Colleges and universities are working hard to become more inclusive, but many still overlook the needs of religious minorities or individuals from other countries who must adhere to stricter laws than those of the United States. For people within those cultural groups, they may be used to navigating an education system that was built for someone else, but often, the administration is not and become inflexible when asked for accommodations. This inflexibility can lead to unfair dismissal proceedings.
If you or someone you love has been placed before the dismissal hearing committee at your school because of a cultural issue, an attorney advisor should be contacted immediately. Working with the Lento Law Firm can mean the difference between a dismissal of the issue and expulsion from the university altogether. Call today.
Common Causes of Dismissal in American Universities
In the United States, colleges and universities tend to dismiss students for three types of misconduct: academic, sexual, or disciplinary issues. It should be noted that the exact language will differ from school to school; what we have included below is typical of the majority of schools in America.
All higher education institutions outlaw some form of academic misconduct. Generally, it includes plagiarism, cheating, fabrication, or submitting an assignment for multiple courses. Depending on the severity of the academic misconduct, a student caught doing such a thing will be brought before a dismissal hearing committee for review. If the committee determines that the student is responsible for academic misconduct, they will be punished.
Another form of academic misconduct is called satisfactory academic progress. Most colleges and universities stipulate how long a degree should take to get, what prerequisites are required to advance, and certain grade point averages needed to enter into more exclusive majors (like Honors Business). If a student is unable to maintain that minimum GPA, continues to fail prerequisite courses, or takes longer than the time allotted to receive their undergraduate degree, they could be brought before the dismissal committee for a hearing.
Title IX is a federal regulation that stipulates how schools that receive federal funding must adjudicate complaints of sexual misconduct or gender-based discrimination. If a student is found responsible for committing an act of sexual misconduct or a Title IX violation, like sexual harassment, rape, or sexual violence, they will be dismissed from the university.
The last reason students might be brought before a dismissal committee includes disciplinary issues – like vandalization, violating safety regulations for emergencies, destroying personal or public property, and disobeying the reasonable directions of university officials.
As you can see, there are no instances when cultural differences might be brought before the dismissal committee at your school. If you are brought before them, it will be for one of the above issues, which the school has clearly confused with a cultural issue.
Cultural Issues vs. Academic Integrity at American Colleges
Throughout the country, higher education institutions have created academic calendars that include days off for common Judeo-Christian holidays. It is rare to see an academic calendar consider the needs of Muslim students reflected. Instead, they may offer the option to utilize an excused absence to miss class. For example, students who celebrate Ramadan are not given the option to take their day classes off, have their coursework lessened, or spread out further to accommodate fasting and feasting. Instead, they are expected to conform to the calendar and celebrate their holiday around it.
This lack of cultural awareness can be seen for most other religious minorities, like Judaism. Rosh Hashanah, the holiest of holidays in the Jewish religion, is a regular day of classes. Jewish students are expected to notify their professors of missing the class and make up the work later. But Easter and Christmas, the holiest of holidays in the Christian religion, are holidays outright, and no class is held on those days.
These cultural issues clash even more so during exams. A student celebrating Ramadan may find it hard to sit for a night exam when he or she should be feasting. A Jewish student observing Yom Kippur will find it impossible to sit for a midterm until the next day. But unfortunately, there are times when these issues are looked at as a flaw in the student's academic integrity rather than what they are: culture clashes. Some faculty and staff may assume the student is not dedicated enough, attempting to cheat, or trying to get an advantage by having more time than the other students.
The problem with this kind of thinking is that culture clashes include more than just religious differences; they occur in ethnicity, sexual orientation, and gender identity, as well as generational differences. If an older student is expected to take an exam on a computer with certain programs running to ensure they cannot cheat, the university must first make sure the older student understands how to run those programs. If a student is from a country that makes it illegal to dissect an animal, they should not be forced to do so in their biology lab class.
Additionally, a lack of foresight into how other cultures work can prevent minority students from participating fully in college life. Events held specifically on Friday nights or Saturdays will exclude religious Jewish students. Events held during Ramadan will exclude Muslim students. Events with specific gender guidelines will not only thwart transgender students from participating but possibly out them before they are ready to come out.
Another cultural issue that could cause dismissal centers around students who are not native English speakers. America is truly a melting pot and is comprised of hundreds of different cultures from around the world. As such, while our national language is English, with almost 239 million people speaking it in the U.S. daily, Spanish is the second most spoken language. Depending on where these universities are located, Spanish-speaking students may find it hard to truly understand the subject matter they are studying. In addition, most schools will not offer translators for their students, expecting them to come in with perfect, native level English.
If a student is unable to write in English well, the teachers may assume that their grades are a proper reflection of their understanding of the material. For struggling students, this could mean being placed before a hearing committee for possible dismissal.
What Can You Do if You Are Facing Dismissal?
Students who are up for dismissal proceedings will have an opportunity to defend themselves before a dismissal hearing committee. In general, the university will notify the student of the dismissal proceeding and the basis for it. They will also stipulate a specific date and time that the student must meet with them to present their case.
Unfortunately, many students believe they do not need to prepare for these meetings and end up being unnecessarily punished. The best thing you can do when you find out you are being presented before the dismissal committee is to call an attorney advisor to help advocate on your behalf. Attorney advisors will help you gather evidence and present witnesses who can testify for your defense. Additionally, they will help ensure the university is handling the process appropriately – for instance, students usually must be notified in a specific way, and if they are not, your attorney advisor may change their defense tactics to another strategy.
When you have been heard fully, the committee will remove themselves to deliberate alone. During their deliberations, they will discuss everything they heard and decide whether or not you are responsible for the alleged conduct and if that alleged conduct warrants dismissal from the university. The dismissal committee's decision will be sent to you as soon as they are available. Usually, it is within two weeks of the dismissal hearing date.
Their decision will also include a notice for appeal procedures. For most schools, appeals must be made within a few days of receiving the decision and can only be made on specific grounds. Another deciding body will review the appeal and decide if the committee's decision should be modified in some way or thrown out completely. Whatever the case, this decision is typically final and cannot be appealed further.
Moreover, if the above process is not fruitful, your attorney advisor will contact your university's Office of General Counsel (OGC). The OGC handles the university's legal concerns. Unlawful dismissals from colleges are considered suable offenses. Your attorney advisor will bring your claim of unlawful dismissal to the OGC to see what else can be done.
Consequences for Dismissal From a College in America
Potentially being dismissed from your college or university is a terrifying experience and should be taken seriously. Dismissal is not a simple matter that can be defended against easily. In fact, it requires a strategic defense and the use of witness testimony and evidence to back it up. And if the school does decide to dismiss you, it will make getting into another university to finish your educational career difficult. It's not a risk you should be willing to take.
Dismissal can carry with it several long-term consequences, including:
- A hard time getting into graduate school or gaining employment in certain fields
- Finding new housing off-campus
- The student loans you took out for your undergraduate work will need to be repaid whether or not you graduated
- Impact to the student's reputation that can follow them from school to school and job to job. It can also affect their own feelings of self-worth and self-esteem, setting them up for psychological and emotional issues down the line.
How an Experienced Attorney-Advisor Can Help
Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm have spent years helping students navigate dismissal proceedings. This level of experience means they understand the nuances of the college dismissal proceedings and how to use it to their advantage. Further, Attorney Lento has a fighting attitude and will stand up for you when others would sit. If you have been sent a dismissal proceeding notice, contact us today.
Many attorneys will gleefully sue your college or university without considering alternative approaches that could have better, quicker results. Because of Attorney Lento's extensive experience in this area, he has good relationships with the OGC at several colleges and universities across the country. He will explore every viable option, guaranteeing you the best possible outcome. Call 888-535-3686 today or schedule a consultation online. We can help.