Pennsylvania State University, or as it is more commonly known, "Penn State," is Pennsylvania's flagship public university. The University has a number of campuses across the state. The student body is governed by the University's Code of Conduct. The Code of Conduct is in place to prevent any activities or behaviors that may potentially harm other students or any University property or procedures. Students who are charged with violating the Code of Conduct will be subject to the University's Hearing Process. If a student is responsible for a violation, they will receive University-imposed sanctions as punishment.
Anyone can report students for violations. A Case Manager will review the report and meet with the student, who will be known in proceedings as the "respondent."
Penn State's Hearings Process
Hearings will come in two forms: Administrative Hearing or University Conduct Board Hearing.
Administrative Hearings are typically informal. They are conducted by an Administrative Hearing Officer. A Penn State Administrative Hearing is most often used in cases that do not result in suspension or expulsion.
A University Conduct Board Hearing will be used in cases that have the potential for a sanction of suspension or expulsion. The Board itself of a Penn State University Conduct Board Hearing will be headed by a chair that acts similar to a judge.
Prior to any hearings, the respondent will be able to submit a statement of facts to be added to the discussion. At the hearings, the respondent will be allowed to question any witnesses that come up. Any physical and written evidence will be considered if it is determined to be relevant by the Administrative Hearing Officer or the Board Chair. Following the presentation of information and evidence, the Board or Officer will come to a decision based on the standard of a "preponderance of evidence." Respondents will receive the results in writing.
At all stages of hearings except for deliberation, students are welcome to the presence of an attorney. With an attorney by their side, students will feel confident and secure in their case. In addition, an experienced attorney will be able to help students select the most relevant and powerful evidence to help their case.
Penn State Sanctions
Penn State will impose disciplinary sanctions if an accused student is found responsible for violating the University's Code of Conduct. Penn State distinguishes between "Primary Administrative Sanctions" and "Secondary Administrative Sanctions." Both a Primary Administrative Sanction and a Secondary Administrative Sanction can be imposed for a violation, and the full range of sanctions is available depending on the nature and severity of the violation. Primary Administrative Sanctions include:
- Conduct Conversation
- Conduct Warning
- Conduct Probation
- Conduct Suspension
- Indefinite Expulsion
- XF Grade (for violations of academic integrity)
Secondary Administrative Sanctions include:
- Housing Review
- Room Reassignment
- Loss of Housing
- Loss of Privilege
"Active Sanctions" can also be imposed in addition to any Primary and/or Secondary Administrative Sanctions. Active Sanctions include: administrative directives, alcohol or drug education, counseling, reflection papers, projects, decision-making workshops/modules, meetings with staff or others, restitution, and sanctioned service. Penn State can also impose other sanctions as it deems necessary in response to the specific circumstances of the student disciplinary case. The University's Office of Student Conduct can also assign an Interim Suspension when it believes a student's continued participation within the University community poses an immediate threat to the student or others or may pose an imminent threat of disruption to normal campus operations.
Regretfully, some Penn State students, despite their and their parents' best intentions, proceed with the University disciplinary process without a full understanding of the possible consequences, both immediate and long-term. Those unfamiliar with the realities of the disciplinary process often do not realize until it may be too late that Penn State imposes suspensions and expulsions as a sanction more often than would be expected; even in disciplinary matters that may seem to be less serious. The stakes are very high, and some consequences are unforeseen; even sanctions lesser than suspension or expulsion can greatly jeopardize a student's academic and professional goals.
(Penn State sanctions for Title IX sexual misconduct violations, which include sexual harassment and sexual assault, stalking, and intimate partner violence, will always be severe, and Title IX sexual misconduct violations can have lifetime consequences. Penn State will also promptly impose interim measures as deemed necessary to protect the complainant before the final outcome of a Title IX investigation and disciplinary proceeding involving Dating, Relationship or Sexual Misconduct or Violence.)
An Experienced Attorney's Role When Representing a Penn State University Student
Penn State University and a student's attorney may be able to work together to achieve an agreeable resolution before Code of Conduct disciplinary charges and/or academic integrity charges are filed in certain instances. If charges have already been filed against a student, the accused student's attorney, also in certain instances, will be able to serve as an advocate between Penn State University, the accused student, and other involved parties, in an effort to achieve a constructive resolution. Whether before or after Code of Conduct disciplinary charges and/or academic integrity charges are filed, in working towards the prospect of an agreeable resolution, the extent of an attorney's involvement will be at the discretion of Penn State University. Every student's case is unique; an experienced attorney will understand what the University may be receptive to, and will approach the matter accordingly.
An attorney's involvement at Penn State University in matters involving Code of Conduct disciplinary charges and/or academic integrity charges should not be confused with Penn State University disciplinary cases involving Title IX sexual misconduct allegations. In Title IX student disciplinary proceedings, an experienced attorney must work both as the point of contact between the accused student and Penn State University as well as behind the scenes to defend against sexual misconduct / sexual assault allegations.
An experienced student discipline defense attorney will understand and use the most effective strategies when handling a student's case at Penn State University.
There are two types of appeals processes at Penn State: a Sanction Review and an Appeal.
A Penn State Sanction Review can be requested if a student has admitted responsibility for violations in a Disciplinary Conference or through a response to a statement of charges. A Sanction Review disputes sanctions of Probation or higher. The grounds are generally unfair sanctioning for the violations admitted. The request for Sanction Review must be made within 5 business days.
In the event of an unfavorable hearing outcome, an appeal must be made within 5 business days. Penn State appeals may only be made for cases of suspension or expulsion. Appeals must be on one or more of the following grounds: a respondent was deprived of their procedural rights, there is new evidence to be considered, or the sanctions imposed were not justified for the violation.
If you or your student is currently facing disciplinary action from Penn State, contact attorney Joseph D. Lento today.