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Information for Attorneys

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The Code of Conduct at Penn State

Students at Penn State are expected to abide by the rules and standards set forth in the Student Code of Conduct. Per Penn State’s Off-campus Misconduct Policy, students are responsible for abiding by the Code in any locale, both on and off-campus. When a possible violation occurs, the student is referred to the Office of Student Conduct (OSC).

How the student conduct process works

If, in the course of the student’s meeting with a case manager, the student is determined to have violated the Code, the case manager will issue official University charges and assign sanctions. Students typically are given 3 business days to decide if they would like to contest the charges or sanctions and ask for a hearing or sanction review.

Student conduct vs. the legal system

The student conduct process is not attempting to determine whether a student has violated the law, but whether a student has violated Penn State’s Code of Conduct. Therefore, the outcome of a student’s legal process is not relevant to the student conduct process. The concept of “double jeopardy” does not apply, as criminal proceedings do not offer exemption from civil or administrative proceedings.

Due process

A significant body of case law has been established that outlines constitutional requirements in a student disciplinary process. At Penn State, students may accept all charges and sanctions issued at a disciplinary conference. Student may choose instead to contest one or more of the charges that are issued in the disciplinary conference by requesting a hearing. Students may also challenge one or more of the sanctions that were assigned by asking for a sanction review.

Student rights and burden of proof

Student participation is always valued and encouraged. If a students declines to participate or speak in a conference or hearing, the disciplinary process will proceed without student involvement. A decision will be reached based on the information available to the case manager or hearing officer/board. In a hearing, the burden of proof is upon the University to establish that the student is responsible by preponderance evidence. All reasonable evidence, including hearsay, is admissible.

Roles and expectations for attorneys

In a disciplinary conference

Students may ask any person to accompany them to a disciplinary conference. An attorney is welcome only with the student’s permission. The attorney may advise the student but may not disrupt proceedings and can be asked to leave at the discretion of the case manager.

In a hearing

An attorney cannot “represent” a student in a hearing but may be present if a legal case is still pending for the same incident. If the student’s legal case has been concluded, an attorney may not be present at a hearing. If in attendance, an attorney may advise the student about answering questions that may be self-incriminating, but may not question any individual, raise objections, or otherwise participate in the hearing. Please note that hearings are typically audio recorded.

Disciplinary withdrawal

If the student has a pending legal case for the same incident and wishes to delay the student conduct process, s/he may ask for a disciplinary withdrawal from the University. Upon withdrawing, the student may not attend classes, reside on campus, or use or visit facilities on any Penn State campus. A notation of the withdrawal will appear on the student’s academic transcript. Additionally, a hold will be placed on his/her registration and s/he is not permitted to re-enroll until the Office of Student Conduct has removed this hold.

Case law information

Foundations of a campus disciplinary process

44 F.R.D. (142) (W.D. Mo.) General Order on Judicial Standards of Procedures and Substance of Student Discipline in Tax-Supported Institutions of Education

Due process standard:

Student conduct vs. legal proceedings:

120 Boucke Building | 814.863.0342 | Contact the Office of Student Conduct