If you’re facing disciplinary action from your university, it can be alarming and confusing, but it’s important to know that you have rights as a student. Public universities are government agencies that need to follow due process as established in the United States Constitution, so your rights are protected as such.
Any charges you may be facing on campus are different than charges you may be facing from law enforcement. Knowing your rights regarding campus procedures can help you better navigate the process ahead of you. The university will have procedures separate from those of law enforcement for determining responsibility, charges and sanctions from the institution.
Colleges and universities have written guidelines to outline their student conduct and disciplinary procedures. If you are facing charges, in addition to consulting an attorney, referring to these is a good place to start.
During the process, you’ll first be notified by the school’s Office of Student Conduct and you may need to schedule a meeting. The university will evaluate any claims made against you and if you are found responsible, may impose sanctions if it’s determined they are warranted. Depending on the factors of your case, sanctions could include a warning, community service, remedial education, suspension or dismissal. If you disagree with the charges or sanctions, you may request a sanction review or hearing.
Student rights at a public university
Students facing discipline or sanctions from a public institution and subjected to the process mentioned above are afforded the following rights according to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE):
- The right to have his/her case heard under standard procedures
- The right to a description of the charges against him/her
- The right to be notified about the charges against him/her
- The right to explain his/her side of the story
Depending on the case and circumstances, students may also have the right to have an attorney present during their hearing.
Student rights at a private institution
Private colleges and universities are different in that they are not required to give students constitutional due process. However, private schools have their own codes of student conduct and procedures for discipline and are obligated to honor them as outlined in their guidelines. Private universities must honor these “promises” made to students through their handbooks.
Facing disciplinary allegations from your university can be overwhelming and scary. Knowing your rights and exercising them as needed can help to ensure you’re treated fairly when charges are filed against you. A legal advisor can also assist you to pursue the best possible outcome.