Students enrolling in college embark on a journey where they face the transition from living with their parents at home, engaging in strenuous academic loads, and working toward the beginning of their careers. During the four-year process, conscientious students sometimes make mistakes and wind up targeted by their school's disciplinary board following a code of conduct violation. If you attend a Maine college or university, you need to understand what can happen if you must endure a stringent college grievance process when an instance of misconduct arises.
Understanding your Maine school's code of conduct is a significant part of a student's university experience. Generally, first-year and transfer students are instructed to locate their school's code of conduct during matriculation, meaning ignorance will not be a viable defense.
Maine Code of Conduct Issues: What Types of Misconduct Are There?
In Maine, every institution of higher education will have a code of conduct that regulates student life, academic progress, and how a school manages misconduct. Although your institution's code of conduct may categorize misconduct differently, there are three general types:
- Academic misconduct
- Non-academic misconduct
- Title IX and sexual misconduct
Schools outline specific guidelines in their codes of conduct that supervise a student's academic progress, which is linked to their financial aid eligibility. Nearly all colleges and universities in Maine and elsewhere define this as Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) and includes:
- Specific thresholds like minimum grade point average (GPA)
- Semester course loads
- Completion requirements that students must meet during enrollment
SAP guidelines will be more stringent on graduate students than those enrolled in undergraduate programs. When students fail to achieve these standards, the school administration will place them on academic probation.
The University of Maine requires students on academic probation to meet certain academic conditions defined by their college dean, such as:
- Completing a certain number of credit hours in the following semesters
- Creating a plan with the dean that demonstrates when the student will be in good standing
- Evaluation throughout and at the end of the probationary term
- Maintaining a GPA above 2.0 for the remainder of their enrollment
If students fail to meet these standards in subsequent semesters, they will face academic misconduct charges. This will make a student ineligible for financial aid, and it often leads to the student being suspended or expelled from the school.
Academic code of conduct violations also includes plagiarism. Students must be aware that writing assistance programs and other online tools can be considered academic misconduct. Some professors may also prohibit studying with others in their classes, also known as unauthorized collaboration or cheating at Bates College.
Misusing your school's computer or network can also land you with a hefty code of conduct violation. All colleges and universities have computer and network usage policies to maintain an information infrastructure that supports their institutions' teaching, learning, and research. Depending on the infraction, violations lead to loss of computer privileges to outright expulsion.
At Bowdoin College, misconduct includes:
- Allowing computer or network access to anyone not a student of the college, faculty, or staff member
- Causing network security concerns via malware or viruses
- Distributing or plagiarizing copyrighted materials
- Excessive bandwidth usage
- Installing or distributing "inappropriate" or unlicensed software
- Sharing personal authentication information unless authorized
- Unethical, unauthorized, illegal, or criminal computer or network use
- Using personal routers or conducting personal, for-profit business on a school computer or network
Campus life is more than just its academic requirements to remain enrolled. As young adults convene with their peers, one of the most common code of conduct violations on college and university grounds is underage alcohol possession. Most institutions of higher education have specific rules regarding alcohol possession, irrespective if you are of legal drinking age or not.
The code of conduct will also list items like drugs, firearms, hazardous materials, and others prohibited on campus. Regulations for student vehicles and other modes of transportation will be explained in the code of conduct. The College of the Atlantic prohibits cars from idling for over five minutes, whether for delivery or otherwise.
It's essential to know how the code of conduct applies to student residences. For example, Colby College's code of conduct includes housing guidelines that detail rules and regulations regarding things like:
- Appropriate dorm room appliances and décor
- Guest policies
- Official visiting hours
- Pets and service animals
- Resident conflict
Sexual Misconduct and Title IX violations
Title IX is a federal law prohibiting discrimination or harassment based on sex or gender orientation. Federal funding guidelines demand that schools act swiftly and harshly when a student is alleged to have committed a Title IX violation because such instances can quickly damage a school's public persona. All Maine colleges and universities have very similar Title IX policies as they are federal guidelines.
Bullying, hazing, and other acts and rituals that involve embarrassment, harm, or exclusion for entrance into a group or club can fall under Title IX purview as they are discriminatory. Nonetheless, Title IX generally revolves around sexual misconduct. Title IX misconduct at the University of Southern Maine includes:
- Dating/Domestic violence
- Sexual assault and harassment
Title IX violations are serious business. Even if the disciplinary board finds the student not responsible for investigated allegations, they will follow the student long after graduation. Many schools require investigation records to be kept for several years and third parties routinely request them to vet students applying for jobs.
How Maine Colleges and Universities Handle Code of Conduct Allegations
If you're a Maine student alleged to have committed code of conduct violations, it will launch the grievance process to investigate and, if necessary, provide appropriate sanctions. Most Maine schools have an official approach for handling allegations of misconduct involving investigation, hearing, and disciplinary phases.
A student facing allegations will receive a notice of violation from the school administration in their mailbox or email inbox. The notice will explain the allegation, the time and date of a disciplinary hearing, and whether an outside advisor may accompany the student at the hearing.
Once you receive that letter, it will be important to:
- Re-familiarize yourself with your school's code of conduct
- Determine the specific type of code of conduct violation and grievance procedures
- Gather any evidence (papers, emails, texts)
- Contact student defense advisor Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm at (888) 535-3686 or schedule a confidential consultation online
It may seem like "jumping the gun" to retain professional assistance this early in the process. Yet, it's crucial that you understand that college administrations aren't tasked with protecting you or even the accusing party in a disciplinary hearing—their mission is to safeguard the institution. Typically, the outcomes of issues like these are achieved during the investigative stage of the process. Therefore, you need a professional on your side.
Your Maine School's Disciplinary Hearing: What to Expect
The hearing guidelines will be strict and complex. Depending on the allegations, the disciplinary board will use varying procedures. Nevertheless, all information on periods for response to investigators, appeals, and possible sanctions will be in the school's code of conduct.
At the University of Maine, a disciplinary hearing proceeds in the following manner:
- The grievance hearing will be called to order by the Conduct Officer of the Hearing Board, who states the formal charge considered, the roles of the participants, and the due process guidelines.
- The accuser (Complainant) and accused (Respondent) will make an opening statement.
- The Investigator will present the results of the formal investigation.
- The Conduct Officer may ask questions of any witnesses and the parties.
- The Complainant and Respondent may cross-examine witnesses and evidence supporting the charges.
- Members of the Hearing Board may question the Complainant or Respondent and the witnesses after their testimony.
- The Complainant and Respondent may provide a summary or closing statement, including recommendations regarding appropriate sanctions.
- The Hearing Board will meet in a closed session to deliberate the findings of the hearing and the determination of responsibility regarding the allegations. They will base their conclusion on a "preponderance of evidence" standard (more than 50 percent convinced the Respondent is responsible for the allegations).
- The Hearing Board's decision, including its reasoning, determining responsibility, and recommendations for punitive measures, will be given to the Complainant, Respondent, and school administration.
Depending on the misconduct the hearing will address, you may or may not be permitted to have your student defense advisor with you. If not, retaining professional assistance will still strengthen your defense for these important reasons:
- A student defense advisor can coach you toward providing the committee with a cohesive and coherent argument
- A student defense advisor understands any precedents or loopholes in the institution's code of conduct
- A student defense advisor will ensure that your school's disciplinary body respects your rights
School administration officials will likely take you more seriously if you have hired a professional to assist you. If your disciplinary body hands down severe sanctions, your advisor is already there to help you negotiate a reduced punishment.
Sanctions Maine Students Can Face
- Academic or disciplinary probation
- Loss of group or club memberships
- Removal from student employee positions
- Degree or award withholding
Although some of these sanctions seem less harsh, they are detailed on a student's official transcript. You will be required to disclose this information to admissions personnel at graduate schools and on applications for specific professional licenses. Other disciplinary actions resulting in a separation from studies will produce a gap on your transcript, which may cause concern for future employers, preventing you from beginning your preferred career after graduation.
You must build a strong defense as early as you can. A student defense advisor may be able to negotiate a reduced punishment to keep your clean record intact.
Best Practices for Responding to Maine 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.
After the Accusation
Once you hire a student defense advisor, they will instruct you to:
- Avoid speaking about the allegations with friends
- Keep any correspondence from your college or university
- Stay away from social media posting
The only people you should discuss the matter with are supportive family members and your student defense advisor. Don't be fooled by advertisements from local attorneys claiming they know the best ways to get through to school administration officials. You need a proven student defense advisor who knows how to proceed and protect your rights from the very beginning.
Before and During Your Hearing
When allegations arise, your Maine school should inform you of the evidence gathered against you and any anticipated witnesses. After receiving this information, you and your student defense advisor can develop a healthy strategy, preparing you for your arguments during the hearing and questioning witnesses.
The disciplinary board will discuss the matter and issue a written decision after the deliberation period, including recommended sanctions. If you are found not responsible for the allegations, they will also give a report explaining their decision.
Filing an Appeal
The appeals process at each Maine institution of higher education will vary. You and your student defense advisor will review your school's specific rights and procedures to ensure you don't waive your right to appeal. Typically, you will only have a few days from the date the school serves you with their decision to file an appeal. According to guidelines from Husson University, a student can file a request to the school's Appellate Review Panel if:
- New evidence emerges after the hearing that may have had a bearing on the recommended sanctions
- Procedural errors (substantiated bias, deviation from procedures, false testimony) occurred that significantly impacted the outcome of the hearing
After your college authority reviews your appeal, the designated official will decide the outcome of your request. 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 disciplinary board's decision, so you need to make your best possible argument. A student defense advisor can help develop the most effective appeal, and they will know:
- How to identify and prove procedural errors
- What constitutes new evidence unavailable before or during the hearing
- If the sanctions levied against you are excessive
If the school denies your appeal, your options include:
- Filing a complaint with the Maine Board of Education
- Negotiating with your school's Office of General Counsel (OGC)
- Litigation against your school
A lawsuit should be your last resort, but it will get your university's attention. It may force them to the bargaining table so the situation doesn't become more widespread than it already is, and the school can protect its reputation.
You Need the Expertise of Student Defense Advisor Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm
If you face a code of conduct disciplinary hearing, you need skilled guidance. Your Maine college or university will have a complex set of procedures and policies that will govern your rights, due process, hearings, and appeals during the grievance process. Navigating this system can be intimidating. Don't attempt to handle the situation on your own. The risk to your academic career is too significant.
Student defense advisor Joseph D. Lento and his team at the Lento Law Firm have handled student discipline matters, negotiations with administrators, and court litigation involving hundreds of colleges and universities in Maine and across the U.S. They believe that one code of conduct infraction shouldn't derail your academic and professional future.
Lento and his team have created fruitful relationships with many internal OGC personnel at Maine institutions of higher education and those representing the school hired from outside law firms. He and his team know how to help school administration officials realize positive options in matters of disciplinary action that serve the student and the institution much better than suspension, expulsion, or other harsh sanctions.
For expert advice from a proven student defense advisor defending students in Maine and throughout the U.S., 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 depends on it.