Facing Dismissal from Georgia Institute of Technology

You probably already know by now that nothing about college is easy. That's especially true at Georgia Tech. Sure, you did well in high school, and maybe you aced your SATs. You're starting over now, though, and you can't just rest easy on your past successes. Courses at GT are tough, professors are demanding, and this time around you're trying to be a student at the same time you figure out the whole adulting thing.

No wonder, then, that so many students find themselves dismissed from Georgia Tech each year.

How do you make sure you're not one of them?

You start by finding out where the danger lies. What exactly can get you dismissed at Tech? Then you learn all you can about the processes and procedures for defending yourself. Most importantly, though, you find out how you can get help. You can hang on to your future, even if you've made a mistake, but you're going to need help doing it.

Reasons for Dismissal at Georgia Tech

There are actually dozens of reasons Georgia Tech might try to dismiss you, everything from buying your term paper online to punching your RA. For the most part, though, these can all be grouped into four simple categories.

  • Academic Performance: First, you can lose your spot at GT for failing to meet academic expectations. Tech is a prestigious school, particularly when it comes to STEM subjects, and if your GPA should fall too low, you can find yourself on academic probation or worse.
  • Academic Misconduct: You have to keep your GPA up, but you have to do it honestly. Georgia Tech maintains an extensive Honor Code, with prohibitions against things like plagiarism, cheating, unauthorized collaboration, and forgery. The bottom line, though, is that you're not supposed to do anything that might give you an unfair advantage in completing your coursework. Serious offenses and repeat offenses can definitely get you expelled.
  • Disciplinary Misconduct: Georgia Tech also has an extensive Code of Conduct that governs your behaviors outside of class. This document mentions things like underage drinking, disorderly conduct, and pulling fire alarms when there's no fire. Any of these can potentially get you dismissed. Other examples—like hazing, drug possession, and assault-almost always result in expulsion.
  • Sexual Misconduct: Sexual misconduct is actually a form of disciplinary misconduct. However, school policy when it comes to these offenses is dictated by Title IX, a federal law. If you're found “Responsible for” (guilty of) an offense, suspension is usually the minimum sanction. Dismissal is far more likely, and it usually comes with a transcript notation about the nature of the offense.

Investigations and Hearings

Of course, you have the right to defend yourself from any allegation of misconduct—academic, disciplinary, or sexual. For the most part, the process is the same regardless of the particular accusation.

  • Cases usually begin with a complaint to either the Office of Student Integrity (OSI) or the school's Title IX Coordinator.
  • Accusations are followed by investigations. If you've committed academic misconduct, this can be as simple as gathering up examples of your coursework. In sexual misconduct cases, on the other hand, investigations can sometimes last for up to six months.
  • At the conclusion of an investigation, Investigators submit a written report of their findings. This report then serves as the foundational evidence in the hearing that follows.
  • If dismissal is a potential sanction, you are entitled to a formal hearing.
  • Hearings are overseen by panels of Decision Makers appointed either by the OSI or—in the case of sexual misconduct—the Title IX Coordinator.
  • Hearings offer you the chance to formally defend yourself by presenting evidence and calling witnesses.

In all cases, you have the right to choose an advisor to help you through the process, and this advisor may be an attorney.

Once the hearing is over, Decision Makers use a legal standard known as “Preponderance of Evidence” to determine whether or not you committed an offense. This standard requires them to find you Responsible if they are more than fifty percent convinced you violated school policy.

This outline applies to all cases, but there are some important differences, particularly when it comes to sexual misconduct hearings. Again, these hearings are subject to federal guidelines, and, as a result, you are entitled to some additional due process rights. For instance, you have the right to request revisions to the investigative summary before the hearing begins. You also have the right to cross-examine the Complainant and any witnesses against you, and your advisor gets to conduct that cross-examination. In ordinary disciplinary misconduct cases, Decision Makers ask all the questions.

As even this brief description of investigations and hearings at Georgia Tech suggests, procedures can be complicated and difficult to navigate. You have rights, for instance, but they don't mean much if you don't know how to use them to your advantage. Joseph D. Lento is a National Student Defense attorney with experience in university misconduct cases. He knows how Georgia Tech's judicial system works, and he's experienced helping students defend themselves from every type of charge.

Appeals Processes

In addition to the right to defend yourself at a hearing, you also have the right at Georgia Tech to appeal the hearing outcome. This helps to ensure the facts have been seen by at least two sets of decision-makers.

However, there is no guarantee that your appeal will be heard. You must file within five days of formal notification of the hearing outcome, and grounds for appeal are limited to

  • The discovery of new evidence that might affect the case outcome
  • A procedural error that might have affected the case outcome
  • An allegation that the findings in the case do not match the facts

Academic Dismissal Cases

You may have noticed that so far, there's been no mention of dismissal cases that involve academic performance. That's because, unlike misconduct cases, these cases generally aren't subject to debate. Your GPA is a matter of objective fact, and there's little you can do to dispute it. You can't demand an investigation, and you aren't entitled to a hearing.

That doesn't mean you have no options. If, for example, your deficiencies are the result of extenuating circumstances, you can appeal your dismissal to the Institute Undergraduate Curriculum Committee. You could file a grade grievance with the Associate Vice Provost for Advocacy and Conflict Resolution. You can even approach faculty directly and ask them to reconsider your work over the semester. Sometimes a professor can be persuaded to take into account your improvement or to assign you extra credit work.

Even if you are ultimately dismissed, you can apply for readmission. In all of these situations, an experienced attorney-advisor like Joseph D. Lento can let you know exactly how best to proceed.

Fighting for Your Future

Most students find fighting dismissal a daunting proposition. Developing a defense strategy, collecting evidence, and talking to witnesses—these take time and energy that m