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What You Should Know About the College Conduct Code

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What is a conduct code?

The college conduct code outlines behavior expected of its students. Those behaviors are, of course, law-abiding, but also the conduct code outlines behaviors that are respectful of others on campus and upholds the standards of behavior within the college community. Therefore, the conduct code may vary from campus to campus. You should look through your college’s conduct code when you first arrive on campus, and you can obtain the conduct code most usually from the Department of Student Affairs or check it out on-line.

Why is the conduct code important?

Most students never set out to violate their college conduct code, and yet it happens. It is best to understand what kind of violations could result in consequences for you and when and where that could happen.

  • You should be aware that most campuses have campus police. These are not security guards who have no authority. Campus police are just like town police; they have badges, training, and the authority to arrest.
  • You should also know that you may be alleged to be in violation of the conduct code by any person on campus. Anyone can file an incident report against you: a professor, a residence hall director, another student, etc.
  • Even if you are off campus you may still be cited in violation of the college conduct code.
  • Finally, if you have broken a law and town or state police are handling your case by summons or hearing in a regular court of law, you may still be in violation of the college conduct code!

What are conduct code violations?

The conduct code lists many violations of all categories from small to large. Below are four categories with examples of different violations.

  1. Residence hall violations:  removing furniture, staying out over curfew, unauthorized room changes, etc.
  2. Social/community code violations: using obscene language, viewing sexually explicit or illegal pornographic materials, racial persecution, sexual harassment, hazing, etc.
  3. Academic integrity violations: cheating, plagiarism, sharing test questions, etc.
  4. Legal violations: underage drinking, possession of illegal drugs, possession of weapons, stealing, rape, etc.

As you can see, some of these violations could find you in trouble with both the college conduct code and with municipal or state laws. You are answerable to both.

Athletic code violations are separate violations, but certainly gambling would fall under the conduct code and state laws, too. Because there is such a range of violations from school to school and because this is only a short list of types of violations, it is good to be aware of your own school’s definitions by reading your college’s conduct code.

You should know:

  • Plagiarism is not just copying people’s words as your own. You can also copy other people’s ideas and research. That’s still plagiarism, even if those ideas or research are summarized in your own words!
  • You can be charged with rape even if there is consent from your partner, if your partner is deemed drunk and unable to consent!

What are the consequences of code violations?

  • Conduct code sanctions vary. You may only receive a warning. Sometimes fines, restitution, community service, even writing a research paper about your behavior may be assessed. You may be placed on probation for a semester or asked to take an educational course like dealing with substance abuse. You may be asked to undergo psychological assessment and treatment from counseling to taking part in an anger management class.
  • More serious sanctions involve suspension from the college or even expulsion. Suspension usually lasts a semester to a year with automatic readmission after “applying” through the conduct office or your dean’s office. Your case may be reviewed if there were conditions to your suspension to make sure you have followed through. Conditions of expulsion vary by individual conduct code policy. Sometimes you may not be allowed to return if you are expelled. Other times the expulsion may last 3 to 5 years before you can be readmitted. Of course, you may go to another school and not return. You may go to another school during the expulsion time, but upon readmission your credits will not be accepted by the college that expelled you. You should know that being suspended or expelled can certainly cause you loss of monies. You may be suspended before the semester’s end and have to forfeit tuition and room and board. Your financial aid package will also be affected.
  • Will you have a record? Yes. If you are suspended or expelled, that sanction becomes a permanent part of your college record. For lesser violations, the record may show sanctions for a certain period of time, but if you have no further violations, the record will be erased. Who will see this record? Because of the Family and Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), your record is yours. But there are exceptions. You could be asked to sign a waiver for your family or for a future employer to see your record. If you are financially dependent on your parents or you are a minor, they have the right to see your college record. Also a court of law may subpoena your college record.

What occurs if you’re accused of a conduct code violation?

If you are in violation or alleged to be in violation of the conduct code, you will receive notification which will explain fully what you are accused of doing. You will be asked to have a hearing. This means you will see the conduct officer at your school or one of his staff. A hearing is not legal. It involves your going to an office and telling your hearing officer your side of the story. The conduct officer or hearing officer may dismiss the case, may impose a light sanction, or may take stronger action. They may also refer you to programs that will offer help for you in substance abuse or psychological counseling or academic honesty training.

Appeals

If you feel unfairly accused or treated, there is an appeals process.

  • First, you would go before a conduct committee made up of faculty and students who would review your case. Again, this is not a court. Although you might have the advice of an attorney, your attorney would not be allowed to present your case. Although you might have people come to corroborate your story, they would not be witnesses. The committee will rule whether or not to uphold your sanction, modify it, or dismiss it all together.
  • If after your appeal you still feel unjustly treated, there is usually a third layer of appeal. This final appeal may be to the president of your college or to your school/department or academic dean. You will have at this level one last chance to present your side, but the decision at this appeal level will not be changed after it if given.

It is very important you realize there is a definite set of “laws” for behavior at any college and that not “behaving” may net you real trouble. Be aware.