Messiah College governs its student body using its Code of Conduct, located in the College's student handbook. The Code itself is meant to promote a safe and secure learning environment, as well as traditional Christian values. Students who violate the Code will undergo the College's Student Disciplinary Procedures.
The Procedures begin when a report of a violation is sent to the Associate Dean of Students. After a review, the report will either be dismissed as unfounded, or it will be investigated further to move on with the Disciplinary Procedures. The student will be summoned via email or letter to meet for discussions of the allegations with the Associate Dean or an appropriate authority. The student will have the opportunity to choose which way to proceed at the meeting. There are two options for moving forward: Administrative Decision or a Formal Hearing.
When making an Administrative Decision, the student chooses not to dispute the facts of the allegations. In doing this, the student also accepts responsibility for the violation and agrees to any accompanying sanctions. The administrator handling the case works cooperatively with students to reach a proper decision.
A Formal Hearing will be used when a student disputes facts and chooses to have a decision made by hearing body. Throughout the Formal Hearing process, the person that presented the allegations will be known as the "complainant," while the student standing trial will be known as the "respondent." Hearings can be heard by one of many hearing bodies: a hearing officer, the Student Government Peer Review Board, or the College Review Board. The hearing body used depends on the nature and severity of the case. The hearing body will conduct and decide the hearing. The respondent and complainant will be questioned by the hearing body. The respondent can challenge the charges and evidence, address any witness statements, and present their own supporting evidence. After all the evidence and witnesses have been heard, the hearing body will deliberate, using the standard of a "preponderance of evidence."
Students are entitled to the presence of a "support person" of their choosing, though the college recommends that this person be part of the College community. While a support person can be there for a student to lend encouragement, an attorney helping from behind the scenes will help a student bolster a strong and proper defense against allegations. Attorneys can offer insight into courtroom tactics such as methods of evidence presentation and witness questioning that can strongly influence the outcome of a hearing.
There are two types of appeals that can be done, depending on how the student arrived at the outcome they wish to appeal.
Administrative Decision Appeals: The appropriate body for appeal will be identified in the decision letter, and students have 5 business days from decision date to submit an appeal. The grounds for appeals at this level are either procedural error or an overly severe sanction.
Formal Hearing Appeals: Like appeals for Administrative Decisions, the appropriate body for appeal will be identified in the decision letter. Students will also have 5 business days from the decision to make an appeal. There are more grounds for appeal for formal hearings. The grounds are procedural error, new evidence, decision unsupported by a preponderance of evidence, or overly severe sanctions.
If you or your student is facing allegations at Messiah college, contact attorney Joseph D. Lento today.