College Code of Conduct Student Defense Attorney-Advisor: Alaska

There's a steep learning curve in college. That doesn't just apply to calculus. You have to learn how to live in a small space with another human being. You have to figure out when it's time to put down the game controller and pick up your textbooks. You have to master doing your own laundry.

Even before you do any of those things, though, you need to find out what your college or university expects from you. The fastest way to end your academic career is to ignore the rules.

Nobody's perfect, though, right? So, while you're getting a handle on what plagiarism is and how to avoid getting charged with public indecency, you'll also want to take the time to find out who to turn to when you do find yourself in trouble. Schools take student behaviors very seriously these days, and you don't want to try to deal with the trouble you get into all on your own.

Three Types of Conduct Issues

The very first thing you need to know is how your school defines misconduct. Of course, every college and university is different, and no two define this subject in the same way. If you really want to know all the specifics, you should take a look at your own school's Student Code of Conduct.

That said, there are some universals. One of these is that schools always divide misconduct into three categories: academic misconduct, disciplinary misconduct, and sexual misconduct.

Academic Misconduct

A university's whole reason for existing is to educate students. It makes sense, then, that all schools would maintain strict policies about how that process should work. In particular, they want to make sure no one has an unfair advantage in getting their degree. Usually, the rules include prohibitions against things like cheating, plagiarism, and misrepresentation. Instructors are generally responsible for identifying and punishing misconduct, and sanctions can range anywhere from re-submitting an assignment to failing the course altogether.

You should also know, though, that your instructor is probably also required to report any academic misconduct to a central administrative office. This office keeps track of every incident. Particularly egregious or repeat offenses are subject to additional punishments. These can include probation, suspension, and expulsion.

Disciplinary Misconduct

Colleges and universities regulate a second category of student conduct though: conduct as it relates to the campus community. No community can long survive without a few rules to govern how the members treat one another.

What are your school's rules? Again, you'll probably want to track down a copy of the Student Code of Conduct to learn them all, but here are a few you can count on.

  • Underage drinking: Every school in Alaska prohibits anyone under 21 from consuming alcohol. In addition, many schools regulate where and when adults can drink, and a few ban consumption entirely.
  • Drug possession: As with underage drinking, drug use and possession are prohibited by state and federal law. Obviously, colleges and universities prohibit these activities as well.
  • Hate crimes: Most colleges and universities work hard to establish inclusive atmospheres where no one feels like an outsider. Thus, you can expect them to punish any form of discrimination or harassment, particularly against any protected status such as sex, race, disability, age, or religious persuasion.
  • Hazing: Deaths from hazing have been national news in recent years. As a result, schools are taking this activity more seriously. Alaskan schools ban all types of dangerous and coercive activities associated with joining an organization or a group.
  • Residence life: Colleges and universities also have policies aimed specifically at regulating those who live on campus. These can include anything from rules against food fights in the cafeteria to rules about who can and can't enter your dorm.

Sexual Misconduct

Finally, your college or university has a policy against sexual misconduct. In fact, the rules governing your behaviors aren't just set by the school; they're set by federal law. Title IX, a law passed in 1972, outlaws sexual discrimination and harassment against anyone in a US educational program. These terms are broadly defined to include anything from inappropriate jokes in an online classroom forum to stalking, dating violence, and rape.

In addition, the law includes a set of guidelines for how schools investigate and adjudicate all accusations. These guidelines include strictures such as

  • All schools must have a designated Title IX Coordinator who ensures the school adheres to the law
  • All formal complaints are thoroughly investigated by an appointed Investigator
  • Following the investigation, respondents (the accused) have the right to defend themselves at a live hearing
  • One or more Decision-Makers determine the outcome of the hearing using a legal standard known as “preponderance of evidence”
  • Both sides have the right to appeal the hearing decision, though only under specific circumstances such as procedural mistakes or the discovery of new evidence

For many years, all cases of sexual misconduct were Title IX cases. That changed in 2020. The law itself is more focused now. For example, it doesn't apply to sexually-based offenses that occur at off-campus sites like apartment complexes. In response to these changes, many schools modified their own policies to handle incidents no longer covered under the law. It's important to recognize that because these “non-Title IX” cases aren't subject to government regulation, schools are free to create their own procedures for dealing with them. Your school may use some form of Title IX procedures, but it may also employ something considerably different.

How Alaskan Colleges Manage Misconduct

Knowing your school's rules is a good start, but if you're going to stay out of trouble, you also need to know what procedures it uses to handle accusations of misconduct. Generally, every school uses a four-step process, no matter which type of misconduct is at issue.

  • Preliminary meetings: First, someone—either an instructor or some other school official—will meet with you to talk about the accusation. They'll explain the charges and give you an opportunity to explain your side of the situation.
  • Investigation: The school will then conduct some type of investigation. In serious cases, this may take several weeks and involve the collection of evidence and solicitation of witness testimony. In less serious matters, it may take a day or two and involve nothing more than gathering a few documents.
  • Hearings: Here again, the situation will usually depend on the seriousness of the offense. If suspension or expulsion are possible sanctions, your school will likely allow you to defend yourself at a formal hearing. Otherwise, however, you may simply make your case—in person or in writing—to a single administrator.
  • Appeals: Most schools have some mechanism for reviewing their judicial decisions. Even if you should lose a hearing, you'll have a chance to appeal. However, appeals are often limited to issues such as the discovery of new evidence or questions of bias on the