The University of Pennsylvania (Penn), a member of the Ivy League, governs it's student body through the Student Code of Conduct. The Code is upheld and enforced by the Office of Student Conduct. The Code itself sets forth a number of violations students can commit. If a student is under suspicion of committing a violation, they will be subject to investigation and a hearing under the Student Disciplinary System.
The disciplinary process begins when a complaint goes through the Office of Student Conduct. After the complaint is reviewed, an investigation into the incident begins. If sufficient findings exist to believe a violation has occurred, students will receive a written notice of charges from the University. At this point, students can either accept the charges and any accompanying sanctions, or seek a hearing.
In most cases, Mediation is usually sought out for a potential resolution to disciplinary Code violations first. Mediation allows a student to resolve a case without it having to go through a full hearing process. Mediation must be requested by the student. Academic matters are never resolved through mediation.
University of Pennsylvania Hearings
Throughout the hearing process, students will be known as "respondents" in all proceedings. The case will be assigned to a Disciplinary Hearing Officer, who will act somewhat like a judge and attempt to preserve procedural integrity throughout hearings. The Disciplinary Hearing Officer does not deliberate with panels. There are two types of hearing panels.
Academic Hearing Panel: Academic Hearing Panels will consist of 3 faculty members and 2 students from the University's Honor Council.
Student Conduct Hearing Panel: Student Conduct Hearing Panels will consist of 2 faculty members and 3 students.
The panels determine, by majority vote and using the standard of "clear and convincing evidence," if a respondent is in violation, and also what sanctions will be imposed. Hearings will proceed in the same fashion regardless of which panel is presiding.
The hearing begins with the Disciplinary Hearing Officer explaining the process, and opening statements from both sides. The respondent will be "prosecuted" by a representative from the Office of Student Conduct. The University's case will be presented first, this will consist of a summary of the investigation, as well as any evidence. Following this, the University's witnesses will give testimony. Witnesses will be questioned by the respondent and the hearing panel following their testimony. Next, the respondent will present their case which will consist of a responding statement and any evidence they have. Respondents can present their own witnesses, who will be questioned by the Office of Student Conduct's representative and the hearing panel. After the presentation phase has concluded, the hearing will be adjourned for deliberations. Once a decision made, the respondent is notified in writing of the sanctions and decision if they are responsible for violations.
The University keeps hearings limited to University personnel, the students involved, and any witnesses. Advisors are not typically welcome unless the hearing has criminal charges that accompany the violation. Even if students must present the case themselves, an attorney can still help from behind the scenes. An attorney's counsel will provide helpful insight into evidence presentation, witness questioning, argument construction, and other courtroom tactics that can strongly influence the outcome of a hearing.
An Experienced Attorney's Role When Representing a University of Pennsylvania Student
The University of Pennsylvania and a student's attorney may be able to work together to achieve an agreeable resolution before non-academic disciplinary charges and/or academic misconduct charges are filed in certain instances. If charges have already been filed against a student, the accused student's attorney, also in certain instances, may be able to serve as an a advocate between the University of Pennsylvania, the accused student, and other involved parties, in an effort to achieve a constructive resolution. Whether before or after non-academic disciplinary charges and/or academic misconduct charges are filed, the extent of an attorney's involvement will be at the discretion of the University of Pennsylvania.
A student attorney's involvement at the University of Pennsylvania in matters involving non-academic disciplinary charges and/or academic misconduct charges should not be confused with University of Pennsylvania disciplinary cases involving Title IX sexual misconduct allegations. In Title IX student disciplinary proceedings, an experienced attorney must work both as the point of contact between the accused student and the University of Pennsylvania as well as behind the scenes to defend against sexual misconduct / sexual assault allegations.
University of Pennsylvania Appeals
In the event of an unfavorable outcome, students have until 10 days after the hearing panel decides their case to make an appeal. Appeals should be made to the Disciplinary Appellate Officer. The grounds of appeal must discuss an error in the conduct of hearings, an error in the interpretation of or application of University regulations, new evidence, or the severity of sanctions.
If you or your student is currently facing disciplinary action from the University of Pennsylvania, contact attorney Joseph D. Lento today.