must follow, behaviors that can result in disciplinary action, your rights, and the school's procedures during disciplinary matters.
As a current or prospective student, you should locate your Illinois school's code of conduct online and familiarize yourself with it. If you break a rule, you won't be able to say "I didn't know" as a defense. Rather, your school will expect you to know and understand the rules. Plus, it's a good idea to prepare yourself if you face a code of conduct violation.
Illinois Code of Conduct Issues: Academic Misconduct, Sexual Misconduct, and General Disciplinary Charges
Your student code of conduct will set forth several types of violations that could trigger the disciplinary process, including academic integrity issues, general code of conduct violations like drug or alcohol offenses, and sexual misconduct or Title IX violations.
Academic misconduct can include academic integrity issues like plagiarism, cheating, fabricating data, unauthorized collaboration, and other academic misconduct issues like disturbing the classroom or destruction of property. In many cases, your professor may decide that the sanction for academic issues should be a failing grade on a test, paper, or entire class. But if you face repeated academic integrity or misconduct issues, the school may pursue disciplinary action against you to suspend or expel you from school.
Sexual Misconduct or Title IX Violations
Sexual misconduct violations typically include any sexual conduct that happens without the freely given consent of both parties. Sexual misconduct can include rape, sexual assault, intimate partner violence, stalking, and sexual harassment. Your college will likely include sexual misconduct in your school's code of conduct. However, they may also have separate procedures and policies for Title IX violations.
Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 ("Title IX"), 20 U.S.C. §1681 et seq., is a federal civil rights law passed by congress to prevent gender discrimination in college admissions, sports, employment, and financial aid decisions. Rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment, and other sexual misconduct typically fall under Title IX laws and regulations. The Department of Education regulations promulgated under Title IX also govern the disciplinary process for Title IX violations and set forth a number of due process rights for students.
If your Illinois college knows about an alleged Title IX violation, it must investigate and remediate the violation, even if no one makes a formal complaint. The law forces colleges and universities into a broad quasi-judiciary and investigative role, with obligations to follow wide-ranging federal rules and regulations.
If a school knows about a Title IX violation or sexual incident, it is obligated to:
- Thoroughly investigate the matter
- End any sexual violence and prevent it from happening again
- Address the consequences of any sexual violence
- Protect the alleged victim and complainant
- Provide grievance procedures
As a result of the federal obligations placed on Illinois public colleges and universities, punishments for Title IX violations can often be quite harsh. As a result, it is even more important to ensure you have an experienced student disciplinary attorney by your side.
General Code of Conduct Violations
You can also face additional code of conduct violations at your Illinois college or university. Your school's code of conduct may list many of them, but the list won't be exhaustive. Conduct violations can include:
- Underage Alcohol Violations: Many people attending college are under the drinking age of 21. So, possessing alcohol on campus, or providing alcohol to underage drinkers on campus, can make you subject to school discipline.
- Drug Possession: Most student codes of conduct will prohibit the possession or distribution of illegal drugs on campus. Some may also prohibit legal drugs on campus. For example, while people over 21 can legally possess small amounts of cannabis in Illinois, the University of Chicago still prohibits its use on campus, citing federal drug laws.
- Hazing: Rituals for new members of college organizations, teams, sororities, and fraternities can often involve coercive or dangerous behavior as well as underage drinking. As a result, most college codes of conduct prohibit hazing on or off-campus.
- Campus Residential Misconduct: College is often the first time many students live away from home. Learning to live in a shared community and with roommates can be a big adjustment. But students often break the rules during this adjustment. Sometimes theft or trespassing can also be an issue in residential halls. As a result, you could face school disciplinary procedures for serious violations.
- Hate Crimes: Hate crimes, offenses committed against someone else because of their religion, race, gender, disability, or age, can be serious offenses. If you're accused of a hate crime against another student, you could face serious consequences under your school's code of conduct.
It's important to remember that your school's list of code of conduct violations won't be exhaustive. Often facing criminal charges off campus can subject you to school discipline as well, making it important to have a student discipline lawyer protecting your rights.
How Illinois Colleges and Universities Manage Code of Conduct Issues
Your Illinois college or university will have specific procedures to handle academic issues, code of conduct violations, and Title IX violations. Each process will involve:
- A preliminary or formal investigation
- A disciplinary hearing, unless you waive your right to a hearing
- A decision and recommendation for sanctions
- A process to appeal
Your school will first inform you of the allegations against you, interview you, and interview any other involved parties. If there's a hearing, you may be allowed to have a representative or lawyer with you and to question witnesses and evidence.
Handling Your School's Investigation
During your school's investigation of the allegations against you, there are some guidelines you should follow:
- Don't talk about the allegations against you. If you do so, you may unintentionally incriminate yourself or result in someone misinterpreting your words.
- Don't post about the allegations on social media. Again, you could unintentionally incriminate yourself; someone could misinterpret your words.
- Don't trust your college or university. When an administrator questions you, they may spin the conversation as if they're looking out for your best interests. But you can't assume that they are.
- Seek the advice of a student discipline attorney. You need guidance and someone protecting your rights.
After the initial investigation, you will receive notice of the time and date for an informal or formal hearing. The school may dismiss the allegations against you after their initial investigation in some situations.
Your College's Disciplinary Hearing
The makeup of the disciplinary board will vary based on your college or university's procedures. But typically, your disciplinary board will consist of several faculty or administration members, and it may include student representatives as well. Typically, the board will have at least one administrator head up the proceedings.
Before the hearing, the school should inform you and your advisor or lawyer of any evidence and witnesses against you, as well as the full allegations against you. During the hearing, you'll probably have the ability to question the witnesses and evidence or submit written questions to the head of the disciplinary board for the board to ask witnesses. You will also be able to introduce your own witnesses.
In some cases, your school may not allow you to have a legal advisor present in the hearing. Even so, it's a good idea to prepare with an experienced student discipline attorney. A lawyer can help you review the evidence against you, prepare lists of questions for the witnesses, and prepare a summary of your side of the story and the points you should make to the disciplinary board in your defense.
An attorney can also help deal with any procedural or due process issues. A lawyer will ensure that your college takes you more seriously and diligently follows their own code of conduct procedures. Even if your lawyer isn't right next to you in a hearing, they can protect your due process rights with the school, help you effectively prepare and defend yourself, and protect your right to appeal any adverse decision or sanctions against you.
Possible Illinois College Sanctions
If your school disciplinary board finds you responsible for a code of conduct violation, you could face sanctions ranging from mild to serious, including:
- Written warning in your school file
- School suspension
- Suspension from extracurricular activities
- Suspension from school sports
- Loss of your scholarship
- Removal from student housing
- Academic probation
- Disciplinary probation
- Loss of a degree
While some of these sanctions can seem minor, they become part of your permanent academic record. In some cases, an academic integrity violation or a code of conduct violation can be serious enough to prevent you from gaining admission to a graduate or professional school, gaining an internship, or, in some cases, bar you from certain careers. As a result, it's important to defend yourself in a school disciplinary matter in the most effective manner. The best way to do that is with an experienced student discipline lawyer.
Best Practices for Responding to Illinois College Code of Conduct Charges
If you're facing student disciplinary charges, there are some things you can do to ensure you protect your rights throughout the process.
It can be tempting to defend yourself against the charges to anyone and everyone. But you should resist the temptation. Talk to your parents or supportive family and your lawyer. Don't discuss things with your friends. Don't talk to social media to rant. Discuss the matter with your lawyer.
You should also ensure that you hire a lawyer who is well versed in student defense matters. Not just any attorney will understand the student discipline process, the limitations you face, and how much the procedures will vary from school to school. An experienced student discipline attorney will understand how to proceed and protect your rights from the very beginning.
Before and During Your Hearing
Before the hearing, your school should fully inform you of all the allegations against you, including specifics of your actions and when they occurred. You should also receive specifics of the evidence against you and any anticipated witnesses. After receiving this information, you and your lawyer can develop your defense strategy, and you can prepare your arguments for your hearing, and develop a strategy for questioning witnesses or submitting your witnesses.
After the hearing, the disciplinary board will discuss the matter and issue a written decision, including recommended sanctions. If they find you not responsible, they should also issue a report explaining their decision.
Filing an Illinois Student Disciplinary Appeal
The appeals process at each Illinois college and university will vary. You and your lawyer should be sure to review the specific rights and procedures set by your school to ensure you don't waive your right to appeal.
After your college issues a decision and any recommended sanctions, you will have a short period of time to appeal. Typically, you will only have five to ten days from the date the school serves you with their decision to appeal formally. The decision your college gives you should also include your appeal rights. You must carefully follow these instructions to preserve your appeal.
When you file your appeal, you may have to complete school-specific paperwork. Additionally, you'll list your grounds for appeal and the facts in the record that support your appeal. Typically, your school won't consider an appeal that introduces new facts you didn't introduce during the hearing, arguments that impugn someone's character, or simply say the decision was wrong. You must support your arguments. You will submit your appeal to the appropriate authority at your school, such as the Dean of Students or the University President, and wait for a response.
After your college authority reviews your appeal, the designated official will decide your appeal. They generally may affirm the disciplinary board's decision, overturn the board's decision, grant you a new hearing, or affirm the board's decision but modify or overturn the recommended sanction. This decision is often final, with no additional right to appeal.
Hire an Attorney for Your Appeal
Because you only have one shot at appealing your college's disciplinary board decision, you need to make your best possible argument. An attorney can help develop the most effective appeal, citing:
- The facts the disciplinary board cites in its decision
- Failure of the school to allow you due process and follow its stated procedures
- New evidence that may have come to light, or the board's failure to consider all the facts presented in the hearing
If the school denies your appeal, your options include:
- Filing a complaint with the Illinois Board of Higher Education. The Illinois Board of Higher Education is the coordinating body for the state's public college and university system. You may file a complaint with the ILBHE or the ombudsman.
- Let your lawyer negotiate. If you've filed a complaint, it may be a good idea to have your lawyer discuss the matter with your college's counsel. The college may be willing to listen to avoid litigation in court.
- Filing a lawsuit. A lawsuit should be your last resort. However, it will get your university's attention, and it may force them to the bargaining table.
You'll need an experienced student disciplinary attorney representing you for any of these options.
You Need the Expertise and Student Defense Experience of the Lento Law Firm
If you're facing a code of conduct violation, an academic integrity violation, a Title IX violation, or any disciplinary matter at your Illinois college or university, you need skilled legal guidance. Your Illinois college will have a complex and nuanced set of procedures and policies that will govern your rights, due process, hearings, and appeals in the student discipline process. Navigating this system can be challenging without an experienced student discipline attorney protecting your rights. This isn't something you should try to handle on your own, and attorney Joseph D. Lento and his team can help.
The experienced lawyers at the Lento Law Firm have handled student discipline matters, negotiations with administrators, and court litigation involving hundreds of colleges and universities in Illinois and across the country. We believe that one small mistake shouldn't destroy your reputation, academic future, and future career. From investigating your disciplinary matter, developing your defense strategy, representing you in your hearing or appeal, and taking matters to court, when necessary, attorney Joseph D. Lento will work relentlessly to protect your rights and your reputation. Find out how he can help you. Give the Lento Law Firm a call today to schedule your initial consultation, or contact us online for help.
Illinois colleges and universities where Joseph D. Lento can help as your or your student's disciplinary violation advisor during investigations, hearings, and appeals include, but are not limited to, the following schools:
- American Academy of Art
- American InterContinental University Online
- Argosy University Chicago
- Argosy University Schaumburg
- Augustana College
- Aurora University
- Benedictine University
- Black Hawk College
- Blackburn College
- Bradley University
- Carl Sandburg College
- Chamberlain College of Nursing Illinois
- Chicago State University
- Christian Life College
- City Colleges of Chicago Harold Washington College
- City Colleges of Chicago Harry S Truman College
- City Colleges of Chicago Kennedy King College
- City Colleges of Chicago Malcolm X College
- City Colleges of Chicago Olive Harvey College
- City Colleges of Chicago Richard J Daley College
- City Colleges of Chicago Wilbur Wright College
- College of DuPage
- College of Lake County
- Columbia College Chicago
- Concordia University Chicago
- Danville Area Community College
- DePaul University
- DeVry University Illinois
- Dominican University
- East West University
- Eastern Illinois University
- Elgin Community College
- Elmhurst College
- Eureka College
- Fox College Inc .
- Greenville College
- Harper College
- Harrington College of Design
- Heartland Community College
- Hebrew Theological College
- Highland Community College
- Illinois Central College
- Illinois College
- Illinois Eastern Community Colleges Frontier Community College
- Illinois Eastern Community Colleges Lincoln Trail College
- Illinois Eastern Community Colleges Olney Central College
- Illinois Eastern Community Colleges Wabash Valley College
- Illinois Institute of Technology
- Illinois State University
- Illinois Valley Community College
- Illinois Wesleyan University
- International Academy of Design and Technology Chicago
- ITT Technical Institute Mount Prospect
- ITT Technical Institute Oak Brook
- ITT Technical Institute Orland Park
- John A Logan College
- John Wood Community
- Joliet Junior College
- Judson University
- Kankakee Community College
- Kaskaskia College
- Kendall College
- Kishwaukee College
- Knox College
- Lake Forest College
- Lake Land College
- Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts Chicago
- Lewis and Clark Community College
- Lewis University
- Lexington College
- Lincoln Christian University
- Lincoln College
- Lincoln Land Community College
- Loyola University Chicago
- MacCormac College
- MacMurray College
- McHenry County College
- McKendree University
- Methodist College of Nursing
- Midstate College
- Millikin University
- Monmouth College
- Moody Bible Institute
- Moraine Valley Community College
- Morrison Institute of Technology
- Morton College
- National Louis University
- North Central College
- North Park University
- Northeastern Illinois University
- Northern Illinois University
- Northwestern College
- Northwestern College Southwestern Campus
- Northwestern University
- Oakton Community College
- Olivet Nazarene University
- Pacific College of Oriental Medicine Chicago
- Parkland College
- Prairie State College
- Quincy University
- Rend Lake College
- Richland Community College
- Robert Morris University Illinois
- Rock Valley College
- Rockford Career College
- Rockford College
- Roosevelt University
- Saint Augustine College
- Saint Xavier University
- Sanford Brown College Collinsville
- Sanford Brown College Hillside
- Sauk Valley Community College
- School of the Art Institute of Chicago
- Shawnee Community College
- Shimer College
- South Suburban College
- Southeastern Illinois College
- Southern Illinois University Carbondale
- Southern Illinois University Edwardsville
- Southwestern Illinois College
- Spoon River College
- Taylor Business Institute
- Telshe Yeshiva Chicago
- The Illinois Institute of Art Chicago
- The Illinois Institute of Art Schaumburg
- Trinity Christian College
- Trinity College of Nursing and Health Sciences
- Trinity International University
- Triton College
- University of Chicago
- University of Illinois at Chicago
- University of Illinois at Springfield
- University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign
- University of Phoenix Chicago Campus
- University of St Francis
- VanderCook College of Music
- Vatterott College Quincy
- Waubonsee Community College
- Western Illinois University
- Westwood College Chicago Loop
- Westwood College Dupage
- Westwood College O'Hare Airport
- Westwood College River Oaks
- Wheaton College