Frequently Asked Questions
Q: I have been asked to represent a student in the student conduct process. How do I establish this with the University?
A: Students or student organizations that choose to have a licensed attorney or non-attorney advocate represent them must submit a completed Notice of Representation form. The student must notify the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities in writing of the intent to have an attorney or non-attorney advocate participate in a Student Conduct Conference (SCC) or disciplinary hearing. This form specifies: The identity of the licensed attorney or non-attorney advocate; whether the individual is a licensed attorney or a non-attorney advocate; and an address, telephone number, and email address where the licensed attorney or non-attorney advocate can be reached. This must be submitted no later than five (5) business days before a disciplinary hearing or two (2) business days before a SCC.
Q: If I am an attorney, can I serve as the student’s Advisor?
A: The accused student will be assigned a Student Advisor, a member of the University community who can help the accused student prepare their case and navigate the disciplinary system. The Office of the Student Attorney General* and the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities maintain a list of advisors who have been trained on the student conduct process.
*The Student Attorney General is the judicial branch of the UNCG Student Government Association. Student Advisors are assigned to accused students through the Student Government Attorney General and work closely with the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities.
Should the accused student have an attorney or non-attorney advocate, the advisor’s role is to advise the student on matters related to the student conduct process.
Because the university disciplinary process is not a court of law, the attorney is not acting in a legal capacity. It is not the role of the attorney to “win” the case for the student. Rather, the attorney may lend support to the student in preparing his/her case and attending and participating, to the extent provided to the student, in the SCC and student conduct hearing.
Q: Who can be present with the student at the hearing?
A: A maximum of three individuals may accompany the student. The student is assigned a Student Advisor and the student may choose to bring one person who is an attorney or non-attorney advocate and one person who serves as a support person (this person may not represent the student, speak for the student, or make any statements).
Q: Will an attorney/non-attorney advocate be given an opportunity to present evidence on the student’s behalf?
A: Yes, the attorney/non-attorney advocate can participate in the hearing to the extent provided to the accused student. The hearing officer will allow information to be presented if it is relevant to the case. The hearing officer makes those determinations.
In a disciplinary hearing, an attorney/non-attorney advocate may:
- Consult with a student during a hearing, but cannot use the discussion to delay the hearing.
- Suggest questions for the student to ask.
- Assist the student in clarifying his/her response to questions.
- Question witnesses in accordance with the hearing guidelines as outlined in the Student Code of Conduct.
- Assist the student in preparing an opening and closing statement to present at the hearing.
- Fully participate only to the extent and in the same manner afforded to the student(s) they represent, provided that the attorney/non-attorney advocate may not provide testimony.
An attorney or non-attorney advocate:
- Does NOT direct the flow of the hearing.
- Does NOT testify or tell the student what to say during the hearing or disrupt the UNCG process.
- Does NOT belittle or question witnesses in a mean-spirited manner.
- Does NOT object in any manner to questions asked or discussions raised.
- Does NOT interrupt or delay the student conduct hearing.
- Does NOT delay, disrupt, or otherwise interfere with the proceeding.
Q: What’s the difference between a Student Conduct Conference (SCC) and a University Hearing?
A: An SCC is an informal meeting with a Conduct Officer, where students have the opportunity to review allegations and obtain information about their case. During the SCC, the student will acknowledge their understanding of their rights, ask questions, accept or deny responsibility to formal charges, and make decisions about how to proceed with the case. A University Hearing is a more formal process, in which the reporting party and responding party present their cases to the University Hearing Panel of students, staff, and faculty. The Hearing Panel then determines whether the responding party is responsible, based on the preponderance of the evidence, for the violation of one or more of the five core values: Honesty, Trust, Respect, Fairness, and Responsibility.
Q: Who do I talk to if I have questions about the case?
A: The attorney or non-attorney advocate may contact staff in the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities via phone at 336-334-4640. Staff is available to assist in helping the attorney or non-attorney advocate understand disciplinary proceedings. If questions relate to specifics of the incident involving the student, the staff will require the involved student to sign a release, prior to discussing the case with an attorney or non-attorney advocate. Otherwise, the staff will only be able to accommodate general questions about the disciplinary process.
Q: What is the role of the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities staff during the disciplinary process?
A: The Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities staff serves in multiple roles in preparation for a conduct proceeding. They are responsible for reviewing all incident reports, deciding on appropriate charges, administering SCCs, and facilitating hearings. They are also responsible for guiding a student through the student conduct process, providing information about the proceedings, possible outcomes, and a student’s rights and responsibilities.
Q: What is the standard of proof in the University’s disciplinary process?
A: The standard of proof in the student conduct process is the preponderance of the evidence presented.
Q: When will I receive discovery?
A: There is no formal discovery under the University Student Code of Conduct. Both the reporting party and the responding party are accorded reasonable access to the case file. If the attorney or non-attorney advocate would like to review the case file, the student should call the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities at 336-334-4640 to make an appointment. Also, a written release signed by the student must be on file. The student must be present at all scheduled appointments.
Both the reporting party and the responding party will have the opportunity to add information (evidence) and/or a witness list to the case file. This information must be submitted no later than three (3) working days before the scheduled hearing. Both the reporting party and the responding party may be notified if the other party submits information or a witness list. If, at the time of the hearing, either the reporting party/Case Coordinator or the responding party/Student Conduct Advisor calls a witness or presents written information that was not previously identified, either party may challenge the admissibility of the witness testimony or written information. Such challenges will be reviewed by the conduct officer and affirmed or denied in his/her sole discretion.
Q: Can I get the hearing or SCC rescheduled?
A: The University will attempt to schedule a hearing that is convenient for the responding party, the reporting party, student conduct advisor, case coordinator, witnesses, and the conduct team panelists who will hear the information and make a decision. With so many people involved, it is not always possible for all schedules to coincide. In order to resolve conduct matters in a timely way, attorneys or non-attorney advocates will not be directly consulted about the scheduling of conduct proceedings. However, the University will try to make reasonable adjustments to the schedule while communicating directly with the student. If you are unavailable for the scheduled hearing time, your student is welcome to choose another attorney or non-attorney advocate. The student involved in in the University conduct process will be appointed a Student Conduct Advisor who will assist the student and be in all proceedings.
Court dates and other issues do not and will not delay UNCG processes.
Q: My client is charged with a crime off-campus. Can I get the proceedings delayed until the criminal matter is resolved?
A: The behavior demonstrated by UNCG 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 for on-campus behavior.
Pending criminal proceedings will not ordinarily serve as a basis to postpone a student disciplinary proceeding. The purpose of the University’s process is not to determine whether a student has violated the law; it is to determine whether a student violated the Student Code of Conduct.
Q: Why would the university act on allegations of sexual assault prior to the criminal proceeding?
A: The U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights guidelines (“Revised Sexual Harassment Guidance: Harassment of Students by School Employees, Other Students or Third Parties”) require a “prompt” response to allegations of sexual harassment—including sexual assault.
Q: Why isn’t the student afforded the same due process protections that would be provided in a criminal proceeding?
A: The emphasis upon student education and growth as the primary objectives of the student disciplinary process distinguish this process from the criminal or civil legal proceedings. The student disciplinary process is not judging criminal guilt, but rather whether a student has violated a university policy. The courts have long recognized that the interests of the University community differ from those of the criminal justice process. Although there are basic concepts of fairness that apply to student disciplinary process, this process serves administrative and educational functions relating to the mission of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Therefore, many of the intricate rules and processes found in a court system are not applicable to university student conduct procedures.
Q: What will happen if my client refuses to participate in the University’s disciplinary process?
A: As per the Student Code of 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. Because the process is educational, an attorney/non-attorney advocate will not be permitted to be present if the student chooses not to participate. If a student chooses not to attend or not to speak during the hearing, the hearing panel will make a decision based on evidence and information presented during the 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: Is the hearing recorded? Can I get a transcript?
A: University panel hearings are digitally recorded. The student can request to review the recording, but the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities does not provide transcripts. Under FERPA, if the recording contains other students’ information, the University may be limited in what it can disclose as not to violate other’s privacy. For more information, please review the Inspection and Review section in the Access to Student Educational Records Policy.
Q: Who makes the decision regarding my client’s responsibility?
A: A student can be found responsible by either a University Hearing Panel (for cases that could typically result in suspension or expulsion from the University) or an Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities staff member or designee for cases that typically result in any lesser sanction.
Q: Isn’t the student disciplinary process double jeopardy for someone who is also facing criminal charges?
A: No. “Double jeopardy” is a legal concept that applies solely to criminal proceedings. The University’s process is educational and administrative in nature.
Q: Can my client withdraw from the University to avoid the hearing?
A: The Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities will not deny a student’s ability to withdraw from classes with disciplinary charges pending, however, the investigation will continue and a university hearing will occur to resolve the matter regardless of enrollment status.
Q: Is the hearing outcome confidential? Can information provided during the hearing regarding my client be made available to the prosecutor’s office if he/she chooses to participate in the student disciplinary process?
A: The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (“FERPA”) provides the right of ownership of student records to the student and prevents the University from disclosing this information without the consent of the student. Thus, the University will not, on its own, forward the information received in a hearing to the attorney’s office. However, there can be no guarantee of privacy as all student disciplinary records are subject to lawful subpoenas. Additionally, a reporting party is entitled to know the outcome of a hearing when there are allegations of sexual harassment or discrimination, which includes acts such as sexual violence.
Q: Who serves on the student conduct panel?
A: A student conduct hearing panel is comprised of faculty, staff, and/or students (with the exception of Title IX-related cases which are heard solely by a trained panel of faculty and staff members). All members of the panel are trained for their roles. Each hearing panel is led by a Hearing Officer, who receives additional training in managing their role.
Q: What are the rights of appeal?
A: Written notice of appeal must be submitted through the Notice of Appeal Form by the responding party, or the reporting party in a case involving sexual violence, to the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities within three (3) business days of the date of written notification of the decision of the hearing panel/conduct officer provided at the time of the decision [except where expulsion is involved, in which case the three (3) days begin to run upon notification of the Vice Chancellor’s decision regarding the recommendation of expulsion/suspension].
Under the appeal rights set by the UNC Board of Governors and applicable at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, an appeal of a disciplinary decision is limited to allegations that the decision violates due process rights, meaning there has been a material deviation from the procedural and/or substantive due process standards adopted by the UNC Board of Governors. Therefore the appeal must allege a violation of Procedural Standards and/or Substantive Standards.
On appeal, a responding party has the burden of showing that the disciplinary decision violates Procedural and/or Substantive Standards. Violation of Procedural Standards means that the responding party was not provided the required notice or an opportunity for a fair hearing due to specified procedural errors, or errors in interpretation of University policies or regulations, that were so substantial as to effectively deny the responding party a fair hearing. Reasonable deviations from the procedures set out in this regulation will not invalidate a decision or proceeding unless the responding party can show that, but for the deviation or error, there likely would have been a different outcome in the case. Violation of Substantive Standards means there is a lack of information in the record that could support the decision or sanction(s). This last ground for appeal does not mean the information presented at the hearing can be re-argued on appeal; rather, it requires a showing that no reasonable person could have determined the responding party was responsible or could have imposed the sanction that was issued.
Q: Are there resources available for me to learn more about the law as it relates to university disciplinary processes?
A: The following resources for attorney/non-attorney advocates are recommended:
- The Law of Higher Education (4th. ed.) Volumes 1&2, William A. Kaplan and Barbara A. Lee, published by Jossey-Bass Publications, (2006).
- Year 2000 Cumulative Supplement to the Law of Higher Education, (3rd. Edition) by William Kaplan and Barbara Lee, published by the National Association of College and University Attorneys (NACUA) (2000).
- The Rights and Responsibilities of the Modern University: Who assumes the role of risk of College Life? Robert Bickle and Peter Lake, Durham, NC Carolina Academic Press (1999)
This guide is modeled after those developed by Illinois State University, Towson University and Rutgers University Guide for Attorneys.