Getting a college education is more important than ever before. There was a time when a high-school graduate could get a good job and remain at that company until retirement—earning enough to support a family the whole time. But that's not the way the world works anymore. The reason? Degree inflation. An increasing number of jobs, even manufacturing jobs that traditionally have not required higher education, now require at least a Bachelor's degree, if not a Master's.
This isn't a great outlook for students who drop out of college, much less those who are dismissed or expelled due to misconduct or the accusation thereof. If you're in the latter situation, however, know that you do have some options before you give up on your professional dreams.
New York State's Institutions of Higher Learning
Naturally, some of the world's best and most prestigious universities are located in New York City: NYU, Columbia University, Barnard College, Fordham University, Julliard, the Fashion Institute of Technology, Sarah Lawrence University.
There's more to the state than just NYC, of course. Upstate, Central, and Western NY are home to an impressive roster of colleges as well, including Cornell University, Ithaca College, the Rochester Institute of Technology, the University of Albany, the University of Buffalo, Vassar College, the Culinary Institute of America, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Syracuse University, and Wells College are just a handful of NYS's great educational institutions.
And then there are the State Universities of New York. The largest comprehensive university system in the United States, the SUNY network comprises 64 institutions, serves over one million students, and boasts some three million alumni. Notable names who received degrees from a SUNY school include Jerry Seinfeld, Edie Falco, Wolf Blitzer, Al Roker, Natalie Merchant, Calvin Klein, Michael Kors, Harvey Milk, Stanley Tucci, and Terry Gross.
Check Out Your College's Code of Conduct
Each New York college or university sets forth its own Code of Conduct. This is a document that provides, in exhaustive detail, all of the school's regulations regarding student behavior and the procedures it follows after an accusation of misconduct, including investigations, hearings, judgments, sanctions, and appeals.
All students are expected to be familiar with the Code of Conduct; while very few enrollees sit down and read the entire document from start to finish, ignorance of the Code's rules is not an acceptable excuse or defense.
If you are facing some type of misconduct allegation, it behooves you to review their school's Code of Conduct, which can also be called a Student Conduct Code, Student Behavior Code, Community Standards Code, Student Rights and Responsibilities, etc. It can provide valuable information about what you are up against and what you can expect going forward.
It's also a good idea to contact an attorney who has experience handling accusations of student misconduct in New York state or even at your specific school. They understand these codes of conduct inside and out and can “translate” the legalese of such documents, pinpointing the information that is relevant to your case and giving you the gist of what they say.
Why Do Students Get Dismissed from New York State Colleges and Universities?
There are a great number of acts and behaviors that are subject to disciplinary measures at the college level. However, they can all be termed “misconduct,” and they can all be categorized according to three basic types: academic, sexual, and general. Let's take a quick look at these categories before discussing the timeline of a disciplinary investigation and the impact on students of a suspension, expulsion, or dismissal.
Academic misconduct describes any action that results in an unfair advantage to one or more students or that undermines the atmosphere and process of learning. Misconduct often means cheating, but it can also refer to disruptive or destructive behavior in a class, falsification of records or official university documentation, or any other type of dishonesty that relates directly to the student's academic pursuits.
Sexual misconduct refers to actions such as unwelcome sexual contact, non-consensual sexual conduct of any type, rape, stalking, domestic abuse, or dating abuse. Engaging in any sexual behavior with another person without getting their express consent, regardless of circumstances, is misconduct. Other acts that also qualify as misconduct include soliciting sexual favors or threatening exposure of sexual materials.
Student conduct that can't be classified as sexual or academic in nature is nevertheless punishable. This could include hazing, underage drinking or providing alcohol to underage drinkers, DUI, drug use, vandalism or destruction of property, hate crimes, threatening another student (or any employee of the college), and other violent acts of any type. Colleges have an obligation to maintain a safe campus, so they don't take misconduct lightly, no matter what it's nature.
The Consequences of College Misconduct
- Disciplinary or academic probation
- Loss of campus housing
- Loss of a scholarship
- Revocation of a degree or a particular honor
Of course, these disciplinary acts are devastating; depending on the circumstances, they might alter the student's academic trajectory and career aspirations, sending them down a very different road than the one they planned to travel. However, there's one repercussion of misconduct that will be particularly damaging for years, even decades to come.
Any conduct-related violations will be a permanent part of the student's record and will therefore be seen by admissions boards at other institutions and even by potential employers. In most cases, there's not going to be a footnote explaining the student's side of whatever incident caused the investigation into misconduct. So it's likely that their applications will go almost immediately into the recruiters' or admissions personnel's pile of rejections.
Understanding the Next Steps After An Allegation
Have you received notice that someone has lodged a misconduct complaint against you? Here's what will happen next.
The Student Conduct Office will schedule an initial meeting. During this meeting, you'll be informed of the charges, asked to give a statement, and instructed to supply any evidence you might have, including text messages, social media posts, pictures, video, etc. Then the disciplinary board—which comprises different members of the college community, such as faculty, students, administrative personnel, the school's general counsel, and its Title IX advisor (if applicable)—will convene. Their role is to solicit statements from all involved parties, including any witnesses, and to gather and review all the physical evidence. They will also look at your record to see whether you have a history of misdeeds, scuffles with authority, or other accusations concerning your conduct.
You will most likely be summoned to attend a hearing. That's when you will have the chance to give your side of the incident for the benefit of the disciplinary board. Other campus community members may also be present and asked to give their account or to speak to your character. The hearing will probably be recorded on video, so that board members can review it again.
Once the board has made a finding, they will notify you. If they do find that you have committed the act of misconduct, you will also be notified of the disciplinary action(s) that will be imposed.
There is one aspect of the misconduct investigation and discipline process that is crucial for alleged wrongdoers to understand. The hearing, and in fact the entire proceeding, is not like a trial conducted in a court of law. Students aren't entitled to the same due process, the board members may not be completely impartial, and in some cases, you might not even be allowed to have an attorney accompany you into the hearing.
Why the Support of an Attorney Is Invaluable
That doesn't mean you shouldn't retain an attorney-advisor, however. On the contrary, soliciting a lawyer's help is often the only possible way to achieve a favorable outcome. Your attorney should be well-versed in college misconduct cases as well as your school's Code of Conduct. Attorneys at The Lento Law Firm have solid, reliable experience negotiating cases like yours; they might even have advised fellow students at your university. That means they can help you by:
- Examining all the evidence and getting a true picture of where you stand
- Investigating what happened and talking to witnesses
- Explaining the entire process to you and your parents in easy-to-understand terms
- Laying out the potential outcomes, including the best- and worst-case scenarios
- Preparing you for the hearing. Tapping their considerable experience in handling cases of university and college misconduct, your attorney-advisor will discuss the structure of the hearing, the people who are probably going to be present, the order of business, and the typical questions you may be asked.
Additionally, they will coach you on how to stay poised and polite while under the microscope, suggest some key talking points, and advise you of your rights when it comes to answering questions and disclosing information.
The Lento Law Firm Is Here to Help
Attorney Joseph D. Lento prides himself on having heart and driving hard to achieve results. A skilled negotiator, he has helped many, many students to face accusations of misconduct, to hold their head up high, and to prevail in clearing their name and restoring their reputation.
His expert team at the Lento Law Firm are equally passionate and dedicated. Attorney Lento and his team are happy to answer your questions, schedule a time to meet and talk over the specifics of your case, and explain how their experience can benefit you. Contact them today at 888-535-3586 to take the first step toward getting your life back on track.