One of the first things students at West Virginia colleges and universities learn when they matriculate is how the school's code of conduct governs campus life. From academic standards to acceptable dorm room décor, the code of conduct is one of the most important things to be familiar with while progressing in your academic career. The college experience involves many twists and turns. Even good students can make mistakes and find themselves subject to stringent, sometimes intimidating grievance processes that seek to protect the institution and address misconduct.
If you or a loved one attends a West Virginia school, you need to be conscious of what can happen when you face misconduct allegations. More importantly, students and their parents should understand how a student defense advisor can assist in the process and defend your academic career and future job opportunities.
West Virginia Code of Conduct Issues: What Types of Misconduct Are There?
The ways in which West Virginia colleges and universities categorize misconduct vary from school to school. Typically, there are three main types illustrated in the code of conduct:
- Academic misconduct
- Non-academic misconduct
- Title IX and sexual misconduct
Academic Misconduct: Institutions of higher education in West Virginia will have specific policies relating to academic progress and a student's eligibility for financial aid during full-time enrollment. Much of this is tied to school accreditation and a student's financial aid eligibility. The code of conduct will explain the school's minimum standards for grade point average (GPA), per semester credit load, and completion requirements. Students who fall below these marks for consecutive semesters may be subject to disciplinary measures that lead to academic probation, even suspension or expulsion.
Bluefield State College requires students on academic probation to complete the following:
- Counseling services (behavioral, academic, family, and career)
- The creation of an academic plan of action and recovery in conjunction with an academic advisor
- 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—usually within two semesters—students could lose their eligibility for financial aid and be in violation of the school's code of conduct.
Other academic code of conduct violations include plagiarism, cheating, and computer misuse. Plagiarism isn't only duplicating someone's work without attribution. Online writing assistance programs students use for research papers and exams often violate standard codes of conduct. Students must also determine if the code of conduct or specific classroom syllabus prohibits group studying, also known as unauthorized collaboration or collusion at Bethany College.
- Allowing computer access to anyone not a student of the college, faculty, or staff member
- Copying, distributing, or transmitting copyrighted materials
- Excessive bandwidth consumption
- Installing or distributing "inappropriate" or unlicensed software
- Intentionally causing a security concern, including launching viruses or malware
- Sharing personal authentication information
- Unethical, unauthorized, illegal, or criminal computer or network use
- Using personal routers, DHCP servers
Non-academic misconduct: Much of campus life exists outside the classroom. One of the most frequent 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. For example, Appalachia Bible College prohibits all alcohol and drug use for students on and off-campus.
The code of conduct dictates requirements for student residencies. For example, Shepherd University requires all students—apart from those with valid exemptions—to live in on-campus housing. Their code of conduct includes housing guidelines that detail rules and regulations regarding things like:
- Damages to dorm room furniture and residence infrastructure
- Guidelines for appropriate room décor
- Knives, firearms, and explosives
- On-campus parking and transportation
- Pets and service animals
- Tobacco and electronic vaping use
- Unauthorized household appliances and devices
Sexual Misconduct and Title IX violations: Title IX is a federal law that prohibits sex and gender-based discrimination or harassment in education settings. Since Title IX is linked to a school's federal funding, colleges and universities must act swiftly and harshly when allegations arise. All West Virginia institutions of higher education have similar Title IX policies as they are federal guidelines.
According to guidelines from Fairmont State University, Title IX violations include:
- Domestic misconduct
- Sexual assault, discrimination, and harassment
Hazing, bullying, and other acts or rituals involving embarrassment, harm, or exclusion for entrance into a group or club may also fall under Title IX purview. Violations like these are usually seen in news headlines in West Virginia and nationwide because they quickly affect a school's public reputation. Title IX allegations alone can follow a student long after their college years and affect their career opportunities.
How West Virginia Colleges and Universities Handle Code of Conduct Allegations
If you're a West Virginia student alleged to have violated your school's code of conduct, it will launch the grievance process to investigate instances of misconduct and hand down punishments. First, the school will ascertain whether an investigation is warranted according to the code of conduct's guidelines. If so, the school's disciplinary body will send the student 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 hire a professional advisor to assist them.
Once you receive a notice of violation:
- Educate yourself on your school's code of conduct
- Determine the type of code of conduct violation and subsequent grievance procedures
- Gather evidence (papers, emails, texts) and as much information as you can
- Contact student defense advisor Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm at (888) 535-3686 or schedule a confidential consultation online
Any code of conduct violation can significantly diminish your future academic. While students may believe that schools are there to protect students in code of conduct cases, it's crucial to acknowledge that school administrations aren't tasked with protecting you in a code of conduct 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, so you need to consult with a professional from the beginning.
Your West Virginia School's Disciplinary Hearing: What to Expect
Disciplinary hearing guidelines will be strict. Different procedures may be used depending on the type of allegations adjudicated—academic, non-academic, Title IX. Regardless, all timeframes for responses to investigators, appeals, and possible sanctions will be located in the school's code of conduct.
For example, at Marshall University, a disciplinary hearing proceeds in the following manner:
The Hearing Officer will call the disciplinary hearing to order. The Director of Student Conduct (Director) will state the formal charge, roles of the participants, due process guidelines, and a verbal description of the alleged incident.
- The Hearing Officer will ask the accused (Respondent) about their responsibility for the alleged charges.
- The Director and Respondent will be allowed to make opening statements.
- The Hearing Board questions the Respondent, accuser (Complainant), and other witnesses.
- Parties may ask questions of each other and witnesses in the order determined by the Hearing Officer.
- The Director and Respondent may cross-examine witnesses.
- The Director and Respondent will be allowed to make closing statements.
- The Director may present evidence regarding appropriate sanctions.
- The Hearing Board will adjourn for deliberations to determine responsibility based on a preponderance of evidence (at least 50 percent convinced that the Respondent committed the alleged misconduct).
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. Even 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 coherent defense
- A student defense advisor can inform you of any precedent relating to the code of conduct to help your case
- A student defense advisor will ensure that your school's disciplinary body provides you due process and doesn't levy excessive sanctions
If you hire an experienced student defense advisor to assist you in your West Virginia school's code of conduct case, the institution's administration will most likely take you more seriously. Moreover, if your school decides to instate harsh sanctions, 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 studies.
Sanctions West Virginia College and University Students Can Face
Punishments for code of conduct violations are all-inclusive, and many have long-lasting consequences. According to the West Virginia University's Student Conduct Code, sanctions include:
- Academic or disciplinary probation
- Behavioral evaluation
- Community service
- Loss of extracurricular privileges/university employment status
- Revocation or withholding admission, degree, or award
Even if violating the code of conduct doesn't leave you separated from your studies, your official transcript will detail actions taken against the student by the school. You will be required to disclose any previous disciplinary measures, including investigated allegations, on applications for specific professional licenses. Prospective employers, internship providers, and graduate school admissions personnel may also have a cause for concern if they see this, thus preventing you from achieving your academic and professional goals. 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 West Virginia College Code of Conduct Charges
If you're facing student disciplinary charges at your West Virginia school, you can do a few things to protect your side of the case throughout the process. The more prepared you are now, the better the resolution will favor you.
After the Accusation
Your college or university 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 can quickly derail your chances for a favorable outcome. Take the situation seriously and remember:
- Don't contact your accuser
- Don't discuss the allegations with friends
- Don't ignore any school-related correspondence
- Don't post anything on social media
- Don't move forward without a professional student defense advisor
Beware of advertising ploys from local attorneys claiming they know the players in the case. They may even tout their experience arguing before a judge and in front of a jury in a court of law, claiming it will translate into a solid defense for you in a disciplinary hearing.
This is a big misconception. A lawyer's courtroom savvy doesn't equate to a proven student defense strategy. You need a professional student defense advisor who understands the ins and outs of the school adjudicative process and how to proceed from the start.
Before and During Your Hearing
When allegations arise, your West Virginia school should inform you through a letter in your student mailbox or an email in your student inbox. That correspondence will include what your accuser is alleging 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 West Virginia 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 Concord University, a student can file an appeal within three days of the decision from the school's University Hearing Board 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 identify and prove procedural errors in the hearing process
- What constitutes new evidence that was not available before or during the disciplinary hearing
- If the punishment handed down by the school is excessive
If the school denies your appeal or doesn't modify or overturn the sanctions, your options include:
- Negotiations with your school's Office of General Counsel (OGC)
- Litigation against your school
A lawsuit should be your last resort. Nevertheless, it will immediately get your school's attention. A student defense advisor like Joseph D. Lento can offer a value proposition that uses his expertise in dealing with college and university disciplinary boards to reveal better outcomes for students that school administration officials can accept.
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 guidance. Your West Virginia 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 West Virginia and across the U.S. He and his team have formed invaluable relationships with many representatives in West Virginia 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 college code of conduct student defense advisor defending students in West Virginia 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.