Receiving college or university notice of misconduct charges can be an alarming event. Those accused of misconduct need clear information about the fair process the institution must follow, the evidentiary standard the institution must meet, the records the institution must disclose, and how to best navigate discipline proceedings with the help of others. See the resources below addressing these and other issues that commonly arise, no matter the nature of the charged misconduct.
Federal law requires that colleges and universities give reasonable notice and provide a fair hearing with an impartial decisionmaker before adversely affecting your property and liberty interests in your education. Recent U.S. Department of Education policy statements have reinforced those due-process rights. Universities may offer an ombudsperson or other office or official (example here) for guidance on contesting misconduct allegations through the institution's complex discipline procedures. Link here to further discussion and resources on your due-process rights.
Right to Representation
Another aspect of due process is the accused's right to the representation and assistance of counsel. Charging institutions need not hire a lawyer to assist the accused. Depending on the seriousness of the charge and nature of the proceeding, institutions may limit counsel's direct role in hearings. The institutions may offer their own officials for guidance on contesting misconduct allegations (example here). But institutions must not interfere with the accused's right to retain expert counsel to assist with a defense. The accused has the right to have counsel attend some official proceedings. Link here to further discussion and resources on your right to representation.
Colleges and universities offering student housing may regulate activities in that housing, such as barring tobacco use, restricting who and how many may stay in that housing, and prohibiting or restricting alcohol, among several other restrictions. For example, Penn State University's housing regulations incorporate the student conduct code and even hold student residents responsible for the conduct of guests. Students who violate those regulations may face not only eviction but also discipline affecting their ability to continue their studies. Yet student residents facing discipline have due-process rights. The charging institution may not evict and discipline without providing reasonable notice and a fair hearing. Link here to further discussion and resources on resident rights.
Students facing disciplinary proceedings need access to the institution's information to evaluate the charges and formulate a defense. Due-process rights require that disciplinary proceedings be fair. A proceeding is hardly fair when the institution holds all the cards, keeping information secret. A student's access to records after a proceeding may be just as important for gaining admission to other institutions and programs, and transferring course credits. Fortunately, students have rights to their educational records. Yet students also have interests that others not access their private educational records. Federal law guarantees the privacy of educational records. Link here for further discussion and resources on these records rights.
National Student Rights Law Firm
Your greatest resource in disciplinary proceedings is expert legal counsel. Joseph D. Lento at the Lento Law Firm has successfully represented hundreds of students in disciplinary matters nationwide. The Lento Law Firm offers the expertise to assist you at every stage of the proceeding, for the best possible outcome. Call 888-535-3686 to schedule a consultation and for a case evaluation, or reach the Firm online.