The University of Pittsburgh, or as it is more commonly known, "Pitt," governs its student body through its Student Code of Conduct, which is enacted by the Division of Student Affairs. The Code of Conduct's mission is to educate and enforce behavioral standards within the University community. Both students and staff can get involved in activities with the Judicial Board.
Students who are suspected or charged with violations are subject to Pitt's disciplinary process. The process begins with a judicial referral to the Office of Student Conduct. There are two levels of intensity for Code of Conduct violations: Level I incidents and Level II incidents. In all judicial and disciplinary proceedings, the student accused of a violation will be known as the "respondent."
Level I Incidents
Level I incidents are considered to be low-level violations, not punishable by the sanctions of suspension or dismissal/expulsion. When a judicial referral is received, the Student Conduct Officer or a designated individual will make the determination of whether or not the incident is a Level I incident and if an Administrative Hearing should be held.
The Student Conduct Officer or a designee will convene and oversee the hearing. The respondent can review and respond to the charges presented to them. Respondents can also present witnesses to their own benefit. The Student Conduct Officer will question any witnesses and the respondent. After all of the relevant information has been discussed and reviewed, the Student Conduct Officer will determine responsibility and sanctions.
Level I Appeals
In the event of an unfavorable outcome or a disagreement on sanctions, respondents are entitled to an appeal. Level I appeals must be made within 5 business days of the Administrative Hearing. The grounds for a Pitt Level I appeal are: being denied student rights, an error in procedure, or the findings and sanctions not being supported by the evidence.
Level II Incidents
Level II incidents are considered to be higher level violations, violations that can result in the sanctions of suspension or dismissal/expulsion and/or or an accumulation of Level I incidents. Whenever a judicial referral is deemed to be a Level II incident, the respondent will be contacted for a Disciplinary Conference.
At the Disciplinary Conference, the respondent will be given information regarding the charges, and an opportunity to discuss options with the Student Conduct Officer. The respondent will then be given the chance to accept the sanctions and waive their hearing, or proceed to stand before the Pitt Judicial Board for either a full hearing or a sanctions-only hearing. The Judicial Board will be comprised of three members from an established serving body of undergraduate students, graduate students, and University staff and faculty.
Level II Formal Hearing Process
The Student Conduct Officer or a designee will convene and oversee the hearing. At the start of the hearing, the parties will be introduced. Next, both parties will bring forward any objections to procedures of the hearing or any board members. Following this, the complainant will have to opportunity to present their evidence first. Afterward, the respondent will be given the chance to present question on the evidence. During the next step, the complainant will present their witnesses. The respondent will then be able to question any witnesses; afterwards, the complainant informs conduct officer that their presentation is over and the respondent will be given the opportunity to present their case in the same fashion. The respondent may or may not testify, at their own discretion. After the respondent states that their presentation has concluded, the Judicial Board will move to deliberations.
Level II Appeals
In the event of an unfavorable outcome from a Pitt Level II hearing, the respondent will be able to make an appeal to the University Review Board within 5 working days from the date of their decision letter. The grounds for a Pitt Level II appeal are claims that the respondent's rights were denied, claims that there were procedural errors, and claims that the sanctions were arbitrary or capricious.
Students are welcome to the presence of an attorney at either level of their hearing. A student with an attorney at their side will feel more certain in themselves and their case. In addition, experienced attorneys will know the difference between relevant and strong evidence, versus evidence that is merely circumstantial, and can help students learn and use this knowledge to their advantage in a hearing.
If you or your student is currently facing disciplinary action from the University of Pittsburgh, contact attorney Joseph D. Lento today.