Information for Support People
Information for Advisors, Attorneys and other Support People
Participating in the conduct process is an important way that you can make your perspective and voice heard. Though it can be challenging, you do not have to go through it alone. Anyone called to meet with an Office of Student Accountability and Conflict Response case manager or investigator is encouraged to bring to an advisor with them. This advisor can be anyone that you trust and that you believe can assist you in navigating your process.
Some students want to learn more about the process before selecting an advisor or even deciding to participate in the process. The Office of Respondent Support (ORS) was established to help respondents learn more about the conduct and Title IX processes as well as to help them connect with and select an appropriate advisor. ORS is an independent office from the Office of Student Accountability and Conflict Response, and you may meet privately with them to discuss your case before ever attending a conduct meeting. They are also available to attend meetings with you, help you understand your rights, and weigh your options moving forward. To get help as a respondent, visit the Office of Respondent Support Services website.
What can an advisor do?
- accompany you in any conduct proceedings
- advise you in the preparation and presentation of sharing of information
- advise you in the preparation of any appeals or sanction reviews
During any conduct proceedings, you are expected to ask and respond to questions on your own. Your advisor may advise you, but may not make a presentation or represent you. Your advisor may consult with you, but may not speak on your behalf. Delays in the conduct process will not normally be allowed due to scheduling conflicts with advisors.
If you are charged with a criminal offense by the courts, you may have an attorney act as the advisor. Your attorney is limited to advising you about answering questions that may be self-incriminating.
Attorneys as Advisors
Students may ask any one person to accompany them to a conduct conversation as an advisor. An attorney representing a student is welcome to serve as an advisor in the conduct process, but only with the student's permission. An attorney can accompany the student in any conduct proceeding, advise them in the preparation and presentation of sharing information, and advise them in the preparation of any appeals. However, as with all advisors, attorneys may not speak on their behalf, disrupt proceedings and can be asked to leave at the discretion of the case manager.
In a conduct hearing, an attorney cannot “represent” the student but may serve as their advisor. If in attendance, an attorney may advise them about answering questions that may be self-incriminating, but may not question any individual, raise objections, or otherwise participate in the hearing.
The Student 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 Conduct Policy, they 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 Accountability and Conflict Response.
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 identify official University violations and recommend sanctions. Students/student organizations typically are given three (3) business days to decide if they would like to contest the charge(s) or sanctions (if probation with transcript notation or a form of separation) 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.
A significant body of case law has been established that outlines constitutional requirements in a student conduct process. At Penn State, students may accept all violations and sanctions issued at a conduct conversation. Students may choose instead to contest one or more of the violations that are identified in the conduct conversation by requesting a hearing. Or, students may challenge one or more of the sanctions that were assigned by asking for a sanction review if they included probation with a transcript notation or a form of separation from the University.
Student rights and burden of proof
Student participation is always valued and encouraged. If a student declines to participate or speak in a conduct conversation or hearing, the conduct 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.