Minnesota State University System

If you are a college student within the state of Minnesota, then you generally face several additional rules and regulations to follow that are outlined by your school. Schools that are part of the state university system have implemented their own school guidelines covering everything from students to administration. If you violate your school's guidelines or other relevant laws, then you can face allegations of school misconduct and potentially criminal charges. If you are being accused of misconduct, then it is critical to speak to an experienced attorney-advisor as soon as possible.

What is the University System in Minnesota?

The university system in Minnesota is unique in its structure. In Minnesota, schools that offer education after high school are known as postsecondary schools. Postsecondary schools in Minnesota are grouped into two main categories: Minnesota State Colleges and Universities and the University of Minnesota.

The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities grouping includes 30 state colleges and seven universities across the state of Minnesota. There are nearly 4,000 academic programs across these schools taught by college faculty as one of several eye-popping statistics. Nearly 340,000 students each year are enrolled within these member schools. Over 37,000 various degrees, diplomas, and certificates are awarded yearly across the Minnesota state colleges and universities. The schools that are considered state colleges and universities are:

The state colleges and universities system in Minnesota is a statewide system that governs all public colleges and universities in the state. A Board of Trustees manages the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities. If a university decides not to follow the rules set by the Board, then they could face sanctions from funding cuts to outright closure. The Board's mission is to enhance the educational options of those in Minnesota while protecting statewide interests. This is done by giving member schools some level of autonomy while holding them accountable for their actions and decisions.

The Board is comprised of fifteen members, three of which are student members. Board members are appointed by the governor of Minnesota with the advice and consent of the state Senate. The Board of Trustees appoints a Chancellor to carry out the Board's business as delegated.

The University of Minnesota system is the other group of schools within the state university system and is comprised of five campuses across the state of Minnesota:

Twin Cities is the largest campus in the University of Minnesota system, with over 50,000 students enrolled. The University of Minnesota system across five campuses has several impressive statistics, including over 571,000 alumni and 26,000 employees. There are 130 nations represented across the five University of Minnesota campuses, and two-thirds of students stay in Minnesota after they graduate. A Board of Regents manages the University of Minnesota system. These members are elected and must include one student member who is currently enrolled at a campus of the University of Minnesota.

What Laws Apply to Minnesota Colleges and Universities?

The laws that apply to Minnesota colleges and universities can be found in the Minnesota Statutes, which can be found online here. The laws found in the Minnesota statutes both describe how university system schools are to govern themselves and what state regulations the schools must follow. The chapters where postsecondary school rules are listed include chapters 135A-137 in the Minnesota Statutes.

Chapter 135A describes the general rules that apply to the entire Minnesota university system. Chapter 136F outlines the laws that Minnesota state colleges and universities must follow, while Chapter 137 outlines the laws that must be followed in the University of Minnesota system. These laws cover how a school is to operate and what types of policies it must adopt to be in compliance with the state.

Minnesota colleges and universities must also follow all appropriate state and federal laws. This includes things like equal protection, due process, and the Civil Rights Act. As you can see, the laws that Minnesota colleges and universities must follow can come from the state Constitution, US Constitution, or any appropriate federal act. Several laws and regulations might apply to one situation, so it is important to be aware of all potential legal issues.

How Constitutional Rights Are Affected at a University

When you are accused of breaking a rule at a public university, remember that your constitutional rights still apply. You have additional protections in these cases. These protections balance the right to fairness from the institution and punishments for offenses on campus under Minnesota law.

Public schools and universities must follow the same rules as criminal prosecutors when it comes to protecting people's rights. Public colleges and universities that are under the jurisdiction of the Fourteenth Amendment must give students all of their rights as outlined by both state and federal laws. These schools also need to provide additional protections for students who are accused of wrongdoing.

The additional safeguards depend on if you are charged with violating an academic or disciplinary rule. This is different than if you were charged with the same crime by a city attorney, county prosecutor, or district attorney. The law allows state colleges and universities to control student behavior on campus. Universities can discipline students, but you have rights, too. The law aims to balance your rights with the university's responsibilities to keep order and discipline among the student body.

Who Are the State Governing Boards that Make the Laws?

The Board of Trustees that manages the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities and the Board of Regents that manages the University of Minnesota system make the laws that both govern state schools and empower member schools to make their own rules and regulations. Both these boards are empowered by state and federal laws to carry out their duties. The Minnesota state legislature makes the ultimate laws that the boards must follow when making rules for their member schools and students.

The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities Board of Trustees have the power to:

  • Set the conditions for school admission
  • Set tuition rates
  • Approve programs of study
  • Set requirements for the completion of programs
  • Approve appropriate certificates of completion, diplomas, and degrees
  • Adopt suitable policies for schools

The University of Minnesota Board of Regents is tasked with submitting a biennial budget report to the Minnesota Department of Management and Budget. Each college or university is required to come up with appropriate regulations to self-govern that comply with state law. These regulations must be presented, adopted, and implemented in each member school. These regulations can include things like an anti-hazing policy, a sexual misconduct policy, and policies regarding student associations. The state of Minnesota does not have a uniform set of rules and regulations for each member college and university. The state allows each school to adopt its own rules and regulations that suit their needs and meet state standards.

Do Individual Universities Have Their Own Rules and Regulations?

Yes, each individual university has its own rules and regulations. As long as the rules and regulations meet the standards required by state law, then each university is free to govern its students according to its specific policies. These rules and regulations cover several areas, which can include admission requirements, scholarship details, and various campus rules.

The regulations that govern students are known as the code of conduct for each university. The codes of conduct for Minnesota schools within the State College and University System in Minnesota are as follows:

Minnesota State Colleges and Universities

The University of Minnesota Schools

Each state college or university operates independently under the guidelines given to it by the state of Minnesota. While schools may have individual rules, the administrative process to handle student misconduct claims is fairly consistent across Minnesota universities. If you are facing a student misconduct claim, then it is important to understand the rules of your school and the misconduct process to best determine how to defend your case. This is best accomplished with the help of an experienced attorney-advisor.

What is the Student Code of Conduct?

The university system in Minnesota has several different acts with different rules and regulations, but the rules that apply directly to students is known as the Student Code of Conduct. The rules within a student code of conduct outline what guidelines students are expected to follow. Common examples of rules found in a student code of conduct include no alcohol on campus, no weapons on campus, and no drug paraphernalia on campus.

All schools in Minnesota have a student code of conduct that directs how student misconduct cases must be handled. The code also says that misconduct must be reported to appropriate staff members at the school who will determine whether or not a violation occurred. If these disciplinary officials determine that the student committed a violation, then they can discipline the student in several ways, including and up to expulsion.

How Are Code of Conduct Violations Handled?

The first step of the process, as outlined by a student code of conduct, is for the school official to tell you that they are going to take action due to an alleged violation. The school official who forwards the claim that a violation happened will submit a report with specific violations and how it is believed they were committed. Once the student has been notified of an alleged violation, then the student can decide whether they want to plead guilty or not guilty. If they choose to plead not guilty, then they can request a hearing date right to determine whether a violation occurred and if the accused committed the violation.

For a school to prove that any individual has violated the student code of conduct, it must put forward evidence that proves the alleged misconduct. Evidence can be collected from many sources. Evidence might come from an eyewitness to the crime, someone involved, or someone who has knowledge of the alleged incident. Even if the person admits to committing the crime, there may not be enough evidence for a student to be found responsible when their case goes through all of the stages of litigation.

Once a hearing is scheduled, both sides of a case must bring forward their witnesses, documents, and any other physical evidence within specific timeframes. There are no set timeframes that must be met, however. Parties in a case make agreements regarding evidence, though they are not required to do so. If there are disagreements regarding what evidence is admissible, then these issues will be determined during litigation.

Student code of conduct violations, potential discipline, and hearing formats are discussed within each school's individual codes of conduct as listed above. Don't expect that schools will have consistent rules and regulations. Just because one school has a specific procedure or rule does not mean that other schools will share in the policy or procedure. The only schools that share the same student code of conduct policies and procedures are the schools that make up the University of Minnesota system. All of these schools are under the University of Minnesota umbrella and follow the exact same rules when it comes to student conduct.

What Types of Misconduct Can Face Discipline?

Cases of misconduct in school happen when students are alleged to break student conduct rules or violate the law. This can happen individually, or it can be a group that breaks the rules together. If there is more than one person alleged to have violated a rule, then an investigation can be more wide-ranging. There are boards made up of students and teachers who determine whether it was proven that the student(s) violated the student code of conduct or the law.

If someone is found guilty of a violation, then they might be punished in various ways. The punishment could be an interim suspension, a fine, suspension for a semester or more, dismissal from school with no possibility of re-enrollment within five years. Sometimes a violation can lead to criminal charges. One of the roles of an attorney-advisor is to help you avoid severe punishment either through winning a student misconduct hearing or through a settlement with the college or university.

Generally, there are three types of misconduct that a student in Minnesota can be accused of: academic misconduct, sexual misconduct, and general misconduct.

Academic Misconduct Explained

Academic misconduct includes various violations related to class rules and acts of dishonesty. Students who are found guilty of academic misconduct can be severely punished and can result in suspension or expulsion from the university. An academic misconduct violation can also be reported to other universities as well as employers. Academic misconduct includes violations such as:

The punishment for academic misconduct depends on how serious it is and what kind of dishonesty was used. For example, if someone plagiarized the work of another person, they might be punished more harshly than if they just copied and used someone else's notes without their permission in a test. There are many different punishments that exist for academic dishonesty violations.

Certain types of academic misconduct can also have criminal consequences. Charges of forgery or bribery can result in state and even federal criminal charges. Bribing a school official to help a student enter school or offering a bribe to a professor for a grade or position can have serious punishments. A major federal criminal case is ongoing involving allegations that wealthy parents, some of which are celebrities, bribed an individual to ensure that their kids were accepted into some of the nation's most prestigious schools.

Schools often have an honor code in addition to a code of conduct. It is common for a graduate school such as a law school to have an honor code to ensure a professional atmosphere. If a student breaks a school's honor code, then the student can be punished. School codes of conduct and honor codes often overlap in their regulations and purpose. Students can face multiple forms of punishment for violations of an honor code or student code of conduct.

Sexual Misconduct Explained

Universities across the country and in Minnesota are governed by Title IX when dealing with sexual misconduct claims. Title IX was first passed in 1972 as part of the Education Amendments. Title IX specifically forbids sex-based discrimination in any school or educational institution that receives any federal funding. Title IX covers both sexual misconduct, harassment, and discrimination. There is a process for investigations and hearings that can result in punishments for students as well as staff. Title IX investigations can take a while and can have life-changing outcomes. Title IX can be the basis for a misconduct claim as well as a lawsuit.

Universities have the authority to hold any person responsible for violations of a university code of conduct if it is proven that they committed the violation. If more than one alleged victim is said to be involved in a sexual misconduct case, then the school will attempt to meet with every alleged victim to discuss what is said to have happened, as well as the different resolution options available to them. The alleged victims are then given a chance to decide how they wish to proceed with the case. Schools will not pursue a misconduct case if the alleged victim does not agree to move forward.

A student who has violated a sexual misconduct policy of a school or Title IX can be sanctioned in several ways. A sanction can be as small as a warning or as serious as expulsion, depending on the circumstances. An individual's history of prior conduct can have a significant impact on the discipline imposed. If found responsible, a respondent will be suspended at a minimum in most instances, howIf you are facing an accusation of sexual misconduct, then it is not a surprise to learn of the life-altering consequences that can come with simply being accused of such conduct. Make sure you are properly represented.

General Misconduct Explained

If a student facing a misconduct proceeding is not facing an allegation of academic dishonesty or sexual misconduct, then he or she will face a general misconduct action. Allegations of general misconduct can include actions such as:

Alcohol is not permitted on the campus of a Minnesota College or University. Students who are caught with alcohol on campus can face a general misconduct charge as well as a criminal charge if the student is under 21 years of age. Various forms of threatening and assaultive behavior can also lead to misconduct charges, criminal charges, and even jail.

Universities want to ensure that all students are safe. If a student is harmed due to a hate crime or domestic violence, then expect the college or university will take action. It's important to know what type of misconduct you might be accused of and what penalties there might be if you are found responsible.

Anti-Hazing Policies

In the past, university organizations such as fraternities and sororities often made new prospective members perform various tasks to prove they were worthy of joining the organization. Unfortunately, these tests often involved drinking or doing things that were humiliating and/or dangerous. Some of these tests are harmless, but others proved harmful. Some individuals are pressured to drink too much alcohol or enter into a dangerous situation. In today's world, these tests are called “hazing,” and almost all schools have banned them.

Under Minnesota Statutes Section 135A.153, each member school of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities and the University of Minnesota is requested to develop and implement an anti-hazing policy that is enforced on campuses. If someone is disciplined pursuant to an anti-hazing policy, then this would be in addition to any other sanctions for the violation of any other school or state law.

How Social Media Can Be the Basis for Misconduct Charges

While social media is a good way to connect with people, it can also cause harm when used incorrectly or maliciously. A post on social media can be the start of both a school misconduct action and a criminal proceeding, depending on the facts and circumstances.

If someone is being bullied on social media through comments or has had their privacy invaded because of private photos being posted online, then the posts can become part of a school investigation. The posts can also be part of a criminal investigation. This is because these posts could be considered hazing, stalking, or harassment, depending on the facts and circumstances.

When threats are made online through social media, these threats have the ability to reach an enormous number of people very quickly. The ability of social media posts to be shared and reshared increases the risk of harm for those who have their intimate photos improperly shared online. Whoever makes a threat online or improperly posts intimate photos or other media of another person can face harsh consequences in school and with the court.

Social media is an important tool for law enforcement to determine the opinions of the public regarding various issues. It is also used by law enforcement to look for clues regarding impending violence. The risk of school shootings is a major concern for law enforcement, and posts on social media are monitored for anything that raises red flags. Any social media post that makes a threat against one person or a group of people or humiliates another through the use of intimate photos can result in the start of a student misconduct proceeding against the person accused of making the posts. It is critical to be careful what you post on social media, as there are significant consequences for certain types of harmful behavior.

Student Rights and Due Process

If a student is accused of misconduct, then he or she has several rights, including appropriate due process. The first step of any student misconduct case is to inform the student that he or she has been charged with a violation. A student can be informed of misconduct charges by email or through regular mail. If there are allegations of sexual misconduct in a Minnesota college or university, then the school will act quickly to ensure the safety of any alleged victims. A school can take several measures, including no-contact orders, suspension, or other means deemed necessary by the school.

Since academic misconduct cases are administrative in nature, they follow many processes borrowed from civil procedure. Misconduct cases use a burden of proof known as the preponderance of the evidence. A preponderance means that it was more likely than not that something occurred. This is a lower burden of proof than what exists for criminal cases, where proof must be beyond a reasonable doubt. If there are potential criminal charges against a student for their alleged misconduct, then a school may delay its violation proceedings against him or her.

Once a college or university in Minnesota completes a student misconduct case, the student will receive written notice within a specific period detailing the school's findings. The school is required to submit this notice to the student within the specified period or must have a good reason for not doing so. This notice will include a summary of the case, the violations alleged, as well as the final verdict and any punishments.

Minnesota colleges and universities are required to sufficiently prove that misconduct occurred before any punishment is handed down. If a school plans to expel a student for his or her conduct, then it is important to review the school's decision to determine if the appropriate procedures and laws were followed. If it appears that a decision was made improperly, then it can be grounds for an appeal.

University Laws Against Discrimination

It is against school policy as well as state and federal law to discriminate against students at a college or university in Minnesota based on the student's race, color, ancestry, or national origin. The laws against discrimination apply to students whether they are an incoming student, a current student, or a former student. These rules also apply to faculty members and administrators.

It is against school policy as well as state and federal law to discipline a student on the basis of their religion, political affiliations, sexual orientation, or gender. Schools and universities must allow religious practices to take place on campus, so long as the practices are not overly disruptive or harmful to other students or the school.

An attorney-advisor can represent a student whenever that student is facing a misconduct proceeding with a Minnesota college or university. Students may choose to represent themselves in a Minnesota college or university misconduct action. Students do not have the right to counsel at public expense because that right is only afforded during a criminal case.

What Are a Student's Appellate Rights?

When someone alleges misconduct against another, the person making the allegation is called the petitioner. The person who is being accused of misconduct is called the respondent. The decision of a hearing board panel can be appealed by both the petitioner and respondent in a student misconduct case. When an appeal is filed, it is important to understand that it will not allow a second chance for the person appealing to have their case reheard. Appeals are reviews of law and procedure to ensure that the appropriate laws were followed in the appropriate ways during the proceeding. A successful appeal will point out where the law was incorrectly followed, which can result in the case outcome being overturned.

If you want to appeal a decision made by a college or university, then the college or university has an appeal board that is designated for this. Each school handles appeals differently. There generally is a short period of time allowing you to inform the school about your intention to appeal and your reasons. The appeal board generally meets in closed sessions and makes its decisions by majority vote.

If a student loses his or her appeal with the college or university appeals board, then he or she may be able to appeal that decision to a student affairs' official or another designee for a final determination. This person will review whether there was something wrong with the proceeding or the appeal. Whatever decision the student affairs official makes is final, and it cannot be appealed.

What If There Are Criminal Allegations?

Sometimes the accusations made in a university setting can also be the basis for criminal charges. If the alleged activity violates a local, state, or federal law, then there is a good chance that the student will also face criminal charges. If this happens, then two separate and distinct legal processes will begin that each has its own rules and potential punishments.

As an example, if a student is accused of sexual assault, then he or she can face misconduct charges under school policy as well as criminal charges under state law. Minnesota has several laws on the books regarding sexual assault that carry wide-ranging penalties.

Under the Minnesota Statutes Section 609.342, a person who engages in sexual penetration with someone without their consent and causes fear of imminent harm through the use of a dangerous weapon or other means can be charged with criminal sexual conduct in the first degree. The penalty for criminal sexual conduct in the first degree in Minnesota is potentially up to 30 years in prison, along with a fine of up to $40,000.

When a student is accused of misconduct that is also a criminal offense, then there are multiple issues that he or she can face. Facing a misconduct charge can harm your academic future, and facing a criminal charge can result in the loss of your freedom. It is imperative that you have experienced legal help if you are facing an accusation of misconduct.

How An Attorney-Advisor Can Help

If you are being accused of misconduct at your Minnesota college or university, then an attorney-advisor can help you in several ways and can include:

  • Separation: An attorney-advisor can put some much-needed space between you and your college or university that is investigating your case. Any statements that you make to a school investigator or other official can be used against you in several ways. Your statements can be discussed in misconduct hearings, civil hearings, and criminal cases. Make sure you speak to an attorney-advisor before you make any statements regarding an investigation.
  • Investigation: An attorney-advisor can lead an investigation to help formulate your defense and locate evidence that the college or university may have missed. Different types of investigations can take place, including scene visits, witness interviews, and forensic analysis. The results of these investigations can be invaluable to your defense.
  • Negotiation: If it is determined that negotiating a resolution to your case is the best option, then an attorney-advisor can help you negotiate an agreement in your case. There are several advantages to negotiating an agreement as it would resolve the case, the claims, and have a predetermined punishment. Cases that are resolved through negotiation also are completed more quickly than cases that go to a misconduct hearing.
  • Representation: An attorney-advisor can be your representation through a misconduct hearing and even appeal. If you are facing a hearing, then having an attorney-advisor represent you can help ensure that you follow the appropriate hearing rules and can help ensure that the college or university is following the appropriate hearing rules through the use of objections and legal arguments.

These are just some of the main reasons why having an attorney-advisor in these situations can be helpful. Make sure you enlist experienced legal help if you are facing allegations involving your Minnesota school. If you have legal questions, then call us at the Lento Law Firm!

Why Hiring the Lento Law Firm is the Right Choice

If you have legal questions related to a misconduct allegation at a college or university in Minnesota, then it is important to seek the advice of an experienced attorney-advisor. Attorney-advisor Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm have helped countless students in Minnesota across the country with various legal issues. Call the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 to learn why hiring Attorney Lento and his team are the right choice to help you with your case.

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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 the Lento Law Firm today, and let us help secure your academic career.

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