College is an exciting time to grow as a person, learn new things, make new friends, and take your first steps toward your future career. No student expects to have difficulties with disciplinary matters when they go to college. That doesn't prevent it from happening, however. Running afoul of the university or college code of student conduct and landing yourself in trouble can occur all too easily for many students.
Your New Hampshire school should make some resources available to you to ensure you don't end up with disciplinary struggles. One of these resources is your school's code of student conduct. This document should explain your school's expectations for student behavior, the rules you have to follow, certain behaviors that could lead to disciplinary intervention, procedures for dealing with prohibited behaviors, and your rights as a student.
If you haven't already, you should find your New Hampshire school's code of conduct and read it carefully. Your college or university has most likely published the code online, so it should be easy to find. If you do break one of the rules, ignorance of the code of conduct won't be enough to defend yourself. It's your responsibility as a student to know the rules and follow them. It's also helpful to know what might happen if you end up with an accusation of a disciplinary violation.
New Hampshire Code of Conduct Issues: Academic Misconduct, Sexual Misconduct, and General Disciplinary Charges
In your New Hampshire school's code of conduct, there may be more than one type of misconduct that can land you in trouble. Typically, violations fall into one of three categories: academic dishonesty, sexual misconduct, and general code of conduct violations.
Academic dishonesty is when a student tries to give themselves an unfair advantage over others in an academic setting. It can take many forms, including plagiarism, cheating, fabricating data, unauthorized collaboration, disturbing the classroom, or destruction of library property. Many schools allow professors to address students about suspected academic misconduct and decide on sanctions if the student is responsible for a violation. These sanctions could be a requirement to re-do an assignment, a lowered grade, or a failing grade. For more serious academic dishonesty issues or repeated infractions, the university might pursue harsher sanctions such as suspension or expulsion.
Sexual Misconduct or Title IX Violations
Sexual misconduct is any sexual conduct that happens without the freely given consent of both parties. It can include rape, sexual assault, intimate partner violence, stalking, sexual harassment, and sexual exploitation. It's possible your university's code of conduct includes a section about sexual misconduct, but it may also have a separate policy to cover it. There could also be a policy specific to Title IX.
Your school may also have a separate policy and procedures document to cover Title IX. Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 is a federal civil rights law that aims to prevent gender discrimination in educational institutions. It extends to college admissions, sports, employment, and financial aid. Title IX laws typically cover actions such as rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment, and other sexual misconduct and includes procedures for how to handle suspected violations. It also sets forth a number of due process rights for students.
Once your New Hampshire school knows about a potential Title IX violation, it has an obligation to investigate it. Schools take on a somewhat judiciary role when dealing with alleged Title IX violations as well, as they must follow a wide range of federal rules and regulations.
A school's obligations under Title IX if there is a suspected violation include:
- Investigating the matter thoroughly
- Ending sexual violence and preventing it from happening again
- Addressing the consequences of sexual violence
- Protected the alleged victim and complainant
- Providing grievance procedures
As Title IX places federal restraints and obligations on New Hampshire colleges and universities, sanctions for Title IX infractions tend to be harsh. If you are accused of a Title IX or sexual misconduct violation at your school, it is all the more imperative that you consult with an experienced student defense attorney-advisor.
General Code of Conduct Violations
The third type of conduct violation that your New Hampshire school most likely prohibits are general code of conduct violations. These infractions tend to cover behavior that doesn't fall into the academic integrity or sexual misconduct categories. The list of behaviors subject to disciplinary action varies with each school, and the list provided in the code of conduct usually isn't exhaustive.
Some common examples of general code of conduct violations include:
- Underage alcohol violations: Alcohol consumption is illegal for people under 21 in New Hampshire, like in all states. Colleges and universities adhere to this law and strictly prohibit underage drinking on their campuses. Some schools may also prohibit all alcohol consumption on campus, no matter how old you are.
- Drug possession: Generally, student codes of conduct make the possession or distribution of illegal drugs on campus subject to disciplinary action. Some schools even prohibit legal drugs on campus.
- Hazing: Hazing is requiring potential new members of clubs, organizations, teams, fraternities, and sororities to engage in embarrassing or harmful behavior as a condition for joining. Activities associated with hazing have led to serious injuries and even death, in some cases, so many schools across the country take a hard stance against hazing.
- Campus residential misconduct: For many college students, it's their first time living away from home. Living in shared spaces with roommates can be an adjustment, so colleges have rules in place to make living in residential halls safe and more comfortable for everyone. These rules might prohibit theft, trespassing, or violence in common spaces. Breaking these rules may get you kicked out of university housing or saddled with another serious sanction.
- Hate crimes: A hate crime is an offense committed against someone because of their religion, race, gender, disability, or age. Colleges and universities take hate crimes very seriously, and if you are accused and found guilty of one, it could have long-term consequences.
Although your school may provide a list of prohibited behavior, it's usually the case that this list is not exhaustive. Typically, getting criminal charges off-campus may subject you to discipline from your school as well. For this reason, it's vital to have someone who can help you defend your rights.
How Do New Hampshire Colleges and Universities Handle Code of Conduct Issues?
The process for dealing with alleged code of conduct violations differs by school, but most universities have a process in place that resembles the following:
- A preliminary or formal investigation
- A disciplinary hearing
- A decision and recommendation for sanctions
- An appeal process
The process may vary depending on which type of misconduct you are accused of. Title IX grievance procedures must adhere to federal rules and so may not be exactly the same as the disciplinary process for academic dishonesty.
Your school usually must inform you of a misconduct allegation against you. Then, there may be an interview of you and any involved parties. At the hearing or meetings with school administrators, you may be able to have a representative present who can speak for you.
How to Deal With Your School's Investigation
After learning about an accusation of misconduct against you, you will most likely have to participate in an investigation. Keep these tips in mind while the investigation is ongoing:
- Don't speak to anyone about the allegations against you. If you talk to anyone other than your parents or student defense advisor about the accusation, you may unintentionally incriminate yourself, or someone may misinterpret your words.
- Don't post on social media about the allegation. Sharing information publicly could also lead to you unintentionally incriminating yourself.
- Be wary of your college or university. When you speak to an administrator from your university, they may try to tell you they have your best interests in mind. But they have a responsibility to the university, not to you, so you can never be sure they are prioritizing what's best for you.
- Consult with a student discipline attorney. A specialized legal advisor can provide you with guidance in this process and help you look out for your rights.
Once the investigation is over, there may be an official report. Then, your school may schedule a hearing or administrative meeting that you must appear at. In some situations, the school may dismiss the allegations as a result of the hearing, although this isn't always the case.
What to Expect at the Disciplinary Hearing
At the hearing, you may have to present yourself in front of a hearing board or panel. The people on this panel could be several faculty members or administrative staff at the school, as well as your fellow students. In addition to a panel, there is also usually one administrator who runs the hearing.
At most hearings, you and the other party will be able to present evidence in your favor, call witnesses, and question the other party's witnesses. The other party could be someone who filed a complaint against you or simply a representative from the school. Before the hearing begins, your school should let you know what evidence the other party plans to use against you. You will also have to submit your evidence ahead of time. In addition to presenting evidence and questioning witnesses, both you and the other party will most likely have to answer questions from the hearing panel. If your school allows you a representative, they may be able to answer these questions on your behalf.
Not all schools allow you to have an advisor present with you at the hearing, or they may assign one to you who works at the university. Even in these situations, it's good to consult with an external student defense advisor. A lawyer can help you prepare evidence before the hearing begins, come up with a list of questions for witnesses, and coach you on how to answer questions that the panel may ask you.
There may also be procedural or due process issues that come up, and your attorney can help you with these as well. A lawyer can hold your school to account and ensure they follow their own processes diligently. Doing so helps protect your rights.
Possible Code of Conduct Sanctions for New Hampshire Schools
If your New Hampshire school finds you responsible for a code of conduct violation, the consequences could include:
- Written warning that goes in your school record
- Prohibition on participating in extracurricular activities
- Loss of scholarship
- Removal from student housing
- Academic probation
- Disciplinary probation
- Revocation of degree
Some of the sanctions on this list might seem minor. A written warning won't slow down your progress toward your degree, right? In fact, even minor sanctions can have long-term effects, as they become a permanent part of your academic record. A serious violation can prevent you from gaining admission to a graduate or professional program, landing an internship, or even getting a job. To prevent these consequences from coming to pass, it's vital that you defend yourself when you are accused of a code of conduct violation. A specialized student defense attorney-advisor can help you do so.
How to Respond to Code of Conduct Charges in New Hampshire
You should know how to handle each stage of the conduct process if you are accused of a conduct violation. Keep the following tips in mind if you find yourself in this situation.
When you are first accused, you may feel like defending yourself to anyone who will listen. Resist the urge to clear your name immediately. Don't speak to your friends or rant on social media. Talk only to your parents and lawyer about the matter at first. You may end up saying something to the wrong person and will have negative consequences later.
Before your hearing, you should know all the allegations against you. Your school should also inform you about evidence and witnesses that will be used against you. Once you have this information, you can start developing a defense strategy with your attorney. During the hearing, try to remain calm and respectful and stick to what you and your lawyer have rehearsed beforehand.
If you are found responsible for a code of conduct violation, you may have the possibility to appeal the decision. The appeal process varies by school, but you can usually expect to take the following steps.
You typically have 5-10 days to submit a written appeal to a school administrator. The appeal must follow your school's rules, or else it won't be considered at all. After a school official reviews the appeal, they will come to a decision on your case. They may grant a new hearing, reverse the decision, or affirm the decision in most cases.
Why You Might Need an Attorney for Your Appeal
You only have one chance to submit an appeal, so you want to be sure you do it right. If an attorney helps you, they can also take subsequent steps if the school denies your appeal, such as:
- Filing a complaint with the New Hampshire Higher Education Commission.
- Letting your lawyer negotiate with your school's legal team for an alternative solution.
- Filing a lawsuit. Note that filing a lawsuit will permanently sever your relationship with your university.
Get the Expertise and Student Defense Experience of Lento Law Firm
If your New Hampshire school has accused you of a code of conduct, academic integrity, or Title IX violation, you shouldn't try to face it alone. You need expert legal guidance if you want to improve your chances of getting a favorable outcome. Your university likely has complex disciplinary procedures related to your rights, due process, hearings, and appeals. Making sense of this system on your own isn't easy. Joseph D. Lento and the team at Lento Law Firm don't want you to feel alone as you go through this process.
The experienced lawyers at Lento Law Firm have dealt with student discipline matters related to code of conduct, academic misconduct, and sexual misconduct violations. They've also negotiated with university administrators and handled court litigation involving hundreds of colleges and universities in New Hampshire and across the country. It's our firm belief that one small mistake shouldn't ruin your reputation, academic future, or career prospects. Joseph Lento and his team will work relentlessly to protect your rights and help you understand the disciplinary process you're going through. We'll investigate your case, develop your defense strategy, represent you in your hearing or appeal, and take matters to court if necessary. Find out how we can help you and call the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 or contact us online.