Young adults enrolled in Vermont colleges and universities are on a path toward four-year degrees that will be a foundation on which they can build a long-lasting career. Student life, however, sometimes presents obstacles like misconduct allegations that leave a student's academic future threatened by a suspension or an expulsion. Between strenuous course loads, fitting in with your student peers, and adapting to adult responsibilities, even contentious students focused on their studies can find themselves in front of their school's disciplinary board.
The grievance process overseeing how schools address misconduct is intimidating. Students and their parents typically wait until a separation from studies begins to retain professional help. Yet, it does not mean your options for redress are gone. You have the opportunity to obtain comprehensive relief that gets you back in class to continue your studies.
Appealing Disciplinary Sanctions
When disciplinary boards hand down sanctions like suspension or expulsion for academic misconduct or other code of conduct violations, the student has the right to appeal the decision. When a disciplinary hearing has ended and school administration officials reveal their determination of responsibility for the alleged misconduct, students will receive notice of when they can file an appeal and the guidelines governing the process.
The codes of conduct at institutions of higher education in Vermont and elsewhere will detail the limited circumstances under which appeals may be filed against a disciplinary board's decision. The University of Vermont explains that students can file requests for appeals for the following reasons:
- Appropriateness of the penalty: The appeals board will consider if the sanctions are excessive based on the facts of the case and the disciplinary board's determination of responsibility.
- Due process: The investigative or hearing processes did not follow the procedures outlined in the school's code of conduct. The appeals board will also review allegations of bias or conflict of interest from anyone involved during the grievance process or "clear abuse of discretion" regarding the Hearing Officer(s) that would have affected the findings and outcome.
- New evidence: Evidence that emerges following the decision from the Hearing Officer(s) must have been undiscoverable during the review process and unknown to the accused.
Students have limited time to file appeals once the school administration decides to suspend or expel them. The timeframe can range from as many as 15 days to as little as two days, but it varies from school to school. Champlain College allows students five business days to file an appeal, whereas Northern Vermont University provides a timeframe of seven calendar days.
Your college dismissal advisor can help you review your school's appeals guidelines to ensure that you do not miss the opportunity to file. For instance, the University of Vermont states that students who accept responsibility for the alleged misconduct during the "Pre-Hearing Waiver" process forfeit their right to appeal.
Once the appellate hearing concludes and the members have deliberated, they will notify the student of their decision, generally within two days. One of the following may occur:
- Findings or sanctions are upheld
- Sanctions are lessened or altered
- The matter is referred back to the disciplinary board for further review
- The case will be reviewed by a select committee of school administration officials
- Dismissal of the case, charges, and sanctions
All decisions rendered by the appellate authority are final. If a decision to suspend or expel a student remains, the termination of an academic career can leave any student overwhelmed and not knowing where to turn for relief. They may believe there is nothing left to do but pack up and leave the school.
They may also be asking themselves:
- Could the sanctions be proven excessive given the misconduct findings?
- Has new evidence emerged that was unavailable during the investigation or hearing?
- How can infringements on due process be proven?
- Was there any conflict of interest or bias from the disciplinary board members?
Students are not trained to handle these situations, especially when their main concern is schoolwork. Hiring a college dismissal advisor will assure you that you are familiar with all facets of the appeals process and have a robust defense against suspension or expulsion.
Separation From Studies
Vermont school administrations may seek to suspend or expel students to protect their public reputation, whether academic or otherwise. At Norwich University, if a student does not complete two-thirds of their credit hours, they risk losing their federal financial aid eligibility. Even if a student or their parents can afford the semester costs without the help of financial aid, a college or university will not allow them to enroll because it affects the school's federal aid eligibility.
Some schools exercise the authority to suspend students temporarily. Castleton University may require a student to leave campus temporarily pending the outcome of a disciplinary investigation or by the judgment of the Dean of Students. Although these situations have a hearing phase, they do not allow the student to appeal the decision.
Institutions of higher education in Vermont sometimes misapply their policies when suspending or expelling students. A student may be subject to extenuating circumstances that affect their academic performance or behavior on campus, such as:
- Death of a family member or close friend
- Hard transition into campus life
- Injury or illness of an immediate family member
- Overwhelming class schedule
- Physical or emotional trauma
With the immense pressure schools are under to promote an amicable public image, students of good character are at risk of being punished unfairly. It is also crucial to understand that the grievance process is not the same as legal proceedings in court. The U.S. Constitution does not govern colleges and universities; they are not required to grant a student Fourth Amendment due process rights.
Just because your Vermont school has given up on you as a student, that does not mean you should. There is a path toward relief and fighting back against the disciplinary boards of major institutions. You must contact college dismissal advisor Joseph D. Lento and the expert team at the Lento Law Firm that pride themselves on defending students against severe disciplinary sanctions in Vermont and across the U.S.
What Are The Consequences of Suspension or Expulsion?
Students that leave school via a suspension or expulsion may think they go home and get a job for a semester and then walk back into the school fully enrolled. However, that is not the way it works.
It is typical for colleges and universities to have stringent guidelines for re-enrollment, but some are not allowed to reapply once a student is dismissed. An expelled student from Sterling College will never be readmitted and is prohibited from attending any college-sponsored activity and campus property.
When a Vermont school suspends or expels a student, it can also obstruct their ability to continue their education through another program. Considering schools require transfer students to disclose all other colleges and universities they attended, they will be seen as less attractive admissions candidates. Moreover, Landmark College states that a student who is suspended or expelled is not eligible for a refund of their tuition, room charges, board charges, or other fees. Often, schools will not allow transfer students who owe money to other institutions to matriculate.
Suspension and expulsion will also wreck a student's financial livelihood. If a student must reimburse federal loan providers for any unearned amount of financial aid because of a separation from studies, it will cause long-lasting economic hardship. It will also derail opportunities like:
- Applying for auto, business, or home loans
- Being in good standing with credit reporting agencies
- Obtaining scholarships or grants for school
The repercussions of a separation from studies are not just financial. Suspended or expelled students must disclose college disciplinary actions on various forms like:
- Behavioral counseling licenses
- Financial certifications
- Graduate school applications
- Law enforcement applications
- Municipal and state government internships
- Security clearances for federal jobs
- Transfer student applications
What Can Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm Do For You?
Many local Vermont attorney-advisors will often begin their defense on behalf of a student client by moving forward with litigation against the school. This costly and time-consuming course of action is rarely required and unlikely to provide the student a chance to remain engaged in their studies. Inexperienced lawyers may show off their trial records to persuade students that aggressive means are necessary. However, courtroom tactics as seen on TV do not translate into the diplomatic finesse needed to negotiate with school administration officials.
While a formal lawsuit is a possibility, the goal students should have is to obtain quick, negotiated relief from suspension or expulsion. You can achieve this by contacting college dismissal advisor Joseph D. Lento to help you preserve your academic and professional future.
Instead of relying on combative legal proceedings, Joseph D. Lento has proven experience brokering beneficial outcomes with Vermont schools' Office of General Counsel (OGC) on behalf of the suspended or expelled student. He relies on the relationships he and his team have built with internal OGC officials at institutions of higher education in Vermont to give students a second chance at their educational future.
Learn how Lento and his team can get disciplinary and appellate board members to see the more positive options that serve both the student and the school far better than suspension or expulsion. Call 888-535-3686 to discuss how Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm can defend you or a loved one from their Vermont school or seek relief through their online consultation form.