State University System – Georgia

If you are a Georgia college student, then you are required to follow additional rules and guidelines that govern your college. Schools that are part of the state university system must follow state guidelines that cover everything from students to administration. The state university system in Georgia is known as the University System of Georgia. If you violate the University System of Georgia's guidelines or other pertinent laws, then you can face allegations of student misconduct and potentially criminal charges. If you are being accused of misconduct, then make sure that you speak to an experienced attorney-advisor as soon as possible.

What Is the University System of Georgia?

The University System of Georgia is a unified structure that governs and manages Georgia schools of higher learning. The University System of Georgia has been operated by the Board of Regents, which was formed in 1931 as part of the reorganization of the Georgia state government. The Board of Regents continues to manage the University System of Georgia to the current day.

The University System of Georgia includes 26 schools of higher education. This includes eight universities, eight state colleges, four research universities, and four comprehensive universities. The Georgia public library system is also part of the University system and includes nearly 400 facilities across the state. Over 70,000 various degrees, diplomas, and certificates were awarded in the year 2020 within the University System of Georgia. The schools that are part of the University System of Georgia are:

Research Universities

Comprehensive Universities

State Universities

State Colleges

The University System of Georgia is a statewide system that oversees all public colleges and universities in the state. The Board of Regents governs the University System of Georgia and makes many rules and regulations. If a school does not follow the Board's policies, then that school can be sanctioned, lose accreditation, and can face closure. The Board also oversees the Georgia Archives and the Georgia Public Library Service.

The Board is comprised of 19 members. One member represents each of Georgia's 14 districts, while the remaining five members can be from anywhere in the state. Board members are appointed by the Governor of Georgia with the advice and consent of the state Senate. The Governor cannot be a Board member. The Board is given its authority through the Georgia Code, Section 20-3-20. Board members serve seven-year terms and hold office until their successors are appointed. There are no term limits for Board members.

In the Fall of 2020, there were nearly 350,000 students enrolled at school within the University System of Georgia. Georgia boasts two public institutions in the Top 20 of U.S. News and World Report's rankings, with Georgia Tech ranking 8th and the University of Georgia coming in at 16th. A study showed that the University System of Georgia accounted for an $18.5 billion impact in 2019 on the state economy.

What Laws Apply to Georgia Colleges and Universities?

The laws that apply to Georgia colleges and universities can be found in the Georgia Code, which can be found online here. The laws found in the Georgia code empower the University System of Georgia along with the Board of Regents. Title 20 of the Georgia Code is where educational rules are listed.

Title 20, Chapter 3Title 20, Chapter 3 of the Georgia Code describes the general rules that apply to postsecondary schools in Georgia. Title 20, Chapter 3, Article 2 outlines the rules regarding the Board of Regents as well as the University System as a whole. These laws outline the Boards power, its mission, and how it's supposed to function.

Georgia colleges and universities also must follow all appropriate state and federal laws. These include things like equal protection, due process, and the Civil Rights Act. Any school within the University System of Georgia has to follow rules that derive from the Georgia and U.S. Constitution, as well as any other appropriate state or federal act. If there is more than one law that applies to one situation, then you need to be aware of all potential legal issues.

Your Constitutional Rights at a School in the University System of Georgia

When you step foot at a school within the University System of Georgia, it is important to remember that your constitutional rights still apply and are also given additional protection. A section within the Georgia Code Title 20, Chapter 3, outlines the responsibility of the Board of Regents to adopt policies specific to freedom of speech and expression on campuses across the state. Georgia law even imposes specific punishment for interfering with Constitutional rights.

The Georgia Code requires the Board of Regents to adopt policies that address the following issues:

  • Ensure that freedom of speech is protected
  • Ensure that freedom of the press is protected
  • Promote and foster the sharing and seeking of Knowledge through teaching, discussion, and debate
  • Each school must adopt and implement policies that address any content-neutral time, place, and manner restrictions regarding freedom of speech
  • Ensure the ability for students and faculty to assemble and engage in an expressive activity within the bounds of the law
  • Ensure the ability for any student to peacefully protest or demonstrate

As you can see, state law requires specific action from the Board of Regents to require member schools to adopt and implement specific policies to safeguard the freedom of speech and expression. If you are charged with violating a rule regarding a peaceful protest or demonstration on campus, then you can point to this rule which specifically protects your rights.

If you are accused of wrongdoing, then your protections and the process you go through depend on whether you are facing a school violation or a criminal charge. Sometimes, students face a criminal charge along with a student misconduct violation. It is important to understand your rights as you have them in both types of cases. To understand your rights in any situation, make sure you have appropriate legal advice.

Who Are the State Governing Boards that Make the Laws?

The Board of Regents that manages the University System of Georgia is empowered by the Georgia Code. The laws in the Georgia Code are evaluated and adopted by the Georgia legislature. The Georgia legislature is full of senators and representatives that were elected by Georgians in recent elections. Through this system of representative government, the Board of Regents gets its authority and its directive. The Board is required to ensure that each member school follows the general outline of laws that the University System of Georgia has in place and that member schools make specific disciplinary rules that suit the school's directive.

While each school is expected to make rules specific to them, the Board retains power in oversight and regulation. Some of the general powers of the Board include:

  • Implement any rules to aid in the performance of the Board's duties
  • To elect or appoint professors or any other officers necessary
  • To discontinue or remove professors or any other officers necessary
  • To organize member schools to benefit the state
  • Any power normally granted to a corporation as long as it does not conflict with the Constitution and state law

The Board of Regents is required to give the Governor annual reports of its transactions along with a general report on the condition of the university system. In this report, the Board can also make suggestions on how to improve the system for the benefit of education. The Board even has the power to rename a school if it is confused with another school.

Each Georgia school that is part of the University System of Georgia must adopt and implement rules to self-govern that comply with state law and the Board's directives. These rules are to cover issues related to student conduct, student associations, as well as things like admissions requirements. The state of Georgia does not have a uniform set of laws for member schools, so the state empowers each school to adopt appropriate rules and regulations that suit its goals.

Do Individual Schools Have Their Own Rules and Regulations?

Yes, each school that is part of the university system must have its own rules and regulations. While the regulations must comply with state and federal law, the school is otherwise free to govern its student body. The rules each school can pass include things like admissions requirements, campus safety rules, and any other student-related issues. Each school compiles these rules into a student conduct policy and publishes it online.

What Is the Student Code of Conduct?

The University System of Georgia follows several laws but has implemented general rules known as the Student Code of Conduct. These are rules that all schools are expected to follow. Common rules that are consistent across all member schools include no illegal drugs, alcohol, or marijuana on any school grounds.

All member schools of the University System of Georgia must implement a student code of conduct that directs how student misconduct cases must be conducted. There are general rules regarding how complaints are treated, investigations are handled, and what interim measures can be implemented. The code also explains what type of legal help students may employ, depending on whether the misconduct alleged is a Title IX sexual misconduct claim, a non-Title IX sexual misconduct claim, or a general misconduct claim. If the student is found responsible for the alleged violation(s), then the student can face several types of discipline, which can include suspension or even expulsion. The student conduct rules for each school within the University System of Georgia are as follows:

University System of Georgia Schools Codes of Conduct

Research Universities

Comprehensive Universities

State Universities

State Colleges

Each member school operates independently under its guidelines while following the rules set by the Board of Regents and by law. Each Georgia school has its own individual rules and administrative process to handle student misconduct claims. If you are facing a student misconduct claim, then make sure you understand your school's rules and process. If you have legal questions, then make sure that you speak to an experienced attorney-advisor.

How Are Code of Conduct Violations Handled?

The Board of Regents outlines a minimum procedural standard that every member school is expected to adhere to while each school implements its own code of conduct violation process. All code of conduct violation procedures must adhere to the Constitution and reserves students' Constitutional rights. In a school setting, the person making an accusation of misconduct against another is known as the complainant, while the person being accused of misconduct is known as the respondent.

Once the school is made aware of potential misconduct, then the complainant and respondent are both given written notice regarding the alleged misconduct. Each respondent is given a minimum of three days to respond to the allegation. A response is not required, and a student not responding to a written notice of an allegation of misconduct serves as a general denial. A student can admit or deny the allegations in a written response and give additional information, evidence, or name witnesses. If a student denies the allegations, then the student can request a hearing to determine whether the violation occurred as alleged by the complainant. If a student admits responsibility, then most of the process ends, and the student's case gets forwarded to determine punishment.

A student hearing case can be decided by a hearing officer or a hearing panel. The respondent gets to choose whether a hearing officer or hearing panel decides the case. Once a hearing is scheduled, both complainant and respondent can present witnesses, documents, and any other physical evidence they deem important to their case. Both the complainant and respondent will be given a written notice detailing the decision made following the completion of a student misconduct hearing. Student code violations, disciplinary measures, and hearing formats are outlined in each school's code of conduct. All member schools of the University System of Georgia must follow similar general rules, however, when it comes to student conduct.

What Types of Misconduct Can Face Discipline?

Disciplinary issues can come in many forms, as students can be accused of several types of misconduct. If a student is accused of breaking a student code of conduct rule or criminal law, then the student can face multiple disciplinary measures. If multiple students are accused of violating a code of conduct rule or criminal law, then an investigation can be more wide-ranging.

Hearing officers and hearing panels determine whether it was proven that the student(s) violated the relevant student code of conduct. If a student is disciplined for committing misconduct, then the punishment can include suspension, a fine, expulsion, or other disciplinary measure given from their school. Some violations lead to separate criminal charges. An experienced attorney-advisor can help you avoid school punishment through a successful student misconduct hearing or by negotiating a settlement with your school. Generally, there are three types of misconduct that a student attending a University System of Georgia school can be accused of academic misconduct, sexual misconduct, and general misconduct.

Academic Misconduct Explained

Academic misconduct includes unauthorized collaboration, plagiarism, fabrication, facilitation, and other forms of cheating. Academic misconduct can be defined as any act that can compromise the academic integrity of a school. Students who commit academic misconduct can face several punishments from their school. Academic misconduct can also be reported to other schools as well as any potential employers. Academic misconduct includes violations such as:

The punishment for academic dishonesty depends on what it is and how severe it is. If someone is found responsible for plagiarism, they might be punished more than someone who just copied another student's notes without permission. There are several types of punishments for academic dishonesty violations.

You can have criminal consequences for committing academic misconduct. For example, if you bribe a school official to help a student enter school or offer a bribe to a professor for a grade or position, then this can have serious punishments. An ongoing major federal criminal case is an example of how academic misconduct can lead to criminal charges. In this case, the government alleges that wealthy parents bribed an individual to make sure their children were accepted to the schools of their choosing. This case gained notoriety partly due to the fact that several defendants are celebrities.

Schools often have an honor code and a code of conduct. It is common for law schools, for example, to have an honor code so that the students behave in a professional way. If you break the school's honor code, then you can face discipline. Codes of conduct and honor codes often overlap with their regulations and purposes. You can face multiple kinds of punishments if you break either an honor code or student code of conduct.

Sexual Misconduct Explained

When dealing with a sexual misconduct claim, an action can be taken under a school sexual misconduct policy or Title IX when appropriate. Title IX is a federal law that makes sure that colleges give the same rights to both men and women. Title IX became law after it was passed by the federal government in 1972. This law says that if a school or college gets money from the government, it must make sure there is no discrimination involving students or faculty. The law covers many things, including sexual misconduct, harassment, and discrimination. There are different ways to investigate these crimes under this law. It can take some time for investigations to be finished, which can be hard because of life-changing outcomes like the punishment of students or staff. If a violation is alleged under Title IX, then it can be the basis for a lawsuit.

If someone violates a sexual conduct provision or Title IX at your school, then they can be held responsible in several ways. If there is more than one victim alleged in a sexual misconduct case, then the school will attempt to talk to every potential victim. The victims can choose how they want to proceed with the case.

If someone violates a sexual conduct code or Title IX, they can be punished in many different ways. The punishment is usually based on the situation and how bad it was. If someone has committed similar prior conduct, then they can be punished more severely. If you are accused of sexual misconduct, make sure to have an attorney-advisor help you immediately.

General Misconduct Explained

A general misconduct claim can arise if the allegation is not specific to academics or sexual discrimination or harm. General misconduct allegations against a student can include acts such as:

At schools within the University System of Georgia, alcohol possession and use are prohibited. If you are caught with alcohol on campus, you might be charged with a general misconduct charge and even a criminal charge if you are under 21 years old. If you are accused of threatening or assaultive behavior, then it could lead to general misconduct or criminal charges.

Campus safety is of utmost importance to the entire University System of Georgia. Harmful crimes or other misconduct will generally result in quick action taken by the school involved. Make sure you understand what type of misconduct you are facing and what potential penalties exist so you can best defend yourself.

Anti-Hazing Policies

In the past, fraternities and sororities would be notorious for making new members perform several tasks to show their commitment to the organization and their desire to be a part of the group. These tasks often involved drinking or doing something embarrassing or dangerous and are known as hazing. Today, almost all schools across the country have banned hazing because of the potential and actual harm.

The Georgia Code makes hazing criminal at the state level and requires schools across the state to adopt and implement anti-hazing policies. Anti-hazing policies are required at schools at every level, including the college level. The Georgia criminal law that addresses hazing can be found in Section 16-5-61 of the Georgia Code, this law is also known as the Max Gruver Act. Under Section 20-1-30 of the Georgia Code, all schools must establish an anti-hazing policy and set standards for reporting and confidentiality of student information during the proceedings. If someone faces school discipline for hazing, then this would be in addition to any other punishments for violating state criminal law.

How Social Media Can Be the Basis for Misconduct Charges

Social media is good for connecting with people. But it can cause problems when used incorrectly. Sometimes, posts on social media might lead to both a school disciplinary action and criminal proceedings. For example, if someone is being bullied or their privacy has been invaded because of private photos posted online, then the posts may become part of either a school investigation or criminal proceedings. Social media posts can be evidence of hazing, stalking, or criminal harassment, depending on what is posted.

When someone makes a threat online through social media, this can reach a lot of people very quickly. As the post is shared and reshared, the risk of harm increases. If someone posts threats or shares other people's intimate photos, then he or she can face harsh consequences like suspension from school and having to answer to a criminal court.

Police officers use social media to find out what people think about different issues. They also use it to look for clues about violence that might happen, such as school shootings. The risk of school shootings is a big concern for police and the public.

When you post something on social media, you must be aware of the potential consequences if the post is threatening or invading someone's privacy. It is important to be careful what you post because there are severe potential punishments.

Student Rights and Due Process

If a student is accused of violating a school rule or law, then he or she has due process rights. This means that the student must be given the right to defend himself or herself in an appropriate proceeding before being found responsible and punished. The first step in any misconduct case is to tell the student that he or she has been charged with a violation. A notice of misconduct can be sent by email or regular mail.

If there are allegations of sexual misconduct at a Georgia school, then the school will take quick action to make sure any victims are safe. The school might do this by giving no-contact orders, suspending someone, or doing other things the school decides.

Administrative cases for academic misconduct follow many procedures from civil procedure. For these cases, the burden of proof is called the preponderance of the evidence. This means that it was more likely than not that something happened. The burden of proof for school discipline is lower than what it is for criminal cases. If there are potential criminal charges against a student, the school might wait to do anything until after the criminal case is complete.

When a postsecondary school in Georgia completes a student misconduct case, the student will get written notice of a decision and findings within a specific period. This notice will include the school's punishments that were given to the student if the student was found responsible for misconduct.

Georgia colleges and universities must show that improper behavior occurred before they punish a student. If the school wants to expel a student for something they did, then it is important to ensure that the school follows the right procedures and laws during any misconduct action. If it does not seem like they followed them, then you can appeal their decision.

University Laws Against Discrimination

College students in Georgia cannot be discriminated against based on race, color, ancestry, or national origin. These rules apply to all students at the college. This also applies to professors and administrators.

Schools and universities must allow religious practices to take place on campus so long as the practices are not harmful to other students or the school. It is against federal law and state law, as well as school policy, to discipline a student on the basis of their religion, political affiliations, sexual orientation, or gender.

If you are in a misconduct investigation at a school, you can have an attorney-advisor's help. You can represent yourself if you choose and are not required to have an attorney-advisor's assistance. You cannot be appointed a lawyer at public expense if your discipline case is not a criminal case.

What Are a Student's Appellate Rights?

The complainant is the person who alleges misconduct against another. The respondent is the person who is being accused of misconduct. The respondent has the right to appeal a decision against him or her on several grounds in the University System of Georgia. The grounds that can be the basis for an appeal include:

  • The consideration of new evidence or other relevant facts not previously presented or known
  • A procedural error or ruling that substantially impacted the fairness of the proceedings
  • The findings were inconsistent with the evidence

Appeals must be made in writing and submitted within five days after a final written decision is made. Appeals are a review of the record only and do not allow a second chance for the case to be reheard. All appeals of student misconduct decisions must go to the school's president or their designee.

Appeals are reviews of law and procedure. They are done to make sure that the legal process was followed properly during the case. If something was not done correctly during the proceedings, then this error in the process can result in a decision being overturned. The decision made by the school's president or designee in an appeal is final and cannot be appealed or otherwise challenged with the school.

If a student loses his or her appeal with the college or university appeals board, then he or she may be able to appeal that decision to the Board of Regents through discretionary review. In this scenario, the student will have to convince the Board of Regents to review the case because of an error or defect. The Board is not required to hear or decide on these cases.

What If There Are Criminal Allegations?

If you are in a college setting and you are alleged to have committed serious misconduct, then there is a possibility that you will also face criminal charges. If this happens, then two separate legal processes will start. This means that they have their own rules and punishments.

For example, if a student is accused of sexual assault, they can face both school discipline and criminal charges. Georgia has many laws about sexual assault that come with different penalties. It is important for a student to understand how their separate cases can affect each other.

Under the Georgia Code Section 16-6-1, a person is guilty of rape when there is the penetration of a female sex organ by a male sex organ, and it is forcible and against the woman's will, or against a female less than ten years of age. The penalty for rape in Georgia is not less than 25 years in prison and up to the death penalty.

If a student is accused of both misconduct and a crime, then the student will likely have to defend against both the potential academic punishment and criminal punishment. Since these cases are independent of each other, the student will have to defend themselves on multiple fronts. Doing so can be difficult and confusing for a student to do on their own; this is why many students retain experienced counsel to help them defend their cases.

It is important to understand that any evidence or information found during a misconduct action can also be used in a criminal action. That is why it is important to remain silent if you are questioned by school officials or the police and to seek legal counsel immediately if you are facing potential criminal charges. Any discipline or resolution with your school regarding a potential criminal offense will not prevent a prosecutor from authorizing criminal charges if they choose to do so. If you are being accused of misconduct, make sure you have the appropriate legal help as the consequences can be severe.

How An Attorney-Advisor Can Help

If you are being accused of misconduct at your Georgia postsecondary school, then having an experienced attorney-advisor on your side can help you in several ways, including:

  • Separation: You can say things that can be used against you in many ways. Separating you from investigators and police is important to prevent statements from being used against you. Your statements might be discussed in a misconduct hearing, civil case, or criminal case. Make sure you speak to an attorney-advisor before you speak to anyone regarding an investigation.
  • Investigation: An attorney-advisor to help you form your defense through an independent investigation. This investigation can include a search for evidence the college/university might have missed. Different types of investigations can be done, including scene visits, witness interviews, and forensic analysis. The results of these investigations can be helpful towards your defense. If you are able to present evidence in your favor, then it can help you win your case.
  • Negotiation: If it is determined that an agreement with your school to resolve your case is the best option, then an attorney-advisor can help you negotiate. Negotiating gives you a punishment that is predetermined by the two of you. It also resolves your case more quickly, as claims that are negotiated are completed faster than going to a misconduct hearing.
  • Representation: An attorney-advisor can help you get through a misconduct hearing and an appeal. If you are facing a hearing, then having an attorney-advisor represent you can help make sure that the college or university is following the appropriate rules.

There are many other advantages to having an attorney-advisor on your side in these situations. Make sure you have experienced legal help if you are facing allegations involving your Georgia college or university. If you have legal questions, then call us at the Lento Law Firm today!

Why Hiring the Lento Law Firm is the Right Choice

If you have legal questions related to a misconduct allegation at a school that is part of the University System of Georgia, then it is important to seek the advice of an experienced attorney-advisor. Attorney-advisor Joseph D. Lento hand the Lento Law Firm have helped countless students in Georgia 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.