The following information describes Adaptable Resolutions and how they may be used to respond to allegations of Prohibited Conduct, as defined by the Student Code of Conduct (Code), whether or not those allegations may actually constitute a violation of the Code. Some Adaptable Resolutions may include a finding of a Code violation, while others may not. Adaptable Resolutions are not appropriate for every allegation of misconduct and are offered on a case-by-case basis.
This document does not supersede the Student Code of Conduct or related written procedure and creates no additional rights for Parties. If there is a discrepancy between University policy and this document, University policy supersedes this document.
Throughout this document, the term “Senior Director” refers to the Senior Director of Student Accountability and Conflict Response. The Senior Director may designate others to fulfil the responsibilities outlined in this document. For a glossary of additional important terms, see Appendix A.
Conflict response options provide a variety of different opportunities to resolve a situation in which students may be experiencing conflict with others, University policies, or the larger community. Conflict response options are flexible, voluntary for all parties, and are intended to be mutually developed with outcomes that benefit all. Conflict response options generally do not result in finding a violation of the Code. However, action plans could be mutually constructed and may involve taking responsibility for harm caused. Conflict response options may be requested by students or offered at the Senior Director’s discretion.
- Restorative Practices seek to repair harm to an Impacted Party or community. Restorative Practices use education, motivational interviewing, reflections and active dialogue and activities to address five core questions: 1) What happened? 2) What were you thinking and feeling at the time? 3) What have you thought about or felt since then? 4) Who has been affected by what happened? 5) What do you think needs to be done to make things right?
- Mediation is a process in which two individuals or groups meet to resolve a conflict with the facilitation and assistance of a neutral third party. Mediation sessions are one hour long and are conducted confidentially and safely by trained Office of Student Accountability and Conflict Response staff or affiliates. Mediators assist both parties with airing concerns, clearing up misunderstandings, and arriving at a resolution that is mutually agreeable. To ensure neutrality, the mediators assigned to each case are approved by all the parties involved.
- Shuttle Negotiation is an indirect conversation (facilitated by a neutral third party) between two or more parties involved in a conflict. Shuttle negotiation typically does not include direct communication between participants.
- Facilitated dialogue is a conversation between individuals in which a facilitator helps parties overcome communication barriers and engage in productive conversation regarding an issue of mutual concern. Facilitated dialogue is not necessarily designed to produce or work toward a set of agreements but can serve that purpose. It is designed to bring together the experiences and expertise of participants to think through the conditions and opportunities necessary to impact the issue discussed. Facilitated dialogue is designed to engage and foster an environment where the experiences of participants are shared and explored. The goal is to create a safe environment for participants to consider other perspectives.
- Conflict Coaching is a one‐on‐one consultation process designed to assess and develop an individual’s communication skills and conflict management strategies.
Alternative Dispute Resolution
An Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) process may be utilized to resolve a formal conduct allegation at the Senior Director’s discretion. ADR resolution agreements may include the Respondent taking responsibility for the misconduct and a formal finding of a violation of the Code.
Community Impact Meetings
Community Impact Meetings are intended to provide an opportunity for students to meet with a staff member to discuss a situation and/or clarify university expectations moving forward. These conversations would explore how behaviors have impacted the student, others, and their community with a focus on restoring harm and encouraging reflection. Community Impact Meetings would typically be offered for situations that involve minor alleged violations of University policy or for behaviors which may have negatively impacted others. If a student meets with a staff member and engages in a good faith conversation about the situation, the matter would be considered resolved.
Voluntary Participation: Participation in any Adaptable Resolution process is voluntary. When an Adaptable Resolution process takes place in lieu of the formal student conduct process, as outlined in the Code, all parties must agree to proceed. At any time prior to the final outcome, parties may decide to end participation in an Adaptable Resolution and proceed with the formal student conduct process. There is no negative inference given to a student’s or student organization’s willingness to participate in an adaptable resolution.
Honest Participation: To the extent that a Respondent, Complainant, or Witness chooses to participate, it is expected that participation will be honest and forthright. Knowingly submitting a false report or information, or making false statements, during the student conduct process may result in formal student conduct action.
Penn State is committed to ensuring an inclusive, accessible, and equitable process for all participants. Students who have a disability and believe they require reasonable accommodation to participate in the student conduct process should contact their Campus Disability Coordinator. Accommodations deemed necessary and approved by the disability coordinator will be incorporated into the student conduct process. Requests should be made as soon as possible to ensure the University has sufficient time to review and process the accommodation request. Participants who wish to request language interpretation or translation services, for a need other than disability accommodation should contact their Case Manager to discuss available resources.
Retaliation is prohibited by University policy (see AD67). The University will not tolerate retaliation in any form against any individual who makes an allegation, files or intends to file a report, serves as a Witness, assists a Complainant or Respondent, or participates in the student conduct process. Allegations of retaliation should be immediately reported to the Senior Director.
Students may seek the assistance of one Support Person to provide support, advice, or guidance throughout the process. To designate a Support Person, a student must notify their Case Manager in writing. Witnesses and other Respondents from the incident cannot serve as Support Persons in that case. The opportunity to have a Support Person present during a meeting does not allow for an unreasonable delay. The Senior Director will determine what constitutes an unreasonable delay. Complainants are welcome to be accompanied by a Support Person during all meetings and interviews.
Once designated, a Support Person may attend meetings and be copied on formal case communications. They are not permitted to act or speak on behalf of a student, serve as a Witness in the same matter, or disrupt any meetings. The Senior Director may require a Support Person to leave a meeting if the Support Person engages in unreasonable, disruptive, harassing, or retaliatory behavior.
Initiating an Adaptable Resolution Process
Adaptable Resolution Pathways
Adaptable Resolution may be an option to resolve alleged violations of the Code, to address ongoing conflict, and to respond to behavior which has significantly impacted another person(s). Adaptable resolution processes include but are not limited to restorative practices, mediation, and other informal resolutions.
Review of Initial Report
When a report covered by these procedures is received, the Senior Director will consider whether:
- The report contains information that, if proven by Preponderance of the Evidence, would violate the Code;
- The University has jurisdiction over the underlying allegations; or
- The matter requires further response based on the totality of the information obtained.
The Senior Director may determine preliminary fact-finding is necessary to facilitate these considerations. This may include interviews with the person who submitted the report, Impacted Parties, Witnesses, and/or the Complainant, if applicable.
When the Senior Director decides further response is necessary, they will assess whether an Adaptable Resolution, formal student conduct action, or other process is appropriate. This may include a mandatory meeting with a Respondent and a designated University Official to clarify University expectations. Failure to attend a mandatory meeting may result in formal student conduct action. Any resolution will be subject to applicable record retention requirements.
Initiating an Adaptable Resolution
A respondent, complainant, impacted party, or other participant may request an Adaptable Resolution process to address ongoing conflict or an allegation of misconduct, regardless of whether the reported behavior would constitute a violation of the Code. The Senior Director may also offer an Adaptable Resolution absent a request.
When an Adaptable Resolution is offered or requested in lieu of a formal student conduct process, the Senior Director must first determine that it is consistent determines that it is consistent with the University’s obligations – under the law, institutional policies, and institutional values – to end the misconduct, prevent the misconduct from happening again, and address or remedy its effects. Should the Senior Director determine it is appropriate, and the Parties agree to participate in an Adaptable Resolution process, the formal conduct process will be placed on hold for a designated period of time. The Parties, or the Senior Director, may decide to resume the formal conduct process at any time prior to an adaptable resolution agreement being finalized.
Any adaptable resolution agreement will be in writing and represent the final resolution of the matter. Failure to adhere to the terms of the adaptable resolution agreement may constitute a violation of the Code and/or result in reopening of the existing conduct matter.
Opt-in resolutions allow a student to take active responsibility for their actions and resolve the alleged misconduct by completing a pre-determined Action Plan, which includes an intentional intervention and an opportunity for meaningful reflection. While Opt-in resolutions are offered when there is sufficient information to proceed with a formal student conduct process, Opt-in resolutions do not result in a finding of a violation of the code permitted the student is compliant with the Action plan.
A student or student organization may be offered the opportunity to resolve a situation through the Opt-in process at the Senior Director’s discretion. Situations where Opt-in resolutions is generally considered include low-level violations of the General or Substance Use Misconduct categories such as alcohol/cannabis use, damage and/or destruction, disruptive behavior, or encouraging, inciting, and/or supporting violations of the code. Opt-in resolutions typically would not be offered for a student who has previously engaged in an Opt-in resolution or has been found in violation of the Code. When the conduct matter involves an impacted party and/or Complainant, an Opt-in resolution will generally be considered inappropriate.
Waiving Conduct Process
A student who accepts to participate in an Opt-in resolution must voluntarily and knowingly waive their right to participate in a formal conduct process, including any right to a live hearing and/or appeal.
As part of participating in an Opt-in resolution, a student or student organization agrees to complete the assigned Action Plan. Failure to complete this action plan could result in a registration hold being placed and/or formal student conduct action.
- Should a student or student organization be found in violation of the Code after completing an Opt-in resolution for a separate situation, prior action plans may be taken into consideration in determining appropriate sanctions and/or outcomes in that matter.
Appendix A: Glossary of Important Terms
In addition to the terms below, these procedures incorporates by reference the definitions of the Student Code of Conduct and other University policy. For the purpose of these procedures, the following terms shall have the following meanings:
Case Manager – The trained and impartial person designated by the Senior Director to meet with the Respondent to discuss the allegations and the conduct process, investigate reported behaviors, and/or manage alleged violations through resolution.
Complainant – Defined in these procedures as a person, identified by the Senior Director, that has been subject to the alleged misconduct when that misconduct would constitute a crime of violence (as defined by 34 CFR Part 99 – Family Educational Rights and Privacy).
Impacted Party – Defined in these procedures as someone who has been adversely impacted by the alleged misconduct but does not meet the definition of a Complainant.
Respondent – The Student or Student Organization who allegedly violated the Code.
Senior Director – The Senior Director of Student Accountability and Conflict Response or another individual serving as their designee.
Student – Any person with Student status as defined by the Code.
Support Person – A person who accompanies a Respondent or Complainant for the purpose of providing support, advice, or guidance. Under these procedures, Witnesses and other Respondents from the incident cannot serve as Support Persons in that case.
Witness – An individual who may have information relevant to the incident, including individuals who may have observed the alleged behavior, may be able to provide contextual information, or may have other information related to the incident. The University may identify Witnesses independent of the proposal of Witnesses by the Respondent or any Complainant.