Students and Organizations
Penn State has a clear standard of conduct to protect the rights of members of the University community. These standards are expressed in the Student Code of Conduct. The Office of Student Conduct is responsible for conducting University proceedings for students and/or organizations when it is alleged that a violation of the Code of Conduct has occurred.
The Student Code of Conduct does not replace or relieve any requirement of civil or criminal law. This means that students or organizations may participate in parallel processes. Additionally, it means that individuals may bring complaints to the Office of Student Conduct and also simultaneously file criminal or civil complaints.
I was contacted by the Office of Student Conduct
You or your student organization have received a call or email from the Office of Student Conduct, letting you know to call our office to schedule a conference with a case manager. This means that the Office of Student Conduct has received a report about an incident in which you or your organization may have been involved as a participant or a witness. Here are some guidelines about what you can expect and how you should prepare for the conduct conference.
I am a respondent student or student organization
Students and organizations who are responding to an allegation of a violation have institutional procedural rights; it is not assumed that a verbal or written report is accurate or an exact account of the behavior. Because of this, the staff in the Office of Student Conduct will meet with each student or organization who has been accused of a violation of the Student Code of Conduct. During this conduct conference, the respondent and staff member will discuss the alleged violation. A large part of the conduct process involves fact finding and presenting the opportunity for student or organizations to respond to allegations of misconduct. The Office of Student Conduct will provide an opportunity for this to happen in a respectful, equitable and expeditious manner.
The Code of Conduct outlines the standard procedures and practices of the University conduct process. Students are encouraged to review all of the procedures to familiarize themselves with the process.
- What is a conduct conversation?
Conduct conversations are informal, educational meetings with an Office of Student Conduct case manager. The Office of Student Conduct contacts students or organizations to schedule a conference after receiving a report from an on- or off-campus entity that the student or organization has been involved in an incident that may be a violation of the University’s Code of Conduct. Conferences are scheduled in hour-long time slots. However, the case manager may require more than one session and schedule follow-up appointments if needed.
- What happens at a conduct conversation?
During your meeting:
- The case manager will explain the conduct process.
- You will be asked to discuss the incident.
- The case manager will determine if there has been a violation of the University’s Code of Conduct and, if appropriate, will identify which section of the Code was violated and will recommend sanctions. Violations are evaluated on a continuum of minor, moderate, and major. Sanctions take into consideration the nature of the incident, any past conduct history, precedents for similar violations, potential or actual impact to the community, educational impact, and other specific circumstances of the incident.
- Respondents/organizations can accept the recommendation as assigned or contest them by requesting a hearing or sanction review (depending on the sanctions - see Contesting a Charge or Sanction).
- In some cases, the case manager will gather additional information from outside sources (e.g., witnesses, police officers, or other university staff).
- Office of Student Conduct staff will support respondents by assisting them in identifying resources, which, based on personal needs, will further support them throughout the conduct process.
- How do I prepare for a conduct conversation?
- Review the Code of Conduct, which includes information on conduct procedures.
- Consider contacting the Respondent Support Office; they can work with you in navigating each step of the conduct process as well as connect you with resources, both on- and off-campus.
- Determine if you would like an adviser to attend with you and submit a request to them in advance.
- During the conference, the case manager will be interested in your perspective on what occurred and what effect the incident had on you. While you are not required to participate actively in the meeting, know that charges and sanctions can be assigned without your participation based on the information already available to the case manager.
- Who can come with me to my conduct conversation?
You may bring any person you would like with you to your conduct conversation. Most students attend alone, though some students prefer to bring an adviser or other support person. Trained advisers are available to accompany students through the conduct process, as are attorneys at the student's request. However, students are expected to speak for themselves and may not have an intermediary speak on their behalf, including attorneys. Attorneys are not permitted to disrupt proceedings in any way and can be asked to leave at the discretion of the case manager. Delays in the conduct process will not normally be allowed due to scheduling conflicts with advisers.
Some common individuals who attend with students are:
- Trained adviser
- Support person
If someone is accompanying you, please call ahead to let the Office of Student Conduct staff know so arrangements can be made for meeting space.
- What do I need to wear, or bring with me, to a conduct conversation?
Conversations are informal and you may attend in your everyday clothing. All the official documents you will use will be provided during the meeting. It may be useful to bring a calendar to note any deadlines or schedule follow-up appointments if needed.
- What if I don’t show up?
We encourage students to be present to provide information that is important to the case. If you fail to appear:
- Code violations may be identified and sanctions may be issued in your absence
- A hold may be placed on your University account preventing you from performing any official University action (e.g., registration) until you complete the conference
I am an impacted party; what are my choices and rights?
If you are an impacted party of a student’s misconduct, you are encouraged to report violations of law to the proper on- or off-campus authorities, if you haven't already done so. Additionally, you can choose to file an incident report with the Office of Student Conduct. The Office of Student Conduct can assist impacted parties in accessing services on campus or in the community to support them through the experience. An impacted party may have the opportunity to be involved as a witness or as an equal partner in any conduct process that develops as a result of the complaint. They are also able to provide information without committing to participating in the process.
I am a witness; what is my obligation?
If you have information about an incident involving others, we will provide options for your participation in the conduct proceedings. It is important to present your knowledge of the facts honestly. Providing false information during any part of the process is a violation of the Code of Conduct.