Unlike court cases, where protections for someone accused of wrongdoing are enshrined in the law, college disciplinary hearings often have minimal protections for the accused. If you have been accused of misconduct at your college or university, that is why it is so important to know how to prepare for a college disciplinary hearing.
These hearings may arise either because of an academic issue (such as plagiarism or cheating) or because a student is accused on other misconduct on campus (such as underage drinking or other violations of the student code of conduct). The most serious of these cases arise as part of a Title IX investigation into sexual assault, sexual harassment or domestic violence, or due to an allegation of another violation – such as being charged with a crime. Whatever the underlying reason may be, it is vital to work with a student discipline lawyer to protect your rights before, after and during the hearing.
Because student disciplinary hearings follow their own set of rules, being thoroughly prepared can help you achieve the best possible outcome. Below, we outline our top tips for how to prepare for a college disciplinary hearing.
Each college or university sets out its rules and regulations in its student code of conduct. These codes typically set forth the discipline process, which may include resolving matters by administrative decision or via hearing. These rules vary from school to school, so reviewing them closely is critical.
For example, The Ohio State University’s Code of Student Conduct lays out the disciplinary process as follows:
In other schools, often small private schools, there may be no right to a hearing at all and an investigator or administrator determines if misconduct occurs.
If you are at a public school, the constitutional right to due process typically applies and you have the right to notice and the right to be heard at a meaningful hearing at which you can question your accusers. If you are at a private school, the rights of students are typically determined by the student handbook and may be more limited. Because these codes can have very different rules, the first and most important thing that you should do to prepare for a college disciplinary hearing is to read and become familiar with the code. This should include learning about the violation that you are accused of, potential sanctions, and the disciplinary process itself.
Second, gather all of the potential evidence in your possession, especially text messages, photographs, and emails. Don’t delete anything because you never know what might be helpful as the process moves forward,
Third, make a list of questions that you may have about the process, the violation, or any other aspect of the case against you. This can help you clarify your thoughts, and if you are represented by an attorney, make it easier for them to help you.
Fourth, think about the charge itself. What are the key details that you want to convey to your audience at the hearing? What are some aspects of the alleged violation that you may need to explain further? Make notes to help you remember these points.
Fifth, consider the types of questions that you think that they may ask. For example, if you have been accused of sexual misconduct in violation of Title IX, then think about the incident and what kind of questions may have already come up in the investigation. Prepare answers to these and other questions that you think may be asked. This will help you answer these types of questions to the best of your ability.
Sixth, make sure that you attend all meetings about your case and be on time. You should also dress appropriately, and speak politely and with respect. The people handling the disciplinary process, including the hearing, have a lot of power over your future – which makes it all the more important that you make a good impression on them.
Unlike in the criminal justice system (and even if the violation involves criminal charges), you do not have an automatic right to be represented by an attorney. However, in most instances you are entitled to an advisor of your choice, and this can be an attorney, throughout the disciplinary process. The advisor can help you through the process and presentation of a defense, but in may instances cannot “speak” for you.
If your college or university finds, after a disciplinary hearing, that you violated the code of conduct, then the potential consequences could be severe. For example, for nonacademic misconduct, the University of Cincinnati may impose sanctions ranging from a reprimand to probation to suspension to dismissal. Significantly, if you are disciplined by your college, it may make it difficult to transfer to another school or app;ly to graduate school.
Because these potential sanctions are so significant, for most students facing disciplinary action, hiring a campus disciplinary hearing attorney is a good option. This is particularly true for those students who have been charged with or may be charged with a criminal offense for the same conduct. In certain situations, such as an allegation that a student has committed a crime of violence or a sex offense, federal law permits colleges and universities to disclose disciplinary records to law enforcement without the student’s consent. In other words, your university may be able to hand over the records of the disciplinary hearing to the police – which may lead to criminal charges.
Even if the alleged violation is non-criminal in nature, you should consider hiring an attorney to advise you throughout the disciplinary process. At a hearing, your lawyer will be able to put together evidence, help you prepare, question witnesses, and make a strong legal argument in your defense. Depending on the outcome of the case, they may also be able to file an appeal of the decision. By being proactive and hiring an attorney, you can protect your rights – and your future.
Being accused of a violation or a crime while a university student can be overwhelming. The college disciplinary process has its own set of rules and can be confusing. A skilled Ohio campus disciplinary hearing attorney can help.
At Engel & Martin, LLC we understand how difficult this time can be for our clients. With decades of combined experience in criminal defense, civil rights, and Title IX litigation, our legal team is uniquely well-suited to advocating for students throughout the college disciplinary hearing process. To learn more or to schedule a consultation, give us a call at 513-445-9600 or fill out our online contact form.