The University of Illinois, like countless other American institutions, expects all those affiliated with the University to adhere to its stated code of conduct – that includes students of course, but also faculty, staff, alumni, and any public representatives of the University. State and federal laws lay the groundwork for policies around nondiscrimination, ethics, and equal opportunity. Then, according to the Board of Trustees governance, the University expands on that groundwork to solidify its commitment to “equal opportunity, affirmative action, and diversity.”
The Groundwork: State and Federal Regulations
At the federal level, the governance of educational activities is limited. Instead, power lies with individual states to oversee schools and Universities, which means variability exists from region to region. Consistent among all of them, however, are the following:
- Disability Discrimination: Title II of the ADA lays out provisions to protect Americans with disabilities from discrimination. This piece of legislature offers language on which Universities, including the University of Illinois, can build their anti-discrimination policy around the physical or medical limitations of a student enrolled at or applying to the University. It goes a step further to outline the reasonable provisions an institution must take to accommodate the physical needs of a qualifying student.
- Sex Discrimination: Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 outlines policies on discrimination based on sex. Ever since its introduction, Title IX has transformed Universities across the nation. The preeminent language states, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance[.]” What's implied is that female students and student-athletes are entitled to the same opportunities as their male counterparts. That includes the right to protection from sexual misconduct.
- Race and National Origin Discrimination: Title VI of the Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination based on race, color, or nationality. That means students are entitled to a fair admission process and access to adequate University resources regardless of their race.
University of Illinois Student Code
The University of Illinois, as a large state university system, has three separate campuses that each serve a general region of the state of Illinois.
- The University of Illinois - Chicago
- The University of Illinois - Urbana-Champaign
- The University of Illinois - Springfield
Although each of these campuses has its own unique feel, population, and environment, the way that each school operates on a day-to-day basis will be very similar. This is because, as members within a singular university system, they will all - at least to some extent - follow established, universal regulations and guidelines for the entire system.
Since this is the case, we can use the codes of conduct or student codes for each of the separate schools interchangeably to illustrate our points. We'll start by referencing the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign student code.
As stated in the Preface to the University of Illinois Student Code: “The Student Code is a collection of rules, regulations, policies, and procedures that apply to, or otherwise directly impact, students at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.” It goes on to say that, while the 117-page handbook is not exhaustive, it is the most thorough document outlining the key proponents of being a Fighting Illini.
The Conference on Conduct Governance (CCG)
A series of boards and committees are behind the scenes of most University operations, and that's not unique to the University of Illinois. In this specific case, the Committee responsible for overseeing the Code of Conduct itself is the CCG. This Committee works with the University Chancellor, the Dean of Students, and the University Senate to maintain and update the bylaws that govern University operations.
The Student Code offers insight into what it takes for the Committee to change, add, or remove standards within the document.
Article 1 – Student Rights and Responsibilities
Students are encouraged to pay close attention to this section of the Student Code as it outlines the rights of University students, their responsibilities while on or representing campus, and key academic integrity policies and procedures. It is in this section that students can find anything they need to know about common points of contention or conflict that arise on campus.
Part I: Student Rights
First and foremost, students at the University of Illinois are members of the Illinois state community and, more broadly, of the United States of America. As such, all students walk onto campus with the same basic rights as a member of the larger community.
- In the classroom: students have the right to an opinion that differs from that of a professor, and they have the right to reasonably voice that opinion. Professors and staff, then, are responsible for treating the views and opinions of students as confidential so as to prevent the student from facing potential discrimination. Should students feel their rights have been violated, the escalation process is as follows: course instructor, then department head, and then college dean.
- Campus expression: students are permitted to organize on campus for any reason provided that the organization does not disrupt order or openly promote the harm or discrimination of others. That means students have a right to peacefully protest, rally, picket, and otherwise express nonviolent opposition.
- Privacy: Members of the University have a right to privacy that is protected by state and federal law. Students DO NOT forfeit any rights to privacy by setting foot on campus, including residence quarters. So long as students are obeying the law, they have a right to socialize whenever and however they see fit.
- Religious Beliefs and Practices: Students are protected under Illinois law in the expression and accommodation of their religious beliefs. Students may request in writing an appeal to an instructor's decision not to accommodate a request on these grounds.
- Nondiscrimination Policy: All state and federal nondiscrimination laws are upheld by the University; the Student Code further states that individuals will not be discriminated against for such things as marital status, pregnancy, arrest record, military discharge status, or order of protection status. Multiple resources are given to allow students to do their due diligence on the subjects of Title IX, affirmative action, and harassment policies.
- Intimate Relationships: To prevent inherent conflict of interest with such a relationship, the University does not permit individuals to engage in personal relationships in a case where educational decisions are being made. In other words, a student may not date a professor while enrolled in that professor's class.
- Accommodations for Students with Disabilities: Firstly, it is the student's responsibility to alert the University to their need for accommodations. The University then is committed to providing what are considered “reasonable accommodations,” provided the student meets the following criteria:
- The student can provide documented proof of disability
- The student completes an Application for Services with the Division of Disability Resources and Educational Services (DRES).
- Sexual Misconduct Policy: This is by far the longest section in Article I of the Student Code, spanning six full pages and several sub-sections. The policy is based on state and federal rulings such as Title IX, Title VII, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), and the Illinois Human Rights Act.
- Title IX Sexual Harassment Policy: The US Department of Education protects students against discrimination based on sex by upholding Title IX of the Education Amendment of 1972. The University commits to responding promptly and with appropriate intensity to any complaint around sexual misconduct EXCEPT those where: 1) the complainant withdraws their complaint in writing, 2) the respondent is no longer enrolled at the school, or 3) circumstances prevent the University from conducting a proper investigation.
- Definitions: The Student Code contains an extensive list of definitions for everything from sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, stalking, and consent.
- Retaliation: Any student who files a complaint and subsequently is subjected to intimation, discrimination, threats, or coercion is potentially a victim of retaliation. Such behavior is not tolerated by the University, and anyone who believes they are a victim of such treatment has the ability to take action.
Part II: General Responsibility of Students
Students are responsible for knowing the main tenants of the Student Code and complying with them in their behavior on campus.
Part III: Student Discipline
The section on student discipline makes it clear that campus is somewhat an independent jurisdiction. In other words, the University reserves the right to discipline students for infractions that may not otherwise break the law. In Part II of this Article, the Student Code expounds on its nondiscrimination policy; however, in this section, the Student Code clearly states, “The university reserves the right to deny admission to any person because of previous misconduct.” While the University seeks to make clear everything that constitutes misconduct or that could lead to disciplinary actions for a student, there is plenty of room for the University to act according to its own discretion.
Students in violation of any part of this section of the Student Code may be subjected to sanctions, including the withholding of a degree or outright dismissal from the University. Decisions on disciplinary action are weighed and processed by the Senate Committee on Student Discipline.
- Rules of Conduct: Conduct for which students may be subjected to disciplinary action include by are not limited to:
- Violent or dangerous conduct
- Sexual misconduct
- Forceful or threatened opposition of University activities
- Destruction of property
- Unauthorized use of University buildings or resources
- Violating local, state, or federal law on or off University campus
- Falsification of Documents: Students who intentionally or maliciously falsify, deface, or alter any University-related documents – including ID cards, transcripts, library documents, etc. – are subject to disciplinary action. Further, any student, including applicants who withhold or falsify information, may be subjected to disciplinary action, including rejection of admission to the University.
- Drugs and Alcohol: Ample resources are provided on campus to support students suffering from a drug or alcohol abuse problem, either directly or indirectly. It is expected that all students comply with state and federal laws around controlled substances; the University goes a step further to restrict recreational or medicinal drug use on campus and reserves the right to intervene if a student displays alcohol consumption that is deemed disruptive or harmful to himself or others. Students of legal drinking age are permitted to possess and consume alcohol in their dorm rooms or the rooms of other of-age students, though consumption in public areas is prohibited.
- Weapons: Possession of weapons, including everything from firearms to tasers to metal knuckles to fireworks, is prohibited on campus. There are special circumstances where the possession of a weapon is prohibited on campus – such as for demonstrations or as related to a learning exercise – though the use of any weapon is never permissible.
Part IV: Academic Integrity Policy & Procedure
Different types of academic integrity infractions are defined at length for all University students, as are the procedures the University has in place to deal with such infractions.
- Academic Integrity Infractions: Much like that of any major University, the University of Illinois prohibits cheating, plagiarism, or fabrication either directly by a student himself or indirectly for or with another student. Other academic integrity infractions include the use of bribes, favors, threats, or any kind of academic interference for the purpose of securing an academic advantage.
- Procedures: First and foremost, if a student is suspected of academic misconduct by an instructor, the instructor must first notify the student of the suspected behavior.
- This is formally called an Allegation Notice, and a copy of the notice is to be given to the student and shared with the department of the appropriate college where the infraction occurred.
- The student, then, has a period of time to respond in writing to the allegation.
- If the instructor, based on his own research and available information, reasonably believes an infraction was committed, the instructor should notify the student of the final decision if they intend to impose a sanction.
- The student then has the ability to appeal the ruling, though if no appeal is submitted, the instructor's finding is considered final (except if the instructor is seeking the student's suspension or dismissal from the University, in which case it will be reviewed further).
- Appeal: An appeal hearing follows attended by the instructor and the student along with members of the academic Committee facilitating the hearing. Students and instructors represent themselves in these cases; the Committee hears arguments from both parties, then deliberates and makes a recommendation to the EO or the Dean. Further consideration and deliberation may take place depending on the situation, though eventually, the EO or Dean will hand down their decision. This decision is final and is communicated to all parties in writing. A student wishing to appeal is responsible for proving his own innocence. Grounds on which a student may bring an appeal include:
- The instructor failed to follow the procedures outlined in the Student Code.
- The instructor did not objectively assess the alleged infraction.
- The proposed sanction was disproportionate to the infraction.
- The student can prove with new information that he did not commit the alleged infraction.
- Student Status: While an investigation is underway for any student, that student maintains his most recent admission status and associated rights and privileges. If grades must be posted before the matter can be resolved, an instructor may issue the student an “Incomplete” grade for the course.
- Sanctions: The University authorizes sanctions that fall under multiple categories and each having unique characteristics:
- Category 1: Handled directly and in writing between an instructor and a student and not subject to appeal by the student.
- Category 2: A reduced or failing grade for a course or assignment, a written warning, or an “Educational Sanction” such as a makeup assignment that is not equivalent to the one in question.
- Category 3: A failing grade for the course
Part V: Class Attendance
Students are strongly encouraged to attend classes regularly, and the discretion to excuse absences lies with individual instructors. While a class syllabus is paramount in establishing expectations in the classroom, instructors are not required to provide one.
Should a student find himself unable to regularly attend classes for any of the following reasons, support from the Student Assistance Center may be sought to draft an absence letter. State law requires that an instructor make reasonable provisions for any student who must be absent for valid reasons such as:
- Prolonged illness or injury
- Life-threatening or serious illness or injury of an immediate family member
- Death of a family member
- Student's religious beliefs or practices – protected by state law
- Students acting as a voluntary emergency relief worker – protected by state law
- Circumstances beyond the student's control, i.e., prolonged illness or injury, pregnancy, legal matters, acts of nature, etc.
While instructors are obligated to make arrangements for students with excused absences, including those necessary for athletic events and performances sanctioned by the University, it is also the power of the instructor to decide if absences have become excessive. Should an instructor determine that a student has missed too many classes to complete the course, he must send a notification to the Dean of the student's college, who will then notify the student with the instructor in copy.
Article 3 – Academic Policies and Regulations
Part I: Grades and Grading Procedure
Instructors are obligated to report the performance of all students in their classes to the University in the form of final course grades. The grading system observed at the University of Illinois is consistent with that of most other Universities, and the grading scale can be found on page 72 of the Student Code.
- Incomplete (I) grades: Students will receive an “I” on their transcript in cases where an approved extension allows the completion of a final exam at a later date than originally scheduled. The student has until the eighth week of the following system to complete the required coursework, or the Incomplete grade becomes a Failing (F) grade.
- Grade Corrections: If a student's grade is incorrectly reported, it may be corrected by the instructor with the approval of the executive officer of the unit.
- Capricious Grading: As defined in the Student Code, capricious grading is any grading deemed unnecessarily harsh, discriminatory, or in stark contrast to standards in order to negatively affect a student. If a student believes he is the victim of capricious grading, and if a direct consultation with the grading instructor does not resolve the issue, the student may file an appeal with the Executive Officer for the unit. In the appeal, the student may state the grounds for their claim, and the instructor may offer their response. Both complaint and response will then be submitted to the Capricious Grading Committee for review. The Committee has the authority to either dismiss the claim or direct the instructor to offer the student a new assignment for which a new grade will be assigned (only in extreme cases will the Committee assign the student a new grade). In any case, the Committee's decision is final. The Committee does not have authority beyond the ruling of the individual student and case in question and does not have authority to bring disciplinary action against an instructor.
- Review of Instructor's Ability to Communicate Clearly: There is a whole subsection in the Student Code that directs students to seek out the Executive Officer in the event they feel an instructor is not communicating clearly. The Executive Officer will then “take appropriate action,” according to the Code.
- Probation and Drop Rules: A student is placed on probation as a warning that their academic performance is lacking. Probationary status is temporary only until the student's cumulative grade point average improves above the 2.0 threshold. Should the student's GPA not improve, the student is subject to being dropped. It's worth noting that the University maintains the right to overrule the drop rules should the student's academic record warrant it – at least according to the University. Other circumstances that can result in a drop:
- Failing to earn at least a 1.0 GPA in a semester
- Failing to make satisfactory progress toward a degree
Part II: Examinations
Midterm and final exams are a part of most college curricula, and the University of Illinois specifies rules under which they can be administered. First and foremost, the University reiterates that students are entitled to reasonable accommodations should an exam interfere with any religious beliefs, observances, or practices.
Assuming no conflict exists there, students are expected to take the final exam on the day it is scheduled, and instructors are expected to comply with the exam schedule laid out by the Office of the Registrar. Should an instructor wish to give a final at a different time, he must first receive approval from the Office of the Provost, though instructors must ensure their finals fall in the week designated for exams.
Students are entitled to sufficient time and energy to take their final exams. In order to allow for that, students are to sit for no more than two final exams on the same day. If a student is scheduled to take more than two exams in one day:
- He must first seek to take the exam on the designated conflict day for the course – if one has been assigned.
- If no conflict day has been announced, the student must seek out the instructor no later than the final day of classes to arrange for a makeup date.
Should students find themselves with multiple conflicts or unsure which exam to take versus reschedule, the University offers the following hierarchy:
- National and state board exams take precedence over University exams: a professor must offer a conflict final for a student who has a board exam that interferes with a class final.
- Non-combined course finals have priority over combined course finals.
- Departments with combined section finals must offer a conflict day to resolve any issues for students.
Students have the opportunity to demonstrate proficiency in an area of study in order to earn credit towards a degree without having to take a course. Each case is handled directly by the student's college or by the department offering the proficiency exam, and only students that are currently enrolled at the University of Illinois may sit for proficiency exams.
Students are not permitted to sit for proficiency exams under the following circumstances:
- To make up for a course that has been failed
- To improve or override a grade that the student deems not satisfactory
- To receive credit for a lower-level course in a series of courses where the student has already begun taking classes
Special exams are offered to students who have failed a course as a way to still earn credit for that course. They may be given as long as the following conditions are met:
- A student failed (received an F, FR, or ABS) a course at the University of Illinois
- The head or chair of the department recommends a special exam for a course that a student has failed.
- The Dean of the college approves the special exam, and the Office of the Registrar issues a permit for the qualifying student
- The instructor announces the time at which the special exam will be given and plans to offer it in the designated time allotment
Part III: Registration, Course Changes, and Withdrawal
Registration in 12 credit hours worth of classes constitutes full-time enrollment and entitles the student with all the benefits of full-time enrollment at the University of Illinois. Fewer or greater hours may be permitted by the authority of the Dean of the college in order to satisfactorily obtain a degree in a course of study.
Tuition and payment are due at the time communicated to the student, and students are subject to late fees if the due date is not met. If a student does not formally and officially withdraw from the University, he is still responsible for associated tuition and fees.
- Registering for a course is an agreement by the student to pay all applicable tuition and fees for that course
- Registration times are designated and communicated to students ahead of registration being open – not all students are eligible to register at once.
- If a student finds a course on his record as of the first day of instruction, that student is considered registered for that course.
- Colleges and departments reserve the right to restrict registration based on prerequisites and conditions as they see fit; course conditions are published in the University's Course Explorer for enrolled students.
Cancellation of Registration
The easiest way to avoid tuition responsibilities for a course a student does not intend to take is to cancel the registration before the first day of classes. Once a student attends a class, however, they may not cancel their registration and instead must officially withdraw from the course.
Adding or Dropping Courses
Even after the registration period passes, students may rearrange their academic schedule within the first several weeks of instruction. New classes may be added during the Add Period, which is typically the first ten days of instruction for a semester; a student may drop a course during the first eight weeks of instruction.
- If a course is added during the designated Add Period, the instructor must reasonably accommodate the student for any work missed in the opening weeks of instruction.
- If a course is dropped during the allowable period, it will not appear on the student's transcript.
Courses that are added during the Add Period will be assessed tuition as if they were added during normal registration periods. Similarly, students who drop courses during the allowable period will not be assessed tuition for those courses – if tuition has been assessed and paid, the student is entitled to a refund.
Withdrawal from the University
It is important that students follow the protocol for withdrawing from the University; otherwise, students may receive a failing grade for any courses not properly closed. Procedure for withdrawal includes:
- Obtain a withdrawal form that denotes the date the withdrawal was requested by the student as the formal date of withdrawal
- Receive signatures from relevant University officers as designated on the withdrawal form
- Withdrawal request filed by the Dean on behalf of the student
It is worth noting that, should a student find himself in the midst of disciplinary action at the University, withdrawal does not release him from any proceedings.
Should a student withdraw from a course or from the University under the prescribed procedure, he is entitled to a refund of all applicable tuition and fees. The same applies to a student that is dismissed from the University.
The Office for Student Conflict Resolution handles all matters related to student conduct, both behavioral and academic. The governance system was established by the University's Board of Trustees in 1931 and has gone through multiple reaffirmations since then.
- Filing a Complaint: If a student wishes to make a report against another student, they can do so with the office. The Director will take the information from the complainant, and if he deems it a potential violation of the Student Code, he will assign a Case Coordinator (CC) to investigate.
- Notification to Respondent: The reported individual will receive written notice to his student email account detailing the nature of the allegation, the identity of the complainant, and instructions for meeting with the CC to proceed with the matter.
- Meeting with the CC: If the respondent fails to meet with the CC, the investigation will proceed. If the respondent does meet with the CC, he will have the opportunity to offer his take on the allegations. All information gathered by the CC will be considered and weighed against the information received from the complainant.
- CC Decision Process: The CC has the authority to rule on cases independently except in cases where the allegations if found to be true, would result in suspension or dismissal for the student. If the CC determines that further investigation is warranted, the CC will conduct the investigation swiftly and fairly – investigations are expected to complete within 20-40 business days of the initial communication (depending on the nature of the allegation). In cases where the allegation could result in a student's dismissal or suspension, a subcommittee put together by the office and the Director will investigate and rule on the matter.
- Evidence Review: Prior to ruling on the matter, the CC will review the evidence with both the respondent and complainant. All parties will have the opportunity to submit a written response to the information gathered and presented.
- Decision: Once the investigation is complete and all responses to evidence have been gathered from the parties, the CC will rule on the matter. The ruling will be communicated to the complainant and the respondent, as well as instructions for going through the appeals process.
- Appointment of Panel: In the event a matter is serious enough to warrant a hearing, the Director will appoint a panel consisting of at least one student and one faculty member as well as a faculty or staff Chair.
- Hearing: The hearing will open with remarks from the CC if desired. The panel will then have the opportunity to question the CC, and the respondents and complainants will have the opportunity to offer questions for the CC. Next, the complainant will be given the chance to offer statements and field questions from the panel. Finally, the respondent will have the same opportunity. Both sides will be offered the chance to request questions to be asked of the other. Witnesses, will then be invited into the hearing one at a time to proceed in a similar fashion. For each witness, both the respondent and the complainant will have the opportunity to request questions to be asked of the witnesses by the panel or Chair. At this time, the panel and Chair may present any additional questions to any participant in the proceedings. Closing statements may be offered by the complainant first, then the respondent, after which the Chair will dismiss everyone from the proceedings in order to allow the panel to deliberate. If the respondent is cleared of all allegations, the proceedings will adjourn. If the respondent is found to be in violation of the Student Code, the hearing will proceed to Phase II.
- Hearing Phase II: This includes the determination of the sanctions to be leveled against the student in violation. The complainants are offered a chance to give a statement regarding the impact of the respondent's actions, after which they are dismissed from the proceedings while the panel continues to gather information and then deliberate on the appropriate sanctions.
- Decision: All participants in the proceedings will be informed of the panel's decision in writing.
Appeals are accepted for all final decisions of the CC based on one of the following:
- The procedure was not performed in a manner consistent with guidelines
- New evidence that could affect the outcome of the proceedings has come to light that was not reasonably available at the time of the original investigation
- A conflict of interest was identified among the panel or the CC
- The sanctions imposed by the panel or CC are felt to be disproportionate to the violation committed
- Right to Appeal: students on either side of the proceedings have the right to appeal.
- Notice of Appeal: a written notice must be submitted along with all supporting documentation to the Director. The notice should include the specific grounds for appeal, the specific outcome requested, and supporting arguments for the grounds and the outcome.
- Sanctions While Under Appeal: Any sanctions leveraged at the time of the initial ruling must be observed while the appeal is being decided.
- Authority of the Director: The Director has the authority on how to proceed with the appeal, whether he chooses to hear more arguments or appoint a CC or rule on the matter immediately.
- Finality and Record of the Decision: The Director's ruling on the appeal, no matter the effort or proceedings leading to that ruling, is final. The decision will be communicated to the respondent and complainants simultaneously via email.
Contact Attorney Joseph D. Lento for Help
Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm are national experts in the arena of student and school-related issues, including academic integrity, progression, misconduct, and student rights. Attorney Lento and his team have years of experience helping college and university students at the University of Illinois navigate their school's academic and conduct policies while working towards a fair process and the best possible outcome. In addition, Attorney Lento and his team work to maintain the integrity of your University of Illinois academic record and to protect you from any inappropriate treatment at the hands of the school or its students. Contact the Lento Law Firm at 888-555-3686 to schedule a consultation.