One of the primary purposes of the student conduct process is to promote learning and development for our students. As such, we position students to learn advocacy skills by asking them to speak for themselves through the process. Still, we understand that our emerging adults may need support as they navigate a new process. All students are permitted to have a Support Person with them at any meeting or proceeding related to the disciplinary process.
The Responding Party is entitled to be accompanied by a Support Person in meetings related to the investigative and disciplinary process. This includes informational meetings, Investigation meetings, conduct resolution meetings, and University Hearings. A Support Person is someone who provides support, guidance, and/or advice to the individual. However, a Support Person cannot speak on behalf of the individual, directly participate in the proceedings, or submit any written requests (including appeals) on behalf of the individual. The Support Person also cannot serve as a witness in the context of an Investigation. A Support Person may be a family member, friend, faculty member, staff member, attorney, or other advisor/supporter. Should a Support Person not adhere to these expectations or attempt to play a direct and/or active role in any proceedings, the Hearing Officer or staff member, at their discretion, may order the excusal of the Support Person.
Support Persons assisting students as they navigate the student conduct process are encouraged to familiarize themselves with the Code of Student Conduct (found at www.towson.edu/studentconduct). This document describes in detail, the scope of the code of conduct, procedures, prohibited conduct, and possible sanctions.
The student conduct process is not comparable to a court of law, criminal proceeding or civil proceeding and therefore the role of the attorney is also dissimilar. In this administrative process, the role of the attorney is one of a support person. This support person is not an active participant and may not participate in the conduct resolution meeting or hearing. They can attend the conduct resolution meeting or hearing as a support to the student and can guide or advise the student on what questions to ask or answer during their conduct resolution meeting or university hearing. However, they may not speak directly to the hearing officer, and during a University Hearing they may not be heard on record.
Pursuant to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA), and the implementing regulations, the Office of Student Conduct & Civility Education cannot discuss a student's record with an outside agent without written permission granted by the student. This Disciplinary Record Authorization Form can be found at: www.towson.edu/studentconduct. Absent this form, staff members are limited to discussing university policies and procedures and not the specifics of any student's disciplinary record.
Q: I have been asked to represent a student in the conduct process. How do I establish this with the university?
A: It is the practice of the Office of Student Conduct & Civility Education to correspond at all times directly through the student and not through any third party. In order for the Office of Student Conduct & Civility Education to speak with you, we first need a signed Disciplinary Record Authorization Form (PDF) (see above) from the student. Once this has been submitted, we can speak with you about any charges against your student and their status in the student conduct process.
Q: What happens if my client refuses to participate in the student conduct process?
A: As per the Code of Student Conduct, if the accused student refuses to participate in the student conduct process, the university hearing will take place in the absence of the accused student. If a student chooses not to attend or not to speak during the hearing, the hearing board will make a decision based on information presented during the university hearing by witnesses on behalf of the university and on behalf of the accused student. The student may not use his or her refusal to participate as a later ground for appealing a decision.
Q: Why isn't my client afforded the same protections that he/she would receive in the criminal process?
A: The student disciplinary system is not judging criminal guilt, but rather whether a student has violated campus policies. The courts have long recognized the differing interests of the University community from that of the criminal justice process. Although there are basic concepts of fairness that apply to student disciplinary proceedings, the student disciplinary system serves administrative and educational functions relating to the mission of Towson University. Therefore, many of the intricate rules and processes found in a court system are not applicable to university disciplinary procedures.
Q: The incident took place off campus. What interest does the university have in the incident?
A: The behavior demonstrated by Towson University students reflects not only on themselves but also the university community. Therefore, students are subject to action taken against them by the University for off-campus behavior as well as on-campus behavior.
Q: My client is charged with a crime off campus. Can I get the proceedings delayed until the criminal matter is concluded?
A: The University's disciplinary process will normally proceed independently of pending criminal charges. Students charged with a violation of local, state, or federal laws for off-campus behavior may be disciplined by the university without a university hearing. If a request is made by a student with pending criminal charges to delay the university's disciplinary process, the director of Student Conduct will determine whether the request can be honored. The university reserves the right to take interim or emergency action against the student pending the outcome of the disciplinary process.
Q: What is the burden of proof in the conduct process?
A: The burden of proof in the student conduct process is preponderance of the evidence.
Q: Who makes the decision regarding my client's innocence or guilt?
A: A student can be found responsible by either a university hearing board (for cases that could typically result in suspension or expulsion from the university) or a staff member within the Office of Student Conduct & Civility Education (for cases that typically result in any lesser sanction).
Q: What is the appeal process?
A: Students found responsible for a violation of the Code of Student Conduct will be given a deadline for appeal within their decision letter. Appeals are made in writing to the Office of Student Conduct & Civility Education and will be considered by the appropriate body. The basis for appeal must be one of the following:
Appeals can be submitted to the Office of Student Conduct & Civility Education. Students will be informed in writing as to the status of their appeal once a decision has been rendered. Generally, decisions will be rendered within 7-10 business days from the date of the appeal subission.
Q: What other resources are available for me to learn more about the law as it relates to campus conduct proceedings?
A: Here is a list of publications that may be useful: