Due Process and Disciplinary Proceedings for Non-Academic Cases

Trinity ensures fairness and due process for all students who become involved with non-academic disciplinary matters as well as academic matters.  Students have a right to know the specific details of an accusation of misconduct, and an opportunity to explain their side of the story.  Procedures that give accused students notice of the infraction and an opportunity to be heard embody the essence of the idea of due process and procedural fairness.

This policy statement covers due process proceedings for non-academic disciplinary matters.  Academic due process proceedings are set forth in the Policy on Academic Honesty.

Trinity’s Honor System is the foundation for all expectations about student conduct at Trinity.  The Honor System expects students to act with honesty and integrity in all matters and to respect the rights of others in the community.  Trinity’s specific policies and rules emanate from the fundamental principles of the Honor System.

Procedurally, the Honor System also expects students who violate the principles of honor, or the policies and rules that operationalize those principles, to admit their misconduct and even to self-report violations.  The expectation of self-reporting is consistent with the ideal of honor that expects individuals to be sufficiently mature to be able to admit wrongdoing and accept the consequent penalties.

Realizing that the human community is always evolving toward the ideals of honor, but sometimes falling short of the vision of the fully mature honorable actor, Trinity provides this pragmatic statement of disciplinary procedures with the purpose of ensuring fairness and due process while also reminding students of their obligations to keep learning and growing in the community of honor.

NOTE:  This policy statement is a guidance for routine cases.  Trinity reserves the right to choose alternative courses of action depending upon the circumstances of misconduct.  Nothing in this policy statement prevents Trinity from taking immediate action to suspend, dismiss, bar from campus or otherwise discipline a student when the circumstances pose the threat of immediate harm.  Trinity may also call the police as necessary, and external criminal action does not prohibit Trinity from also imposing disciplinary sanctions.  A student who incurs immediate suspension or expulsion for harmful actions will receive “F” grades in all courses and no refunds will ensue.

1.  Jurisdiction:  Roles of Deans and Executive Personnel

Trinity empowers administrators at executive and subsidiary levels throughout the university to handle disciplinary matters in ways that are appropriate for the specific academic programs and degree levels of the students involved.  All administrators so empowered must follow the guidelines that ensure due process and fairness, protect student privacy as much as possible and ensure that penalties are appropriate for the offenses.

Within that general framework, the key administrative personnel with disciplinary authority include:

  • The Vice President for Student Affairs (VPSA) has the overall authority to organize and supervise the non-academic disciplinary policies and processes of the university.  She carries out this authority with the assistance of the Dean of Students and the Academic Deans, and in consultation with the Provost and President.
  • Academic Deans of the respective units (College of Arts and Sciences, School of Professional Studies, School of Education, School of Nursing and Health Professions) have the authority to manage routine disciplinary cases in consultation with the Vice President for Student Affairs, Dean of Students, and Provost.  Depending on the severity of any given case, the academic dean will yield authority to the Vice President for Student Affairs to implement the formal proceedings described later in this policy.
  • Residence Life Staff, in consultation with the Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students, have the authority to manage routine disciplinary cases in the residence halls.
  • The Dean of Students is responsible for managing disciplinary records and ensuring the appropriate conduct of all formal proceedings.
  • The Provost is responsible for oversight of all academic disciplinary policies and processes, and she works in close cooperation with the Vice President for Student Affairs to ensure parallel alignment of due process at Trinity.
  • The President has ultimate authority and responsibility to ensure the effectiveness, fairness and appropriateness of the disciplinary policies and procedures in all cases.

2.  Reporting Misconduct

Expectations about student conduct are set forth in the Student Code of Responsible Conduct, the Professional Student Code of Conduct, the Residence Life Policies, and other policy statements on Trinity’s website and incorporated into the Student Handbook.  Conduct expectations also are set forth in course syllabi, handbooks and guidelines for various academic and non-academic programs, and in memoranda from university officials that ensue from time to time on email and hard copy.

Misconduct may occur in almost any place on campus, at any time, in many different forms.  This reporting process describes the typical route for reporting violations of Trinity’s Honor Code and policies, but recognizes that some cases may arise in different ways.  Nothing in this policy statement limits Trinity’s ability to handle cases differently depending on the facts and circumstances.

Some of the typical ways that reporting will occur include

  • A student who commits an infraction then realizes the obligation of reporting herself.  She may report to the academic dean of her collegiate unit, or to the dean of students or vice president, or to an advisor or faculty member who will help her make the report to the right person.
  • Other students may know of someone else’s misconduct, and they may report the matter to their academic dean or the dean of students, or vice president for student affairs.
  • A faculty member may observe or hear about misconduct.  The faculty member should  report the infraction to the respective academic dean, or the dean of students or vice president for student affairs.
  • Members of the administrative staff may observe or hear about misconduct.  Staff members should report the infraction to the respective academic dean, or the dean of students or vice president for student affairs.

NOTE:  All faculty and staff have an obligation to ensure that the student either reports her infraction in a timely way, or that the incident is reported to the appropriate administrator. No member of the faculty or administration is authorized to address a student disciplinary matter in a way that subverts Trinity’s policies, or without prior consultation and approval of the appropriate dean. 

All employees of the university MUST immediately report student conduct that violates the law (e.g., drug infractions) or that places the student or others in danger of physical or psychological harm (e.g., if an academic advisor becomes aware that a student has received a threat, the advisor must report that incident to the appropriate dean).  NO faculty member or staff member may agree to hold as confidential information that indicates a student may be a danger to themself or others, or that indicates the student is engaging in illegal activity on Trinity’s campus.

3.  Informal Process for Minor Offenses

When a student’s infraction is a minor offense, the dean or vice president may choose to handle the matter informally.  (Throughout this policy statement, the terms “dean” or “vice president” may also include subordinate personnel including residence life personnel, assistant and associate deans, faculty and program chairs, administrative directors and such other personnel as may be appointed by the vice president or deans to participate in disciplinary proceedings.)

A “minor offense” is misconduct that does not cause real harm to others or to Trinity’s interests.  Examples of minor offenses might include, but are not limited to:

·         Refusing to put away cell phones in class, or continuing to talk in class when a teacher asks for silence

·         Cursing or using offensive language in public spaces

·         Refusing to follow directions about campus parking spaces

·         Smoking on campus

For these and other similar minor offenses, the dean or vice president may ask the student to meet to discuss the misconduct and corrective actions.  The administrator may require the student to take some specific follow-up action, e.g., apologize to the faculty member whose class was disrupted by the cell phone. 

Repeated minor infractions may result in more severe disciplinary actions.  Deans will keep records of disciplinary conversations for the purpose of documenting the nature and frequency of infractions.

A student who disagrees about the nature of the minor infraction or the corrective conversation may state that disagreement in writing to the Vice President for Student Affairs who will consider the disagreement and determine whether any follow-up action is necessary.

4.  Formal Proceedings for Serious Offenses, or Repeat Offenses

All offenses of a serious nature require formal disciplinary proceedings.  A “serious offense” is any action that harms another person, or threatens harm, whether physically or psychologically or reputationally; or harms Trinity’s tangible or intangible property or that of a vendor or visitor on campus; or that violates the specific provisions of Trinity’s various policies and the Honor Code, e.g., stealing of any kind, possessing weapons, engaging in sexual misconduct or harassment of any kind, hacking technology systems or fraudulent use of tech systems, or other actions that pose harm to people, property or the interests of Trinity and the community.

A serious offense is one that may result in a penalty of suspension or expulsion, as well as other types of penalties.

NOTE:  Trinity reserves the right to remove immediately from the campus any student who engages in any threatening conduct toward any person, who carries a weapon or who otherwise exhibits conduct that poses a danger to other persons or property.  Trinity will call the police as necessary.  Students who are expelled for violations of this policy will incur grades of “F” in their current courses and will not receive any refunds for tuition and fees paid.

Students who are disciplined under this section may appeal the action in writing to the President and due process recourse will occur in written communication only.  Students dismissed under this section may not return to campus at any time.

Following are the steps for disciplinary proceedings for serious offenses:

a) The administrator who receives the report of the offense —- typically a dean, but possibly another member of the staff — must report the offense immediately to the Vice President for Student Affairs (VPSA).

b) The VPSA will discuss the case with the appropriate dean, which will be the academic deans for SPS, EDU and NHP, and the Dean of Students for CAS.

c) Depending upon the nature of the offense, the professional rules of the program may apply, e.g., Nursing Student Policies, Disposition Process for the School of Education, etc.  The VPSA and the appropriate dean will determine the next steps based on the nature of the offense and the applicable rules.

d) In all cases, the next steps must include written notice to the student as early as possible informing the student of:

          1) the specific nature of the offense including the rule violated and the complaint;

          2) inviting the student to provide a written response to the accusation;

          3) setting a date for an appointment with the student to discuss the case prior to a hearing.

e) With the knowledge and agreement of the VPSA, depending on the facts of the case, the dean may appoint a member of the faculty or administration to conduct follow-up interviews with persons involved in the case to assess the facts and circumstances; these interviews are for fact-finding, not for assessing guilt or innocence of the accused.

f) Based on the accused’s response and the follow-up report, and if the offense is NOT one that would result in suspension or expulsion, the dean in consultation with the VPSA may conduct a meeting with the accused to discuss the case and possible penalties.  The dean should include at least one other professional colleague in any such discussion.  The student may bring someone for support, but the proceeding is not adversarial and legal counsel may not attend.

g) If the offense is likely to result in suspension or expulsion, a more formal process must occur.  This process will include:

          1) The Dean of Students, with the guidance of the VPSA, will constitute a hearing panel that may include the respective academic dean, members of the faculty or administrative staff; the hearing panel should have at least three members, and those members should not be parties to the underlying case;

          2) The Dean of Students will notify the accused of the date and time for the hearing, and the nature of the proceeding and the ground rules for the hearing;

          3) In advance of the hearing, the Dean of Students and VPSA should convene the hearing panel members to advise them of their responsibilities, review the formal process for the hearing, and appoint the chair of the group;

          4) At the hearing, the procedures should be simple, including:

                      (a) the chair of the hearing welcomes the parties and reads a brief statement explaining the ground rules for the hearing and setting forth the case summary;

                      (b) if the accuser is present, that person should make a brief statement summarizing the accusation;

                      (c) the accused should then be able to make a statement in response;

                      (d) questions and answers may ensue, but at no time should the accused and accuser be permitted to engage in direct debate;  the chair must keep control of the meeting and all dialogue should be through the chair;

                      (e) the chair must also ensure fairness and a non-adversarial tone in the hearing room; this is not a trial, and participants should not be cross-examining each other;

                      (f) once all parties have stated their side of the story, the chair should ask everyone except the hearing panel to leave, and the panel should stay to deliberate on the case and to make a recommendation;

                      (g) the panel makes the recommendation to the Dean of Students, who will consult with the VPSA before communicating the result to the accused in writing.  This communication should normally occur within 24 hours of the hearing.

5.  Appeals

Cases that do not result in suspension or expulsion have limited rights of appeal.  If a student believes she has been improperly judged, or that a penalty is inappropriate, she may write a letter stating her claim to the VPSA who may direct another course of action.

Cases that result in suspension or expulsion may result in a formal appeal.  A formal appeal begins with a letter from the student to the VPSA stating the grounds for appeal.  The VPSA will review the appeal and respond to the student. 

After receiving the response from the VPSA, if the penalty of suspension or expulsion still stands, the student may appeal to the President of the University.  Such appeals must be in writing.  The decision of the president is final.

6.  Additional Guidelines for Handling Disciplinary Cases

In all of the above circumstances, whether the cases are minor or serious, whether the disciplinary actions are formal or informal, the administrators responsible for supervising the investigations, hearings and imposition of penalties must respect these guidelines:

a) Privacy and Confidentiality are fundamental values in the disciplinary system, and only those individuals who need to know about an accusation should be involved with the case.  Discussion of any student case beyond the ‘need to know’ zone can result in disciplinary action or personnel action against the persons who violate confidentiality.

b) Records of disciplinary cases are very sensitive and should be maintained confidentially by the Dean responsible for the case.  While some written information is essential during the processing of a case, persons involved with the case should keep most writing to a minimum, and all notes and correspondence should be forwarded to the Dean’s Office for the case file with all other copies destroyed at the conclusion of the case.  Special care should be exercised with email, in particular; if possible, persons involved with a case should avoid communicating any personal information about students or the case via email.

c) Respect for all people including the accused student is essential, and the administrators must exercise care in discussing accusations with students.  Administrators must remember that Trinity’s corrective system must also be educational and not simply punitive.

d) Due Process does not require adversarial proceedings or trial-like procedures.  Due process does require a clear statement of known facts and the opportunity for the accused to be heard. 

7.  Penalties

The range of permissible sanctions for disciplinary action includes, but is not limited to, the following:

a)  Warning:  Notice, written or oral, that the continuation or repetition of certain conduct in violation may be the cause for more severe disciplinary action.

b)  Censure:  A written reprimand, which may include warning of more severe disciplinary sanction in the event of determination of a subsequent violation within a stated period of time.

c)  Restitution:  Reimbursement for defacement, damage to or misappropriation of property, whether that of the university or of any member of the university community.

d)  Community Service:  A student may be required to assist the university in some aspect of community service as deemed by the Dean of Students.

e)  Eviction:  A student may be moved from one Residence Hall to another or may be evicted from the Residence Hall.

f)  Disciplinary Probation:  Exclusion from participation in co-curricular University activities for a period not to exceed one year.  Violation of the condition of the probation or of any other rules or regulations while the student is on probation may result in suspension or expulsion.

g)  Suspension for a Definite Time:  Written recommendation of exclusion from class and other privileges and/or activities, with possible forfeiture of academic credit, for a definite period of time, beginning immediately.

h)  Indefinite Suspension:  Written recommendation of termination of student status, subject only to formal readmission, with no right to petition for readmission before the expiration of one calendar year from the date of suspension.

i)  Expulsion:  Written recommendation of termination of student status for an indefinite period of time.  The conditions for readmission, if any, shall be stated in the order of expulsion.