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Student Handbook: Non-Academic Student Misconduct Hearing Procedure

Non-Academic Student Misconduct Hearing Procedure

Responsibility for handling misconduct that is not covered by the Academic Code of Conduct is specifically vested in the Law School administration and faculty by Code of Conduct § 3.1., “Other Student Conduct,” which provides: "The Faculty and Administration of the Law School retain exclusive jurisdiction over other conduct of students that is not an infraction of the Code.”

Misconduct that reflects adversely on a student’s honesty, integrity, trustworthiness, professionalism, or fitness to become a lawyer may be the subject of administrative action under this Non-Academic Student Misconduct Hearing Procedure (“Procedure”), at the Law School’s sole discretion. The Law School reserves the right to invoke this procedure, at its discretion, whether the alleged misconduct occurred on or off the premises of the Law School, or whether it occurred at a Law School-sponsored or non-Law School sponsored event. Allegations of misconduct that violates Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 (“Title IX”), including claims of sexual misconduct, are subject of administrative action under the Law Student Special Procedures Governing Sexual Misconduct Proceedings. See the TITLE IX NOTICE for Villanova University’s Title IX Coordinator and Deputy Coordinators.

The Law School retains the discretion to take administrative action under this Procedure regardless of possible or pending civil claims or criminal charges arising out of the same or other events. After consulting as appropriate with the Vice-President and General Counsel, and considering all of the circumstances, the Dean shall determine the appropriate timing for proceeding against a student who also faces related charges in a civil or criminal tribunal. If the Law School defers proceeding, the Law School retains the discretion to commence administrative action at any time, even if other pending charges have not yet been resolved.

PROCEDURE

1)   Any University or Law School student, faculty member, or staff member (“complaining party”) who believes that a student has engaged in misconduct that is not otherwise covered by the Academic Code of Conduct may file a complaint with the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs (“Associate Dean”) or with the Dean. The Associate Dean may also initiate proceedings against a student under this Procedure in the absence of such a complaint. The Dean may designate a party other than the Associate Dean to initiate proceedings and to pursue action under this Procedure, in his sole discretion.

2)   The Associate Dean shall initiate proceedings against a student under this Procedure by providing the student with notification, in writing, of the alleged misconduct. The writing shall also contain a copy of this Procedure. The complaining party, if any, shall also receive notice of the proceeding and a copy of this Procedure.

3)   Within a reasonable time, the Dean shall appoint a Hearing Panel (“Panel”) consisting of no more than three members of the tenured or tenure-track faculty. The size of the Panel shall be determined by the Dean, at his sole discretion.

4)   The Panel shall set a date for a hearing and shall establish the procedure for an orderly presentation of evidence at that hearing. At its sole discretion, the Panel may accommodate concerns for the personal safety, well-being, and/or fears of confrontation of the complaining party, accused student, and/or other witnesses during the hearing. The hearing shall be private.

5)   The accused student and the complaining party may choose to be represented by counsel during the hearing process. This counsel may not be a member of the Law School faculty, staff, or a member of the Law School student body. The accused student and complaining party (if any) are entitled to be present, with counsel (if any) at all times while evidence is being presented during the hearing, but may not be present during deliberations. 

6)   The Associate Dean, or her/his designee, shall present the evidence of misconduct to the Panel. The Associate Dean, or designee, shall also address the issue of the appropriate sanction for the misconduct.

7)   The accused student and the complaining party may present evidence on both the issue of misconduct and on the issue of sanction. The method of presentation of evidence, including the procedure for asking questions of witnesses, shall be determined by the Panel, in its sole discretion, and the Panel may choose to retain the sole authority to ask questions during the hearing. 

8)   The Panel shall not be bound by formal rules of evidence and shall have full discretion to admit evidence as it sees fit. Members of the Panel may ask questions of all witnesses during the course of the presentation of evidence.

9)   All students are required to cooperate fully and honestly with this Procedure. Failure to cooperate with the Panel, or lack of candor during these proceedings, may constitute misconduct and may result in charges being brought under this Procedure.

10)  Whether the hearing shall be recorded and by what method shall be determined in the sole discretion of the Panel. The Panel’s deliberations shall occur in confidence and shall not be recorded.

11)  Upon conclusion of the Hearing, the Panel shall make findings of fact with respect to the alleged misconduct. The Panel shall also determine whether the facts establish, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the accused student engaged in the alleged misconduct, and whether the misconduct reflects adversely on a student’s honesty, integrity, trustworthiness, professionalism, or fitness to become a lawyer.

12)  The Panel’s findings and recommendation shall be reported promptly in writing to the accused student, the complaining party, if any, the Associate Dean, and the Dean, in accordance with requirements of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.

13)  Based on the Panel’s findings of fact and its recommendation of sanction, the Dean shall make the final determination of sanction. Possible sanctions include, but are not limited to: exclusion from the Law School; suspension from the Law School; a reprimand to be included in the student’s Law School academic file and/or noted on the student’s transcript; a reprimand not included in the student’s Law School academic file and not noted on the student’s transcript; suspension or denial of specified Law School or University privileges or offices; appropriate compulsory service to the Law School community or outside community; counseling or other treatment as appropriate. The student, complaining party, if any, and Associate Dean shall be advised in writing of the Dean’s decision with respect to sanction, in accordance with requirements of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.

14)  The Dean’s decision as to sanction shall be final, except when the Dean imposes the sanction of suspension or expulsion from the Law School. In such circumstances, the accused student may file a petition for review by the entire voting faculty, in writing, stating with specificity the grounds for review. The petition must be filed with the Dean no later than five business days after the date of the Dean’s written decision.

15)  Any petition for review shall be heard at the next regularly scheduled voting faculty meeting, or at a special meeting of the faculty, at the discretion of the Dean. The record of the hearing, and all documents received into evidence by the Panel, shall constitute the record of the case.

16)  The Associate Dean may address the faculty with respect to the petition. The complaining party and accused student, or their counsel/Advisor, may address the faculty at the meeting regarding the petition for review, but the parties and their counsel/Advisors shall not be permitted to remain during the faculty’s discussion of the petition.

17) The Dean, the Academic Dean, and those members of the faculty who served as members of the Panel may participate in the deliberations of the faculty on the petition but shall not vote on the petition.  

18) At the conclusion of the deliberations, faculty who are present and eligible to vote shall cast their vote, in secret, as to whether or not to uphold the sanction imposed by the Dean. The Dean’s sanction shall be upheld unless a majority of the voting faculty who are present and eligible to vote shall vote to overturn the Dean’s decision. The final outcome shall be reported in writing to the accused student and complaining party, if any, in accordance with requirements of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.

19) The written notification of the charges, the report and recommendation of the Hearing Panel, and the final outcome of this Procedure, as well as any other relevant documentation, are to be maintained in the student’s permanent file, and shall be disclosed to bar examiners when necessary to comply with the terms of a request. The record of the hearing, documentary record and written reports of the panel and the Dean shall be retained in the Academic Dean’s Office for an appropriate period of time.

20) All proceedings under this Procedure are confidential and pending proceedings, investigations and sanctions may be disclosed only as provided in this Procedure, as reasonably necessary in the administration of the Law School or University, for bar admission purposes, and as otherwise required by law.

21) At any time after the Law School becomes aware of misconduct for which a student could be charged under this Procedure, the Academic Dean may place a “Judicial Hold” on the academic records of the student in order to preserve the status quo pending the outcome of proceedings. A Judicial Hold may prevent, among other things, registration, the release of transcripts, the issuance of letters of good standing and certification, and the award of a diploma.

22) When, in the judgment of the Law School, an individual poses a threat to the health, safety, and/or welfare of the Law School community, or the student has been charged with a crime of a serious nature, the Law School, in its sole discretion, may suspend the student on an interim basis. A hearing will be held as soon as reasonably possible to determine the final outcome, except where the Law School defers proceeding in light of pending civil charges or criminal charges as described above.