Have you received an odd email from your school informing you that, unfortunately, you're not progressing as quickly through your assigned schoolwork as your educator would like?
Alternatively: Has another student, one of your educators, or someone you don't even know made an allegation of misconduct against you?
Whether someone has accused you of plagiarism, sexual misconduct, or simply skipping one too many classes, it's vital that you realize what's at stake. Even if you're not too worried about these allegations because the event seems insignificant or the allegations aren't true, you need to act quickly.
If your school decides to make a note on your permanent record about these allegations, you could be in a lot of trouble very quickly. These allegations that you're currently facing could be why, later on in life, you don't get the job or internship that's at the very top of your wishlist.
Ultimately, even your degree could be in jeopardy — as could your long-term reputation.
At the Lento Law Firm, we don't want to see that happen to you.
We're here to equip you with information. We want to make sure that you have all of the knowledge you need to know to get through your school's adjudicative processes. We're also here to provide expert representation and legal expertise every step of the way.
The good news is this: You're far from alone. You have more power than you think. You can protect your future and your name. Here, we will provide a handy guide to help college and university students going through the misconduct process. Please bookmark this page so that you can find it later, and let's get started with some foundational information about the various colleges and universities Hawaii has to offer.
What Private and Public Colleges and Universities Are in Hawaii?
Hawaii, the Aloha State, is one of the smaller states in America — but it still has a good number of high-quality academic institutions. Its public and private colleges and universities are as follows:
Public colleges and universities in Hawaii
- The University of Hawaii (and its many locations)
With over 18,000 students enrolled, the University of Hawaii is a more extensive state school system than many state universities in the continental United States! Since the University of Hawaii is far and away the largest school in the state, we'll use its code of conduct and other relevant policies as a reference anytime we need to illustrate a point in this guide.
Private colleges and universities in Hawaii
- Chaminade University of Honolulu
- Brigham Young University - Hawaii
- Hawaii Pacific University
- Pacific Rim Christian University
Before discussing the types of regulations these schools need to follow, it's essential to realize that public and private schools are governed by the same sets of federal and state laws.
Yes, there are some situations where private schools may enjoy a little more freedom over the specific ways they run on a day-to-day basis, but they will follow the same rules as schools that receive public funds. While schools do this to offer students in Hawaii a competitive and safe experience, private schools will also do this to ensure that they remain eligible for state and federal funds, just in case they're ever needed.
Now that we've set that expectation, we'll take a moment to go over the various governing bodies and pieces of legislation overseeing the way that Hawaii colleges and universities can run:
Statewide Higher Education Laws and Government Bodies in Hawaii
- Hawaii's Post-Secondary Education Authorization Program oversees the various post-secondary educational institutions in the state. It ensures that they meet the stipulations of Title IV of the Higher Education Act.
- Hawaii is also part of the Ninth Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals. Keeping an eye on the cases that this court hears and the opinions it issues is a good idea, as these decisions can affect the way your school can operate.
We'll now pivot slightly to your experience at your Hawaii school with that established. What types of misconduct will your school punish? What's a code of conduct? How can my educator allege that I'm failing to progress? We'll talk about these subjects and more in the next section.
What Does “Failure to Progress” Mean?
Put quickly: If your educator has an idea that you're not moving through your coursework as soon as they'd like — or if you're not doing as well as they hope, or if you're struggling, or if you don't show up to class or prepare thoroughly enough — your educator can state that you're failing to progress. With that status hovering over you, you'll find that you're suddenly eligible for your school's adjudicative or disciplinary process. Your school's administration may get involved, and you might get slapped with a suspension or even a dismissal from your school.
This can be bewildering, mainly because “failure to progress” is a vague, hard-to-define term. The punishable actions it represents may not feel like that big of a deal to you.
While the expectations and processes can vary from school to school, here's a general list of possible failure to progress scenarios:
- Failing to do everything that is required for your course (e.g., as denoted in your course curriculum)
- Repeatedly or consistently low grades in your coursework
- Failing to do the background reading for your courses
- Failing to take an adequate or minimum number of credits for either your program or your specific student status
- Repeatedly withdrawing from courses
- Failing to prepare specific (required) materials for classes or labs
- Frequently earning incompletes in courses
In some cases, determining what exactly qualifies as punishable failure to progress is solely in the eyes of one person: Your instructor. This can make arguing your case very difficult, mainly if you don't have a great relationship with that individual.
While your school may state that it will tailor the recommended sanction to fit the crime, in reality, there's a good chance that your school will suspend you (it's simpler for everyone!). As a result, just due to failing to complete your coursework on time, you could have a suspension or a disciplinary note on your permanent record.
What Are the Code of Conduct Infractions at My Hawaii School?
As failure to progress doesn't technically involve any rule-breaking, it's not generally considered a code of conduct infraction.
As their name might suggest, code of conduct infractions can be found in your school's code of conduct. This is a lengthy resource or document that your school has put together to ensure that everyone can be on the same page regarding student behavioral expectations. This document should clearly define the types of behaviors your school considers punishable and the exact procedures that your school will follow if a student allegedly sets a toe out of line.
Your school's code of conduct is a handy and helpful document to have handy.
It'll also be very dense and hard to read.
You can find your school's code of conduct online — likely, on the Student Life part of your school's website. (If you're having a hard time locating it, you should be able to pull it up by entering your school's name and the term “code of conduct” into your favorite search engine. And if you're having a hard time understanding your school's code of conduct, ask your student defense attorney for help — they will have much experience navigating these types of dense documents for schools in Hawaii!)
Your school will differentiate between sexual and academic misconduct in this document and the other types of behavioral issues often seen in its student base. We'll provide an overview of each right now.
Sexual Misconduct at Your Hawaii School
What is sexual misconduct? What happens if you are the victim of an allegation of misconduct?
While the answer to these questions may vary slightly from school to school, there is a federal regulation that standardizes an administration's response.
Title IX is a federal regulation, first established as one of the Educational Amendments of 1972, that governs a school's response to allegations of sexual misconduct. Under Title IX, a school needs to promptly respond to all misconduct allegations or risk losing its funding.
As we touched on above, this can be a huge deal for both schools, small and large — private and public.
This can be a big enough incentive for schools to move quickly through your adjudication. Quickly enough, possibly, to make it difficult for accused students to realize their rights fully. If you're working by yourself, you may have a hard time protecting yourself, even if your school's policies protect your rights. This is just one place where a student defense advisor can be beneficial; your school will likely take you more seriously because there's a lawyer in the room. As a result, your experience going through your school's adjudicative experience may be a more positive one just because of that!
Your ability to work towards success is crucial. Having sexual misconduct on your permanent student record can make future meetings and interviews far harder (and, likely, less successful) than they need to be.
Sexual misconduct, on one level, is easy to define. Clear examples of this infraction include domestic and dating violence, stalking, incest, rape, and sexual exploitation.
On another level, it can be tough to discern the precise actions that fall under this definition. Depending on the type of environment at your school, you may find that a mere lewd joke could net the involved students an investigation. The allegation in a sexual misconduct situation can also come from an alleged victim or someone entirely unrelated, e.g., a worried bystander.
Fighting sexual misconduct allegations can be extremely difficult due to the charged nature of the accusation and your school's incentive to respond quickly. Speak with your student defense advisor early on in the adjudicative process to ensure that you're effectively strategizing toward success.
What Is Academic Misconduct?
Academic misconduct, unlike failure to progress situations, involves clear-cut rule-breaking.
For example, your school's code of conduct or honor code should expressly say that students should not plagiarize or cheat. If students plagiarize or cheat, then they are responsible for an act of academic misconduct or an academic integrity infraction. (These types of actions should also be outlined and forbidden in the curriculum for each of your courses.)
The types of actions that tend to fall under the academic misconduct umbrella include:
- Accessing unauthorized materials (e.g., test keys)
- Sabotaging the work of others
- Fabricating data
- Collaborating with other students (when expressly not allowed to do so, e.g., in a testing environment)
- Destroying school property
Your school may display a surprising lack of discernment when it comes to meting out punishments for academic integrity issues. If one student is involved in an attempt to cheat without their knowledge or consent — e.g., if someone else has stolen, duplicated, and submitted their work — that student may be at risk for sanctions.
There may be some attempt from the administration or your educator to tailor your sanctions to meet the nature of your alleged actions. You may “simply” fail an assignment or be asked to retake a course. This is serious enough: Such sanctions would throw a wrench into your academic plans. However, if you face a sanction or dismissal, your reputation, degree, and long-term career chances could be thrown into jeopardy. Your student defense attorney can help you bounce back as effectively as possible — as long as you get started early.
Are sexual misconduct and academic misconduct the only issues my Hawaii school will investigate?
No, academic integrity issues and sexual misconduct issues are not the only ones that your school will need to learn more about — although they are the easiest to define.
This is an instance in which you should check out your school's documentation to ensure that you have the most accurate picture of your school's unique preferences and policies. Here, we'll provide a few examples of actions that could constitute more general misconduct, but please remember to check your code of conduct to be safe.
- Drug or alcohol use: Your Hawaii college or university will likely mirror local laws regarding alcohol use. In most cases, students under the age of 21 are prohibited from drinking alcohol or using controlled substances.
- Residential misconduct: To ensure that your school's dorms are safe, your school will prohibit theft or violence within the residence halls.
- Hate crimes: If your alleged actions (e.g., theft or violence) can be connected to a specific aspect of the victim's person (e.g., race, religion, gender, or orientation), your otherwise-unserious allegations could be escalated to a hate crime. Much like sexual misconduct, a hate crime can be lethal for a young person's career, even if it's found and publicized later in life.
- Hazing: Schools across America are instituting harsh rules prohibiting overly-elaborate hazing rituals — particularly those that cause violence, destruction, theft, or undue embarrassment to those involved.
Aside from specific information about what your school considers a punishable action, your code of conduct will also contain particular processes that your school will follow after receiving an allegation. We'll dive a little further into those policies and procedures in the following sections.
How Will My Hawaii School Adjudicate My Misconduct Case?
Or, in other words: After my school learns that I might be failing to progress or that I might be involved in a misconduct situation — what happens next?
This is likely the question on your mind since you initially suspected you might be involved in a misconduct case. It should be. It would be best if you worked quickly to ensure that your misconduct case doesn't spiral out of control very quickly. These cases are won or lost as early as the first investigative phase, so you need to realize that this is a serious situation — and that time is of the essence.
Since this is the case, your first action is clear: The moment you think a misconduct hearing could be in your future, whether you suspect it based on your actions or receive a notification of misconduct allegations from your school, get in touch with a student defense attorney. You need a lawyer with specific expertise in this nuanced area, so don't just call the family lawyer or search for the attorney practicing nearest your campus. Student defense is a niche practice area, and you need someone who knows the complex inner workings of this field like the back of their hand.
You may feel that calling in a lawyer early on could make you look guilty. Alternatively, it could feel like an overreaction, particularly if your school's due process systems haven't yet started. This is not the case. Making sure that you are prepared for a drawn-out disciplinary process from the beginning is the most critical step you can take, so it's one that you should accomplish as early as possible.
Your next two steps, should you realize that you're going to be the subject of a misconduct investigation from your school, are as follows:
- Keep quiet. This may feel both unsatisfactory and anticlimactic, but anything you say can and likely will be held against you. Suppress the urge to defend yourself; steer clear from confiding in others about your experience. Even if you don't think anything wrong can happen from leaning on a friend during this challenging time, there's always a chance that a seemingly-insignificant comment you make to a friend could be twisted into an apparent confession when taken out of context. It would help if you took this time to lay low, both in person and on social media.
- Initiate your investigation. While your school is starting to learn more about your alleged responsibility for an infraction, you need to begin compiling your evidence file. Think about the events that led up to the supposed infraction and put together a timeline that you can show to your defense attorney. Make copies of texts and social media posts that can place you in specific locations at specific times, and think about people that may be able to vouch for your whereabouts. When your defense attorney starts putting together your defense, this information will be invaluable for you.
As you're accomplishing these tasks, your school's due process will probably be occurring in the background. You may not be aware of precisely what's happening as it's happening. Your school will look into your past performance and student records and possibly even have conversations with your educators and peers about you. (Your defense attorney can help you figure out the best ways to weather these stressful events).
Your school should have also sent you a notification officially kicking off its disciplinary procedures. This notification should reference the specific section of your school's code of conduct that you have allegedly broken. Make sure your student defense attorney receives a copy of that notification; they may be able to use that information to your advantage.
After your school's investigation is complete, some version of the following sequence of events will occur:
- You'll be invited to a meeting with a representative from your school to discuss the allegations against you.
- You'll be invited to a more formal hearing in front of a panel of representatives from your school to review the evidence against you.
- You'll have some opportunity to provide your defense or your explanation of the central event that led to the allegations against you.
- You may have an opportunity to question any witnesses your school has invited to speak at your disciplinary hearing.
- After all of the information has been laid out and analyzed, your school will decide your responsibility for the infraction.
- Based on that decision, your school will then issue recommendations for a sanction that you will have to experience before the disciplinary process can be considered complete.
Notably, while your school may consider your adjudication finalized at this point, you still have room to fight. For example, while you could accept your sanctions and move on, you can choose to ask your school to reconsider the specific sanction they have recommended — e.g., swapping out a suspension for something a little more preferable.
The formal process for asking your school to reconsider a sanction is an appeal. We'll talk about how you can file an appeal at your Hawaii school in just a moment, but for now, let's talk about the various sanctions on the table.
Possible Sanctions, Your Hawaii School, and You
This may be the moment you've been waiting for: What are the likely punishments you'll have to undergo at the end of your school's disciplinary experience? This answer, like many answers, may be found in your school's code of conduct. This document should contain a list of the sanctions your school might recommend. (There might even be a matrix that suggests specific sanctions for frequently-occurring infractions.) If you read through this list, you might find such sanctions as:
- Mandatory course or housing changes
- Loss of privileges
- Behavioral contracts
For better or worse, you probably don't have to worry about the vast majority of these. It's far more likely that you'll undergo a suspension than a behavioral contract. (Why? It's much easier for your school to suspend a student than it is to monitor your behavior during a probationary period.)
Unfortunately, even though a suspension may not appear on the surface to be that bad, it's the exact type of punishment that might look the worst in retrospect.
If you're away from school for some time (e.g., precisely what happens when you're suspended), there'll be a gap on your transcript. This gap will look exceedingly fishy to future interviewers. When a prospective employer (or future admissions committee) is deciding to give you an opportunity, they'll see that gap on your transcript. They'll want to know what happened. They'll dig deeper — and they won't like what they see. You probably won't end up getting that opportunity.
At the Lento Law Firm, we believe that you deserve more than this outcome. We're here to help you ensure that your academic reputation survives this difficult time.
Filing an Appeal at Your Hawaii School
Immediately after your school issues its final decision and recommends a sanction, you will have a short window of time in which you can file an appeal. This is a simple process — but a lot is riding on it.
In just a few days, you and your defense advisor will need to come up with the most compelling reason for your school to reconsider the recommended sanction (e.g., you can demonstrate that your school didn't follow its own rules during the adjudication).
Once you've done this and written up a persuasive argument to convince your school to open negotiations, you'll file the required documents with a school representative and wait.
Adding to the pressure is the fact that you'll only get one chance to file this appeal. Your student defense attorney can help you take advantage of your single shot — and help you determine what to do if your school denies your appeal.
Is It Time to Sue My Hawaii School?
Suing your school may seem like the next logical step, but lawsuits can be expensive. A lawsuit isn't the best idea if you want to enjoy any continued relationship with your school.
Instead of filing a suit immediately, we'd recommend sending your defense advisor to speak with your school's office of general counsel. Having a lawyer-to-lawyer conversation may serve to smooth over a lot of the unpleasantness of the proceedings and may even result in a compromise worth pursuing. We've seen much success when employing this strategy, and it's one to consider before legal action.
If this does not work, your student defense attorney will also be able to assess your situation to see whether a lawsuit is the next best step to take.
What other Hawaii laws should I know about as a college student?
While most of your school experience will be governed by school regulations instead of local laws, keeping the following general Hawaii regulations in mind wouldn't hurt:
- Hawaii's legal drinking age is 21; being caught drinking or purchasing alcohol under that age will result in sanctions.
- If you happen to live off-campus, you will need to follow all of the terms of your tenancy agreement.
- In Hawaii, it's illegal to show a fake ID to an officer of the law.
Statute of Limitations Laws in Hawaii
- Injury to Person: Two years
- Libel: Two years
- Slander: Two years
- Fraud: Two years
- Injury to Personal Property: Two years
- Trespassing: Two years
- Contracts: Six years
- Collection of debts: Six years
- Judgments: Ten years
Overwhelmed by all of this info? We're happy to help make the process ahead of you a little simpler.
Hawaii College and University Students: Call Joseph D. Lento for a Strong Defense
If you or a loved one is a Hawaii college or university student, you should know that a lot can happen in four years.
Of course, there's the good stuff — the friends you make, the courses you take, and the degree waiting for you at the end.
However, mixed in with those good things are mistakes and miscommunications that could lead to student discipline situations. Whether or not you're innocent, you could face lifelong consequences if you're mixed up in one of these scenarios. You don't even have to be involved in misconduct, either: If your teacher says that you're failing to progress as quickly as you should through your assigned coursework, that could earn you a suspension or even a dismissal.
Since your goal in attending a Hawaii university or college is to earn that degree, you need to make sure that nothing stands in your way. If you face misconduct allegations or your school's adjudicative process, you must be prepared.
Working with Joseph D. Lento is the best way to be prepared throughout an investigation, formal hearing, and sanction negotiations. Joseph D. Lento is a skilled student defense attorney who has spent years helping students work towards a successful outcome in your precise situation. Whether you need assistance with a strong defense or want a defense attorney to negotiate with your school on your behalf, Joseph D. Lento is your go-to national defense advisor.
If you're interested in learning more about what Joseph D. Lento can do for you, give the Lento Law Firm a call today. We can be reached at 888-535-3686 — or you can connect with us online to receive a timely response.