What if my student is documented? How does the conduct process work?
When a student is documented, an incident report is submitted to the Office of Community Standards. This office is responsible for reviewing and handling all reports of alleged violations of the Code of Student Conduct. When a report is received, the Director of Community Standards determines how the case will be processed based upon the allegation and evidence presented. Cases are then assigned to hearing officers, which can include Residence Hall Directors, Community Directors, Residence Life Central Staff, the Director or Assistant Director of Community Standards, or the Standing Disciplinary Board. A hearing will then be conducted by the assigned hearing officer or board.
Are there different types of hearings?
Yes, there are two different types of hearings. An administrative hearing is a one-on-one meeting between the student and the assigned hearing officer. A Standing Disciplinary Board hearing is conducted by a board of faculty, staff, and students and is used for only the most serious cases that may result in suspension or expulsion.
What is involved with a hearing?
An administrative hearing is conducted by one hearing officer. The hearing officer will notify the student of the charges and the date and time of the hearing. Once at the hearing the student is given an opportunity to discuss the incident and respond to any evidence presented. The hearing officer must determine whether a student is in violation or not in violation of the Code of Student Conduct and impose sanctions as appropriate.
A student is referred for a Standing Disciplinary Board hearing when the resulting sanction may be suspension or expulsion. In these cases, the hearing is facilitated by a chairperson who is a faculty or staff member. Students are notified via their SUNY Oneonta email of the charges, as well as a hearing date and time. During the hearing, students are given the opportunity to respond to the charges and discuss the incident. Board members will consult the evidence presented and ask questions of the student. Fact witnesses may be called to a hearing by either the student or the Board. Character references are NOT allowed. After the case has been presented the student will leave and the Board will deliberate. After reaching a determination as to whether the student is in violation of the Code of Student Conduct, the Board will consult the student’s conduct history in order to determine an appropriate sanction. The Board’s decision will be delivered to the student within 5 business days after the hearing.
All hearings are recorded for appeal purposes. The recording is the property of the College and may be reviewed by the student according to College policy.
Who makes up the Standing Disciplinary Board?
The Standing Disciplinary Board is made up of faculty, staff, and student members of our campus community. The faculty and staff members are elected to the board through the College Senate election process. The student members of the board are appointed by the College President in consultation with the Student Association President. Faculty and staff members serve 3-year terms while student members serve 1-year terms.
Can I attend the hearing with my student?
Students are permitted to have one advisor with them throughout the hearing process. The advisor may NOT speak during the hearing or attempt to participate in the hearing in any other capacity (such as give a witness statement). Typically the student will choose a parent, coach, academic advisor, or professor to attend the hearing with them.
If a student wishes to have an advisor present at an administrative hearing (one on one hearing) they should consult with the assigned hearing officer. A confidentiality waiver will have to be signed in order to allow someone to sit in on that type of hearing. Typically students elect to attend the administrative hearings on their own.
Does my student need a lawyer?
No. The campus conduct process is not the same as a court of law, and attorneys aren’t necessary. However, a student is permitted to have one advisor for the conduct process. Anyone, including an attorney, may serve as an advisor at a hearing. Advisors are NOT permitted to speak during a hearing. Students must represent themselves. Keep in mind that if a student is facing both College conduct charges and criminal charges for the same incident, they may wish to consult an attorney regarding any concurrent or subsequent court case.
Does being found responsible for a Code of Conduct violation give a student a criminal record?
No. Violations of our Code of Student Conduct do not result in a criminal record. The campus conduct process is NOT a court of law. A student’s discipline record is considered part of their education record and a separate disciplinary file is maintained by the Office of Community Standards. Education records are protected by privacy laws as outlined in the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).
How long does it take to resolve a case?
We try to resolve cases as quickly as possible. We give students a few days notice before a hearing and, depending on the schedules of the individuals involved, we can usually hold the hearing within a week of the incident. Hearing officers attempt to complete administrative paperwork within a week after the hearing. Taking all of this into consideration, our case turn-around time should be no more than 4 weeks from the date of the incident.
How is a student found responsible for a charge in the College conduct system?
The standard of proof used in the SUNY Oneonta conduct system is a preponderance of evidence. This means that a hearing officer must determine that it is “more likely than not” (51% or greater probability) based on the evidence presented that a student violated a policy of the Code of Student Conduct in order to find them responsible.
Can a student appeal a conduct decision?
Yes. Any appeal must be submitted through our online system within 5 business days of the notification of the outcome. Students are given instructions on where to locate the link in their decision letters. Failure to submit an appeal within the allotted time will render the original decision final and conclusive. A detailed outline of the appeal process is provided in the Code of Student Conduct.
An appeal must address at least one of the following grounds to be considered:
- A procedural error so substantial that it affected the fundamental fairness of the hearing.
- Significant information, unavailable at 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.
What are sanctions?
People make mistakes, and we want our students to learn from their mistakes. Therefore, sanctions assigned to a student are educational in nature. The goal is for students to learn from bad decisions and equip themselves with the skills to make better decisions in the future. While some sanctions may be perceived as punitive, the conduct process seeks to assign sanctions with an educational purpose that are designed to balance the needs of the individual with the needs of the college community. Examples of sanctions that we assign are periods of probation, educational programs, community service, and reflection papers.
Although it is less common, there are situations when students may, due to the seriousness of the offense, face more strict sanctions. These may include loss of campus housing privileges and/or suspension or dismissal from the College. You may find an exhaustive list of sanctions in the Code of Student Conduct.
How are sanctions determined?
Many factors go into reaching a decision regarding sanctions. Hearing officers/board members will take into consideration the nature of the alleged violation and whether or not a student has a prior conduct record. Precedent and consistency also are important factors in the sanctioning process. We have developed typical sanctions for alcohol and drug violations in order to be as consistent as possible, however, some situations may warrant departures from the typical sanctions.
How will I find out if my student has an appointment with Student Conduct?
Communication regarding conduct hearings is made only with the student. The hearing officer will notify the student of their meeting date, place, and time via their SUNY Oneonta email address. Student Conduct may not release any information about a student without a signed release from that student. If your student mentions they were documented for violating a policy, we encourage you to communicate openly with them about the process.
Will I be notified of the outcome of a hearing involving my student?
Parents will only be notified of a conduct outcome if a student is under 21 and found in violation of the alcohol, marijuana, or other drug policies.
How will I be notified?
Parental notification will consist of a letter sent directly to the parent/guardian of the student. The letter will be mailed to the permanent address listed in the student’s official college records.
Will employers or graduate schools find out about a student’s discipline record?
FERPA states that a conduct record is part of the education record, which means it is confidential information and will not be shared without the consent of the student. Typically, employers and graduate schools will have the student sign a written consent form indicating that the College may release information to the agency. Often, the employers interested in student discipline records include government agencies such as the FBI, CIA, Police Departments, or State government offices.
What happens to a student’s discipline file after graduation?
Judicial records are retained for 7 years from the last date of contact per federal recordkeeping requirements. Cases involving suspension or permanent dismissal are retained permanently. It is important to note that conduct records are NOT automatically expunged upon graduation from the institution.
What is FERPA?
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (20 U.S.C. 1232g, 34 CFR 99), or FERPA, was enacted by Congress in 1974. FERPA provides guarantees regarding the access to and confidentiality of education records. FERPA guarantees the right to access records, the right to challenge content that is inaccurate, and the right to control over the disclosure of records. All rights move from the parent to the student in a post-secondary environment. So, for the purposes of conduct matters, the student must give consent for us to release any information regarding their conduct record. Consent is given by filling out a release form indicating to whom we may release information and what information we are allowed to release.