Can your college or university hold you responsible for engaging in misconduct even if it took place off university property? A recent incident at the University of Delaware (UD) reminds us that they can.
Twenty-year old UD sophomore Brandon Freyre was arrested on the morning of October 8 after attacking a fellow student at an off-campus apartment. UD has characterized the assault as “domestic violence” under their Non-Discrimination, Sexual Misconduct & Title IX Policy, which covers behavior on and off university property.
The University's Response
By October 12, national media outlets had picked up on Freyre's arrest, and UD officials denounced the incident on Twitter, calling for the UD community to “come together and advance our goals of a campus climate free of all violence, including gender-based violence and violence against women.”
The University has since suspended Freyre and banned him from campus, and his fraternity permanently revoked his membership.
UD students hit the streets of Newark in protest the day after the announcement, angered that the school had waited four days to make a statement. Protesters demanded to know why the victim's cries for help were ignored and called for Freyre to be expelled.
The Disciplinary Process
UD is handling this incident according to its Code of Conduct procedures, which include an investigation and report, a hearing, and sanctions and remedies up to and including expulsion and ban from the University.
At the hearing, each party is entitled to one advisor. The advisor can ask questions of the other party and of witnesses, but they are not allowed to advocate for, or otherwise speak on behalf of, the advisee during the hearing.
The standard of proof in these cases is not that high – a “preponderance of the evidence.” That means the school can hold you responsible for the misconduct if it finds that it is “more likely than not” you violated the policy.
The UD Code of Conduct and disciplinary processes for violations are not unique. For example, the University of California San Diego Student Code of Conduct contains a similar reporting and investigation process. If the student leaves UC San Diego without graduating, the Office of Student Conduct will retain their disciplinary record for a minimum of seven years from the end of the academic year in which the incident is resolved—thus affecting the student long after they leave the school.
If your school has accused you of misconduct, consequences are not only immediate; they can hurt you for years to come. In the short term, you could be temporarily suspended from school, or you could lose your on-campus job while the investigation is in progress. If your school finds you responsible for sexual misconduct, you may be suspended or expelled, causing you to lose years of academic progress and tuition dollars.
Far-reaching consequences can include the loss of internship or employment opportunities, ineligibility for transferring to another school or serving as an officer in the military, and much more.
This is Too Important to Handle on Your Own
If you are a student and you get in ANY trouble “downtown,” and your school gets wind of it, you don't want the local criminal defender to represent you with the school—you want attorney Joseph D . Lento. Call the experienced student defense attorneys at the Lento Law Firm today at 888.535.3686.