Minnesota Colleges and Universities

Are you a student or the parent of student at a Minnesota school, college, or university facing a school-related issue or concern?  Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm can help. The world of academia is unique, and the Lento Law Firm has unparalleled national experience bringing its problem-solving approach and fighting spirit to address school-related injustice.  Attorney Lento and his Firm have helped countless students and families in Minnesota and across the United States at the school level and in court.  Please click on the following links for more information.  Please also see our expanded list of school practice areas

Joseph D. Lento has helped countless students and others in academia in Minnesota protect their academic and professional future, and he can do the same for you.  Contact him today at 888-535-3686.

Where We Can Help - Minnesota Colleges, Universities, and Schools

Are you headed off to college in Minnesota, or do you have a student who will be going there soon? Or have you been working hard and are nearing graduation?

If so, you're probably going through an exciting yet overwhelming time. Getting ready for college, graduating from college, or reaching any other milestone is exhilarating and also scary. For those starting their college journey, this is especially true if you are getting ready to live away from home for the first time (or if you are watching your child prepare to do so), there's a lot that you need to consider.

While college should be a time where you can grow and express yourself safely, concentrate on your studies, and enjoy your relationships, it can also be easy to make missteps or experience miscommunications that result in lifelong ramifications. Many colleges are choosing to crack down on instances of misconduct with suspensions and even expulsions that can make your future a lot more difficult than it needs to be. Even more unfortunately, it can be very simple to find yourself mired in the middle of a messy misconduct process quickly—and, sometimes, even without your actual involvement in the alleged infraction.

That's why it's necessary to be prepared. It could seem like an overreaction to think about your possible legal recourses before you set foot on campus. It isn't. This type of knowledge will shield you from stress and frustration should the worst come to pass.

At the Lento Law Firm, we believe that you need to be able to enjoy your college years. That's why it's our mission to equip you with the knowledge you need to succeed. On this handy page, you'll learn everything you need to know about Minnesota educational infrastructure, laws, and the misconduct guidelines and procedures that may apply in your case.

Private and Public Schools and Universities in Minnesota

Minnesota, or the Land of Ten Thousand Lakes, is home to many high-quality private and public academic institutions. While some of the larger universities tend to be publicly funded, there are several private colleges that are relatively well-known.

Private Colleges and Universities in Minnesota

  • Carlton College
  • Macalester College
  • St. Olaf College
  • University of St. Thomas
  • Gustavus Adolphus College
  • Concordia College
  • St. Catherine University
  • St. John's University
  • College of St. Benedict

Public Colleges and Universities in Minnesota

  • University of Minnesota (and its satellite campuses)
  • Metropolitan State University
  • Minnesota State University
  • Winona State University
  • Bemidji State University

As the University of Minnesota is the largest school system in the state, we'll use its student handbook and code of conduct as an example to illustrate many of the different types of regulations and processes you or your student may encounter. If you're curious whether your school's guidelines may differ (or if you're in the midst of fighting misconduct charges), it's always a good idea to examine your school's specific documentation.

You should have received a copy of your school's code of conduct, student handbook, and other relevant policies when you first matriculated. If this is not the case or if you need another copy, you can usually find these documents on your school's website (typically in a student life section or on an academic dean's home page).

What Type of Higher Education Laws Are There in Minnesota?

It's important to remember that even if a college does not directly receive money from the state, that college will still likely be subject to many state guidelines if it wishes to receive accreditation. This is most often seen with regulations that directly influence student safety—for example, Title IX. Even though that rule technically applies only to schools that are dependent on federal funding, private schools tend to operate under similar guidance to offer students a competitive and consistent school experience.

All Minnesota schools, whether private or public, are overseen by the Minnesota Office of Higher Education. As a result, this office is one that may be a good resource if you're seeking relief from your school. (We'll cover this possibility in more detail in a later section of this page.)

The Minnesota State Legislature also has many statutes that provide specific guidance to all schools in the state regarding a wide variety of procedures. These may include the types of programs they can offer, what schools prioritize with their budgets, how school grounds must be maintained, and the type of health care that must exist on campus. While many of these guidances are requirements specifically for publicly funded schools, they tend to exist as standards for private schools in the state as well.

Finally, Minnesota is part of the Eighth Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals. From time to time, this court will issue opinions that may affect the specific way that Minnesota schools write policies and make decisions. As a result, it may be a good idea to keep an eye on any educational cases that make their way to the Eighth Circuit's queue of decisions.

The Types of Misconduct MN Schools Tend to Discipline

There are three general types of misconduct, dishonesty, or infractions that schools in the United States tend to discipline harshly.

Academic misconduct

Academic misconduct or academic dishonesty occurs when a student takes action outside of an instructor's specific guidelines to achieve a successful academic result. At the University of Minnesota, these types of activities are referred to as “scholastic dishonesty.”

Typically, academic or scholastic dishonesty encompasses the following actions:

  • Cheating
  • Helping others cheat
  • Fabricating information
  • Accessing illicit academic resources
  • Destroying school property (e.g., library books or lab equipment)

Academic dishonesty also includes plagiarism, which can be a tricky subject to understand. Per the University of Minnesota code of conduct, plagiarism includes the following activities:

  • Copying a source word for word without proper quotation marks or acknowledgment
  • Representing someone else's ideas or work without proper attribution
  • Using someone else's data to form your own conclusions without proper attribution
  • Paraphrasing someone else's ideas or work without acknowledgment
  • Blending your work with another's without making it very clear what the sources are and which information came from which sources

It's important to realize that most schools will even consider self-plagiarism or accidental plagiarism punishable actions. It may be a good idea to peruse your school's anti-plagiarism training resources early in your college experience to ensure that you don't make any simple errors that could result in misconduct allegations.

Sexual misconduct

Since 1972, when Title IX was first established as an educational amendment, all schools that receive any federal funding must investigate all allegations of sexual misconduct quickly or risk losing that funding.

As mentioned earlier, even though schools that do not receive any federal funding may not strictly need to follow this guidance, most do. Your school will likely have either a sexual misconduct policy, a Title IX policy, both, or a combined policy in effect to keep students safe from any sexual assault, violence, or discrimination.

According to the University of Minnesota’s sexual misconduct policy, we can define sexual assault as: “actual or attempted sexual contact without affirmative consent; or a threat to engage in contact that would be, if the threat were carried out, sexual contact without affirmative consent.”

Largely speaking, any sexual activity that occurs without consent could result in an allegation of sexual misconduct. However, many codes of conduct will call out the following specific actions:

  • Incest
  • Rape
  • Stalking
  • Domestic violence
  • Dating violence
  • Distribution of sensitive materials
  • Creation of an inappropriate work environment
  • Creating a situation where's it's impossible for any person involved to give adequate consent

Code of conduct infractions

Aside from instances of academic dishonesty and sexual misconduct, there may be many other types of situations that could merit school attention. Depending on the specific environment of your school, these activities could differ greatly. A few common examples might include drug activities, hazing infractions, gang-related activities, misconduct with alcohol, and more.

With general, academic, and sexual misconduct, it's always a good idea to review your school's policies just to see whether there are any unique examples of behaviors that your school may deem punishable.

In any case, your school's disciplinary process will begin when someone—be it an instructor or a peer—files a complaint against you with your school.

What Happens After an Allegation of Misconduct in Minnesota Schools?

You can expect some mixture of the following events once your school becomes aware of your potential involvement in misconduct:

  • An official notice from your school. After your school receives an allegation against you, a school official will conduct a preliminary review and decide upon initial actions. Unless your school dismisses the allegation entirely, you will receive either an email or a written notice that includes details of the allegation as well as the next steps.
  • A meeting with someone from your school. In an informal situation, you may simply meet with your instructor to discuss plagiarism on a specific assignment (for example). If the alleged violation is more severe—say, repeated instances of sexual violence—then this meeting may be with a panel of officials from your school.
  • An investigation into the alleged violation. In less severe or one-off instances of academic dishonesty, your school may decide to skip this step. Alternatively, your school may take time to learn as much as possible about what happened to inform its decision regarding responsibility. This step could include reviewing your student file, speaking to your friends and other instructors, examining your social media accounts, and more.
  • A formal hearing. While this step tends to occur more often when the alleged infraction is severe, it can be a part of due process even with smaller instances of misconduct. At your hearing, you should have an opportunity to tell your side of the story, review all of the evidence that your school has against you, listen to the full allegations against you, and present any evidence that you may have to clear your name. You may be allowed to have an advisor with you at this event.
  • A decision from your school. At or after your hearing, your school will come to a decision regarding your responsibility in the alleged infraction. Your school will communicate this finding to you in person, by email, or in writing.

This notification should include more information about the next steps available to you. These will include any recommendations your school has made regarding the disciplinary consequences of your alleged involvement in the inciting event, as well as the steps you will need to take should you wish to file a strategic appeal.

What Disciplinary Consequences Should I Expect?

According to the community standards document at the University of Minnesota, the following consequences may occur after the completion of disciplinary due process:

  • Academic sanctions (e.g., a lowered or failing grade)
  • A written warning
  • Disciplinary probation
  • Required restitution to injured parties
  • Reduction of privileges
  • A mandatory housing reassignment
  • Suspension
  • Expulsion

Generally speaking, a school should work to ensure that the recommended punishment fits the nature of the alleged infraction. However, in most cases, a school will recommend a suspension in response to most cases of moderate misconduct. In cases where the infraction was sexual violence, a school will most likely recommend expulsion.

While a suspension may not seem like the end of the world, it's important to remember what a suspension will look like in the future. Later in life, you'll apply to the job of your dreams or another academic institution, and the person in charge of granting you that opportunity will need to look at your academic transcript. If your transcript has any mention of this disciplinary event (or details that would imply it, such as a gap in your class schedule or lowered grades), there's a very good chance that you won't get that job or you won't receive admittance to that school.

In other words, your disciplinary consequence could make your entire future a lot harder than it needs to be.

It's time to make sure that doesn't happen. Your first course of action may involve filing an appeal directly with your school.

How do I File a Strategic Appeal at My Minnesota College or University?

The specific process for filing an appeal may differ from school to school. However, the processes at your school should contain the following actions and information:

  1. The amount of time after your school's disciplinary recommendations in which you can file an appeal. This could be a very short window—as short as five business days. At the University of Minnesota, this window is 14 calendar days.
  2. The recommended rationales for filing an appeal. While you can file for any reason, most schools recommend that you have a very good reason for doing so—as, typically, you can only file one time before your school's disciplinary recommendations become permanent. Strategic reasons for filing appeals may range from documented procedural anomalies during your school's disciplinary processes to an argument that the punishment your school recommended is clearly disproportionate to your alleged actions.
  3. Clear outlines for the format of your appeal. In most cases, filing an appeal will involve filling out a form, writing a persuasive argument detailing the rationale for your appeal, and filing that information with the responsible individual at your school. Within some short period of time, that person will get back to you with updated information about the status of your appeal.

Filing an appeal generally constitutes a good opportunity for you to open negotiations with your school. It's also a good way for you to work towards the end that you want without necessarily harming your relationship with your school—as you're working within your school's established framework for pursuing relief.

If your school reconsiders the recommended consequences or otherwise is open to negotiation, excellent! You and your advisor should work together to negotiate with your school to pursue a favorable outcome for all involved.

If your school denies your appeal, it may be time to take more serious action.

How do I Know if It's Time to Sue My Minnesota School?

Pursuing litigation against your school is a big step.

It's definitely not one that you should take lightly. Suing your school will likely terminate any relationship you may have with your institution, so it's typically best reserved for the last step.

If you and your advisor believe it's your best recourse for relief, it may be time to file. Consider the following steps before you do so:

  1. Make sure that you have filed an appeal within your school. Even if you're not optimistic that this will do anything, it sets a precedent for your suit.
  2. File a complaint with the Minnesota Office of Higher Education. Though the process may differ slightly for private schools and public schools, the overall effect should be similar. As a government entity, the Office of Higher Education may be able to provide additional oversight, guidance, or leverage that could help you achieve your intended goals.
  3. Make very sure that you are working with an advisor who has the skills and experience necessary. Litigating against schools and successful student defense is a niche area of the law. Most lawyers do not have this type of targeted experience. When you're considering attorneys, make sure that your prospective advisor has the specific expertise you need. This will likely mean expanding your search from your immediate area to advisors nationwide. Remember: It's more important to work with someone who can do the job well than it is to work with someone nearby.

Statutes of Limitation and Other Minnesota Laws that College Students Should Know

A statute of limitation defines the amount of time after an event that anyone can initiate legal processes relating to that event. Whether you're wondering how long you have to bring a suit against someone else, or you're worried about your own culpability, it's best to be aware of the statutes of limitation in your state.

Relevant statutes in Minnesota for college students may include:

  • Injury to Person: Two years.
  • Libel or Slander: Two years.
  • Fraud: Six years.
  • Injury to Personal Property: Six years.
  • Trespassing: Six years.
  • Breaking written or oral contracts: Six years.

Outside of the statutes of limitation, there are other laws that students attending college in Minnesota should be aware of. For example, if you live off-campus, you'll need to comply with Minnesota renter or tenant laws. Minnesota also has very strict DUI and underage drinking and controlled substance laws, as well as harsh repercussions for using a fake government-issued ID.

When you're heading to your Minnesota college, it's key to arm yourself with knowledge. Even if some of this information doesn't seem like it will apply to your specific school experience, it's better to be aware. At the Lento Law Firm, we simply want to ensure that you have the knowledge you need and the resources for success, no matter what happens.

Minnesota College Students: Ready to Protect Your Future, Your Reputation, and Your Chances of Success?

As you stand on the cusp of your college career, you're living through a very exciting time. You're excited to make lifelong friends, pursue knowledge that will help you thrive, and grow into the person you want to be.

At the Lento Law Firm, we believe you should be able to enjoy all of those benefits. You shouldn't have to spend your college years fighting to protect your rights in misconduct disputes that could endanger your success. You also shouldn't have to feel like you're alone when you're in an adversarial position against your school.

That's where we come in. Attorney Joseph D. Lento is a successful student defense advisor who has been helping students in your exact situation for years. Whether you're facing a formal investigation, a simple meeting with an instructor, the threat of expulsion, or anything else regarding your school's disciplinary process, attorney Joseph D. Lento will be able to help you work towards a fair process and a favorable outcome.

Don't do yourself the stressful disservice of trying to fight misconduct charges on your own or with someone not up to the task. Instead, rely upon an expert for personalized, experience-driven support. From game-changing coaching to assistance with persuasive arguments and more, attorney Joseph D. Lento will be there to help you with your misconduct case.

Give the Lento Law Firm a call today at 888.535.3686 or reach out to us online for more information.

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If you, or your student, are facing any kind of disciplinary action, or other negative academic sanction, and are having feelings of uncertainty and anxiety for what the future may hold, contact our offices today, and let us help secure your academic career.

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