Student Defense in the City University of New York System

Earning a degree from the City University of New York is certainly a worthwhile pursuit, indeed a lifelong dream for many. A CUNY degree does more than open doors to rewarding jobs and valuable careers. Having shared the challenge and excitement of earning a university degree in one of the world's great cities, proud CUNY alumni form their own close network. CUNY alumni treat one another as valued members of one very large family, with around eighty percent of graduates remaining in New York.

Facing misconduct charges at the City University of New York places at risk that entire dream of earning a CUNY degree and joining the CUNY alumni family to gain a great job and pursue a rewarding career. No CUNY student should take misconduct charges lightly. Misconduct findings and the resulting discipline, whether a mere reprimand or all the way up to expulsion, can close the very doors that the CUNY student expected the education to open.

Don't face misconduct charges at the City University of New York without learning everything you can about the university's conduct codes and procedures. Don't face CUNY misconduct charges without retaining national academic defense attorney Joseph D. Lento and the expert team at the Lento Law Firm. Expert attorney help is available for students facing misconduct charges at the City University of New York. Get the best available help to preserve your dream of a CUNY education.

The City University of New York System

The City University of New York, New York City's gleaming public university system, is the nation's largest urban university system. Its enormous enrollment stands at around 275,000 students. The City University of New York currently has no fewer than twenty-five campuses, including eleven senior colleges, seven community colleges, and seven professional schools. CUNY also has a distinct history. CUNY was the nation's first free public institution of higher education. Today, CUNY remains an impressive engine of upward economic mobility and the lifeblood of New York City. Students go to CUNY to succeed in New York City, knowing that if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere.

State Law Establishing City University

The transformative mission of the City University of New York isn't just a matter of institutional culture and commitment. Access to a CUNY education is also a matter of public law. New York Education Law Section 6201 confirms and declares:

The legislature's intent is that the city university be supported as an independent and integrated system of higher education on the assumption that the university will continue to maintain and expand its commitment to academic excellence and to the provision of equal access and opportunity for students, faculty and staff from all ethnic and racial groups and from both sexes. The city university is of vital importance as a vehicle for the upward mobility of the disadvantaged in the city of New York. *** Only the strongest commitment to the special needs of an urban constituency justifies the legislature's support of an independent and unique structure for the university.

Student Discipline at City University

As clear as CUNY's mission is to offer a high-quality urban education to students seeking to improve themselves and their lifelong prospects, CUNY's commitment to individual students may not always be so clear. Broad commitments are not the same as just the treatment of individual students. At CUNY, as at other colleges and universities, suspicious professors, security officers, staff members, and students can misidentify innocent students as if they were perpetrators of various wrongs. Students, professors, and administrators can make other mistakes and pursue other personal agendas when alleging student misconduct.

CUNY is, without a doubt, a special institution. Yet it isn't perfect, and the people who run the school and study there aren't perfect either. CUNY, like other colleges and universities across the nation, charges students with misconduct, sometimes justly but also unjustly. CUNY also disciplines students up to dismissal, sometimes justly but also sometimes unjustly, harshly, and unduly punitively. CUNY, like other colleges and universities, doesn't always get its charges and discipline results right.

You, though, have the most important role in the outcome of any student misconduct charges that you may face at CUNY. Your discipline results and future aren't solely in the hands of CUNY administrators and discipline officials. If you face CUNY misconduct charges, you can take prompt and effective action to improve your prospects for an acceptable, positive outcome. And your one best step, if you face CUNY misconduct charges, is to promptly get the expert help of a national academic administrative defense attorney. If you face CUNY misconduct charges, retain national academic defense attorney Joseph D. Lento and the expert team at the Lento Law Firm. Hundreds of students nationwide have turned desperate discipline situations into successful outcomes by hiring attorney Lento. Attorney Lento can help you defend CUNY misconduct charges.

City University Governance

New York Education Law Section 6203 forms the City University of New York as a public, corporate body. While the City University of New York has twenty-five campuses spread around all five New York City boroughs, New York Education Law Section 6201 places all CUNY campuses under a single Board of Trustees charged with maintaining all CUNY programs as a single integrated system:

The legislature intends that the city university of New York should be maintained as an independent system of higher education governed by its own board of trustees responsible for the governance, maintenance and development of both senior and community college units of the city university. *** Where possible, governance and operation of senior and community colleges should be jointly conducted or conducted by similar procedures to maintain the university as an integrated system and to facilitate articulation between units.

City University Policy Authority

Under New York Education Law Section 6204, New York's governor appoints ten of CUNY’s seventeen trustees, while New York City's mayor appoints five CUNY trustees. The other two ex-officio trustees are the chairs of the university's student and faculty senates. CUNY's board of trustees is important to student misconduct matters. Under New York Education Law Section 6206, the board of trustees prescribes “conditions of student admission, attendance and discharge….” At the highest level, CUNY's board of trustees determines the student conduct policies that lesser university officials enforce. If you face misconduct charges at the City University of New York, those charges likely issued from policies CUNY's board of trustees established.

City University Policy Enforcement

The City University of New York vests its executive powers in a single chancellor supported by an executive team. One member of that executive team is a vice chancellor for student affairs. The vice chancellor's Central Office of Student Affairs publishes CUNY's student conduct codes. The Office of Student Affairs is also likely to supervise or otherwise support the student conduct officers or other student affairs officials who enforce the university's behavioral and academic misconduct codes. CUNY's separate Office of Risk, Audit, and Compliance handles Title IX complaints and proceedings, given the significant federal Title IX interests.

In short, if you face misconduct charges at the City University of New York, you may deal with different CUNY offices and officials, depending on the nature of the charges. CUNY offices may have different interests, agendas, and concerns, while CUNY officials who pursue those charges may have different levels of expertise and different expectations. If you face CUNY misconduct charges, don't get lost in an administrative maze of CUNY offices and officials. Instead, retain an expert academic administrative attorney who knows the interests, agendas, and expectations. Put an expert attorney to work on your behalf so that you get the best possible outcome to your charges. Retain national academic defense attorney Joseph D. Lento and the expert team at the Lento Law Firm.

City University Student Conduct Governance

New York state law authorizes CUNY's board of trustees to regulate student conduct to ensure public order, personal safety, and academic integrity. New York Education Law Article 129-A collects state laws authorizing and mandating student conduct codes and provisions. The first of those laws, New York Education Law Section 6430, authorizes CUNY's board of trustees to implement policies to maintain basic order on CUNY campuses. Behavioral rules, like those against alcohol, drugs, thefts, and assaults, fall under Section 6430's general mandate. Other provisions within New York Education Law Article 129-A require CUNY to inform students about sexual assault, domestic violence, stalking prevention, and crime statistics on and about campus and authorize CUNY to investigate crimes on its campuses.

CUNY's board of trustees has acted on its public law authority by enacting bylaws governing student misconduct. Section 15.1 of those CUNY bylaws provides,

Each student enrolled or in attendance in any college, school, or unit under the control of the board … shall obey (1) the laws of the city, state and nation; (2) the bylaws and resolutions of the board, including the rules and regulations for the maintenance of public order pursuant to article 129-a of the education law…; and (3) the governance plan, policies, regulations, and orders of the college.

At CUNY, students must obey CUNY student conduct policies. Students must also obey the laws of New York City, New York state, and the federal government.

Publication of City University Student Policies

Significantly, New York Education Law Section 6430 requires CUNY to give all enrolled students a copy of CUNY conduct rules. You should know in advance what CUNY's conduct rules are. CUNY does so by publishing its student conduct codes on its website. CUNY maintains separate policies on academic integrity, behavioral rules labeled as rules for the maintenance of public order, and a policy on sexual misconduct (both Title IX and non-Title IX). If you face misconduct charges at the City University of New York, those charges will very likely fall under one or more of these three student conduct policies. These policies and their definitions and procedures can be complex and difficult to follow. If you face misconduct charges at the City University of New York, retain expert attorney assistance.

The Power of City University Officials

Other laws require CUNY's chancellor to enforce CUNY student conduct codes, especially its behavioral rules. Under New York Education Law Article 129-A, the City University of New York must enforce its student behavioral rules, which it labels rules for the maintenance of public order, as the state's Board of Higher Education requires. The state Board of Higher Education maintains bylaws that require CUNY's chancellor, through the chancellor's executive team, to:

  • Have the responsibility of conserving and enhancing the educational standards of the college and schools under their jurisdiction
  • Be the advisor and executive agent of the board and respective college committee and, as such, have the immediate supervision with full discretionary power in carrying into effect the bylaws, resolutions, and policies of the board
  • Exercise general superintendence over the concerns, officers, employees, and students of the educational unit

CUNY has a distinct historical commitment to the success of its students. Yet if you face misconduct charges at CUNY, don't doubt the power and responsibility, indeed the willingness, of CUNY officials to aggressively pursue those charges. If you face CUNY misconduct charges, your education and future may well be on the line. Get the expert attorney help that you need. Retain national academic defense attorney Joseph D. Lento and the committed team at the Lento Law Firm.

City University Student Conduct Codes

CUNY's separate policies on academic integrity, behavior, and sexual misconduct contain many different terms, definitions, and prohibitions. You can and should read those policies, especially the policy under which CUNY may have charged you with student misconduct. Yet, given the complexity and ambiguity of these policies, you should have expert academic administrative attorney help. Your retained academic misconduct defense attorney will help you evaluate CUNY's misconduct charges in light of the applicable policy, in all its abundant detail and unfortunate ambiguity. Here is a summary of each policy's prohibitions.

Academic Integrity. Academic misconduct policies address things that students must avoid in their college coursework if they are to demonstrate the honesty expected of college graduates. CUNY has a long academic integrity policy. CUNY's academic integrity policy prohibits these four forms of academic misconduct:

  • Cheating, defined as “the unauthorized use or attempted use of material, information, notes, study aids, devices or communication during an academic exercise,” including copying from another student during an examination or allowing another to copy, unauthorized collaboration on a take-home assignment or examination, using notes during a closed-book examination, taking an examination for another student or asking or allowing another student to take an exam, changing a graded exam and returning it for more credit, submitting the same paper for more than one course without approval, preparing answers or writing notes in an exam booklet before an exam, allowing others to research and write assigned papers or do assigned projects, assisting academic misconduct, fabricating or falsifying data, submitting someone else's work, and unauthorized use during an exam of electronic devices to retrieve or send information
  • Plagiarism, defined as “presenting another person's ideas, research, or writing as your own,” including copying another person's words or images without the use of quotation marks and footnotes attributing the words to their source, presenting another person's ideas or theories without acknowledging the source, failing to acknowledge collaborators on homework and laboratory assignments, and internet plagiarism such as submitting downloaded term papers or parts of term papers, paraphrasing or copying information from the internet without citing the source, or cutting and pasting from various sources without proper attribution
  • Obtaining unfair advantage, defined as “any action taken by a student that gives that student an unfair advantage in his or her academic work over another student, or an action taken by a student through which a student attempts to gain an unfair advantage in his or her academic work over another student,” including stealing, reproducing, circulating, or otherwise gaining advance access to examination materials, depriving other students of access to library materials by stealing, destroying, defacing, or concealing them, retaining, using, or circulating exam materials that should be returned at the end of the exam, and intentionally obstructing or interfering with another student's work
  • Falsification of records and official documents, including forging signatures of authorization, falsifying information on an official academic record, and falsifying information on an official document such as a grade report, letter of permission, drop/add form, identification card, or other college document

Student Behavior. CUNY has a separate behavioral code, one that, for legal reasons, it calls rules for maintenance of public order. CUNY's rules for maintenance of public order address a range of different behaviors that, if tolerated, could disrupt the university's regular operation. CUNY's behavioral rules provide that CUNY students must not:

  • Intentionally obstruct CUNY's educational processes or facilities, including forcibly preventing others from exercising rights or availing themselves of CUNY's institution's instructional, personal, administrative, recreational, and community services
  • Trespass including entering and occupying CUNY facilities without authorization, blocking access to or from CUNY facilities, or removing, relocating, or using CUNY equipment or supplies without permission from appropriate CUNY authorities
  • Steal CUNY property or damage CUNY premises, or steal or damage property of any person on CUNY campuses
  • Provoke violence, or use language or take actions reasonably likely to provoke or encourage violence, by or against demonstrators or otherwise physically or verbally abuse members of the CUNY community or invited guests who are advocating conflicting points of view
  • Commit disorderly or indecent conduct on property that CUNY owns or controls
  • Possess firearms, knowingly possess any other dangerous instruments or materials that can inflict bodily harm or damage CUNY buildings or grounds unless the student has CUNY's written authorization, or possess any non-dangerous instrument or material while intending to inflict bodily harm or damage CUNY buildings or grounds
  • Commit any reckless or intentional action endangering health, including forcing another to consume liquor or drugs to initiate into or affiliate with any organization
  • Unlawfully manufacture, distribute, dispense, possess, or use of illegal drugs or other controlled substances on CUNY premises or as part of CUNY activities
  • Unlawfully possess, use, or distribute alcohol on CUNY premises or as part of CUNY activities
  • Fail to comply with lawful directions of CUNY representatives when those representatives act in their official capacities, including showing a CUNY identification card when a CUNY official asks the student to do so

Sexual Misconduct. CUNY has a separate sexual misconduct code that addresses both CUNY's general societal concern over sexual violations and CUNY's specific federal Title IX obligations. Title IX law requires colleges and universities receiving federal funds to prohibit sex discrimination in several specific forms. CUNY, like other colleges and universities, takes its Title IX obligations seriously not only because of its commitment to student safety but also because of its potential loss of federal funding due to Title IX violations. CUNY's commitment to policing sexual violations is so strong that its sexual misconduct code runs to fifty-two pages. Its core prohibitions, mimicking and extending Title IX requirements, include:

  • Dating violence, defined as violence committed by a person who is or has been in a social relationship of a romantic or intimate nature with the victim, regardless of whether the relationship is sexual in nature, from a single act or pattern of behavior, including a threat of sexual assault or physical abuse
  • Domestic violence, defined as a felony or misdemeanor crime of violence committed by a current or former spouse or intimate partner of the victim by a person with whom the victim shares a child, who is cohabitating with or has cohabitated with the victim as a spouse or intimate partner, who is a person similarly situated to a spouse of the victim under applicable domestic or family violence laws, or against an adult or youth victim who is protected from that person's acts under applicable domestic or family violence laws
  • Sexual assault, defined as any sexual contact or sexual touching for the purpose of sexual gratification of either party or degrading or abusing a person, without the person's consent, including contact under or over clothing with another person's anus, breasts, buttocks, genitals, groin or inner thigh, touching another person anywhere with any of these body parts, making another person touch any of these body parts under or over clothing, the emission of ejaculate on the clothing or body of another person, penetration or attempted penetration in any form of vagina, anus, or orally, however slight, by a penis, object, tongue, or finger without a person's consent, incest, or statutory rape
  • Sexual harassment, defined as unwelcome verbal or physical behavior based on a person's sex, sexual orientation, gender, gender expression, gender identity, or transgender status, where unwelcome means the individual did not request or invite the conduct and considered the conduct undesirable or offensive, including when the conduct has the effect of interfering with an individual's educational experience by creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment based on the perspective of a reasonable person, and including suggestive body language, inappropriate or unwelcome physical contact short of sexual assault, verbal abuse or offensive comments of a sexual nature such as sexual slurs, persistent or pervasive sexually explicit statements, questions, jokes or anecdotes, degrading words regarding sexuality or gender, and suggestive or obscene letters, notes, or invitations, lewd or sexual comments about an individual's appearance, body, or clothing, visual displays or distribution of sexually explicit drawings, pictures, or written materials, undue and unwanted attention such as repeated inappropriate flirting, staring, or making sexually suggestive gestures, offensive comments regarding a person's sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression such as persistent mocking or disparagement of a person based on a perceived lack of stereotypical masculinity or femininity
  • Stalking, defined as engaging in a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to fear for their safety or the safety of others or suffer substantial emotional distress, including only stalking based on sex, sexual orientation, gender, gender expression, gender identity, or transgender status

City University Campus and College Conduct

CUNY thus maintains system-wide conduct codes on academic integrity, behavior, and sexual misconduct with which its individual colleges and campuses must comply. But CUNY's procedures for enforcing those codes generally rely on officials at each of its colleges and campuses. And those college or campus officials may have their own set of rules, customs, and conventions for student conduct matters and for interpreting and applying CUNY's system-wide codes. If you face misconduct charges at any CUNY college or campus, retain an expert academic administrative attorney to ensure that you and the officials charging you are following the right code and procedures.

City University Misconduct Sanctions

CUNY's student conduct codes authorize CUNY discipline officials to impose a much wider range of sanctions than simply reprimand or dismissal. CUNY's system-wide conduct codes on academic integrity, behavior, and sexual misconduct authorize sanctions from reprimand through probation, suspension, and restitution, to dismissal. For instance, CUNY's behavioral code or rules for maintenance of public order, for example, provide for any or all of these sanctions:

  • Admonition, defined as an oral statement to the offender that the offender has violated university rules
  • Warning, defined as notice to the offender, orally or in writing, that continuation or repetition of the wrongful conduct, within a period of time stated in the warning, may cause far more severe disciplinary action
  • Censure, defined as a written reprimand for violation of specified regulation, including the possibility of more severe disciplinary sanction in the event of conviction for other violations within a period stated in the reprimand
  • Disciplinary probation, defined as exclusion from participation in CUNY privileges or extracurricular activities stated in the notice of disciplinary probation for a specified period of time
  • Restitution, defined as reimbursement for damage to or misappropriation of property, including service to repair or otherwise compensate for damages
  • Suspension, defined as exclusion from classes and other privileges or activities stated in the notice of suspension for a definite period of time
  • Expulsion, defined as termination of student status for an indefinite period, stating the conditions of any permitted readmission
  • Complaint to civil authorities
  • Ejection from CUNY campuses and activities

CUNY professors and discipline officials may restrict sanctions under CUNY's academic integrity policy to academic forms like adjustment of a grade for an assignment or course or course failure and repetition. CUNY Title IX officials may, under CUNY's sexual misconduct policy, also accept informal resolutions agreed between the parties involving acceptance of responsibility, no-contact arrangements, education or training, and apology. If you face CUNY misconduct charges, then retain an expert academic administrative attorney to ensure that you don't suffer harsh, unjust, and unnecessary sanctions. Even in cases of serious charges of misconduct, an expert academic administrative attorney may be able to negotiate meaningful relief that preserves the charged student's opportunity to continue and complete a rewarding CUNY education.

City University Misconduct Procedures

Procedures mean a lot to a student's successful defense of college or university misconduct charges. The procedures that CUNY misconduct officials should follow depend on whether the charges are under CUNY's system-wide conduct code on academic integrity, behavior, or sexual misconduct. No matter the form of your charges, though, CUNY policies do provide substantial opportunities for your retained academic administrative attorney to challenge the charges. The expert academic administrative defense attorney whom you retain to defend you can ensure that CUNY discipline officials follow the right procedures under the right policy so that you have the best opportunity for a successful outcome.

Academic Misconduct Charges. If a student faces CUNY charges of academic misconduct, then CUNY's academic integrity policy grants each CUNY college the authority to constitute an Academic Integrity Committee to hear and decide those cases. CUNY's academic integrity policy requires that Academic Integrity Committee to at a minimum, provide the accused student with “(i) written notice of the charges against him or her; (ii) the right to appear before the Committee; and (iii) the right to present witness statements and to call witnesses.” The professor accusing the student of academic misconduct may appear at the discipline hearing, as may other witnesses whom the Committee calls. The Academic Integrity Committee deciding the matter must disclose its decision in writing.

Behavioral Misconduct Charges. Section 15.4 of CUNY's bylaws states the procedures for charges under CUNY's behavioral rules, also known as its rules for maintenance of public order. Under Section 15.4, misconduct allegations go to the college's chief student affairs officer. That official conducts a preliminary investigation. The official then dismisses the charges, sends the matter to mediation, or advances the charges to a formal complaint. If the official pursues formal charges, the accused student must receive a “complete and itemized statement of the charges … including the rule, bylaw, or regulation she/he is charged with violating, and the possible penalties for such violation.” Section 15.4 also guarantees the accused student rights to tell the student's side of the story, present witnesses and evidence, cross-examine witnesses, remain silent without assumption of guilt, and have the representation and assistance of an attorney.

Sexual Misconduct Charges. CUNY follows similar but much more elaborate procedures for Title IX and non-Title IX sexual misconduct charges under its sexual misconduct policy. CUNY Title IX officials first decide whether to attempt to resolve the matter informally. Both parties must agree to any informal resolution. Otherwise, CUNY draws representatives from a system-wide Sexual Misconduct Panel to decide formal charges. An accused student may challenge the Panel members for conflict or bias. CUNY Title IX officials must allow the accused student to review evidence supporting the charges before the formal hearing. The accused student may retain an expert academic administrative attorney to represent the student at the hearing, including to present and cross-examine witnesses. The Panel must record the formal hearing for the accused student's review.

City University Misconduct Appeals

CUNY's student conduct codes provide accused students who suffer discipline with substantial rights to appeal that discipline. If you suffer discipline at CUNY, don't give up. Promptly retain national academic administrative attorney Joseph D. Lento and the expert team at the Lento Law Firm to make your appeal. Academic administrative appeals are highly technical. They generally require expert advocacy if they are to be successful. Appeals are not simply a second bite at the proverbial apple. Accused students who have suffered discipline and intend to reverse that discipline through an appeal must generally obtain and examine the hearing transcript to prove qualifying grounds for reversal.

For example, CUNY's sexual misconduct policy requires the student pursuing an appeal to demonstrate either (1) procedural irregularity affecting the outcome, (2) new evidence not reasonably available at the time of the hearing that could affect the outcome, (3) a conflict of interest or bias affecting the outcome, by the case coordinator, investigator, or decision-making panel, or (4) a disproportionate penalty. Section 15.4 of CUNY's bylaws for behavioral misconduct charges requires the student pursuing an appeal of behavioral discipline to show one or more of the same grounds. An expert academic administrative attorney has these special appellate advocacy skills.

Alternative Avenues for Relief at City University

Alternative relief may still be available at CUNY, even if your misconduct proceeding has already resulted in discipline and you've exhausted all appeals. National academic administrative attorney Joseph D. Lento and his team have established relationships and a track record of success at many colleges and universities nationwide. Attorney Lento's substantial academic administrative experience and national reputation have enabled him to negotiate favorable relief in many cases through college and university Offices of General Counsel and similar oversight offices. The point is not to give up without first consulting Attorney Lento to determine whether such special relief is available at CUNY. A favorable outcome may still be possible, one that you would happily accept, even if you've exhausted all other administrative procedures.

The Role of an Academic Administrative Attorney

You can see how complex and daunting City University of New York's misconduct charges and procedures can be. If CUNY misconduct charges have frightened, confused, and depressed you, you are simply experiencing what other college and university students in that position typically experience. You are not alone. As smart and capable as they otherwise are, college and university students also generally lack the academic administrative experience and skill to handle serious misconduct charges wisely and effectively on their own. Students are at a decided disadvantage when facing misconduct charges pursued by experienced academic administrators following arcane customs and procedures.

An expert academic administrative attorney can level the playing field. Aggressive and effective attorney representation doesn't necessarily mean taking CUNY to court, although litigation could be an appropriate last resort. Far more often, an expert academic administrative attorney can help the school recognize the value, fairness, and efficiency of informal resolution. An academic administrative attorney can be especially effective not just at a formal hearing with things like cross-examination skills but also at mediation or other informal meetings and conferences. An academic administrative attorney can also handle critical communications and ensure timely resort to critical procedures. The overriding success strategy is to get the expert academic administrative attorney help that you need for the best possible outcome. Your CUNY education is worth it, as are your reputation and future career.

National Academic Attorney Assistance Available

If you face misconduct charges at any City University of New York campus, national academic defense attorney Joseph D. Lento and the expert team at the Lento Law Firm are ready to help you. Hundreds of college and university students nationwide, including students in New York and New York City, have wisely relied on Attorney Lento to successfully defend and defeat student misconduct charges. You know that you have retained a premier attorney and team when you hire Attorney Lento and the Lento Law Firm. Call 888-535-3686 to schedule a Lento Law Firm consultation or use the online service.