Student Misconduct Charges in the Utah System of Higher Education

Utah System Reach

The Utah System of Higher Education is a remarkable educational system that serves the people of Utah well. The Utah System includes all sixteen of Utah's public colleges and universities. If you attend any Utah public college or university, then you have been a part of the Utah System of Higher Education. The Utah System enrolled well over 200,000 students in its most recent class. The Utah System's largest campus at Utah Valley University enrolled more than 40,000 of those students. The University of Utah alone, with an enrollment of over 34,000, supported 83,100 jobs, $4.6 billion in earnings, and $6.3 billion in gross domestic product in the Utah economy in 2019. The University of Utah's direct employment of 39,300 jobs in that year also made it Utah's largest employer. Whatever challenges that its students may face in misconduct charges, the Utah System has enormous reach and impact throughout the region.

Utah System Member Institutions

The Utah System's better-known member institutions include the prestigious University of Utah, with both a medical school and law school, as well as Utah State University, Weber State University, and Southern Utah University. The Utah System also includes lesser-known institutions like Utah Valley University, Dixie State University, and Snow College, even though Utah Valley has by far the Utah System's largest enrollment. Half of the System's sixteen public institutions are technical colleges, including Bridgerland, Davis, Ogen-Weber, Southwest, Dixie, Mountainland, Tooele, and Uintah Basin. The Utah System of Higher Education serves to govern, integrate, coordinate, and support the educational offerings of all these member institutions. Your matriculation at a Utah System school makes you a part of a large and powerful system.

Utah System Commitments

In all, the Utah System gives the state a powerful engine for economic growth, research, practical skills, and upward mobility. Indeed, the Utah System's mission is to “provide high quality academic, professional, and applied technology learning opportunities designed to advance the intellectual, cultural, social, and economic well-being of the state and its people.” The Utah System hopes to “foster a society of lifelong learners, prepare a productive workforce for a knowledge-based global marketplace, cultivate social responsibility and commitment to ethical values, improve the quality and understanding of life, and promote cultural awareness and appreciation for diversity.”

If you study at a Utah System institution, you should be proud of your school's values, commitments, and impact. If, on the other hand, you face misconduct charges at a Utah System institution, then you should let your retained academic administrative attorney remind your school of those impressive commitments to student success. Your Utah System institution should treat you fairly, even in a misconduct proceeding. You are due nothing less from a system advertising such strong commitments.

Character and Conduct Count

The Utah System also commits to developing the ethical sensitivities and moral character of its students. Student character and conduct count at Utah System institutions. The Utah System's vision statement is to “forge an exceptional, learner-centered educational system providing citizens with the opportunity to become enlightened, to value ethnic and cultural differences, to have a global perspective, to develop an abiding sense of ethics, and to achieve their personal potential, thereby advancing the State and its citizens intellectually, socially, economically, and culturally.”

A system that touts its commitment to developing its students' enlightenment, ethics, and personal potential cannot ignore student misconduct. If you face misconduct charges at a Utah System institution, you already know that your character and conduct matter to your school. Yet ethics are a two-way street. Your Utah System institution owes you the same ethical conduct and fair treatment that your school expects of you. Let your retained academic administrative attorney ensure that your school treats you fairly in any misconduct proceeding.

The Value of a Utah System Education

Students who face misconduct charges at a Utah System institution also know that they have a lot on the line. A degree from a Utah System institution like the University of Utah can carry an enormous, lifelong value. The University of Utah, like other Utah System schools, pledges itself to student success: “We pledge to help you graduate with the support of learning communities, mentors, and advisors, a plan to finish, and deeply engaged learning experiences.” And Utah System institutions generally keep that pledge.

The University of Utah, for instance, has dozens of hugely successful and famous alumni, among them senators, governors, physicians, actors, actresses, entertainers, professional athletes, physicists, inventors, authors, educators, diplomats, engineers, and business owners. No matter your Utah System institution, your opportunity to earn a degree can have substantial economic, social, reputational, and personal value. Those values are the main reason why you should let your academic administrative attorney hold your Utah System institution accountable to fair procedures in any misconduct proceeding. Your Utah System education is worth holding your school accountable.

The Challenge of Misconduct Charges

Student misconduct charges put the entire value of a Utah System education at risk. Misconduct findings can result not only in dismissal from the educational program and expulsion from school grounds and housing but even in withholding or revocation of an earned degree. That means losing everything for which you've studied and worked. Even a sanction lesser in nature such as a suspension, probation, or reprimand can close doors to important opportunities like references, recommendation letters, honors, awards, scholarships, internships, graduate school, job opportunities, networks, and careers. If you face misconduct charges at a Utah System institution, then don't underestimate their potential impact. You may be risking everything for which you've studied and worked.

Get Academic Attorney Representation

With so much on the line, the Utah System student who faces misconduct charges needs the best available help. Your Utah System institution may offer you a student, staff, or faculty advisor to explain your school's misconduct charges. School advisors can be insightful, kind, and supportive. But they generally don't provide the high-level advocacy skills, full-on commitment, and effective strategic approach of an expert academic administrative attorney. School advisors also bring inherent conflicts of interest. They are part of the system, accountable to the system more so than to you.

In short, you need an independent and expert academic administrative attorney at your side to most effectively defend and defeat Utah System misconduct charges. National academic defense attorney Joseph D. Lento and the expert team at the Lento Law Firm have helped hundreds of college and university students nationwide fight false, unfair, and exaggerated misconduct charges. Don't fear the solution. Your misconduct defense may not require formal hearings or extensive litigation. Attorney Lento's skill, reputation, relationships, and experience have enabled him to gain informal, negotiated relief for many students facing serious misconduct charges. Don't go it alone. Instead, get expert help. Retain Attorney Lento and the Lento Law Firm while you learn everything you can about Utah System student discipline.

State Law Establishing the Utah System

Utah state law establishes the authority of Utah System institutions to offer educational programs and to discipline students within those programs. Utah Code Title 53B establishes the Utah System of Higher Education, including naming its sixteen member institutions. Utah Code Section 53B-1-402 establishes the Utah Board of Higher Education to govern the Utah System. The same code section authorizes the Board of Higher Education to delegate to each member institution's board of trustees the responsibility to administer the institution. The same code section further authorizes the Board of Higher Education to delegate to each institution's president the executive powers necessary to manage the institution.

Due Process of Law in the Utah System

Delegation of powers from the Utah Board of Higher Education to the boards and presidents of Utah System member institutions is exactly how the Utah System has proceeded with respect to student conduct. Student conduct rules in the Utah System are, in effect, all a matter of state law, rule, and regulation. That state action is important to Utah System student rights. Under the Constitution's 14th Amendment, state actors must guarantee due process of law as to property and liberty interests, including rights to earn a college or university degree. When Utah System officials charge a student with misconduct, they must afford the accused student with appropriate notice and opportunity for a hearing. Notice means that the officials must tell the accused student what the school believes the student did wrong. Hearing means the school must let the student tell the student's side before an impartial decision-maker. Retain an expert academic administrative attorney to ensure your Utah System institution provides you with due process of law.

Misconduct Governance of the Utah System

As shown above, the Utah Board of Higher Education governs the Utah System with oversight over the System's member institutions. The Board of Higher Education has adopted system-wide policies that carry out the Board's oversight responsibilities. Those policies include policies for student disciplinary processes, student safety, campus discipline, cross-college Title IX investigations, and campus safety. While the policies in certain instances establish minimum standards or authorize certain actions, the Utah System's policies do not provide the details of student conduct codes. Instead, a student charged with misconduct at a Utah System institution would find the detailed conduct code in the institution's policies, not system-wide policies. Retain national academic defense attorney Joseph D. Lento and the expert team at the Lento Law Firm to locate and interpret the conduct code under which your school has filed its misconduct charges.

Misconduct Enforcement in the Utah System

Much the same is true for enforcement of misconduct policies: the Utah System mostly delegates misconduct enforcement to its member institutions. The Utah System's chief executive officer is the Utah Commissioner of Higher Education. The Commissioner, though, does not maintain student affairs officers or other officials or offices to prosecute student misconduct. Instead, the Utah System delegates enforcement of school conduct codes to appropriate departments and officials at the System's member institutions. The Utah System's campus discipline policy authorizes discipline “to be administered by institutional organs constituted for that purpose, including department and school faculties.” Retain national academic defense attorney Joseph D. Lento and the expert team at the Lento Law Firm to identify and timely communicate with the responsible school officials.

Utah System Member Conduct Codes

Because the Utah System largely delegates student misconduct policies and enforcement to its member institutions, one does not find a single system-wide code addressing all forms of potential misconduct. Consider the student conduct codes of the following representative Utah System institutions instead.

Utah State University maintains a comprehensive Code of Policies and Procedures for students. Utah State also maintains a separate sexual misconduct policy addressing Title IX requirements while also adding other non-Title IX forms of sexual misconduct. Those two codes together address:

  • Academic misconduct, including altering or fabricating any information or data in schoolwork, plagiarism representing another's work as one's own, or cheating such as unauthorized assistance during exams, use of unauthorized notes or other resources during exams, taking another student's place for exams or permitting another student to take one's place, writing an exam beyond the allowed time, submitting the same work for credit in two or more courses without instructor approval, and research fraud
  • Behavioral misconduct, like alcohol use or possession, illegal drug use or possession, smoking where prohibited, lewd or disorderly conduct, obstructing university traffic or activities, unauthorized entry otherwise known as trespassing, insufficient funds checks, theft or possessing stolen property, forgery or other alteration of school documents, violence inflicting physical or mental harm, illegal possession or use of weapons, misuse of fire alarms and equipment, misuse of school computers or technology, hazing, classroom disruption, or abuse of the disciplinary process
  • Sexual misconduct, including sexual assault, sexual violence, dating violence, domestic violence, stalking, sexual exploitation, and sexual harassment of either the quid pro quo or hostile environment form unreasonably interfering with access to educational opportunities and resources

The University of Utah first maintains a comprehensive Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities, also titled its student code. The University of Utah then maintains separate Title IX and other sexual misconduct policies. Much like Utah State's student codes, the University of Utah's student codes together address:

  • Academic misconduct, including cheating in several traditional forms, misrepresenting one's work prepared by another, plagiarism, and fabrication or falsification of academic information or data
  • Behavioral misconduct, including furnishing false or misleading information to any school official, forgery, alteration or misuse of a school document, record, fund or identification, intentional disruption or obstruction of teaching, research, administration, disciplinary proceedings or other school activities, physical or verbal assault, hazing, threats, intimidation, coercion, or any other behavior threatening or endangering health or safety of any member of the school community, attempted or actual theft, damage, or misuse of school property or resources, sale or distribution of the work product of a faculty member to a commercial entity for financial gain, unauthorized or improper use of school property, equipment, facilities, or resources, unauthorized entry into any school building or premises, possession or use on school premises or at school activities of any firearm or other dangerous weapon, incendiary device, explosive, or chemical, unless school authorized, use, possession, or distribution of any narcotic or other controlled substance on school premises or at school activities, use, possession, or distribution of alcoholic beverages, violation of published school policies, rules or regulations, or violation of federal, state, or local civil or criminal laws on school premises or while participating in school activities
  • Sexual misconduct, including sexual or gender-based harassment, including unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature or based on an individual's sex, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or gender expression when such conduct has the purpose or effect of interfering with an individual's educational performance or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment for that individual's education or participation in a university program or activity, and also intimate partner violence, sexual exploitation, stalking, non-consensual sexual contact, non-consensual sexual penetration, and the crimes of dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking as defined by state and federal law

Weber State University maintains similar student conduct codes. Weber State's primary student code addresses both academic misconduct and behavioral misconduct but not sexual misconduct, which Weber State instead addresses under a Title IX and non-Title IX sexual misconduct policy. Together, Weber State's student codes prohibit this very wide range of misconduct:

  • Behavioral misconduct including engaging in or supporting hazing or violent behavior, disorderly, lewd, indecent, defamatory, or obscene conduct or expression, demonstrations, rallies, assemblies, performances, showings, exhibits, or pickets violating law or university policy, distributing, publishing or posting materials, soliciting funds, selling items, engaging in commercial activity, erecting structures, exhibiting items, displaying films and videos, using official university insignia or materials, or participating in performances and activities without authorization, obstructing or disrupting teaching, research, administration, disciplinary procedures, computing services, or other university-sponsored activities, services, or events, deliberate interference with academic freedom and freedom of speech, including not only instructional activities but also interference with performances, exhibits, displays, dissemination of information, demonstrations, or the freedom of any speaker, initiating or causing intentionally false reports, leaving children unattended on university premises or allowing them to create a disruption, failing to meet contractual obligations with the university, knowingly violating terms of any disciplinary sanction, intentionally furnishing false information, including false identification, forging, altering, misusing, or mutilating university documents, records, identification, educational materials, or other university property, influencing or attempting to influence academic or administrative processes through bribery, threats, or sexual behavior, theft or misappropriation of property, equipment, materials, services, or data, theft or other abuse of computer facilities and resources including unauthorized entry into a file to use, read, or change the contents, unauthorized transfer of a file, use of another individual's identification or password, use of computing facilities and resources to interfere with the work of another student, faculty member, or university official, use of computing facilities and resources to send obscene or abusive messages, use of computing facilities and resources to interfere with normal operation of the university computing system, unauthorized possession or use of a key to any university facility, sale, possession, manufacture, distribution, or consumption of alcoholic beverages on university premises, and refusing to respond to reasonable requests and directions from university or local government officials while in the performance of their duties
  • Misconduct violating law including use of computing facilities and resources in violation of state or federal law or for any illegal purpose, use of computing facilities and resources in violation of copyright laws, knowingly possessing stolen property, equipment, materials, services, or data, intentionally or recklessly destroying, defacing, vandalizing, damaging, or misusing university property, equipment, materials, services, or data, unauthorized entry into or use of university facilities, illegal or unauthorized possession of firearms, explosives, other weapons, or dangerous chemicals in a manner that harms, threatens, or causes reasonable fear of imminent bodily harm, unlawful use, possession, distribution, sale, manufacture, or possession for purposes of distribution or sale of any controlled substance or illegal drug, smoking in unauthorized locations on university premises in violation of state law, university, or public health regulations, aiding, abetting, or inciting others to commit any act prohibited by law, and violating university parking regulations or other misuse of a vehicle violating the law
  • Misconduct abusing the student code system including failure to obey a notice from a university official to appear for a meeting or hearing as part of the student code system, falsification, distortion, or misrepresentation of information before a hearing committee, disruption or interference with the orderly conduct of a hearing committee proceeding, initiation of a student code proceeding in bad faith, attempting to discourage an individual's proper participation in the student code system, attempting to influence the impartiality of a member of a hearing committee, harassment or intimidation of a member of a hearing committee, failure to comply with sanctions imposed under the student code, and influencing or attempting to influence another person to commit an abuse of the student code system
  • Academic misconduct including cheating such as copying from another student's test, using unauthorized materials during a test, collaborating with any other person during a test without authorization, knowingly obtaining, using, buying, selling, transporting, or soliciting the contents of any test without authorization, bribing any other person to obtain any test, soliciting or receiving unauthorized information about any test, substituting for another student or permitting any other person to substitute for oneself to take a test, knowingly obtaining academic credit for work that is not one's own regardless of the source of the work, knowingly arranging fraudulent academic credit or false transcripts, plagiarism, collusion or the unauthorized collaboration with another person in preparing work offered for credit, falsification or the intentional and unauthorized altering or inventing of any information or citation in an academic exercise, activity, or record-keeping process, giving, selling, or receiving unauthorized course or test information, or using any unauthorized resource or aid in the preparation or completion of any course work, exercise, or activity
  • Sexual misconduct including sexual assault, stalking, dating violence, or domestic violence, sexual harassment constituting any unwelcome conduct that a reasonable person would find so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it denies a person equal educational access, and sexual exploitation defined as non-consensual or abusive sexual advantage of another for own advantage or benefit, or to benefit or advantage anyone other than the one being exploited, including invasion of sexual privacy, prostituting another person or other sex trafficking, non-consensual video or audio-recording of sexual activity, allowing others to hide to watch consensual sex, voyeurism, knowingly transmitting an STD or HIV to another person, exposing one's genitals in non-consensual circumstances or inducing another to expose their genitals, sexually-based bullying, non-consensual removal of a condom or other form of birth or disease control by a sex partner, sabotage to a condom or other form of birth or disease control by a sex partner without the other's knowledge or consent, or false representation of the use of a condom or other form of birth or disease control

Other Utah System institutions like Dixie State University and Southern Utah University have similar student conduct codes, each governing student conduct at that institution. Utah System technical colleges like Ogden-Weber Technical College have their own similar student conduct codes. Whatever Utah System institution you attend, it should publish student conduct codes containing prohibitions like those above. If you attend a Utah System institution, then any misconduct charges against you should fall under your specific institution's student conduct code or codes.

Contesting Utah System Misconduct Charges

You can see from the above examples that Utah System member institutions prohibit an extraordinarily broad range of student conduct. Indeed, Utah System student codes are so broad that they often make enforcement unfairly arbitrary and subjective. An expert academic administrative attorney can call into question such arbitrary and capricious enforcement. A skilled academic attorney can also show Utah System discipline officials that arbitrary enforcement of conduct codes does not serve students or institutions. Institutions and their students are better served by positive and rehabilitative approaches to student misconduct, especially when the misconduct resulted in no harm or loss beyond available restitution. Retain national academic defense attorney Joseph D. Lento and the expert team at the Lento Law Firm to help you identify the applicable student code under which your school has charged you and to evaluate, contest, and defeat those charges.

Misconduct Sanctions in the Utah System

The Utah System's general campus discipline policy authorizes system discipline officials to impose any sanction, including “admonition, warning, censure, probation, suspension, dismissal or expulsion.” Admonition, warning, censure, and even probation seem relatively minor forms of sanction, especially compared to suspension, dismissal, and expulsion. Suspension may be temporary, but it can throw off sequencing of courses, add substantial additional living expenses and loss of foregone income, and delay or even frustrate graduation. Dismissal is, of course, a draconian sanction that effectively ends your opportunity within the Utah System unless your dismissal permits reinstatement and could end your educational career if you fail to gain admission to another school and program. Yet any sanction can interfere with your continuing education, causing you to lose honors, awards, scholarships, internships, references, recommendation letters, and graduate school or transfer opportunities.

How to Respond to Misconduct Charges

If you face potential discipline at a Utah System institution, do not ignore the proceeding. The moment that you receive notice of a charge, or as soon as you realize that a charge is surely coming, retain expert academic administrative counsel to advise and assist you. With your attorney's assistance, be sure to answer the charge timely and truthfully, without admitting to things that you did not do. Above all, do not admit to misconduct that you did not commit. False admissions will not make a matter go away, to your benefit. They will instead remain on your record, permanently affecting your education, reputation, and prospects.

If you face potential discipline at a Utah System institution, you have two better courses than to simply accept what penalty you sense may be coming. The first course is to contest the charges. Treat misconduct charges most seriously, retaining an expert academic administrative defense attorney to help you fight and beat the charges. A charge is not a conviction. Some misconduct charges are mistaken, relying on false, fabricated, or incredible evidence. Other misconduct charges have no supporting evidence, based instead on speculation, guess, or conjecture. The expert academic administrative attorney whom you retain to defend you can show your school when it lacks evidence or has otherwise brought a groundless misconduct charge against you.

A second approach to misconduct charges, though, is to let your retained academic administrative attorney negotiate a compromise resolution that serves all interests. Complainants are often acting out of principle or similar obligation, without any harm or loss. A negotiated resolution acknowledging the importance of misconduct rules and the existence of suspicious circumstances but avoiding direct and untruthful admission of wrongdoing may satisfy the complainant and school, especially when the relief may include counseling, training, or other educational measures. Those measures may simultaneously satisfy the institution. If a complainant has suffered some loss, then restitution may be possible. These are just a couple of the many creative and positive options that national academic administrative attorney Joseph D. Lento has negotiated for hundreds of students to preserve their education and reputation.

Utah System Minimum Procedures

As briefly indicated above, the Utah System has policies on student disciplinary processes and campus discipline. The Utah System's student disciplinary process establishes minimum procedures that all Utah System institutions must follow, specifically including the participation of attorney advisors. The policy begins by promising students due process, both fair notice and impartial hearing, including for charges of academic misconduct. The policy then requires all member institutions to permit students to have an attorney-advisor actively participate in formal hearings, including to:

  • Give opening statements
  • Advise students throughout the hearing
  • Question witnesses as the hearing committee chair or hearing officer allows, including at minimum allowing attorney advisors to submit questions for the chair to ask of witnesses
  • Present a closing statement

While these rights of attorney representation are critical, the Utah System student disciplinary process promises other helpful procedures. The policy presumes the charged student's innocence until the institution establishes otherwise. The investigator seeking to prove the misconduct charge must share with the accused student all witness names and copies of exhibits before the hearing. The policy also requires the institution to act in good faith throughout the proceeding.

Utah System Campus Procedures

Each Utah System institution may adopt its own disciplinary procedures meeting the above system-wide minimum requirements. The University of Utah's student code, for instance, likewise promises due process to any student accused of misconduct, as does Weber State University's student code. To carry out that promise, the University of Utah's student code directs complaints to the dean of students who conducts an initial review. If the complaint alleges a violation, the dean of students may attempt informal resolution. Informal resolution is a key point at which your retained expert academic administrative attorney may be able to negotiate acceptable relief.

Matters not informally resolved proceed to formal complaint and hearing. Hearings go before a Student Behavior Committee composed of four university employees and three students. The Committee must record the hearing. The Committee must also allow the accused student to present the student's own testimony and the testimony of witnesses, as well as to cross-examine the other side's witnesses. While the University of Utah's student code purports to limit attorney participation to advising the accused student, remember that the Utah System student disciplinary process promises active attorney participation. The vice president for student affairs reviews the Committee's decision.

Utah System Misconduct Appeals

While Utah System institutions must uniformly provide at least minimum due process, including notice and formal hearing, Utah System institutions also commonly authorize appeals from misconduct findings. Again, the University of Utah's student code provides an example. The University of Utah's president considers misconduct appeals on written submissions. The president may further convene an ad hoc committee to review the findings for “substantial defects that denied basic fairness and due process.” The president may reject, affirm, or modify the discipline findings and may also adjust the sanction.

These appeal rights at the University of Utah are substantial. The University of Utah's student code doesn't, for instance, limit appeal grounds to certain specifics. The president may instead make the president's own decision on whatever grounds the president determines to be just. Appeal rights at other Utah System institutions vary but may be equally generous at your school. If you lost your misconduct proceeding but still have a chance for appeal, then promptly retain national academic administrative attorney Joseph D. Lento and the expert team at the Lento Law Firm to take your appeal. Appeals are technically difficult to pursue, requiring examination of the hearing record for error. Get the expert help of a skilled and experienced academic administrative attorney for your appeal.

Alternative Avenues for Relief within the Utah System

Don't despair if you have exhausted all administrative procedures at your Utah System institution. You may still have special administrative relief available to you through your school's Office of General Counsel or a similar oversight office. National academic administrative attorney Joseph D. Lento has helped many students nationwide to gain exactly that kind of special administrative relief outside of published procedures. Colleges and universities are risk-averse. They generally prefer to avoid litigation. They are also educational institutions committed to student maturation and growth. They can recognize when their mission better serves a student by grace than by punishment. Attorney Lento is available to help you determine whether such special relief is available at your Utah System institution.

Academic Attorney for Utah System Representation

The Utah System of Higher Education is a remarkable system. No system, though, is without faults. Your misconduct charges at a Utah System institution may be false, fabricated, exaggerated, unfair, or unsupported. The penalty that your school has proposed or imposed may also be unduly harsh and unjust. If you face misconduct charges of any kind at a Utah System institution, or you have already suffered Utah System discipline for misconduct, national academic defense attorney Joseph D. Lento is available to review your matter. Don't give up on your Utah System education without a fight. Get the expert attorney help you need and deserve to preserve your Utah System education.

Attorney Lento and the expert team at the Lento Law Firm have helped hundreds of college and university students in Utah and nationwide defend and defeat misconduct charges. They are available for you within the Utah System of Higher Education. You can and should retain a premier academic administrative attorney Joseph D. Lento and an expert team in the Lento Law Firm. Call 888-535-3686 to schedule a consultation or use the online service.