Failure to progress. Academic misconduct. Sexual misconduct, hazing, residential issues, and more: When you or your student headed to an Oklahoma college or university, none of these items were likely on the to-do list.
Rather, when you became an Oklahoma college student, you were likely excited about the next four full-of-potential years of your life. As you should have been: College is an enormously important, influential, and even fun experience for many young adults. If you're investing in college, you're likely hoping to make lifelong friends, learn a lot about the subjects of your choice, and finally graduate with a degree that should set you up for a successful career.
When this doesn't happen, it can be heartbreaking. Unfortunately, failure to graduate with your sought-after degree can happen more frequently than many people like to think. There are a lot of things that can go wrong during a typical student's academic career, including:
- Academic misconduct or academic integrity issues
- Sexual misconduct, or miscommunication or misunderstandings that lead to allegations of sexual misconduct
- The failure to measure up to your educator's ideals, with resultant academic probation, suspension, and worse
- Code of conduct allegations following actions that you didn't know your university would punish you for
While it's tempting to write these offenses and the associated disciplinary events off as just part of the college experience, having your name (and reputation, and transcript) associated with a sanction such as a suspension is a really big deal. In order to have the success you seek both during and after college, you need to work hard now to make sure that your current or past misdeeds don't come back to bite you later.
At the Lento Law Firm, we're committed to making sure that you can enjoy the degree you've worked hard to achieve. That starts with getting you the information you need, so you can make strategic choices should it appear that you're going to be involved in a misconduct adjudicative process. Oklahoma college students should bookmark this page as a handy resource for the future!
We'll start by listing out some of the schools in Oklahoma and then pivot to discussing some of the different codes of conduct and behavioral standards in place at those schools.
What Are the Most Popular Schools in Oklahoma?
Oklahoma is home to many top-tier academic institutions—including the one that you or your student already attends! Here are just some of the colleges and universities that call Oklahoma home.
Public schools in Oklahoma
- University of Oklahoma
- Oklahoma State University
- University of Central Oklahoma
- East Central University
- University of Science and Arts in Oklahoma
- Southwestern Oklahoma State University
- Rogers State University
- Cameron University
While many of these universities will have unique regulations and policies, there are definitely universal processes and infractions that all schools will have in common. Since this is the case, we'll reference the University of Oklahoma code of conduct throughout this page. It's definitely a good idea to reference your school's processes, just in case there's something specific, but the University of Oklahoma should provide an illustrative example.
Private schools in Oklahoma
- The University of Tulsa
- Oral Roberts University
- Oklahoma City University
- Oklahoma Baptist University
- Oklahoma Wesleyan University
- Southern Nazarene University
- Randall University
- Bacone College
Before we move on, let's take a minute to talk about the governance of both private and public colleges in Oklahoma. While it may be a pretty widely held belief that private schools simply don't have to operate under the same regulations as public schools, that usually isn't the case. Most of the time, private colleges and universities will follow the same laws—at the very least, to leave themselves eligible for federal funding (assuming they don't take any in the first place).
Since this is the case, we'll take a moment to review some of the governing bodies and laws that oversee the way schools in Oklahoma can operate.
Statewide Higher Education Laws and Government Bodies in Oklahoma
- The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education have lots of administrative and legislative rules that govern the way schools in the state can do a large number of things — from distributing financial aid to recommending research projects and investing in real estate.
- The Oklahoma State Department of Education reviews data from schools in the state, manages accreditation, and connects students in Oklahoma to the resources they need. This department is currently emphasizing an initiative to increase data security to protect the privacy of students and schools alike.
- Title 70, Chapter 50, Article 2 of Oklahoma's state statutes concerns the state educational higher education system (with sections describing the way the school needs to number its courses and charge nonresident tuition). While this may be more specific to Oklahoma's public school system, it does set the standard for the state in many ways.
Finally, Oklahoma is part of the Tenth Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals. Pay attention to the types of cases that go before the court: Occasionally, one will involve student rights or the way a school can operate. When this is the case, the opinion the court issues can have an influence over your school's regulations, too.
If My Teacher Says I'm “Failing to Progress,” What Does That Mean?
“Failure to progress” is a disheartening phrase that most students hope they never have to hear. It's also relatively vague. Worse, many schools don't necessarily provide concrete definitions or provide any clarity surrounding what, precisely, it means for a college student to fail to progress.
Often, schools leave these kinds of decisions up to the teachers. This can result in extremely stressful notifications that can, seemingly, come out of the blue.
While the specific events that can qualify as “failure to progress” can vary from school to school, here are some common examples:
- The repeated failure to complete background activities (such as required reading) for your courses
- The failure to complete course requirements, as determined by your educators or stated in your course curriculum
- The failure to take on a minimum acceptable number of credits for your student status
- The repeated failure to prepare materials for coursework or for lab experiences
- Repeated incompletes, withdrawals, or attempted withdrawals for your courses
- Repeated or allegedly unimproved grades on a series of course exams
Unfortunately, when your educator or your school expresses that they are concerned about your academic performance, you may be at risk for more than just a low grade on an assignment. If your educator formally escalates their concern to the administration, places you on academic probation, or recommends disciplinary action, you could find yourself facing a suspension (or even a dismissal) — which won't exactly make advancing toward your academic goals easier.
Long-term, having these types of disciplinary events on your record will make your future more difficult than it needs to be. (We'll discuss this in more detail in the ‘Sanctions' section below.) Right now, you might find that being the subject of your school's adjudicative process might disqualify you from being a member of a sports team or social club. You might no longer be eligible for scholarships or financial aid.
Unfortunately, these kinds of situations can be stressful. If you're handling them alone, you might feel like you don't have any good options to pursue. And they can spiral out of control quicker than you might think; one day, you just have a meeting scheduled with your teacher — and the next, you're facing dismissal from your school.
When this occurs, it's vital to make sure that you speak with a student defense attorney the moment you think that you could be in trouble. Most of the time, taking strategic steps with an experienced advisor at your side can help you turn your dire situation into a successful outcome.
What Are the Different Types of Code of Conduct Infractions at My Oklahoma School?
Failing to progress isn't the only way to attract attention from your school.
If you take a look at your school's documents, you'll find one in particular — your school's code of conduct — that is especially pertinent to your experience as a student. Your school's code of conduct defines the behavioral expectations your school has of you. It will also contain information about what your school will do if it thinks you've set a toe out of line.
This document will not be easy to read. It will be lengthy, confusing, and full of sections that read like legalese. If you need help understanding your code of conduct, reach out to a student defense attorney. With their niche expertise, your attorney will be able to help you navigate your school's most complicated documents in a deft and decisive manner.
There may be specifically prohibited behaviors at your school that are totally unique, but, for the most part, every school will consider the following three categories of infractions worth further action.
In general, any sexual action that occurs without the specific, freely given consent of all persons involved could constitute sexual misconduct.
You might be surprised at the wide range of behaviors or events that might fall under that definition. For example, telling an inappropriate joke could result in an allegation of misconduct if it made someone standing nearby feel uncomfortable.
Most schools will designate the following behaviors as ones that will result in school attention and subsequent sanctions:
- Sexual exploitation
- Domestic violence
- Dating violence
As noted, this is far from a complete list. If someone feels the need to report your behavior, your school will need to respond.
Under Title IX, a federal regulation that's been in place since the Educational Amendments of 1972, all United States schools that receive federal funding must respond quickly to allegations of sexual misconduct or risk losing their funding. Since your school has an incentive to move quickly after they hear that you might be involved in sexual misconduct, your school's investigators and representatives may be less than empathetic as a result. Your school may even be sloppy about your investigation or steamroll over your rights under either school regulations or federal law.
To further complicate the situation, Title IX tends to receive updated interpretations every few years (roughly with every new presidential administration). It can be complex for schools to keep up with these changes. Your school may operate with a dual policy: One sexual misconduct policy and one Title IX policy to ensure that your school is always up to federal standards. Your experience as an accused student can be wildly different, depending on the current federal recommendations and the policy your school chooses to investigate your case under.
We have more bad news: Sexual misconduct on your student record can be a death knell for future job opportunities. Even if you're entirely innocent, or if the allegation was the result of a miscommunication or a misunderstanding, that note on your transcript or record will still result in a lot of damage.
The moment you think that you might be involved in a sexual misconduct investigation, you need to contact a student defense advisor. At the Lento Law Firm, we're here to provide a strong defense for you, so your reputation doesn't take that kind of hit.
You might be wondering: What's the difference between ‘failing to progress' and academic integrity issues?
It comes down to this:
Academic misconduct involves breaking a rule in the classroom (or in the academic sphere). Code of conduct infractions that involve academic dishonesty may be listed in a teacher's curriculum in addition to your school's code of conduct.
Typical examples of academic dishonesty punishable under your school's code of conduct might include:
- Unauthorized access of materials
- Destruction of school property
- Unauthorized collaboration
However, much like sexual misconduct, any suspicious behavior that results in an allegation could lead to sanctions. In addition, your school will likely punish you for academic misconduct in the event that you help someone else cheat or plagiarize—even if you're not aware that it's happening. For example, if someone else steals your homework and copies it without your knowledge, both of you could still be at risk for sanctions.
Sometimes, with academic dishonesty, your school's first response will simply be at the educator level. Your teacher may award you a failing grade on an exam that they believe you cheated on, for example. It may be up to you, then, to challenge their actions. Alternatively, they may escalate your case to the administration immediately.
We'll discuss general appeal procedures in a later section. For now, realize that you don't have to take a failing grade, and you can take steps to work towards a more favorable outcome.
Are there other types of misconduct at my Oklahoma school?
Academic and sexual misconduct are far from the only types of infractions your school will punish. Outside of these two identified categories, there are many more general behaviors that your school may decide to investigate. These include:
- Inappropriate alcohol or drug use. If you are under the age of 21, it is illegal for you to purchase, possess, or consume alcohol. Breaking this rule could result in sanctions. Your university will likely take a similarly harsh stance against recreational drugs of any kind.
- Residential misconduct. College constitutes, for many, the first time they're living away from home. This could result in a volatile environment in the dormitories. To keep everyone safe, most universities will have relatively strict rules in the dormitories. For example, your school may recommend harsh punishments for any students associated with theft or violence in the residence halls.
- Hate crimes. The definition of a hate crime can be a little tough to pinpoint. Generally, if your prank, insult, fight, or destructive behavior can be associated with the victim's race, religion, gender, orientation, or other aspect of their identity, there's a chance it could be labeled as a hate crime.
- Hazing. If your fraternity, sorority, sports team, or social club has initiation rituals that can get out of hand, your school may recommend sanctions for those involved.
Regardless of the specific type of misconduct, your school's due process will begin when your school receives an allegation describing your misconduct and decides that it wants to learn more about what happened.
What Type of Due Process Should I Expect at My Oklahoma School?
Upon receipt of an allegation detailing your potentially punishable behavior, your school will take some time to determine whether the next steps are needed. As mentioned above, your school must investigate allegations of sexual misconduct.
If your school decides that the allegation merits an investigation, you'll receive a notification regarding the specific allegations against you. This notification should also include the next steps. When you receive this notification, that's a good sign that you should consider:
- Pulling together as much information as you can about what happened so that you and your advisor can start to create a strategic defense efficiently
- Staying relatively quiet; unfortunately, anything that you say could be held against you, so now isn't the time to confide in friends or trusted mentors
- Reaching out to and hiring a student defense advisor. This is far from an overreaction. These cases can often be won or lost during the investigative stage, so it's key to make sure you have an expert on your side as early as possible in your school's processes.
After this initial notification, you should experience some version of the following sequence of events:
- Your school's investigation. Your school may review your student record, speak with your educators and friends, and even review your social media. It may feel very intrusive. Your advisor will help you handle this as effectively as is possible.
- A meeting with your school. Whether this is a relatively informal one-on-one meeting with your educator or an intimidatingly formal hearing in front of a panel of school representatives, this meeting is your chance to tell your side of the story. Likely, this will also be when your school lays out its evidence against you. Your school may or may not allow you to bring an advisor to this meeting. If advisors are not invited, your advisor will coach you to ensure that you're comfortable saying everything you need to say.
- A decision from your school. At the end of the meeting, your school's representative will decide whether you are (in the eyes of the school) responsible for the described event. Your school will make a recommendation for sanctions in line with this decision.
There's a good chance that you're wondering what sanctions are on the table. We'll review this information in the next section.
Sanctions, Your Oklahoma School, and You
On paper, there's likely a wide range of sanctions that your school could recommend. If you check your school's code of conduct, you can find a list of potential sanctions that looks something like this:
- Loss of privileges
- Loss of scholarships
- Monetary fines
- Housing changes
- Written warnings
- Mandated course changes
- Behavioral contracts
This long, scary-sounding list of punishments may be technically correct, but in practice, your school will likely resort to one or two sanctions that are easier to track and manage. In the vast majority of situations, your school will recommend a suspension — or an expulsion, for particularly severe cases.
Whether or not that sounds like a relief, it's key to realize that even a short suspension is still a very big deal. Here's the thing: If you are out of school, that will be evident in your student record or official transcript. Even if your school doesn't make an official note regarding your disciplinary experience on your record, the gap on your transcript will make it clear that something funny happened. Later in life, an interviewer will ask you to justify that gap.
That will not be a fun conversation. Very likely, it will end with your missing out on an opportunity (whether it be for future education or employment) that you would otherwise have won.
To make sure this doesn't happen, proactive action is vital. At the Lento Law Firm, we're here to make sure that nothing stands between you and enjoying the benefits of the degree you're working hard to achieve! Your next step towards a more successful outcome could involve filing a persuasive appeal with your school.
How Do I File an Appeal at My Oklahoma School?
After your school makes a decision regarding your responsibility, you'll have a short window of time (typically around five business days) to gather materials for an appeal.
You also only get one shot at an appeal. Whether your school decides that it's ready to negotiate or simply holds firm on its original decision, after your one appeal is filed, that's it.
Since you don't have much time to work in, and your one appeal needs to be as effective as possible, it's a good idea to make sure you're working with a good student defense attorney before this point, if at all possible.
Then, you need to make sure you have a strong basis for your appeal. This will depend on your circumstances, but some examples of good appeals might include:
- Having more evidence that was not initially available during the investigation
- Being able to show that your school did not follow its own rules during the adjudicative process
- Being able to clearly demonstrate that the recommended sanction is not appropriate for the alleged action
Your advisor will help you come up with the best argument for your appeal and write it persuasively and confidently. Once you send the required materials to your school's representative, you'll wait for a response. Your advisor can help you manage negotiations if your school has indicated it would be interested in doing so; if not, your advisor can also help you determine the next steps.
What if It's Time to Sue My School in Oklahoma? What Do I Do Then?
If nothing else seems to be working — if your school has rejected your appeal, and it looks like you're just going to have to carry out your sanction — you might be tempted to consider litigation against your school.
This can feel like a huge decision. (It is.) Filing a lawsuit against your academic institution is a big step; certainly not one to be taken lightly. Lawsuits can also be incredibly frustrating and expensive.
At the Lento Law Firm, we find that we can often save you the expense and stress by first meeting directly with your school's general counsel. Often, a lawyer-to-lawyer conversation between a student defense attorney and a school lawyer can make coming to a workable compromise a lot easier. We've seen great results when we employ this strategy, and it's one we strongly recommend.
In addition, before you move forward with your suit, it's a good idea to file an external complaint. This can help show your school that you're serious about achieving a successful outcome. It can also help serve as a basis for a lawsuit, should things eventually go that way. For Oklahoma college students, a good resource is the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education. You can file a complaint against any Oklahoma school through their website.
If it does seem that you need to pursue further legal action against your school, your student defense attorney will be able to help you determine the best basis for doing so.
Other Oklahoma Laws Every College Student Should Know About
Most of the time, your behavior will fall under the governance of your school's regulations. When you're off-campus, though, you'll have to follow the local laws. Here are just a few that you might want to keep in mind, from state drug laws to the local statute of limitations:
- Oklahoma Laws about Drinking and Driving: If you have a BAC of 0.08 or higher, it's illegal to drive in the state of Oklahoma.
- Oklahoma Tenant Responsibilities: If you live off-campus, you'll need to follow your tenant agreement (e.g., paying rent on time and following noise disturbance recommendations).
- Oklahoma False Identification Laws: In Oklahoma, you can't use a fake ID to purchase alcohol underage or show a fake ID to a police officer.
Statute of Limitations Laws in Oklahoma
- Injury to Person: Two years
- Libel: One year
- Slander: One year
- Fraud: Two years
- Injury to Personal Property: Two years
- Trespassing: Two years
- Collection of Rent: Five years
- Contracts: Five years
- Judgments: Three years
Does all of this seem like a lot of information? Luckily, you don't have to take it all in on your own. We're here to provide any assistance you might need.
Are You an Oklahoma College Student? If So, It's Time To Call Joseph D. Lento
Joseph D. Lento is a strategic, dedicated, and experienced national student defense advisor. For years, he has assisted students who face perplexing, confusing, and stressful student misconduct cases. He has supported young adults facing failure-to-progress scenarios that seem hopeless. No matter what these people have faced, he's helped them work towards more successful outcomes.
Now, Joseph D. Lento is ready to help you. Whether you need help navigating your school's complex adjudicative processes, need to make sure you're handling an investigation as strategically as possible, or think that you need a lawyer to talk to your school's general counsel for you, Joseph D. Lento is on the case. He'll help you put together an aggressive defense, assist with negotiations, and provide coaching, so you feel comfortable walking into tense hearings.
Don't stress about how you're going to handle a tough misconduct or failure to progress case. Instead, bring in an empathetic expert. Call Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 to schedule a consultation. Alternatively, you can fill out our online contact form, and a member of our team will get back to you with a timely response.
Are you a student or the parent of a student at an Oklahoma 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 Student Issues
Joseph D. Lento has helped many students and others in academia in Oklahoma protect their academic and professional future. Contact him today at 888-535-3686.