State University System – Florida

If you are a Florida college student, then it is important to understand the additional laws and regulations that govern your school and the statewide college system. Schools that are part of the State University System of Florida or Florida College System must follow state guidelines that cover everything from student activities to school operation. The University System of Florida and Florida College System governs most postsecondary schools in the state of Florida. If you violate either the school system's rules or other applicable laws, then you can face student misconduct and even criminal charges. If you are facing a school misconduct accusation, then it is important that you speak to an experienced attorney-advisor as soon as possible.

What Is the State University System of Florida?

The State University System of Florida is a unified structure that governs and manages Florida universities. The State University System of Florida is operated by the Board of Governors, which was formed in 2003, replacing the Board of Regents. The Board of Regents was disbanded by the Florida legislature, and its authority was split between the universities until a state constitutional amendment was passed, creating the Board of Governors, and granting it the sole power the manage Florida universities.

The State University System of Florida includes 12 universities across the state. Universities within the system offer Bachelor's, Master's, Doctorate, Research Doctorate, and Specialist degrees. The Florida College System includes 28 community colleges and state colleges across the state. There are 197 approved programs that offer baccalaureate degrees within the system. Two types of Bachelor's degrees are offered by Florida College System schools, Bachelor of Science (BA) and Bachelor of Applied Science (BAS).

The 12 member schools that are part of the State University System of Florida are:

There are over 400,000 students enrolled in school within the State University System of Florida among the schools listed above. The Board of Governors of the State University System of Florida makes many rules and regulations for its member universities. If a member university does not follow the Board's policies, then that university can be sanctioned in several ways. The Board of Governors both empowers universities and monitors them.

The Board of Governors is comprised of 17 members. Fourteen of these members are appointed by the Florida Governor and confirmed by the Florida Senate. The remaining three members of the Board are the Commissioner of Education, Chair of the Advisory Council of Faculty Senates, and the President of the Florida Student Association.

The Board is given its authority through the Florida Constitution, Article IX, Section 7(d). Board members serve seven-year terms and hold office until their successors are appointed. There are no term limits for Board members. The purpose of the State University System of Florida is to provide high-quality educational programs to meet the economic and workforce needs of Floridians. The System also aims to conduct cutting-edge research and various forms of community outreach with Floridians across the state. Each member university operates its own Board of Trustees that has 13 members. Board of Trustee members are appointed and confirmed by the state Senate.

The 28 member schools that are part of the Florida College System are:

All public colleges and universities in the state are accounted for between both of these state systems. The colleges that are part of the Florida College System are governed by the State Board of Education. Each school within the Florida College System is governed by a Board of Trustees as outlined by the Florida Statutes, 1001.64. A college Board of Trustees can be comprised of five, seven, or nine members as long as state law is followed. Board members are appointed by the Florida Governor and confirmed by the Florida Senate for four-year terms.

The purpose of the Florida College System is to maximize access and educational programs to meet the state's economic and workforce needs. The System also aims to conduct cutting-edge research and various forms of community outreach with Floridians across the state. There are over 700,000 students enrolled at Florida College System schools.

What Laws Apply to Florida Colleges and Universities?

The laws that apply to Florida colleges and universities can be found in the Florida Statutes, which can be found online here. The laws found in the Florida Statutes empower the State University System of Florida along with the Florida College System. Chapter 1000 of the Florida Statutes is where educational rules begin.

Chapter 1004 of the Florida Statutes outlines the laws that apply to postsecondary schools in Florida. State University provisions begin at Section 1004.22, while Florida College System provisions begin at Section 1004.65. These laws outline the power of both school systems, define their missions, and direct how the systems are to function.

Florida colleges and universities also must follow all appropriate state and federal laws. These include things like equal protection, due process, and the Civil Rights Acts passed by both the federal and state governments. Any school within the State University System of Florida or the Florida College System has to follow rules that derive from the Florida and US Constitution, as well as any other appropriate law. If there is more than one law that applies to one situation, then make sure you understand what law applies to you.

Your Constitutional Rights at a Postsecondary School in Florida

If you are at a university governed by the State University System of Florida, then make sure you understand that your constitutional rights apply, and you are also given additional protections and processes. Section 1004.65 of the Florida Statutes outlines the responsibilities of the Board of Education. Section 1004.097 of the Florida Statutes is specific to freedom of expression on campuses of both the State University System as well as the Florida College System. Florida law allows for a lawsuit if a student's Constitutional rights are interfered with.

Florida law specifically states that:

  • Freedom of speech is protected at public institutions
  • Freedom of the press is protected at public institutions
  • Schools must outline content-neutral time, place, and manner restrictions regarding freedom of speech
  • Schools must ensure that students and faculty can assemble and engage in lawful expressive activity

If you are a student and have been accused of violating a rule regarding a peaceful protest or demonstration, then these rules specifically protect your freedom of speech and expression on campus.

If you are accused of misconduct, then you should know what type of charge you are facing. If it's a school violation, then the process goes differently than if you're facing a criminal charge. Sometimes, students face two charges concurrently, one through school and one through the court. Your rights depend on the type of charge you are facing. If you are facing misconduct charges, then make sure to get experienced legal help.

Who Are the State Governing Boards that Make the Laws?

The Board of Governors that manages the State University System of Florida is empowered by the Florida Constitution. The Florida College System is empowered by the Florida Statutes. The laws in the Florida Statutes are evaluated and adopted by the Florida legislature. The Florida legislature is comprised of elected senators and representatives. The Board of Governors and Board of Trustees get their powers and directives through this system of representative government. Both Boards must ensure that each member school follows the general outline of laws that both postsecondary school systems have in place and that member schools make specific disciplinary rules that suit their needs.

While each school is expected to implement its own policies, the Board of Governors' responsibilities include:

  • Ensuring the coordination and operation of the system
  • Avoiding wasteful duplication of programs or facilities
  • Establish the powers of each member university's Board of Trustees

The Board of Governors is required to allocate performance funding to state universities that are part of the State University System of Florida. The allocation of this funding is determined by using several metrics that evaluate each university to determine what they earn.

Each school that is part of the State University System of Florida or Florida College System must implement policies to operate their schools according to appropriate law. These policies must cover things like student conduct, school associations, as well as things like school athletics. Each school must adopt its own rules as the state does not have uniform laws that apply to all schools.

Do Individual Schools Have Their Own Rules and Regulations?

Yes, every member school that is a part of the State University System of Florida or the Florida College System must have its own policies. As long as school policies comply with state and federal law, schools can otherwise freely govern themselves. The rules each school can pass include things like admissions standards, scholarship requirements, and campus rules. School policies are codified into a student code of conduct policy and are published online.

What Is the Student Code of Conduct?

The State University System of Florida follows several laws but has adopted general rules of Student Conduct and Discipline. These are rules that all schools are expected to follow through policies formed by each school's respective Board of Trustees. The Board of Trustees of each school gets its power from the Board of Governors' regulations.

All Florida postsecondary schools that are part of the State University System of Florida and the Florida College System must adopt a student code of conduct that outlines the procedure to handle misconduct cases. Student conduct codes must include procedures on how to receive complaints of misconduct, how to investigate them, and how to process an accusation of misconduct against a student.

The legal assistance a student can retain is described in the Board of Governors regulations. If sexual misconduct is alleged under Title IX, then the process differs when compared to an accusation of academic or general misconduct. Various types of discipline can be handed down by schools, including suspension and expulsion. The student conduct and discipline rules for each school within the State University System of Florida and the Florida College System are as follows:

State University System of Florida University Codes of Conduct

Florida College System Schools Codes of Conduct

Each member school self-governs under its own guidelines when dealing with student affairs. If you are being accused of misconduct, then it is imperative to understand the rules of your school. If you have legal questions, then make sure that you speak to an experienced attorney-advisor.

How Are Code of Conduct Violations Handled?

If you are accused of a student code of conduct violation, then it is important to understand the rules and process for your school. While student conduct code violations are similarly viewed across all Florida schools, each school interprets and enforces its conduct code individually. Each school is required to publish its student conduct code online on its respective website.

The Florida Board of Governors has published guidelines that every member school must follow when adopting and implementing a student honor code. All student conduct code provisions must adhere to the Constitution and must reserve students' Constitutional rights. If you are accusing someone of misconduct, then you are known as the complainant (the one making the complaint). If you are being accused of misconduct, then you are known as the respondent.

When a complaint is made regarding potential misconduct at a Florida postsecondary school, the respondent is given written notice of the allegations. A respondent is not required to respond to the notice, but if he or she chooses to do so, then the timeline for a response is dependent on the school's individual code of conduct rules. In a written response, a student can either admit or deny the allegations. The student can also provide additional information, name witnesses, or provide other evidence.

If a student does not respond to a written notice of allegations or responds by denying responsibility, then the student will likely face a hearing to determine their guilt regarding the alleged violation(s). If the student admits to the violations alleged, then the remaining issue is the level of punishment the student will receive.

At State University System schools, the decision-maker at a hearing can be a university official, a designee, a panel of university officials, or a panel where one-half of the members are students. It is the university's choice, not the student's, regarding what type of decision-maker to use in a student misconduct hearing. At Florida College System schools, refer to your school's code of conduct to determine who the decision-maker can be in a hearing.

During a hearing, both sides can present evidence, testimony, and witnesses to bolster their cases. Final decisions on cases must be given in writing within a reasonable time. The rules and processes for student code violations are outlined in each university's code of conduct.

What Types of Misconduct Can Face Discipline?

Misconduct at school within either public college system can come in several forms. Some forms of misconduct are also the basis for criminal charges. If a student is accused of violating a criminal law, then he or she can face separate criminal prosecution along with any misconduct proceedings at school. If this happens, then any investigations will likely be more invasive.

If a student admits to misconduct or is found responsible for misconduct, then the student can face several punishments. Punishments can include suspension, expulsion, and any other disciplinary measures that the school determines is appropriate. If you are a student attending a State University System of Florida school or a Florida College System school, then there are three main types of misconduct allegations you can face: academic misconduct, sexual misconduct, and general misconduct.

Academic Misconduct Explained

Academic misconduct comes in several forms and is generally thought of as cheating in some way. This can include collaborating with others without permission, copying another's work, or falsifying a document for personal gain. Any action by a student that undermines the academic integrity of the school can be considered academic misconduct. If a student is found responsible for academic misconduct, then the student can face severe punishment. Academic misconduct becomes part of your permanent record and can be reported to employers and other schools. Examples of academic misconduct include:

Punishments for academic misconduct can vary and largely depend on the facts and circumstances of the case. Lesser violations will generally result in less severe punishments. If alleged misconduct is also the basis for criminal charges, then the punishments can be more severe. A federal criminal case is ongoing where numerous wealthy parents are accused of bribing an individual to ensure their kids were accepted into the colleges of their choice.

Sexual Misconduct Explained

A sexual misconduct claim is an example of a claim that can result in several different actions. A sexual misconduct claim can be processed under a school sexual misconduct policy, Title IX guidelines, and/or criminal proceedings.

Title IX is a federal law that ensures equal rights among men and women at colleges across the country. Title IX was passed by the federal government in 1972 and states that any school that receives any amount of federal funding must prohibit discrimination among students or administration. If a school is found in violation of Title IX, then there can be serious consequences, including potential litigation.

If someone violates Title IX or commits sexual misconduct, then he or she can be punished in several ways. Generally, a student found responsible for sexual can expect that he or she would be expelled from school, but lesser penalties exist in certain situations. If there are multiple victims in a given complaint, then the school will try to interview everyone potentially involved. Any prior similar conduct will lead to more severe punishment. If you are accused of sexual misconduct, make sure to enlist legal help immediately.

General Misconduct Explained

If a misconduct claim is not academic or sexual in nature, then it falls under the category of general misconduct. General misconduct claims include allegations of:

All member schools of the State University System of Florida and Florida College System prohibit alcohol possession and use on campus. Being in possession of alcohol can result in a general misconduct charge and a criminal charge if you are under 21 years old. Being accused of threatening or violent behavior can often lead to quick action by the school and often results in criminal charges as well. Campus safety is a major priority to schools across Florida, so allegations of violence or threats will be taken seriously. It is important to understand the specific type of misconduct you are facing, and what the possible penalties are so you can best defend yourself.

Anti-Hazing Policies

Ritualistic hazing is an ugly part of the past of many colleges and universities. When student hazing occurs, it has historically taken place within fraternities, sororities, and athletic teams. Hazing involves making someone perform a task or chore as a type of indoctrination into a group. When these tasks involve forced drinking or being involved in something embarrassing or dangerous, then misconduct can arise as well as criminal charges.

The Florida Board of Governors requires that member universities pass appropriate anti-hazing policies to directly address hazing involving students under Board of Governors Rule 6.021. Under this rule, each university Board of Trustees is directed to incorporate anti-hazing policies into the student code of conduct. Consent is not a defense to hazing under these rules.

Most states across the country have outlawed hazing bypassing anti-hazing laws. Hazing is prohibited under Florida law at 1006.63 of the Florida Statutes. Hazing in Florida can be charged as a first-degree misdemeanor or a third-degree felony. A first-degree misdemeanor carries up to one year in jail upon conviction, while a third-degree felony can be punished by up to five years in prison.

Under Florida law, all schools, whether public or nonpublic, must establish anti-hazing policies and adopt standards for reporting and enforcement. Penalties for hazing can include fines, withholding of diplomas, or dismissal. Any discipline that is handed down for a hazing violation does not affect any potential criminal penalties and is considered separate punishment.

How Social Media Can Be the Basis for Misconduct Charges

Social media is a large part of many of our lives, for better or for worse. While social media can help connect people and foster positive relationships, social media can also be used for harm in many ways. Social media posts can be the source of unrest, embarrassment, or danger. When social media is misused to harm someone else or inappropriately invade their privacy, then social media can be the basis for student misconduct charges and even criminal charges. Posts on social media can be evidence of several forms of hazing, stalking, or harassment.

Social media posts are disseminated very quickly and have a limitless reach depending on the network that connects the person making the post to those viewing the post. The more a post is viewed and shared, the most harmful it can become. When a social media post causes harm, then a student can be punished by their school and a criminal court.

Colleges and universities are always concerned about the risk of violence on campus. Social media can be an indicator of future violence and can also inform students of violence currently taking place. This risk of on-campus violence only increases with each school shooting that takes place across the country.

Student Rights and Due Process

Due process is a fundamental right that we all have in the United States. If a student is accused of misconduct or a criminal offense, then he or she has the right to due process. Due process in a student misconduct case refers to an individual being given the opportunity to defend themselves regarding any alleged violations or misconduct. This opportunity to defend must be part of a process that is implemented by the school involved. Anyone facing discipline has the right to an appropriate proceeding before any punishments are issued or culpability is determined.

The first step in a misconduct case after a complaint has been made is to inform the student of the alleged violations and factual allegations in writing. This notice can be sent in the mail or can be emailed to the student. Once the student is notified of the allegations, then he or she should contact an experienced attorney-advisor immediately.

Any allegations of harmful conduct, such as assaultive, threatening, or sexual misconduct, will often result in a fast response from a school or local law enforcement. Schools can take various interim measures, including suspension, no-contact orders, or other measures to ensure safety.

Many standards that exist for general civil procedure in Florida are also followed in student misconduct cases. One major similarity is the burden of proof. In student misconduct cases, the burden of proof necessary to find someone responsible for misconduct is the preponderance of the evidence. This means that it must be demonstrated that the student more likely than not violated the student code of conduct. The burden of proof for a criminal case is higher, requiring proof beyond a reasonable doubt to convict.

Students will be given written notice of the school's findings within a specific period after a misconduct hearing is completed. Any punishments will also be included in this notice. Whenever a school disciplines a student for misconduct, then the determination or punishment can be appealed if the process was not followed or the punishment is unreasonable.

University Laws Against Discrimination

All Florida postsecondary school students are protected from discrimination due to race, color, ancestry, and/or national origin. These laws derive from federal law and apply to all students, faculty, and administration. Discrimination on campus can lead to misconduct actions as well as potential lawsuits.

The freedom of exercise of religion must be allowed on campus as long as the religious practices don't harm other students or the school, and the activity is not overly disruptive. It is prohibited to discipline a student for their religious practice, affiliation, gender, or sexual orientation.

If you are facing a misconduct action at your college or university, then you can have an attorney-advisor assist in defending your case. You are not required to have an attorney-advisor help you, but the help can be invaluable to the outcome and your future at the school. An attorney will not be provided to you at public expense unless you are facing criminal charges. If an attorney is appointed in a criminal case, they are not required to take on any concurrent student misconduct cases.

What Are a Student's Appellate Rights?

A student facing misconduct charges has appellate rights regarding the decision and punishment of a misconduct action. The Florida Board of Governors directs each member university to adopt and implement an appeal process that includes one level of internal appeal.

Appeals can be sought for several reasons. Generally, appeals are a review of the proceedings that have taken place involving the student. A student can appeal the decision or punishment of a misconduct case when:

  • There is new evidence to be considered that was not previously presented or known
  • A procedural error or ruling took place that made the proceedings unfair or unjust
  • The findings against the student were inconsistent with the evidence presented against the student

There may be other reasons why you can appeal your case. Appeals only review a case and findings and don't allow for a second hearing with the appealing body. Final appellate decisions made by a school president or designee are final.

What If There Are Criminal Allegations?

Students often face the potential of criminal charges when they are accused of school misconduct. If a student is charged criminally, then he or she will face two separate legal proceedings that carry their own individual potential punishments. These proceedings will also operate under different rules and legal guidelines.

If a student is accused of sexual misconduct, as an example, then they can face both school discipline proceedings and criminal charges. Florida has several laws regarding sexual assault that carry severe penalties. Understanding these laws and potential penalties is critical towards the defense of any case.

Sexual battery is defined in the Florida Statutes under Section 794.011. It is defined as the oral, anal, or vaginal penetration with the sexual organ of another or any other object without proper consent. A conviction can be as serious as a capital felony in Florida and can even result in the death penalty.

If a student is facing criminal proceedings as well as student misconduct charges, then the student faces both academic punishment at his or her school as well as criminal punishment by a court. This will require defending the case on both fronts, often simultaneously. This can be scary and confusing due to the potential penalties and differences in legal standards. It is important to have experienced legal help if in this situation.

Evidence that is uncovered during a student misconduct case can often be used in a criminal case as well. This is one of the many reasons why it is critical to remain silent if you are being questioned by a university official or law enforcement without an attorney-advisor present. Make sure you immediately retain legal counsel if you are facing questions from your school or the police. Any resolutions made with your school will not stop criminal proceedings against you, so it is critical to resolve all pending actions individually. Make sure you don't go it alone.

How An Attorney-Advisor Can Help

If you are facing student misconduct allegations at your Florida college or university, then it is critical to have experienced legal help. An attorney-advisor can help you in many ways, including:

  • Separation: Your statements can be used against you in several ways. You should not speak with the police or investigators without legal counsel present because your words might be used in a hearing for misconduct, a civil case, or a criminal case. Make sure that you talk to an attorney-advisor before you say anything to anyone about a pending investigation.
  • Investigation: An attorney-advisor can help you form your defense by doing an independent investigation to uncover any evidence your college or university might have missed. Different types of investigations can be conducted, including scene visits, witness interviews, and forensic analysis. The results of these investigations might help you with your defense if you are able to present evidence in your favor or discredit the evidence presented against you.
  • Negotiation: If the evidence against you is strong and you decide that negotiating a resolution is the best option, then an attorney-advisor can help you do so. When a resolution is made, it sets a guaranteed outcome and punishment for the misconduct alleged. Negotiating a resolution can also end a case more quickly than conducting a misconduct hearing.
  • Representation: An attorney-advisor can help represent you in various ways, including during your misconduct case and any potential appeals. If you are facing an allegation of misconduct, then it is important to have an attorney-advisor represent you to ensure the law is followed and you are not inappropriately punished.

These are some of the main advantages to having the assistance of an attorney-advisor when facing misconduct allegations. It is important to have experienced legal help whenever you are facing any misconduct accusations at your Florida university or college. If you have legal questions, then call us at the Lento Law Firm today so we can help!

Why Hiring the Lento Law Law is the Right Choice

If you have legal questions related to a misconduct allegation at a school that is part of the State University System of Florida or Florida College System, then it is important to seek the advice of an experienced attorney-advisor. Attorney-advisor Joseph D. Lento has helped countless students in Florida and across the country with various legal issues, including academic misconduct, sexual misconduct, and general misconduct. Call the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 to learn why hiring Attorney Lento and his team are the right choice to help you with your case.

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If you, or your student, are facing any kind of disciplinary action, or other negative academic sanction, and are having feelings of uncertainty and anxiety for what the future may hold, contact the Lento Law Firm today, and let us help secure your academic career.

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