My Rights and Responsibilities as a Student and Penn State Community Member
Penn State has a clear standard of conduct to protect the rights of members of the University community. These standards are expressed in the Code of Conduct and Student Conduct Procedures document contained in the current edition of Policies and Rules which may be obtained at the Office of Student Conduct. The Office of Student Conduct is responsible for conducting University disciplinary proceedings for students when it is alleged that a member of the University has been victimized as a result of a violation of the Code of Conduct or violation has occurred.
The Code of Conduct
The Code of Conduct does not replace or relieve any requirement of civil or criminal law. This means that victims may bring complaints to the Office of Student Conduct and also file a criminal or civil complaint. Victims are encouraged to report violations of law to proper authorities on or off-campus.
A Commitment to Students
The Office of Student Conduct at The Pennsylvania State University is committed to the safety and well being of all its community members. We strive to create an environment that is free of acts of violence, harassment, and infringement of rights of privacy and property. Student Conduct is one of many service offices in the University community that assists students, whether an accused student or victim of an incident. As a staff, we will support students by assisting them in identifying resources that, based on personal needs, will further support them throughout the disciplinary process.
A victim does not have to be a member of the University community. Guests or visitors may also be victims. When an incident occurs off-campus, even if the victim is not a member of the University community, the victim may have the right to file a complaint with the Office of Student Conduct. This is possible when the behavior is considered to have a substantial University interest of the University community. In other words, the student is likely to endanger others, repeat the behavior, or interfere with the educational process and operation of the University.
Most Common Offenses
Most Code of Conduct violations involve a potential victim so the following list does not cover all possibilities. The most common offenses against others are:
- Endangering Others
- Physical abuse
- Sexual abuse and/or assault
- Theft or damage of property
- Other offenses that violate rights to privacy or that could lead to violence.
Victims have rights and the Office of Student Conduct has a responsibility to protect those rights. Some victim rights are:
- To have a Victim/Witness Advocate from on or off-campus to assist throughout the discipline process. The Advocate may assist in the following ways:
- Provide emotional support
- Arrange for other services as needed, such as counseling, medical treatment, etc.
- Be with you at the hearing and, if needed, raise objections and advise you on questions.
- Assist in preparing a victim impact statement.
- To have an Administrative Directive sent immediately to the accused that forbids him/her from contacting you by any method including through friends or acquaintances. If this is violated, the accused may be immediately separated (interim expulsion).
- If the accused is a roommate or lives close to you in the residence halls and threat is a consideration, arrangements can be made to find a new room for you or, in some cases, the accused may be asked to be moved and prohibited from visiting a particular hall or campus area.
- To hear the outcome of the discipline process.
- In the event of a hearing, the victim also has these rights:
- To have unrelated past behavior excluded from the hearing.
- The choice to participate either for the entire hearing or only for her/his testimony.
- The opportunity to testify with special accommodations: i.e., over the phone, behind a screen, video teleconference at other location of her/his choice, etc.
- To have an advocate from on or off-campus.
- To have no direct contact with the accused student: i.e., questions from the accused student would be posed through a third party (i.e., the chairperson) and then relayed to the victim.
- The option to provide questions to the Presenter prior to or during the hearing that she/he may incorporate into questioning the accused student.
- The right to provide a victim impact statement that will be reviewed only by the board in the event that the charged student is found responsible. The impact statement may be considered before the board determines a sanction.
- The opportunity to request a recess during the hearing if she/he needs a break or wishes to consult with an advocate or the chairperson.
- Assuming she/he will be participating in the hearing, the option to appeal the Hearing Board's decision (see victim appeals in the manual).
Accused Student's Rights
Students who are accused of a violation have rights. It is not assumed that a verbal or written report is accurate or an exact account of behavior. Because of this, the staff in the Office of Student Conduct will meet with each student who has been accused of a violation of a Code of Conduct. During this meeting, the student and staff member will discuss the alleged violation. A large part of the discipline process involves fact-finding and the opportunity for students to respond to allegations of misconduct. The Office of Student Conduct will provide an opportunity for this to happen in a respectful, equitable and expeditious manner.
All students accused of inappropriate behavior or Code of Conduct violations have the right to:
- Discuss the incident with the Office of Student Conduct staff member or designee.
- Be informed in writing of all charges at least five (5) business days before any hearing.
- Waive the five (5) day notice and proceed with a hearing after receiving charges.
- Not testify or answer questions.
- Be assisted by an adviser as arranged by the student (administrative, faculty or student member of the University community.)
- Question witnesses who appear in person or by telephone at any hearing.
- Present witnesses of the fact.
- Review available evidence and documentation prior to a hearing.
- A closed hearing and the right to request a hearing open to members of the University community.
- Not appear at a hearing unless directed to do so; however, the hearing will proceed without prejudice.
- Appeal the hearing decision if it involves a separation.
- Have the hearing audio-taped (unless a co-accused refuses) or to refuse an audiotape of the hearing.
- A written report and summary of the hearing including findings and sanctions.
For information and assistance, please contact:
The Office of Student Conduct
103 Slep Student Center
Penn State Altoona
3000 Ivyside Park
Altoona, PA 16601-3760