General Student Conduct Appeals Procedures
Standard Operating Procedures for General Student Conduct Appeals
The following procedures implement Section V(6) of the Student Code of Conduct (Code) for appeals of Administrative Conference decisions when the Respondent is an individual student, excluding those decisions which are subject to the Standard Operating Procedures for Allegations of Discriminatory Misconduct.
Throughout these procedures, 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 these procedures. For a glossary of important terms, see Appendix A.
Initiating the Appeals Process
A Respondent, or Complainant as permitted by the Code, may submit an appeal of an Administrative Conference decision when the Respondent was subject to suspension or expulsion at the time of the Administrative Conference. A Respondent may also submit an appeal if an Academic Misconduct Action Plan includes suspension or expulsion. For the purposes of these procedures, the person who initiates an appeal is known as the Appealing Party. An impacted party is not permitted to submit an appeal.
Submitting an Appeal
In order to be considered, a completed appeal form must be submitted within five (5) business days of the decision letter. On the form, the Appealing Party will be required to identify at least one (1) basis for appeal. They will also be asked to provide any supporting information and/or documentation.
The Appealing Party should review the form first, then gather their materials and write draft responses to the form’s questions. Preparing this material in advance is important because the form cannot be saved “in progress” and finished later. Submitting an incomplete form will delay the process outlined below and may ultimately result in denial of an appeal. Prior to submitting an appeal, the Appealing Party may request access to review the case file. The case manager may provide this access by appointment or view-only virtual access, on a case-by-case basis. The case file may include, but is not limited to, information and/or documents relied upon during decision-making, official communications, and/or relevant case notes.
Bases for Appeal
An appeal will only be accepted for one or more of the following reasons:
- To determine whether there was any procedural irregularity, including bias, that significantly affected the outcome of the matter;
- To determine whether the Action Plan imposed was appropriate for the violation(s); and/or
- To consider new information that could alter a decision, only if such information could not have been known to the appealing party at the time of the administrative conference.
Additionally, the following applies to review of an appeal under these procedures:
- Cases which are resolved prior to an administrative conference (e.g., adaptable resolutions, deferred adjudication, and violation agreements) may not be appealed.
- Failing to retrieve official Penn State email communications does not constitute a deviation from procedure and cannot be the basis for appeal.
- An appeal cannot be submitted solely because the Appealing Party is dissatisfied with the decision.
- If the Appealing Party was permitted to, but did not, attend the scheduled administrative conference, any information that could have been known to the Appealing Party at the time of the scheduled administrative conference will not be considered new information.
- For Academic Misconduct cases, students may submit an "action plan only" appeal when the action plan includes Suspension or Expulsion. Neither an academic sanction nor a finding of academic misconduct may be appealed under these procedures.
Scope of Appeal
Except for new information, an appeal is limited to the case file. The Appeal Review is not a new administrative conference. The Appeal Administrator will only review to determine whether there were procedural irregularities that significantly affected the outcome, whether the Action Plan imposed was appropriate, and/or whether new information should be considered by the Senior Director. As such, the appealing party does not have an opportunity to meet with the Appeal Administrator. The Appeals Administrator may consult the Senior Director or others, as appropriate, regarding matters of procedures.
Stay Pending Appeal
The action plan imposed by the University will remain in effect through the appeals process. Exceptions to this rule may be granted as outlined below.
Within three (3) business days of submitting an appeal, the Respondent may request a stay of the entire action plan or individual outcomes and sanctions pending the appeal decision. Upon request, the Senior Director will generally grant a stay for educational, reflective, and/or restorative outcomes. If the Respondent requests a stay of an administrative sanction (e.g., exclusion, eviction, suspension, expulsion, contract termination, etc.), the Respondent must show that irreparable harm will occur if the sanction is not held pending the appeal decision. The Senior Director will decide whether to issue a stay of an administrative sanction upon considering the potential harm caused to the Respondent, as well as to the University community.
When a stay is granted, any action plan imposed will take effect after the University’s appeals process has concluded.
Processing the Appeal
Appeals will be routed to the Senior Director to determine if the appeal meets the eligibility requirements for appeal and to determine if the appeal provides information to support the identified basis(es) for appeal. If the administrative conference decision or Academic Misconduct Action Plan was made by the Senior Director, then the Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs will assume the responsibilities of the Senior Director which are outlined in these procedures.
Within three (3) business days, the Appealing Party will receive a response to their submitted appeal as outlined below:
- If the Senior Director determines the Appealing Party is ineligible to appeal, the Senior Director will send a communication explaining the ineligibility. The decision is final.
- If the Senior Director determines the appeal does not provide information to support the identified basis(es), the Senior Director will send an Appeal Decision Letter to deny the appeal and state the reason for that decision. The appealing party will have three (3) business days to provide supplemental information in response to the Senior Director’s decision. Then,
- If the appealing party does not respond within three (3) business days, the Senior Director’s denial is final.
- If the supplemental information is insufficient to support the identified basis(es), the Senior Director’s denial is final.
- If the supplemental information is sufficient to support the identified basis(es), the Senior Director will reverse the denial and send a Notice of Appeal as outlined below.
- If the Senior Director determines that the appeal does provide information to support the identified basis(es) for appeal, the Senior Director will accept the appeal and send a Notice of Appeal. If the case involves a complainant, both the Appealing Party and the non-Appealing Party will receive the notice. The non-appealing party will be granted five (5) business days to respond to the appeal.
The Senior Director may copy University Officials on official communications when it is determined that they have an educational need to know about the status of an appeal.
Identifying the Appeals Administrator
Upon accepting an appeal, the Senior Director will identify the Appeal Administrator, drawn in rotation from the current pool of trained and impartial faculty and staff who have been trained to review appeals. Before finalizing the Appeal Administrator, the Senior Director will confirm they do not have a conflict of interest in reviewing the appeal.
The Senior Director will compile the appeal file for the Appeal Administrator's review. The appeal file identifies the accepted basis(es) and includes the appeal and supporting documentation, any response from the non-Appealing Party, and the case file.
The Appeal Administrator will consider each accepted basis of appeal and make a decision to grant or deny the appeal within ten business days of the Notice of Appeal. If the Appeal Administrator determines that the Appealing Party has not met the basis for appeal, the Appeal will be denied. If the Appeal Administrator decides the Appealing Party has met the basis for appeal, the appeal will be granted.
When an appeal is granted, the Appeal Administrator will decide to modify the action plan or send the matter back to the Senior Director with a recommendation for additional fact finding, other resolution, or dismissal of the case.
- If the appeal was granted based on “new information,” the only action that may be taken is to send the case back to the Director with a recommendation for additional fact finding, other resolution, or dismissal of the case.
- If the appeal is for an Academic Misconduct Action Plan, and the Appeal Administrator determines the Action Plan was inappropriate for the violation, they may alter, remove, or add any administrative sanction or educational, reflective, and/or restorative outcome. The Appeal Administrator does not have the authority to alter, remove, or add any academic sanction.
Appeal Decision Letter
Within five business days of receipt of the Appeal Administrator’s review decision, the Senior Director will send an Appeal Decision Letter which outlines the decision and any next steps. The letter will be delivered to the Appealing Party and, if applicable, the non-Appealing Party.
If the appeal is granted, the decision letter will indicate that:
- The violation decision has been upheld but the Appeal Administrator has modified the Action Plan;
- The Senior Director has decided to dismiss the case;
- The Senior Director has decided to offer an informal or adaptable resolution; or
- The Senior Director has assigned the case to a new Decision-maker to be redecided.
Exceptions to Procedures
The Appealing Party may submit a petition to the Senior Director to request exceptions to these procedures for good cause. To be considered, petitions must provide a brief written statement regarding the reason for the exception and must provide the Senior Director with a reasonable amount of time to consider the request. The Senior Director has sole discretion to grant or deny petitions.
For good cause, the Senior Director may also make an exception to these procedures without a petition. If an exception is made by the Senior Director, the Appealing Party and non-Appealing Party, if applicable, will receive written notice within a reasonable time.