What to Know About Student Conduct Hearings at Penn State

The Penn State Code of Conduct is a set of rules and expectations by which all students at the university are expected to abide. This includes undergraduates, graduate students, doctoral students, full-time, part-time, and World Campus students. Penn State takes violations of the Code of Conduct seriously, and it could result in sanctions or more serious forms of punishment if a student is accused of violating the Code of Conduct at the school. If you or a friend is accused of a Code of Conduct violation, it is important to know that you have rights; an experienced student conduct violation attorney can help protect and enforce your rights throughout the disciplinary process.

Students at Penn State can go to. Disney Law for help with any student conduct hearings that they may be required to attend after an alleged violation of the Code of Conduct. Call or text Robert Disney at 412-999-5765 or contact us today to schedule a free case evaluation and to discuss your legal needs. 

What Happens After an Alleged Incident of Misconduct?

 If someone reports you for an alleged incident of misconduct, the first step is a required appointment with the Office of Student Conduct or Residence Life case manager to determine whether any violations of the Code of Conduct occurred. If it is decided that violations occurred, sanctions may be assigned that can include a formal warning, probationary period, or even a suspension or expulsion from the university. There is often an educational component to the sanctions, as well, which can mean mandatory classes to address whatever issue caused the alleged conduct violation.

It is important to note that a student does not have to cooperate with the sanction process after an alleged conduct violation, but this means that the case manager will make a decision about any violations and sanctions based on the information available. However, regardless of whether a student participates in the conduct violation process they still have the opportunity to challenge the decision through a sanction review.

Does the Conduct Code Differ From Legal Criminality?

A student can be found guilty of a Code of Conduct violation even if there are no criminal charges or if the student is found not guilty of a crime. Criminal charges are completely separate from the university Code of Conduct process, and it has absolutely no impact on a student conduct case. This is because the conduct code is not a set of laws, but values and ethical standards set by Penn State. Some of the most significant tenants of the Code of Conduct include the following:

  • Personal and academic integrity
  • Respect for the dignity of all persons and a willingness to learn from the differences in people, ideas, and opinions
  • Respect for the rights, property, and safety of others
  • Concern for others and their feelings and their need for conditions that support an environment where they can work, grow, and succeed 

In some cases, the Code of Conduct may even apply to off campus activity. If a complaint is filed about a conduct violation off campus, the university will still review it to determine whether a student conduct hearing should occur to address any potential violations. 

Support During a Student Conduct Hearing

Having an attorney present can be incredibly beneficial during a student conduct hearing. Penn State allows for a person of the student’s choosing to be present during a conference with a case manager for an alleged conduct violation. This can include a parent, guardian, adviser, or attorney. While the student is expected to speak for him or herself, a lawyer can go over what to expect, what to say, and how to handle any issues that may arise during the hearing.

A lawyer can accompany a student to conduct proceedings, advise on the preparation and presentation of any materials or information that needs to be shared during the case conference, and advise the student in the preparation of an appeal or sanction reviews. A student usually has three business days after sanctions are issued to appeal the decision. An attorney can also consult with the student during the conduct conference if questions, issues, or concerns arise. This includes invoking the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, especially if criminal charges are potentially involved with the alleged incident.

Student Rights During a Code of Conduct Hearing

As a student, you have legal rights and are entitled to due process throughout the conduct hearing process. After the case conference, a student has the right to accept the violations and sanctions given by the university, contest one or more of the charges levied by requesting a hearing, or challenge the sanctions given by the university by asking for a sanction review if the sanctions included probation with a transcript notation or a form of separation from the University.

In every case of alleged student misconduct, the burden of proof is on the university, not the student. The university must be able to prove that the student is responsible for misconduct by a preponderance of the evidence. Unlike an actual criminal trial, the university has a lower burden of proof than to establish that the violation occurred beyond a reasonable doubt. The rules of evidence are also relaxed at conduct hearings, and evidence like hearsay is allowed. This is why it is critical to have an experienced attorney by your side during this process.

Talk to Disney Law Today

If you or someone you know at Penn State has been accused of committing a student conduct violation either on or off campus, it is important that you speak with a Pennsylvania lawyer who has experience handling student conduct issues about your case. At Disney Law, our team is prepared to offer you top-tier legal advice about your student conduct case and represent your interests throughout the process. To learn more about what to expect and what your legal rights are during a student conduct case, call or text Robert Disney at 412-999-5765 or contact us today to schedule a free case evaluation.