New York State is home to over 200 different major institutions of higher learning. There are an estimated 880,000 students attending these schools on a full-time basis. College and university administrators are responsible for creating some form of written code that defines behavioral expectations and prohibited conduct. The majority of schools implement codes of conduct that pertain to academics, campus residency, compliance with federal Title IX provisions, and more.
The rules and provisions are generally geared to promote an overall commitment to academic integrity, equality, and inclusiveness. Students who are alleged to have demonstrated acts of misconduct are subject to the policies and procedures regarding disciplinary action. In most of these cases, designated members of the administration are responsible for investigating. The accused is typically provided an opportunity to answer the allegations in some type of hearing.
The Lento Law Firm is preeminent in the realm of legal practice that involves student disciplinary defense. This specialty area is distinct from civil and criminal legal actions. College students and their families are making sacrifices and committing significant resources such as time and money toward their educational pursuits. Those who are facing violations such as those of academic or sexual misconduct may see their goals adversely impacted if sanctions and penalties are imposed.
Common Allegations of General Misconduct
Most schools address the many aspects that relate to codes of conduct initially with students as part of the admittance process. In addition, access to the most recent version of the rules and procedures are generally available on the school's website. Some of the most common allegations of misconduct are as follows:
- Violations of the institution's drug and/or alcohol rules and restrictions. These forms of misconduct are most common among those who reside in campus housing or other University-owned residential settings. Examples include underage drinking, possession of alcohol in areas where it is prohibited, and using false identification.
- Forms of hazing are common among student clubs, groups, and organizations. Hazing involves subjecting a student to some form of treatment that is degrading, humiliating, or otherwise uncomfortable.
- Using fireworks or other explosive devices or materials
- Creating a nuisance that disturbs others on the campus such as through excessive noise or music.
Understanding Academic Misconduct
The leadership at colleges and universities generally emphasizes maintaining academic integrity. Violations of academic misconduct such as cheating are viewed as a failure to maintain ethical standards. Some of the most common examples are as follows:
- Plagiarism: Using someone else's words or ideas improperly. A student may present the work of others as if it was their own and/or fail to reference or give credit to the source.
- Collaborative cheating: Engaging with other students in acts such as providing or receiving assistance during an exam or sharing a copy of an upcoming quiz or exam.
- Having someone else take an examination in your place.
- Submitting a paper, report, or assignment that was prepared by others as if it was your own work.
- Improperly accessing and altering student grades or records.
Title IX Violations at New York Colleges and Universities
In 1972, the U.S. Department of Education implemented legislation that required all academic institutions to adopt and maintain compliance with Title IX provisions. This federally-based initiative is a requirement for all schools that receive federal funding for education. The rules prohibit any forms of sexually-based discrimination.
Title IX Compliance
Colleges and universities have a Title IX Coordinator who is responsible for ongoing training and educational activities. Violations of these rules include acts of sexual assault, gender bias, and sexual harassment. The rules are applicable to students, faculty, and staff. Violators of these rules are likely to face harsh sanctions including suspension or dismissal from the institution.
Student Disciplinary Process
Schools are given some latitude to design their disciplinary processes; however, there are some similarities among most. Complaints or allegations received by staff are supposed to be followed up on in a reasonably timely manner.
Investigation of Complaint
The first phase of the disciplinary process is investigative. A designated administrator(s) will interview the parties involved and gather any evidence. The alleged victim(s), reporting party, and any witnesses will generally have their privacy protected. Any types of retaliation or intimidation of these parties are strictly prohibited. If the administration deems that evidence suggests that the violation(s) occurred, they will initiate further disciplinary proceedings and notify the accused.
Right to an Advisor
Throughout the disciplinary process, all parties are entitled to be accompanied by one advisor. This individual may join the parties at any meetings or hearings. Students facing serious allegations are strongly recommended to seek legal counsel that will function in this capacity.
Schools develop their own procedures for how disciplinary hearings are conducted. Generally, the parties and any witnesses may be subject to questioning. Those hearing the matter will review and consider all evidence. The evidentiary standard used is typically by the preponderance of the evidence.
The school's written guidelines will contain the potential sanctions that may be imposed such as:
- An order to make restitution or imposing fines or other monetary penalties
- The student may be placed on a period of probation
- Students may be required to undergo counseling or complete hours of community service
- They may lose eligibility to reside in campus housing
- A temporary suspension from the university may be imposed
Those found to have committed a violation will be afforded an opportunity to appeal. there are usually only a couple of grounds that may justify an appeal. The accused may assert that there was a failure to adhere to written procedures. An appeal may be justified if new evidence has emerged. The severity of the sanctions imposed may be the focus of an appeal as well.
Importance of Having an Attorney
There are several potential benefits of having legal representation when facing disciplinary actions. Your attorney may recognize potential flaws or inconsistencies within the evidence or witness testimony. The attorney will likely ensure you are well prepared for your hearing. This preparation may involve creating highly effective statements and being prepared to respond to questions you are likely to encounter. Your attorney may engage the administration in negotiations regarding a mutually acceptable resolution as well.
Attorney in New York Represents Students Facing Allegations of Misconduct
Joseph D. Lento aggressively defends students accused of violations of the code of conduct including academic or sexual misconduct. It is important to consult with an attorney in a timely manner, as these matters often proceed quickly. We encourage you to contact the office today at (888) 535-3686.
Are you a student or the parent of a student at a New York college or university facing a school-related issue? Attorney Joseph D. Lento can help. Click on the following links as applicable for more information:
- Title IX Defense
- Academic Misconduct
- Disciplinary Charges
- Student Rights
- Academic Issues
- Medical School Issues
Joseph D. Lento has helped many students and others in academia in New York protect their academic and professional future. Contact him today at 888-535-3686.