Students don't attend college just to ruin their academic careers because of a code of conduct violation. Yet, as the college experience involves young adults moving away from home, maintaining a rigorous academic credit load, and focusing on future career pathways, good students can make mistakes. Although there are growing pains, that doesn't mean a school treats misconduct lightly.
When a student violates their college's code of conduct, it launches a stringent, sometimes intimidating, grievance process that seeks to protect the institution. Therefore, if you attend a college or university in Nebraska, you need to be conscious of what can happen when you face misconduct allegations. More importantly, students and their parents should grasp how a student defense advisor can assist in the process and defend your academic career and future job opportunities.
In Nebraska, every institution of higher education is governed by a code of conduct that touches all aspects of student life, from academic progress to how the school manages disciplinary action. Ignorance will not be a defense if you're accused of violating the code of conduct.
Nebraska Code of Conduct Issues: What Types of Misconduct Are There?
Generally, school administration personnel instruct students about their school's code of conduct during matriculation, including where to find it, what guidelines are in it, and what can happen if the rules are broken. Although your institution's code of conduct may categorize misconduct differently, there are three types:
- Academic misconduct
- Non-academic misconduct
- Title IX and sexual misconduct
Academic Misconduct: Institutions of higher education in Nebraska and elsewhere will have specific policies supervising student academic progress. Much of this is tied to school accreditation and a student's financial aid eligibility. The code of conduct will explain the minimum thresholds for grade point average (GPA) and credit load for a student to enroll full time. When students fail to meet these requirements, a school may move forward with misconduct allegations that can lead to academic probation.
The University of Nebraska requires students on academic probation to complete the following:
- Academic probation self-assessment
- Creation of an "academic plan" in conjunction with an academic advisor
- Additional check-in meetings, changes to course load or extracurricular activities, use of relevant campus resources
- Maintaining a specific GPA (typically above 2.0)
- Evaluation of student progress at the end of the term of probation
If these requirements aren't fulfilled within a specific timeframe, students could lose their eligibility for financial aid and risk violating the school's code of conduct. Disciplinary hearings often lead to a student being suspended for one or more semesters or expelled outright.
Plagiarism and cheating are also considered academic code of conduct violations. Students who think that plagiarism is simply duplicating someone's work without proper attribution are in for an awakening. Popular writing support programs and other online tools that assist students in their academic work are often grounds for code of conduct violations. Students must also be aware that some professors may prohibit group studying in their classes, also known as unauthorized collaboration at Nebraska Wesleyan University.
Non-academic misconduct: Student campus life involves much more than its academic requirements. 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, most schools have specific alcohol possession and consumption rules. The code of conduct will also list all items prohibited on campus like firearms, drugs, hazardous materials, and others.
The code of conduct dictates requirements for student residencies, both on and off-campus. For example, Nebraska's Union College requires all first and second-year students not living with their parents at home to live in on-campus housing. Their code of conduct includes housing guidelines that detail rules and regulations regarding things like:
- Bicycle racks and authorized usage on campus
- College-owned bunk beds
- Conflict between residents
- Damages to residence infrastructure
- Guidelines for appropriate room décor
- On-campus parking and transportation
- Pets and service animals
Sexual Misconduct and Title IX violations: Title IX is a federal law that guarantees equal access to higher education for people of different genders and sexual orientations without discrimination or harassment. Since Title IX is linked to a school's federal funding, colleges and universities must act swiftly and stringently when violations surface. All Nebraska institutions of higher education have similar Title IX policies as they are federal guidelines.
According to guidelines from Creighton University, Title IX violations include:
- Sexual harassment
- Sexual assault (rape, sodomy, fondling, incest)
- Dating/Domestic violence
Hazing and other acts and rituals involving embarrassment, harm, or exclusion for entrance into a group or club may also fall under federal guidelines. Bulling is also under Title IX purview as it's considered discriminatory.
Title IX violations are typically seen in news headlines in Nebraska and nationwide because they can affect not only accused students but also a school's public reputation. Even a Title IX allegation can follow a student long past their college years and affect their career prospects as colleges and universities seek to remand students harshly.
How Nebraska Colleges and Universities Handle Code of Conduct Allegations
If you're a Nebraska student alleged to have violated your school's code of conduct, it will launch the grievance process to investigate and provide, if necessary, appropriate sanctions. Most Nebraska schools have an official procedure for handling misconduct allegations, including separate policies for the investigation, hearing, and disciplinary stages.
When allegations arise, the school will ascertain whether an investigation is demanded via guidelines from the code of conduct. If so, the student will receive a notice of violation either in their student mailbox or email inbox explaining the allegation, time and date of a hearing, and due process rights, including the opportunity to retain outside representation to assist them in their case.
Students may think they can handle the school grievance process themselves. They may even believe that not responding to the notice means everything will go away. However, if a student doesn't respond, the college or university will assume the student has accepted the terms of the allegation and proceed. Failing to respond means you will be behind in your defense, and you will risk your future as a student.
Once you receive a notice of violation:
- Familiarize yourself with your school's code of conduct if you haven't already
- Examine the specific type of code of conduct violation and subsequent grievance procedures the school will use
- Begin gathering any evidence (papers, emails, texts) and as much information regarding the allegation
- 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 a hasty move to hire a student defense advisor so early in the process. Still, any misconduct violation can jeopardize your academic career and future job prospects. While students may believe that schools are there to protect students in code of conduct cases, it's essential to understand that college administrations aren't there to protect you or even the accusing party in a disciplinary hearing—their mission is to safeguard the institution. Cases involving code of conduct violations are typically won or lost during the investigative stage of the process. Therefore, you need a professional to assist you from the start.
Your Nebraska School's Disciplinary Hearing: What to Expect
Apart from your parents and your student defense advisor, it's a bad idea to discuss the allegations with anyone else during the adjudicative processes. You don't want to derail your case before it begins.
The disciplinary hearing guidelines will be complex and uncompromising. Different procedures may be used depending on what type of allegations will be adjudicated—academic, non-academic, Title IX. Nevertheless, all procedures on timeframes for responses to investigators, appeals, and possible sanctions will be located in the school's code of conduct.
For example, at the University of Nebraska, a disciplinary hearing proceeds in the following manner:
- The Conduct Board Officer will call the grievance hearing to order and state the formal charge, roles of the participants, and due process guidelines.
- The accuser (complainant) will give an opening statement specifying the grounds and available evidence upon which the charge is based.
- The accused (respondent) will cross-examine witnesses and evidence supporting the charges.
- The respondent will give a statement, and present evidence, testimony, or witnesses supporting their position in the matter.
- Members of the student-faculty Conduct Board will cross-examine the respondent and the witnesses after their testimony.
- The complainant and respondent may provide a summary or closing statement.
- The Conduct Board will meet in a closed session to deliberate the findings of the hearing and the determination of responsibility regarding the allegations, which is a preponderance of evidence (at least 50 percent convinced that the respondent committed the alleged misconduct).
- The board's decision, including its reasoning, determination of responsibility, and recommendations for sanctions, will be given to the school's complainant and respondent.
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. 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 well-reasoned argument
- A student defense advisor can enlighten you on any precedents or loopholes in the school's code of conduct
- A student defense advisor will ensure that your school's disciplinary body respects your rights and doesn't hand down unfair or excessive punishments
If you hire an experienced student defense advisor to assist you in your Nebraska school's code of conduct case, the institution's administration will most likely take you more seriously. Moreover, suppose your school 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 to get you back to your schoolwork.
Sanctions Nebraska Students Can Face
Punishments for code of conduct violations are wide-ranging, but many are far-reaching. According to the University of Nebraska, sanctions include:
- Written warning
- Academic or disciplinary probation
- Suspension or expulsion from university housing
- Mandatory relocation
- Prohibition from or limitation on university privileges (internet access, university resources, recreation/wellness equipment, on-campus dining, on-campus transportation, personal media devices, campus access
- Community service
- Education programs/assignments or behavioral evaluations
- Loss of university student employment
- Revocation or withholding admission, degree, or award
- Suspension from university for a specific time
Although some of these sanctions seem less severe, a student's official transcript will detail actions taken by a school against the student. Admissions personnel at some graduate schools and the applications for certain professional licenses may require you to explain previous disciplinary action, including any investigated allegations against you. A separation from studies will produce a gap in your transcript.
Prospective employers, internship providers, and graduate school admissions personnel may have a cause for concern if they see this. Indeed, it could prevent you from landing your dream job after graduation. Therefore, 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 record clean.
Best Practices for Responding to Nebraska College Code of Conduct Charges
If you're facing student disciplinary charges at your Nebraska school, there are some things you can do to ensure your rights are protected throughout the process. The more you understand now, the better the resolution will favor you.
After the Accusation
Your school may provide inviting circumstances for you to represent yourself at your code of conduct hearing. Although it could be tempting to want to give a defense on your own, it's a misconception that can quickly lead to career-altering implications. Take the situation seriously and remember:
- Don't disregard any correspondence from your college or university
- Don't discuss the allegations with friends
- Don't contact your accuser
- Don't post anything on social media
- Don't move forward in the process without professional help
The only people you should discuss the matter with are supportive family members and your student defense advisor. A local attorney may claim they know the players in the case, and their experience before a judge and a jury in a court of law will translate to a solid defense in front of disciplinary boards.
A lawyer's courtroom savvy doesn't equate to a proven student defense strategy. You need a professional student defense advisor who understands the school adjudicative process and knows how to proceed from the very beginning.
Before and During Your Hearing
When allegations arise, your Nebraska school should inform you through a letter in your student mailbox or an email in your student inbox. You will also receive specifics of the evidence gathered against you 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 Nebraska 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. 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 the Nebraska State College System, a student can file an appeal if:
- New evidence that arises after the hearing that has a bearing on the recommended sanctions
- The punishments are disproportionate to the severity of the violation
- Procedural errors occurred that significantly impacted the outcome of the hearing
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 prove procedural errors occurred during the hearing process
- What constitutes novel evidence that was not available during the grievance process
- If the sanctions levied against you are disproportionately severe
If the school denies your appeal or doesn't modify or overturn the sanctions, your options include:
- Filing a complaint with the Nebraska Board of Education.
- A student defense advisor can negotiate with your school's Office of General Counsel (OGC).
- You and your attorney can consider litigation against your school.
A lawsuit should be your last resort. Regardless, it will immediately get your school's attention.
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 legal guidance. Your Nebraska college or university will have a complex 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 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 misconduct matters, negotiations with school administration officials, and litigation involving hundreds of college and university students in Nebraska and across the U.S. He and his team have formed valuable relationships with many representatives in Nebraska schools' internal OGC and those representing the school retained from outside law firms. They know how to help school disciplinary boards understand positive options that serve both the student and the institution better than suspension, expulsion, or other severe sanctions.
For expert advice from a proven national academic attorney defending students in Nebraska 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 and future depend on it.