How is the campus process different from a criminal charge?
There are several differences between the systems. First and foremost, rules governing the handling of student conduct matters at institutions of higher education are different from criminal statutes. Criminal prosecutions take place only when violations of law are alleged. On campuses, there are many types of violations that may not be violations of the law, but violate institutional community standards, such as academic dishonesty or disruptions to the community. There are other types of violations that mirror criminal statutes such as underage drinking. There are still others that may use similar terminology but are defined differently. Sexual assault and rape are good examples of these.
A second major difference between the campus process and the criminal process is the standard of proof. At Marymount University, and on most college campuses, there must be a preponderance of the evidence, enough evidence to tip the scales (i.e. 51% or "more likely than not"), before a student is found responsible for violating the Community Conduct Code. This is the same standard used in most civil cases. In contrast, the standard in a criminal case is beyond a reasonable doubt, which is 97%.
Another difference is that the campus process is usually confidential whereas a criminal prosecution creates public records. For more on the limitations on disclosure of student records, see the section on the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)
. In addition, a campus's jurisdiction is more limited than the courts. Marymount University can only address a violation of the Community Conduct Code if the accused is a student or the guest of a student. Non-students who violate University policy on Marymount University property are removed from the premises and may be banned from returning to campus.
Yet another difference is that the process on many campuses is an administrative hearing and not a trial, and as such not adversarial in nature. Therefore, the institution’s process may not have the same procedures as a criminal trial. At Marymount University, students must speak for themselves. They are not permitted to have an attorney, or anyone else, speak on their behalf. This is mainly to preserve the educational nature of university disciplinary hearings. It is important for students to represent themselves and to explain their conduct to others.
Finally, as the student conduct process is considered an educational tool, the sanctions imposed tend to focus on repairing harm to the community, to victims, and to the institution as a whole. They also take into account what the accused student needs to learn from the situation. The process focuses on helping the student understand why his/her behaviors violated community standards and how the person can avoid making the same mistake again. It is also focused on helping the student see how the instances of misconduct affect others. These are generally not addressed in the criminal process. However, where weapons or violence are involved, students may be facing separation from the institution. In these instances, the University’s primary concern is maintaining a safe environment and an educational response would not be appropriate.
Does being convicted of a campus violation give you a criminal record?
A college or university’s student conduct process does NOT lead to anyone being "convicted of a crime." It is a process to determine if a student is to be found responsible for violating the Community Conduct Code and other campus regulations. It can only result in a student discipline record that is maintained for a finite time (however, student conduct records dealing with severe sanctions, such as Disciplinary Probation, Suspension, or Expulsion, are held in perpetuity). Also, no criminal record is automatically generated.
Can criminal charges be filed at the same time as a campus complaint?
Yes. The criminal justice system and the student conduct process are completely independent. Student victims are encouraged to discuss their situation with a police officer to help decide whether or not to file a criminal charge as well. In most cases, it is up to the victim to decide if he or she wishes to file a criminal charge. This is not something a college or university, or any other third party, can do on the victim’s behalf.
Why is this not considered double jeopardy?
As stated above the goals of the two systems are not the same. The term double jeopardy is generally understood to mean that a person cannot be tried for the same crime twice. The institution is not charging an accused student with a crime, or violation of law. Instead, the student is being accused of violating a code of student conduct within the domain of the campus. Therefore, being found guilty simultaneously of a crime in the court system and in violation of a Marymount University Community Conduct Code does not constitute double jeopardy. The two domains are separate.
What are the appeal rights in our system?
A student may appeal a disciplinary decision in writing within three (3) business days of being notified of the decision. To be accepted, written appeals must contain new information that was not heard at the original hearing, or demonstrate that appropriate procedures were not followed. Students may not appeal based upon the severity of sanction. Appeals should be addressed to whomever is listed as the appeal officer in the decision letter received by the student.
Is the case reheard in an appeal?
In making his/her decision, the appeal officer usually limits his/her review to the record of the case including written statements submitted by the complainant and the accused student. The appeal officer will determine if there were serious errors made in the case or if significant new evidence has been revealed. If any of these conditions are proven, the appeal officer may alter the decision or modify the sanctions.
How long does it take to resolve a case?
Cases are often resolved within two weeks. Once a decision is made, the student then has a finite amount of time (three (3) business days) to file a written letter of appeal.
What are the long-term effects of being found responsible for violating the Community Conduct Code?
This really depends on the type of violation and the sanction, and any applicable state law. Generally, minor violations will really have no long-term impact. A more serious violation and sanction can have significant long-term impacts on your student. Graduate schools and some jobs typically look for a pattern of inappropriate behavior. One or two violations, if minor, probably won’t have a significant impact. It is generally acknowledged by most colleges and universities that testing limits and making mistakes are part of the “college experience.” However, if students aren’t able to show how they learned from those incidents and changed their behavior over time, this will more likely impact their being hired or being accepted to graduate or professional school.