Innocent or Guilty, Part 2

This is part 2 of my previous post. I want to delve a little deeper into the idea of a college or university sanctioning a student without constitutional due process.

I believe that every college or university has a Code of Conduct for its students and faculty that may provide sanctions up to and include expulsion/firing. Here’s an example from a university I graduated of the student code, focus on section 2.02, Conduct Prohibited.

There are a total of 30 items listed ranging from desecration of property to felonious activities. Below that, in section 3, are the adjudication processes, including penalties that may be imposed upon the student.

Note the first violation listed:

committing an act that would constitute a criminal offense under state, federal or municipal law;

This is the crux of the problem that I see. Nowhere in the remainder of the document does it explicitly denote that civil authorities would be notified. We’re talking about something that may be considered a felony.

Another university states that:

Actions under the Student Code of Conduct are administrative and not criminal in nature. Therefore, a student can be found responsible under the Student Code of Conduct even if the underlying conduct would not also constitute a criminal offense, and even if a prosecutor has determined not to prosecute as a criminal matter or the student has been found not guilty in a criminal proceeding.

So, under this provision, a person can be found administratively guilty, a notation of whatever the sanction is placed on their permanent transcript, even though there have been no criminal charges filed or even if there are, the person is found to be not guilty of the charges.

Tell me if this is fair treatment or not?

2 thoughts on “Innocent or Guilty, Part 2

  1. I would be interested to see if someone could bring a slander or libel case against a college who did this, for example, if someone were determined not guilty of a crime, say rape, it would be considered libel for any other organization to go around touting them as a rapist, so why not a college or university?

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  2. To the prior poster – good question but I suspect a university will have some level of immunity, particularly a state university.

    Having said that, my question was similar – to what extent have the accused (in college settings) brought cases against the person making the accusations for libel, slander, false statements, and so on.

    With respect to the question whether this is fair or not, I personally find the framework of the languages you quote to be fair. Under many, if not most circumstances, things that could get students in trouble have no criminal issue (e.g., cheating on an exam) or if there is criminal behavior at issue, the school need not be bound by what the state might do. Likewise, there is no double jeopardy problem.

    In large part, I don’t see this much differently from how a private company might deal with internal problems.

    Having said that, the stakes intuitively (for me anyway) seem higher when the accusation is a serious felony (rape). But I’m not sure as I sit here today whether the best course of action is for universities to be required to opt out regarding such allegations, leaving it to overburdened police departments and judicial system to sort things out – or not sort them out.

    In the case where there is an acquittal in court, a student is likely able to make a good case for reinstatement, expungement of records, and so on. The college could make a counter that burden is not as high in an administrative proceeding, but it would seem inequitable to not reinstate. This might be where other litigation would potentially be needed to sue the college after acquittal.

    my quick thoughts.

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