Students don't go to college planning to engage in misconduct that leaves them fighting to remain at school. Yet, honest, hard-working students at colleges and universities in Iowa can find themselves in trouble as they transition into adulthood. Therefore, you should know what can happen if you violate your Iowa school's code of conduct.
Every institution of higher education in Iowa and elsewhere will have an official code of conduct that governs student life, academic progress, and how the institution handles misconduct. The code of conduct is typically one of the first things freshman and transfer students are informed about during matriculation.
Understanding the school's expectations of students outlined in the code of conduct is a large part of the college experience. If you find yourself accused of misconduct and in front of the school's disciplinary board, ignorance will not be a defense strategy.
Iowa Code of Conduct Issues: What Types of Misconduct Are There?
While your school's code of conduct may organize things differently, generally, there are three types of misconduct:
- Academic misconduct
- Non-academic misconduct
- Title IX and sexual misconduct
Academic misconduct will include all violations related to dishonesty in a student's studies. The code of conduct may also refer to these infractions as academic integrity issues. Examples of academic misconduct at colleges and universities are near-ubiquitous and, according to the University of Iowa, include:
- Disrupting the classroom
- Failure to meet satisfactory academic progress (SAP) requirements
- Willful misrepresentation
- Unauthorized collaboration
- Fabrication or alteration of documents or reports
- Facilitating academic dishonesty of others
Many Iowa schools allow faculty to handle academic misconduct directly. Students may receive a failing grade, extra classwork, or even have to retake a test or the entire course.
Academic misconduct may quickly lead to a separation from studies via a suspension or expulsion in repeated cases or those with greater severity. These sanctions will also jeopardize a student's eligibility for federal financial aid.
There are behavioral requirements to be a part of campus life at your Iowa college or university. Within the school's code of conduct are guidelines for various forms of prohibited behavior and items that students cannot have on campus. These vary between schools, but in general, there are universal behaviors and things that most Iowa schools don't allow.
Students under 21 years of age are prohibited from possessing alcohol on Iowa college campuses. At some schools, even students who are legally old enough to possess or consume alcohol may not do so on university property or in certain circumstances. For example, Iowa's Grinnell College has substance-free residence halls where alcohol is prohibited.
Most university codes of conduct prohibit the possession, distribution, and use of controlled substances—even if those substances are legal to use in Iowa.
Residence Hall Misconduct
For many young students, the dorm room will be the first place they have lived independently. Although this can cultivate a great sense of freedom for a student, it's essential to know how the code of conduct applies to school housing. For example, Drake University's code of conduct includes housing guidelines that detail rules and regulations regarding things like:
- Alterations of campus housing appearance, construction, and furniture
- Unauthorized appliances
- Abandoned personal items
- Storage and usage of bicycles, skateboards, motorcycles, and automobiles
- Trespassing in restricted areas like roofs, balconies, window ledges, and mechanical rooms
- Unauthorized guests and visiting hours
- Usage of tobacco products and electronic nicotine delivery systems
- Pets and service animals
Title IX Violations and Sexual Misconduct
Title IX is a federal civil rights law that guarantees equal access to higher education for people of different genders and sexual orientations without discrimination. Consequently, federal funding guidelines require institutions to act swiftly and stringently when a student is alleged to have committed a Title IX violation. All Iowa colleges and universities have very similar Title IX policies as they are federal guidelines carried out by the school.
Hazing and rituals that involve embarrassment, harm, or risk for initiation into a group or club can be considered Title IX violations as they are discriminatory. Bullying and violations involving hate crimes also fall under federal Title IX purview. Though, Title IX generally revolves around sexual misconduct and, according to guidelines from Upper Iowa University, includes:
- Dating violence
- Discrimination based on a student's race, sex, or gender identification
- Retaliation against protected-status students
- Sexual harassment or violence
How Iowa Colleges and Universities Handle Code of Conduct Allegations
If you are alleged to have violated your school's code of conduct, it will trigger the grievance process to investigate and, if necessary, provide punishments for the infractions. While schools and programs differ on the amount of time given to certain aspects of the process—notices of investigations and hearings, response to evidence, appeals—most proceed similarly.
The school will ascertain whether it's necessary to initiate an investigation once the disciplinary board files allegations. The student will receive a formal notice of violation or disciplinary action if the school moves forward with an investigation in their student mailbox or electronic inbox. It will detail the type of allegation, the time and date of a disciplinary hearing, and if outside representation may accompany the student at the hearing.
If you haven't already, once you receive that notification, it will be an excellent time to:
- Open the code of conduct or look at an online copy found on the school's website
- Research the specific section of the type code of conduct violation and how the school will proceed in the process
- Gather evidence (papers, emails, texts, etc.)
- Call student defense advisor Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm at (888) 535-3686 or schedule a confidential consultation online for professional guidance
It may seem like you're overreacting by hiring a student defense advisor so early in the process, but any misconduct violation can quickly take a turn for the worse. While students may think that schools seek to protect their interests in code of conduct cases, it's crucial to understand that schools aren't there to protect you or even the accusing party in a disciplinary hearing—they are there to protect the institution. Moreover, cases like these are more than likely won or lost in the investigative stage of the process.
Once a school investigates the matter, the student respondent will receive all evidence gathered, including any testimony from applicable witnesses. Typically, the student will have a short period to respond to the allegations before the investigating parties create an official report and hand it to the disciplinary body.
It's imperative that once the process starts:
- Don't disregard any correspondence from your school
- Don't discuss the allegations with friends
- Don't contact your accuser
- Don't post anything on social media
The hearing guidelines will be strict and often complex. The disciplinary board may utilize various procedures depending on the charges, but this information will be in the school's code of conduct.
Depending on the misconduct that initiated the hearing, your school may or may not allow you to bring your student defense advisor into the hearing with you. If not, retaining professional help will still benefit you for these important reasons:
- A student defense advisor can coach you to make cohesive and coherent arguments
- A student defense advisor can research your school's code of conduct to ensure that you're aware of any precedents or loopholes in the institution's regulations
- A student defense advisor can ensure that your school's disciplinary body respects your rights during the process
Additionally, the school will likely take you much more seriously if you have hired a professional to help you with your case. If your school decides to slap you with harsh sanctions, your advisor will already be there to help you negotiate a reduced punishment.
At Iowa State University, a disciplinary hearing proceeds in the following manner:
- An Office of Student Conduct representative or the complainant will give an opening summary.
- The respondent will have the opportunity to provide an opening statement.
- The complainant will present any witnesses, evidence, or other information.
- The respondent may cross-examine the complainant or their witness or evidence.
- The respondent will present any witnesses, evidence, or other information.
- The complainant may cross-examine the complainant or their witness or evidence.
- The respondent and complainant may question members of the disciplinary board.
- Both parties will give their closing statements.
Most colleges and universities in Iowa will use the "preponderance of evidence" standard to determine responsibility. This means there is a greater than 50 percent likelihood that the respondent is responsible for the alleged misconduct. Furthermore, both the respondent and complainant have the burden of persuading the board that their claim is valid. This differs from a criminal case where the responsibility of persuasion always rests with the prosecution.
Sanctions Iowa Students Can Face
Depending on the severity of the code of conduct charge, a student can face a lengthy set of punishments. Many colleges and universities in Iowa and elsewhere work off similar sets of sanctions. At the University of Northern Iowa, some of the sanctions that may be handed down to students found responsible for misconduct include:
- Written warning
- Academic/General probation
- Work service requirements
- Restitution and fines
- Counseling and other rehabilitative programs
- Student housing bans
- Restriction of visitation privileges
- Dismissal from academic departments or extracurricular programs
- Loss of access to internships, research programs, and other school activities
- Suspension for one or more semesters
- Expulsion from the school with a permanent notation of disciplinary expulsion on the student's transcript
- Degree or certificate revocation
Even though these sanctions may be on the table, the most common sanction for misconduct violations is by far suspension, and a student must take that seriously. If a student is separated from their studies, they will lose their eligibility for financial aid. There will also be a gap in the student's official transcript. That may seem insignificant for a young college student. However, it will hinder your ability to apply for graduate school, internships, professional licenses, and begin a career.
Consequently, it's crucial to ensure that you take action now to ensure this doesn't happen to you later. Even if you have been handed down punishment from the school's disciplinary body, you and your student defense advisor will have options.
Appeals Process Used by Iowa Schools: How Students Can Respond to Code of Conduct Charges
If a student is found responsible for misconduct, there will be a short period during which they can appeal the decision, which a student defense advisor may recommend. However, most institutions of higher education in Iowa and elsewhere detail in their code of conduct that appeals may be filed for just a few specific reasons. According to guidelines from the University of Iowa, a student can file an appeal if:
- Procedural errors significantly affected the hearing outcome
- New evidence emerges not available during the grievance process
- Sanctions imposed are "unreasonably harsh" compared to the misconduct
Students aren't experts in college administrative guidelines. If they haven't retained a professional student defense advisor, they may not understand when to act on one of these stipulations. Moreover, there are typically ten days or less to file an appeal, and once your school responds to your request, their decision will be considered final. This is another reason why it's so important to be working with a student defense advisor from the very beginning.
Hire a Proven Student Defense Advisor for Your Appeal
Considering you only have one chance at appealing the disciplinary board's decision, you need to make your best possible argument. An attorney can help develop the most effective appeal. They will know:
- How to prove procedural errors occurred during the hearing process
- What constitutes novel evidence that was not available during the grievance process
- If the sanctions levied against you are disproportionately severe
Nevertheless, your school may deny your appeal. If so, your student defense advisor will know the proper course of action, including:
- You and your student defense advisor can file a complaint with the nine-member Iowa Board of Regents.
- A student defense advisor can negotiate with your school's Office of General Counsel (OGC). If you have filed a complaint, it may be good to have your student defense advisor discuss it with your college's counsel. The college may be willing to listen to avoid litigation in court.
- You and your student defense advisor can consider litigation against your school. A lawsuit should be your last resort. However, it will get your university's attention, and it may force them to the bargaining table.
You Need the Expertise of Student Defense Advisor Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm
If you face a code of conduct violation, you need skilled legal guidance to protect your academic career. Your Iowa college or university will have a complex set of procedures and policies that will govern your rights, due process, hearings, and appeals in the student discipline process. Navigating this system can be intimidating. Don't attempt to handle the situation on your own—the risk is too significant.
Students may believe it's best to hire a local attorney who claims they know the school administration and will provide the best outcome in the matter. They might explain how their success in criminal and civil court cases shows they are the best to keep you in school. Don't be fooled by this misconception.
While many lawyers tout their legal prowess in front of judges and juries, those skills don't translate into proven tactics used in college disciplinary hearings. Very few lawyers have demonstrated themselves to be successful student defense advisors coaching students to prepare them for hearings or negotiating relief from sanctioning bodies after school administration officials have handed down punishments.
Student defense advisor Joseph D. Lento and his team of experienced lawyers at the Lento Law Firm have handled student discipline matters, negotiations with administrators, and court litigation involving hundreds of colleges and universities in Iowa and across the country. Lento and his team have formed valuable relationships with many representatives in Iowa schools' internal OGC and those representing the school retained from outside law firms. He and his team know how to help college and university officials see positive options that serve both the student and the institution far better than suspension, expulsion, or other severe punitive measures.
One infraction shouldn't derail your academic and professional future. For expert advice from a proven student defense advisor safeguarding college and university students in Iowa and throughout the United States, call 888-535-3686 to discuss how Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm can protect you or use the online consultation form.