When you're attending school as an Iowa college student, it's easy to feel like the world is your oyster. In many ways, it is. When you're in college (or your child is attending university), you know that the focus is on making new friends, discovering new academic interests, and figuring out what to do in a career capacity.
That's as it should be. College should be transformative, fulfilling, and even fun.
Unfortunately, it can be much easier than one might expect to have a very different experience with an academic institution. In recent years, colleges and universities across America have been recommending increasingly steep punishments for both misconduct issues and academic failure to progress situations. Whether schools are protecting their reputations or becoming stricter for other reasons is not always clear. As a result, however, students need to be on their guard to ensure that a tiny misstep or miscommunication doesn't result in a degree-terminating disciplinary sanction.
This may seem like an overreaction, but it isn't. If you or your student receives a suspension because they aren't progressing academically or they are involved in a code of conduct infraction, that sanction will make its way to your student's permanent record in some way. Later in life, when your student goes to interview for the job of their dreams (or an internship, or for admission to another school), that disciplinary experience will be very difficult to explain. Very likely, that note or gap on your student's transcript will result in your student not enjoying opportunities that would otherwise have been theirs.
There is a wide range of actions (and inactions) that could flag your student for sanctions. These vary from school to school but can include:
- Failing to progress academically or measure up to an educator's ideals
- Academic integrity issues or academic misconduct
- Sexual misconduct or inappropriate behavior that falls under the umbrella of sexual misconduct
This is a (very) incomplete list. In this guide for Iowa college students, we'll delve into the most common prohibited behaviors at Iowa schools. We'll also discuss what Iowa college students can expect after an allegation of misconduct and review some proven strategies to help students work towards a more favorable outcome in a stressful disciplinary process.
Review this page now and bookmark it for later access! Trust us: At the Lento Law Firm, we've seen thousands of failures to progress and misconduct cases across the United States. The very last thing you want when you're slapped with an allegation and an investigation is confusion about what to do next.
We'll start this guide with a brief list of some of the academic institutions in Iowa. We'll then discuss some of the various behavioral standards and academic expectations in place at those schools.
What Schools Are in Iowa?
Iowa is home to many top-tier academic institutions—including the one that you or your student already attends! Here are just some of the colleges and universities that call Iowa home.
Public schools in Iowa
- Iowa State University
- University of Iowa
- Purdue University Global (various campuses)
- University of Northern Iowa
The University of Iowa has a student population of just over 33,000 students, making it one of the most densely populated colleges in the state. Throughout this guide, whenever we need an example of a specific school's code of conduct, we'll use the University of Iowa's. There's a good chance that your Iowa school's regulations will differ slightly, but the University of Iowa's documentation should represent a good statewide standard to use as a point of reference.
Private schools in Iowa
- Grinnell College
- Drake University
- Luther College
- Loras College
- Cornell College
- Dordt University
- Northwestern College - Iowa
- Coe College
- Central College
Whether you attend a public or private academic institution in the Hawkeye state, you have great options.
It's important to note that whether you attend a private or public school, your school will be subject to governance by the state of Iowa. Your school will also have to follow at least some federal regulations. While state schools and public schools that rely on a lot of federal funding may have more external regulations to follow than private schools, there are rules that all schools must (or, at least, should) follow. For example, Title IX, a federal regulation governing a school's response to sexual misconduct allegations, does apply to all schools in the United States.
That said, let's take a moment to look at some of the governing bodies and legislation that govern higher education in the state of Iowa.
Statewide Higher Education Laws and Government Bodies in Iowa
- The Board of Regents in the State of Iowa oversees the way several of the state's public institutions — the University of Iowa, Iowa State University, and the University of Northern Iowa — are able to run.
- Iowa lawmakers and the Board of Regents recently established several Free Speech recommendations for colleges, including a stipulation “prohibiting universities from denying educational benefits based on viewpoint.”
- In addition, Iowa is part of the Eighth Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals. This court will occasionally issue opinions that could affect the way your school is able to run, so keeping tabs on the cases this court sees is likely a good idea.
Now that we've reviewed several of the schools and some legal language unique to the state of Iowa, let's start to talk about some of the reasons Iowa college students could garner negative attention from their schools.
What Does “Failure to Progress” Mean?
These three words are simultaneously ones that students hope never to hear and are extremely vague. What does it mean if you're failing to progress?
Many schools don't issue firm guidelines surrounding failure to progress, which only perpetuates confusion in many cases. Often, schools leave these cases up to the interpretation of the teachers, which can result in messy accusations and very stressful conversations. In these situations, a student fails to progress when they fail to measure up to some standard that an educator has regarding their academic accomplishments.
Some common examples of failure to progress situations may include:
- Failing to do the background reading for your courses
- Failing to do everything that is required for your course (e.g., as denoted in your course curriculum)
- Failing to take an adequate or minimum number of credits for either your program or your specific student status
- Failing to prepare specific (required) materials for courses or labs
- Repeatedly withdrawing from courses
- Repeatedly earning incompletes in courses
- Repeatedly or consistently low grades in your coursework
The specifics of many of these scenarios may be left to your teacher's discernment (for example, what constitutes a consistently and concerningly low grade).
In any case, when your educator decides that your lack of progress is problematic, they may either recommend an academic sanction on the spot (e.g., course or assignment failure) or escalate your case to the administration for potentially more severe consequences. We'll cover precisely what this means in a later section, but you could be at risk of a dismissal or a suspension.
This may seem unfair. You may have hoped that your school would have your back a little more if you were obviously struggling. Your school may even say that it offers support for students who need it (e.g., tutoring, extended deadlines, or even mental health resources). If you feel that your school has failed to follow through on any promised resources, take a note of that, and then contact a student defense attorney. Even if your school has made no such promises, it's important that you realize your current situation is not hopeless. If you work quickly, you should be able to avoid permanent, reputation-damaging actions related to your alleged failure to progress.
Failing to progress is far from the only way that your school could consider suspending or dismissing you. Next, we'll take a quick look at the most common code of conduct infractions at your Iowa school.
What Are the Different Types of Code of Conduct Infractions at My Iowa School?
Your school should have a document, either included as part of your school's student handbook or freely available on your school's website, that's known as your school's code of conduct. This document will be lengthy and terribly hard to read, but it's a vital resource that should contain a lot of helpful information about your school's expectations and processes concerning prohibited behavior.
If you haven't already, now is an excellent time to find this resource and read it as thoroughly as you can. (If you're having trouble wading through the difficult language and legalese, have your student defense advisor help you!) Your school's specific documentation will contain information that is unique to your school, so it's definitely a good idea to make sure that you're reviewing your school's information.
That said, there are groups of code of conduct infractions and common prohibited behaviors that most schools will include in their code of conduct. We'll focus on these common behaviors in this guide, using the University of Iowa's language as a reference.
To start, there are two very common and well-defined types of misconduct to discuss: Sexual misconduct and academic misconduct.
Sexual misconduct is generally viewed as a very serious code of conduct infraction. Having sexual misconduct on your permanent record is one surefire way to ensure that you have very difficult interview experiences in your future.
Here's the thing: The types of actions that your school could deem problematic sexual behavior can vary wildly from school to school. Depending on the environment at your school, for example, telling a lewd joke could result in a sexual misconduct allegation. Under Title IX, all United States schools must respond to all allegations of sexual misconduct in a timely manner. Because this is the case, it's very easy for a seemingly small misconduct manner to blow out of proportion in a matter of days.
As a starting point, we can list out some common behaviors that most schools will agree are punishable. These include:
- Domestic violence
- Dating violence
- Sexual exploitation
As noted above, this is far from a complete list. If any behavior of yours results in an allegation of sexual misconduct, your school will have to respond. This includes instances of supposed sexual misconduct that are really the result of a miscommunication or misunderstanding.
To add further confusion to sexual misconduct scenarios, your school may have a couple of different policies that they could decide to use when adjudicating your case. For example, your school may have a sexual misconduct policy in addition to a Title IX sexual misconduct policy. Why is this the case?
Title IX, as the federal regulation tied to collegiate sexual misconduct, is an incredibly hot-button issue. It tends to receive an updated interpretation on a regular basis. (Each of the past few Presidential administrations has provided new guidelines surrounding the way Title IX should be implemented). This can be very confusing for schools to navigate, so many schools have set up dual policies so they can remain up-to-date for the government and somewhat consistent for their own community.
Depending on the political climate of your school, recent events on a national level, and the type of policy your school follows when adjudicating your case, your experience as the central figure of a Title IX or sexual misconduct case could vary.
It's crucial that you don't try to tackle this kind of complex, high-stakes case on your own. The moment that you believe a sexual misconduct charge could be in your future, call the Lento Law Firm. We can help you with a strong defense and skilled negotiation, so you don't have to worry about the lasting damage to your reputation.
Along with sexual misconduct, academic misconduct is one of the most common types of defined prohibited behavior that you'll find in Iowa codes of conduct. Academic integrity issues may seem very similar to failure-to-progress scenarios, and they can often happen at the same time. However, they are distinct.
A student in a failure-to-progress scenario isn't breaking any rules. They're doing their coursework as expected, just with lackluster results—or they're failing to do their coursework. In order to get better results, they're not resorting to practices such as cheating, plagiarizing, or fabrication of data. They're not collaborating with other students in situations where that would be inappropriate, and they're not accessing unauthorized data (such as tests or test answer keys).
All of these types of activities fall under the umbrella of academic misconduct or academic integrity issues. These actions are the ones that tend to be forbidden under your school's honor code or require behaviors that are directly outlined as prohibited actions in your school's code of conduct.
As such, they may result in a different procedure from your school than failure to progress. Your educator may decide to take a similar strategy for sanctions for lesser offenses — e.g., a failing grade on an exam that you allegedly cheated on. Your educator may also escalate your case to the administration for an investigation and more severe sanctions.
United States colleges tend to have a harsh stance when it comes to academic integrity issues. Your school may even recommend sanctions for you even if you didn't knowingly commit academic misconduct. For example, accidental plagiarism could still result in a suspension, and helping another student cheat without knowing about it (e.g., if another student steals your paper and copies it) could still net you punishments.
Are there other types of misconduct at my Iowa school?
Outside of academic misconduct and sexual misconduct, there are other types of behaviors that your school may choose to investigate. Depending on your specific school's environment and customs, there may be enough of these specific behaviors to merit their own misconduct subcategory. At other schools, these actions could be grouped together as ‘general misconduct' or left up to the discernment of school staff.
Your school may choose to emphasize or call out unique behaviors, so it's a good idea to check your own documentation to make sure you're not missing anything. Common inclusions in lists of general misconduct include:
- Drug or alcohol use: For those under the age of 21, all use of alcohol or controlled substances is prohibited. (Your school will likely echo Iowa state laws in this area.) Students over the age of 21 may be allowed to drink alcohol in certain locations or situations.
- Residential misconduct: As your Iowa college will naturally be interested in keeping you safe while you live on campus, it will likely have relatively stringent rules about misconduct in campus dormitories. For example, there may be a strong ban on fighting, theft, or any type of violence occurring within residence halls.
- Hate crimes: This category of offenses can be tricky to define, as a hate crime can be almost any type of action — from a prank to violence — that can be connected to the alleged victim's gender, religion, race, orientation, or another aspect of their identity. Hate crimes, much like sexual misconduct offenses, can be lethal over the long term to a person's reputation. If you believe you could have an association with a hate crime, it's integral that you reach out to a student defense attorney as quickly as you can.
- Hazing: Finally, schools across America are cracking down on groups that go too far with initiation rituals. If your sports team or social club has an initiation rite that involves suffering or extreme embarrassment, your school could step in and recommend sanctions for the people responsible.
After a potentially punishable event has occurred, your school will initiate its due process. In the next section, we'll talk a little bit about what you can expect.
Due Process, Your Iowa School, and You
Once your school learns about your allegedly concerning behavior (either from a teacher regarding academic misconduct or failure to progress or from a victim or bystander in a code of conduct offense), your school will take some time to consider whether an investigation is necessary.
As mentioned above, under Title IX, an investigation to learn more about sexual misconduct will almost always be necessary.
If your school decides to launch an investigation, you'll experience some version of the following sequence of events:
- Your school will send you a notification. This notification should contain detail surrounding the specific allegations against you as well as some outline of the steps your school will take. Upon receipt of this notification, you should do two things. Firstly, you should contact a student defense attorney. These kinds of cases are often won or lost very early in the process — as early as the investigative stage. Having a knowledgeable advisor at your side can be a game-changer for you. Secondly, you should stay quiet. It may be tempting to protest your innocence or vent to a trusted friend or advisor, but, unfortunately, anything you say could be twisted and held against you later. It's far better to be reserved in this scenario. If you need support during this difficult time, rely on your family or mental health professionals as much as possible.
- Your school will launch an investigation. Depending on the nature of your alleged offense, this may include a review of your social media, previous student record, or even discussions with your friends and classmates.
- You'll meet with your school. Again, depending on the nature of your alleged offense, this could range from a relatively informal one-on-one with a school representative to a full panel hearing. At this meeting, you'll hear the charges against you, review the evidence that your school obtained during the investigation, and have a chance to tell your side of the story. Your school may or may not allow advisors to be in this meeting. If your advisor is not allowed, they will coach you beforehand to ensure that you're comfortable saying what you have to say.
- Your school will issue a decision regarding your responsibility. At the end of this meeting or just after it, your school will come to a decision about what happened and issue a recommendation for sanctions, if deemed appropriate.
Wondering what those sanctions could be? We'll discuss what could be on the table in the next section.
What Sanctions Could My Iowa School Recommend?
Your school's code of conduct likely includes a laundry list of potential sanctions. This list might include:
- Written warnings
- Mandated course changes
- Behavioral contracts
- Loss of privileges
- Loss of scholarships
- Monetary fines
- Housing changes
While this list may sound scary enough, it's only the start of what's really at stake. First of all, in the vast majority of cases, your school will recommend a suspension (or an expulsion for severe or repeated infractions). Let's take a moment to think about what happens after a suspension.
Since you're (by definition) away from school for a period of time, you'll have a gap on your transcript. Later in life, when you go on interviews for jobs or further education, you'll have to present your transcript and explain that gap.
This will not be a good look for you. Between the gap on your transcript and any notes on your student record about your disciplinary experiences, it's pretty likely that your interviewer will show you the door. In fact, your transcript and student record will likely go ahead of you for years, closing doors that would have otherwise been open to you.
At the Lento Law Firm, we don't believe this is fair — particularly if you're innocent or if your allegations of misconduct were the result of a miscommunication or mistake. We're here to help you work towards a favorable outcome. The next step you may be able to take is a strategic appeal.
At My Iowa School, How Do I File an Appeal?
In most cases, the process for filing an appeal is simple.
- Put together a strategic argument for your appeal — for example, that your school didn't follow its own rules during your adjudication or that you have new evidence that has come to light.
- Fill out the required paperwork. (This will often be located on your school's website, within the Dean of Students section.)
- Submit the paperwork. (Often, you'll file the documents with the Dean of Students.)
You'll then wait for your school to respond. If they are amenable to negotiations, your student defense advisor will help you determine the next steps.
If not, it'll be time to consider alternative action.
What if It's Time to Sue My School in Iowa?
Litigation against your school can get you great results but can also be very expensive. Lawsuits can also be very stressful. Suing your school will likely result in termination of your student status and even your relationship with your school.
Because this is the case at the Lento Law Firm, we firmly believe that a discussion between your lawyer and your school's general counsel is the best course of action. Very often, negotiations between your advisor and your school's legal team can result in a good outcome with little stress on your end.
If that doesn't work, consider working with your advisor to file a complaint with the Iowa College Aid Commission. This group may be able to exert some external pressure to help your college reconsider its stance. If not, this complaint will still serve as a helpful basis for a lawsuit, should one be in your future. Your advisor will be able to help you determine whether a lawsuit is a good move for you.
Other Relevant Iowa Laws
While you're a college student in Iowa, you'll likely spend the bulk of your time on campus. During that time, your actions will tend to fall under the governance of school rules. If you spend much time off-campus, you'll need to be aware of local laws and regulations, from laws about alcohol consumption to the Iowa statute of limitations.
Here are just a few laws that may be worth remembering:
- Iowa Laws about Drinking and Driving: Iowa takes driving under the influence very seriously. If your BAC is found to be too high when you're behind the wheel, you will face steep consequences.
- Iowa Tenant Responsibilities: Students who live off-campus will need to follow the various stipulations in their tenant agreements - which includes paying rent on time.
- Iowa False Identification Laws: Nobody can use a fake ID to purchase alcohol, and nobody can show a fake ID to a police officer.
Statute of Limitations Laws in Iowa
- Injury to Person: Two years
- Libel: Two years
- Slander: Two years
- Fraud: Five years
- Injury to Personal Property: Five years
- Trespassing: Five years
- Collection of Rent: 10 years (if there is a written contract)
- Contracts: 10 years
- Judgments: 20 years
If this seems like a lot of information to take in, that's accurate. Luckily, you don't have to handle all of this on your own.
Iowa College Students, it's Time to Call In Joseph D. Lento
Are you facing frustrating or confusing misconduct procedures?
Do you suspect that a failure to progress investigation could be in your future?
If that's the case, your time to act is right now. Navigating code of conduct issues and complex school documentation can be a lot for anyone. If you're stressed because of interpersonal issues or need time to focus on your studies in addition to a tough disciplinary process, you need to call in a professional.
Joseph D. Lento is that professional.
For years, Joseph D. Lento has worked tirelessly to assist students across the nation with stressful school adjudicative scenarios. Whether you're in need of a strategic defense, coaching before a daunting interview, help with finding an appropriate basis for an appeal, or any of the other obstacles you need to overcome in order to get where you need to be, Joseph D. Lento will help you make it happen.
Joseph D. Lento will bring his nuanced, niche-specific expertise to help you save your reputation and your degree. Work with Joseph D. Lento for empathetic responsiveness and a very specialized skill set. Call Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm today to schedule your consultation — the number is 888-535-3686. Alternatively, fill out a contact form online, and a member of our team will respond in a timely manner.
Are you a student or the parent of a student at an Iowa college or university facing a school-related issue? Attorney Joseph D. Lento can help. Click on the following links as applicable for more information: