Code of Student Conduct
SUNY Oneonta has a responsibility to maintain order within the university community and to discipline those who violate its standards, rules and/or policies. Enrollment requires students to share this responsibility. Students agree to abide by these standards, rules and/or policies set forth in the Code of Student Conduct and other official university publications. Student organizations also agree to follow all of these standards, rules and/or policies.
A university, like any community, must have regulations and/or standards by which its members abide and procedures by which its organizations function. The standards should provide order and an atmosphere conducive to intellectual and personal development.
The Office of Community Standards receives allegations of misconduct on a referral basis. These referrals can come from the University Police Department, other Law Enforcement agencies, Residence Life Staff, SUNY Oneonta students, Faculty, Staff, or other University community members. Reports include alleged behavior or conduct that is inconsistent with university policy as it is outlined in the Code of Student Conduct.
If you've already been to court for the alleged incident, then you have fulfilled your obligation to any violation of LAW. You have met the requirement set forth under New York Law for Otsego County. You have not yet met your obligation to SUNY Oneonta. Even if the courts found you "not guilty" or determined there wasn't sufficient evidence to even "hear" your case in court, you must still meet with a university hearing officer. The SUNY Oneonta conduct process runs separately and concurrently to any process the law requires. A violation of university policy is determined by and follows a different standard than the courts must satisfy with regard to findings of guilt/responsibility.
The 1974 Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) guarantees that your education records are kept confidential - unless you choose to waive those rights in writing. If you want your parents to become involved in this process - you have to sign a waiver to allow a hearing officer speak with them. An exception to this was facilitated by the 1998 Higher Education Amendment - which allows Colleges and Universities to contact parents of students who are under the age of 21 and found responsible for violating the alcohol and/or drug policy.
This means that the university has received a complaint regarding copyrighted material being offered for download on the SUNY Oneonta computer network. Campus information technology professionals have determined that the computer specified in the complaint is registered to you on the campus network. You should review the letter that was sent to you very carefully. Generally, the letter stated that you should remove any copyrighted material from your computer and then email the computer center at a designated address to let them know you’ve removed it. You only have 24 hours to do this before your internet access will be terminated. For more information on this topic please see the File Sharing page.
Most likely, the hearing officer who is assigned to your case has contacted you to give you notification of the date and time of your hearing. You should review the information sent to you carefully. If you cannot make the scheduled hearing you have one opportunity to reschedule. You may do this by calling the number indicated in the correspondence. Even if you feel that you are “not responsible” for the allegation, it is recommended that you attend the hearing so you may provide your side of what happened in the situation.
Another reason you may receive a notification from the Office of Community Standards is if you were involved in an incident as a witness. The hearing officer for the case will often want to talk with witnesses to get as full a picture as possible of the what happened before making a determination in the case.
This means that the Community Standards or Residence Life Office has received an RA incident report and/or police report alleging that you were involved in something that may constitute a violation of university policy. You will meet with a hearing officer who will present the allegation against you. The hearing is your opportunity to discuss the incident in question from your perspective.
You may also receive a request for a meeting if you are listed as a witness for an incident involving other people. The hearing officer for the case will often want to talk with witnesses to get as full a picture as possible of the what happened before making a determination in the case.
A student who is alleged to have violated the Code of Student Conduct is entitled to certain procedural guarantees to ensure a fair hearing of information. The rights for students participating in an administrative hearing (with one hearing officer) are listed below.
- The student who has been accused of a violation will be informed of the charges in writing or orally at the time of the administrative hearing.
- The student will be informed of the nature of the evidence against him/her.
- The student has the right to make statements and present witnesses on his/her behalf.
- The student may ask that the administrative hearing be postponed for 24 hours in order to have time to call witnesses or to gather witness statements.
- The student who has been accused has the right to remain silent and may not be forced to incriminate himself/herself.
- Decisions about violations of the Student Code will be based on the preponderance of evidence.
The appearance you present is entirely up to you. You will not be critiqued for what you are wearing. You should be comfortable and in appropriate attire to meet with a university administrator. Your demeanor during the hearing is much more important than your clothing.
An administrative hearing is a conduct review hearing that occurs with a university hearing officer. It is the less formal of the two types of hearings in that it is a facilitated conversation between the student and the hearing officer regard the incident in question. The other type of hearing is before the Standing Disciplinary Board (addressed in a later FAQ).
Failure to attend your hearing could result in several different things happening. Initially, an administrative hold may be placed on your record. You will be unable to add, drop, or register for classes, and your ability to select housing for the next academic year will be limited. Additionally, your case may be heard in your absence. Subsequently, a decision may be rendered with sanction, conditions, and/or restrictions being placed upon you. Failure to attend your hearing does not exempt you from the outcomes determined by the hearing officer. You may also be "charged" with another violation of the Code of Student Conduct (Failure to Comply), which would in turn result in another allegation against you.
The Director of Community Standards determines whether you will be heard by a Residence Life Staff Member or by a staff member in the Office of Community Standards. All hearing officer training is facilitated by the Director of Community Standards and the integrity of the process is implicit to all hearing officers.
At the hearing, the hearing officer will advise you of your rights as a student. The hearing officer will then let you know what allegation is before him/her and how this allegation was brought to their attention. Once the hearing officer has presented the information they have available to them, the student will be asked to provide their perspective of what took place. Once the student has given their version of the incident, the hearing officer will ask questions. The purpose of the hearing is to give you an opportunity to be heard, to have an educational discussion about community standards, and if you have violated a policy, give you an opportunity to accept responsibility for your actions.
The hearing officer will advise you that you do not have to make a statement if you feel it is in your best interest to not do so. However, if you choose to make a statement, honesty is the best policy. You may opt to tell your entire version of what you perceive happened or you may simply respond to any questions that you may be asked. Lying - or misrepresenting the facts - is generally a bad idea. Seldom does a student lie in a hearing and not get "caught" in that lie later. Misrepresentation or being deceptive to the hearing officer can lead to another violation of the Code as well.
If you choose to not make any statements or respond to questions during the hearing, a decision about the case will be made based on the information that is available to the hearing officer.
Each case is heard based on its individual circumstances. Once the hearing officer shares the information available to them, and the student shares their recollections of the events, it is up to the hearing officer to use good ethical practice and judgment to make a fair and just decision regarding the outcome for the case. The conduct process at SUNY Oneonta has an educational emphasis, therefore the sanctions that are assigned often focus on helping the student understand the concerns of the university related to the incident. (see "sanctions" FAQ).
Students are permitted to have one advisor, of their choosing, at any hearing. The advisor is not permitted to participate in any portion of the hearing process other than to advise the student. The advisor may quietly talk with the student or write notes during the hearing. Students are expected to represent themselves.
Standing Disciplinary Board Hearings
The SDB hears cases that may result in suspension or expulsion if they find the student(s) responsible for violating the Code of Student Conduct. In addition to making a determination of responsible or not responsible for charges brought before them, the SDB also assigns sanctions in cases where the student is found responsible for violating university policy.
The Standing Disciplinary Board has been utilized mostly in cases where an outcome of suspension or expulsion may result if the Board reaches a decision of responsible or "in violation."
The Standing Disciplinary Board is a representative hearing panel, with members from the student body, as well as faculty and staff. A staff member from the Office of Community Standards presents cases on behalf of the university to the Board. This staff member does not participate in deliberations to determine the outcome of the case.
For the Standing Disciplinary Board, the chair is the primary individual responsible for the order of the hearing. The chair is a faculty or staff member.
In a Standing Disciplinary Board hearing, there is a set script followed to ensure due process is maintained. If someone you know has direct knowledge of the events in question (not that they heard you tell someone what happened - but actually "saw" what happened, for example) then they would provide testimony at the hearing as to what they saw. Character witnesses are not allowed during Standing Disciplinary Board hearings.
Sanctions & Outcomes
There are many factors that can influence the type of sanction(s) that are given; these include the seriousness of the violation, previous conduct history, and precedent cases. For example, for a freshman student with no prior judicial history who is possessing alcohol on campus, the typical sanctions may include probation and an online alcohol education program. Additionally, the student may be referred to Office of Student Experience or Career Development, asked complete one or more online education courses, or assigned other educational sanctioning related to the incident.
The university may notify parents/guardians of non-dependent students who are under the age of 21 of alcohol and/or drug policy violations. The university will contact parents/guardians to inform them of situations in which there is a health and/or safety risk. The university also reserves the right to designate which university officials have a need to know about individual conduct complaints pursuant to the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).
- Dismissal implies expulsion from the university for an indefinite length of time. The student who is dismissed from the university may expect that only unusually mitigating circumstances will result in his/ her readmission to the university.
- Suspension means withdrawal from the university for a specified period of time. If the student is suspended for the semester in which he/she is currently enrolled, no academic credit for any of his/her courses may be awarded or refund of tuition issued. Readmission would usually be automatic for the student at the end of the period for which he/she has been suspended.
- Restrictive disciplinary probation is given for a specific period of time. During that probationary period, he/she can not represent the university in no way nor can he/she hold elective or appointive office in any organization related to the university. He/she may not participate in interscholastic or intramural sports. He/ She may not participate in any theatrical performance that is not part of his/her class assignments. He/she may not receive public recognition in any way. The student, however, may remain in any club that he/she prefers. In general, restrictive disciplinary probation is seen as allowing the student to pursue only those activities that enhance academic progress. Restrictive disciplinary probation carries with it the assumption that if the student should violate any other university regulations during the period of his/her probation, he/she may be suspended or expelled.
- Probation imposes no restriction on the activities of the individual involved, but indicates that for the time specified by the Standing Disciplinary Board, the student may be suspended or expelled if he/she is found responsible for violating any other university regulation/policy.
- A letter of reprimand is a letter indicating the university's displeasure of the behavior demonstrated by the student concerned. This letter of reprimand is kept in the Student Affairs Office confidential file until the end of a specified period of time unless otherwise directed.
- A letter of admonishment is also a letter indicating the university's displeasure of the student's conduct and a hope that the student will behave more responsibly in the future. However, no record of this letter is kept on file anywhere except in the records of the Standing Disciplinary Board.
- Recommend restitution of property when appropriate.
- The Board may also revoke a residence hall license and assign education programs as they deem necessary.
The only outcome that appears on transcripts are suspension and expulsion. Any other conduct decision is kept in your discipline file. The exact policy is stated in the Code of Student Conduct as:
Transcript Notation Policy
Because of the seriousness of disciplinary board cases, the university will record the outcome of certain disciplinary action on a student's transcript, in the form of a transcript comment. In disciplinary cases involving withdrawal prior to a disciplinary hearing, Interim Suspension, Suspension, or Expulsion, the student's academic transcript shall be noted as follows:
Withdrawal: Student receives W or W() grades according to established guidelines. Transcript comment reads: "Readmission subject to Student Affairs Hearing." Comment is removed if a student is readmitted.
Disciplinary Interim Suspension (pending a SDB hearing): Student receives W or W() grades according to established guidelines. Transcript comment reads: "Disciplinarily suspended on (date)."
Disciplinary Suspension: Student receives W or W() grades according to established guidelines. Transcript comment reads: "Disciplinarily suspended until (date)." Comment is removed when the term of suspension expires.
Disciplinary Expulsion: Student receives W or W() grades according to established guidelines. Transcript comment reads: "Disciplinarily expelled on (date)."
After five years from the date of the student leaving the university for withdrawal pending a disciplinary hearing, Disciplinary Interim Suspension, or Disciplinary Expulsion, the student may petition the Vice President for Student Affairs to have the transcript comment removed. It is the student's responsibility to provide substantial evidence, which supports the petition and provides documentation of their activities (work, education, etc.) since their exit from Oneonta.
Failure to complete a sanction, condition, and/or restriction may result in an administrative hold being placed on your record. It may also result in an additional code of student conduct violation (Failure to Comply). If there is an administrative hold on your records, you may not drop or add classes, receive your grade, and select housing for the next academic year.
It depends. It will depend on what your previous violation(s) were, your previous outcomes (decision) and if you are currently on Probation. If you have completed any conditions and/or restrictions associated with your sanction, and you are currently in good standing, your previous history may not matter. Generally speaking, each case is heard on an individual basis, and your previous history only comes into play if you "get in trouble" while your behavior is being monitored for additional instances of misconduct.
It could result in an additional violation of the Code of Student Conduct, which could result in additional sanctions, conditions, and/or restrictions, and if you violate a criminal trespass order, you could be arrested on the spot.
Appealing a Decision
Each student has one opportunity to appeal for each case decision. The appeal process is outlined as follows in our Code of Student Conduct:
- A decision and/or a sanction may be appealed. The appeal must be in writing and should be delivered to the Office of Student Affairs within 5 business days of the notification of the outcome. Failure to submit an appeal within the allotted time will render the original decision final and conclusive.
- For complaints that were originally heard by the Assistant Director of Community Standards, Community Directors, Residence Hall Directors or Office of Residential and Community Life administrators, the appeal will go to the Director of Community Standards.
- For complaints that were originally heard by the Director of Community Standards, the Vice President for Student Affairs or his/her designee will review the appeal.
- For complaints that were originally heard by the Standing Disciplinary Board, an Appeal Panel of two (2) faculty/staff and one (1) student will review the appeal.
- An appeal will be limited to review of the incident documentation, decision letter, appeal letter, other supporting documents, and the recording of the initial hearing. The appeal process will not include a new hearing, except as required to explain the basis of new information as follows:
- If new information is brought forward that was not available at the time of the hearing, the student may be called to present and discuss this information.
- If it is found that the student’s due process rights were violated, a new case will be heard by the Vice President’s designee.
Grounds for Appeal
The written appeal must address at least one of the following to be considered:
- A procedural error so substantial that it affected the fundamental fairness of the hearing.
- Significant information, unavailable during the original hearing that could be outcome determinative.
- The sanction imposed was arbitrary or grossly disproportionate to the severity of the offense.
- The decision does not accord with the information or evidence presented.
The appeals officer may support or change a decision, as well as decrease a sanction as appropriate. Sanctions may never be increased. The reviewing body will be deferential to the original decision maker, making changes to the finding only where there is clear error and to the sanction only if a compelling justification to do so exists. Students are limited to one appeal for each hearing.
From the Code of Student Conduct:
Appeal Process for Cases Adjudicated by Residence Hall Directors and Administrative Hearing Officers
- A decision and/or a sanction may be appealed. The appeal must be in writing and should be delivered to the Director of Community Standards or designee within 5 class days of the hearing.
- For cases that were heard by the Assistant Director of Community Standards, Community Directors, Residence Hall Directors, or Office of Residential and Community Life administrators, the appeal will go to the Director of Community Standards.
- For cases that were heard by the Director of Community Standards, the Vice President for Student Affairs or his/her designee will review the appeal.
- For cases that were heard by the Standing Disciplinary Board, an Appeal Panel of two (2) faculty/staff and one (1) student will review the appeal.
- The appeal process will consist of a review of the incident documentation, decision letter, appeal letter, other supporting documents, and the recording of the initial hearing. The appeal process will not include a new hearing. The following exceptions apply:
- If the appeal presents new evidence that was not available at the time of the administrative hearing, the student may be called to discuss the evidence.
- If it is found that the student's due process rights were violated at the administrative hearing, the case will be heard again by an individual appointed by the Vice President or his/her designee.
- The individual who reviewed the appeal will respond to the appeal in writing.
- If the appeal is upheld, the individual who reviewed the appeal may make changes in sanctions or may refer the case for a new administrative hearing.
- If the appeal is upheld, sanctions may be reduced but may not be increased.
- Students are limited to one appeal for each hearing.
Appeal Process for Cases Adjudicated by Standing Disciplinary Board:
A decision and/or a sanction may be appealed. The appeal must be in writing and should be delivered to the Director of Community Standards or designee within 5 class days of the hearing. The appeal process will consist of a review of the records of the SDB hearing and the supporting documents. The appeal process will not include a new hearing. The following exceptions apply:
If new evidence is brought forward that was not available at the time of the hearing by the SDB, the student may be called to present the evidence.
If it is found that the student's due process rights were found to have been violated, the case will be heard by the Vice President's designee.