Being accused of misconduct as a college student can be a terrifying experience. Even if you're not facing criminal or civil charges for the alleged misconduct, you could still be facing serious consequences from your university, including loss of student housing, probation, suspension, or even expulsion. If you are already on probation from another disciplinary proceeding, the likelihood of receiving these worst-case-scenario penalties increases exponentially.
If you are facing accusations of student misconduct and are already on probation — especially if you have already been named as the “respondent” in such an action — it is imperative that you contact an experienced student disciplinary hearing advisor as soon as possible to ensure your rights are protected.
Having unparalleled experience in student defense matters, Attorney Joseph D. Lento has represented countless students accused of misconduct in college and university disciplinary proceedings, and he can guide you through this difficult and stressful time with compassion, integrity, and expert knowledge of the process. Contact Joseph D. Lento today to begin discussing your situation with an advisor who will be by your side and fighting for your best interests.
Student Codes of Conduct
Virtually all colleges and universities have developed student codes of conduct, which provide standards of behavior with which students are expected to comply. Schools generally distribute these provisions to students either in their admission packet or through another official communication. No matter the delivery method, students are expected to comply with the standards described therein or they run the risk of various sanctions as stated in the code.
Student codes of conduct also provide students with information regarding their rights and responsibilities regarding the school and fellow students as well as a description of the disciplinary process, including when and how to appeal and adverse decision.
The codes generally provide explicit levels of seriousness and corresponding potential sanctions and penalties. Certain violations of student codes of conduct are minor — things like having a prohibited item in your dorm room — and are subject to less severe disciplinary measures such as a formal warning.
As the level of severity of the violation increases, however, so does the penalty. Accordingly, the most serious of offenses, including all types of sexual misconduct and hazing, are often punishable by the most serious penalties, up to and including dismissal or expulsion.
Any type of formal disciplinary action taken against you can have potentially devastating effects on your future. An experienced advisor who understands the system and the process can help ensure that your college career continues with the least disruption as possible and may even be able to get formal disciplinary charges dropped.
Potential Penalties for Student Misconduct
Colleges and universities have broad discretion in enforcing disciplinary sanctions on their students for violations of the school's code of conduct. Some of the most common penalties, ranging from the least severe to the most severe, include the following:
- Formal Warning: A written notice to the student that details the incident and how the behavior violated the code of conduct. A formal warning is often given for low-level violations.
- Probation / Housing probation: Just as with probation in the criminal justice system, the student is expected to not violate the code of conduct for a set a period or else risk further and potentially more serious consequences. Probation is often imposed for a more serious violation or after several low-level violations.
- Loss of Housing: Removal from campus housing generally follows a serious infraction of rules about living in the campus community. The loss of student housing may be temporary, during which time the student is expected to meet certain criteria for returning to campus, or permanent.
- Suspension: A suspension is one of the most serious penalties a college may impose. It lasts for a specific period of time and may even mean the student can't step foot on campus during that time. To return to school, the student must generally meet specific conditions as set by the school.
- Expulsion or dismissal: A permanent and final separation from the school is expulsion or dismissal, and it usually means the student is no longer permitted on the school grounds. An expulsion goes on your permanent academic record, which means all future colleges and universities to which you may apply will be notified.
Short of these penalties, schools may also implement various lesser sanctions such as denying certain privileges for some time or requiring monetary restitution if property damage occurred related to the misconduct.
Increased Penalties If Already on Probation
If you are already on probation for a previous disciplinary matter and are now facing additional, separate disciplinary action, your academic career — and potentially future employment — are at risk.
The Ohio State University at Newark explicitly warns its students that “[f]urther violation of university policies during the probationary period will be viewed not only as the act itself, but also as a violation of the probation, which could result in, suspension or dismissal.”
This treatment of additional violations while on probation is typical for colleges and universities across the country. That is, if you are found to have violated the student code of conduct while under probation for another violation, the risk of removal from the university is very real.
Schools may also more generally note that the respondent's history of conduct may be considered when determining the proper punishment. Princeton University, for example, informs students involved in sexual misconduct cases that their “previous disciplinary record (a violation of any sort) is taken into account when considering sanction for the current violation.”
A prior disciplinary history with the school can be a huge detriment to your defense, but a skilled advisor may be able to help minimize that effect — which could eventually also mean minimizing any adverse effects on your future as well.
Special Considerations for Title IX Cases
Title IX prohibits sex discrimination at educational institutions that receive federal funding. This federal law provides a standard disciplinary procedure for schools to follow when sexual misconduct is alleged. Schools run the risk of sanctions if they fail to handle sexual misconduct claims appropriately and within a reasonable time frame.
Recently, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced several changes to the law that colleges must incorporate by August 14, 2020. One of the major changes allows the advisors of respondents in Title IX disciplinary proceedings to cross-examine the accuser. Moreover, the cross-examination questions must be submitted for approval to hearing officials before they may be asked.
These new procedures in Title IX cases further make it essential to have an experienced student disciplinary advisor with you to ensure that your case is handled effectively and efficiently.
What to Do If You Are Accused of Misconduct
As you can see, the potential penalties and sanctions for student misconduct — especially if you are already on probation for a previous infraction — can be extremely serious. Your first step, then, if you are facing an investigation or have already been charged with a student code of conduct violation is to contact someone who has extensive experience as an advisor in such cases.
Other things you should do in this situation include:
- Stay quiet. Don't talk to anyone about the incident, especially witnesses who may have been present. Also off-limits is anyone who is part of your organization (such as a fraternity or athletic team).
- Don't destroy anything. If there are videos, texts, emails, or any other communications that have anything to do with your case whatsoever, let them be. The destruction of evidence can lead to more issues during the process.
- Stay calm. Take care of yourself during this difficult time so that you can be at your best when it comes time to defend yourself. With a clear and calm head, you will be much more helpful to your advisor as they prepare your defense.
Put Your Case in the Hands of an Experienced Student Disciplinary Hearing Advisor
There's just no substitute for having a battle-tested student disciplinary advisor by your side as you fight to maintain your academic career. Being accused of a disciplinary violation when you're already on probation is a tough spot to be in, but it's not an impossible one to emerge from.
Joseph D. Lento has advised respondents in student disciplinary matters in colleges and universities throughout the country. He is extraordinarily familiar with the procedures involved — and he knows what's at stake. Attorney Lento has handled administrative and hearing aspects of countless disciplinary cases, including those involving Title IX, and he also represented student defendants in criminal matters.
If you are facing a disciplinary investigation or hearing and you're already on probation, don't hesitate to contact Joseph D. Lento online today or call 888-535-3686 to discuss your case. The sooner you have someone on your side representing your interests, the better.