Lehigh University governs its student body through an overarching Student Code of Conduct, which is contained in Lehigh's Student Handbook. The Code itself is built upon the principles of responsibilities and fundamental fairness to students. The University itself seeks to create order and safety for its students. There are a number of Expectations of Conduct listed in the handbook that students must adhere to. Failure to do so will result in charges of violations, hearings, and potential sanctions being assigned.
Lehigh University Hearings
The disciplinary process begins when a complaint against a student is submitted to a Conduct Officer. If a student is facing charges of a violation, they will either face a Disciplinary Conference or a full hearing. If a student is going to a hearing, they will first be presented with an opportunity for a pre-hearing meeting with the Conduct Officer to gain familiarity with the hearing process. Disciplinary Conferences are for lower level offenses, and students may receive a form that details the process for a Disciplinary Conference instead of a pre-hearing meeting with a Conduct Officer. Students who face disciplinary action may be known as "respondents" throughout the process.
A full hearing will take place in front of a panel selected from members of the University Committee on Discipline. The University Committee on Discipline consists of 15 undergrad students, 3 graduate students, and 12 faculty, all of whom volunteer to be on the Committee and are selected by various University authorities. Hearing panels will be made up of 2 students, 2 faculty members, and 1 administrator. Panels are instructed to use the standard of "a preponderance of evidence" during their deliberations. Hearings will follow a structure relatively similar to a court case. Both sides will be able to present opening statements, respondents may question witnesses presented, and the hearing will end with both sides presenting closing statements. After this, the panel will deliberate to determine the respondent's responsibility for the violation.
At hearings, the University prefers to restrict attendance to just the students, witnesses, and University personnel involved. The only exceptions to this policy are Title IX violations or criminal charges. Regardless of the type of violation a student faces, receiving counsel from an attorney can have a strong effect on the outcome of their hearing. Attorneys can pass on knowledge such as courtroom tactics, witness questioning techniques, and evidence presentation.
Lehigh University Appeals
In the event of an unfavorable hearing outcome, students may make one appeal. The grounds for appeal are information not available at the time of the hearing, evidence that university disciplinary procedures have been violated, or arguments that the sanctions imposed were unduly harsh. Appeals must be made to the Disciplinary Appeals Committee. There is a three-step process to appeal:
- Submission of Appeal: Students have 3 days from the date of their outcome letter to submit an appeal.
- Response to Appeal: The Conduct Officer will submit the appeal to the hearing officer or panel from the original hearing, and the officer or panel leader will write a response to the appeal to be considered by the Disciplinary Appeals Committee.
Disciplinary Appeals Hearing: The Disciplinary Appeals Committee will convene at a hearing. Appeals will be decided by a majority vote after a private hearing. Outside parties, including students, are not typically invited to these hearings.
If you or your student is currently facing disciplinary action from Lehigh University, contact attorney Joseph D. Lento today.