You can help your student by being supportive while holding him or her accountable to your expectations and the university’s. You can also help by supporting necessary interventions, such as alcohol or drug education, anger management, and other forms of education, so that your student can be successful at Virginia Tech. Allow and expect the student to set appointments, attend meetings, and fulfill sanctions. It is usually not helpful to the educational development of the student for parents to take over the process for their students. Please ask your student three questions (in this order):
- "Have you read the conduct referral and hearing notification letter?"
- "What are you going to do about this?"
- "How can I support you?"
Developmentally, college is a period of experimentation and exploration for students in an environment very different than what you, or they, may be accustomed to. They may be in a period of transition from late adolescence to adulthood, facing many new challenges. They may also be away from home for the first time and dealing with issues of independence in the more unstructured environment of a university. In addition, students are adjusting to the expectations and values of the university, just as they did at home. As students are testing these expectations and values, they may make choices that are inconsistent with their past choices. This exploration is a normal part of the developmental process. However, students must also learn that the choices they make may not be healthy and do have consequences. Engage your student in an open dialogue and be receptive to learn about the friends, behaviors, actions, and choices your student makes when he or she is out of your presence.
The criminal justice system and Virginia Tech’s Student Code of Conduct are not mutually exclusive. By virtue of being enrolled at Virginia Tech, each student is held responsible for upholding the standards of behavior in the university policies for student life, as well as local and state laws. The university conduct process does not constitute "double jeopardy" for situations in which a student is facing concurrent criminal proceedings. The constitutional right regarding double jeopardy is solely a criminal law concept and is not applicable to the university conduct process, nor are most other criminal/civil procedures.
The university has an interest in maintaining a safe community and appropriate standards of conduct for its students. Each student is accountable to Virginia Tech regardless of whether an alleged misconduct took place on the campus, across the street from campus, or across town. Virginia Tech is particularly concerned about high-risk drinking, drug use, and violent behavior, which compromise student health, safety, and academic success. This includes both on-campus and off-campus behavior that can have an adverse impact on the university community and its mission.
No. The university conduct system will proceed in as timely a manner as possible, even when a student is also involved in a criminal or civil case related to the incident for which he or she is facing university action. Although students may choose to remain silent (such silence shall not be used against them), a violation of university conduct regulations may nevertheless be determined based upon the other information presented. Furthermore, a decision by the student to withhold participation in the university conduct process may not later be used to contest the decision of the hearing officer/committee.
Obtaining a lawyer is a family decision that we can not make for you. Since this is not a criminal proceeding, lawyers may not be necessary. Since this is an educational process, we expect students to speak on their own behalf. Both referral agents and charged students, however, may elect to have a single advisor accompany them. Advisors are a student’s choice and can be faculty/staff members, peers, parents, or lawyers. The role of the advisor is limited to conferring with their advisee. Advisors may be present at the conduct meeting or formal hearing, but may not participate in the proceedings. The advisor’s role is specifically limited to conferring with her or his advisee. Advisors are not permitted to speak on behalf of the student or question any potential witnesses. If you need to request a break in the hearing so that you can confer with your student privately, you may do so.
We expect students to speak on their own behalf. Parents are permitted to serve as advisors with the permission of the student. Advisors may be present, but may not participate in the proceedings. The advisor’s role is specifically limited to conferring with her or his advisee.
In most cases, no. For many years, student disciplinary records were considered confidential under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) of 1974. This legislation, better known as the Buckley Amendment, sealed disciplinary conduct and other types of student records and limited access to the student and those other individuals at the university with a legitimate and compelling need to know. Students with conduct records must sign a consent form before this information can be released to other individuals.
However, under the recent amendments to FERPA, parents of students under age 21 can be informed if their son or daughter is found responsible for a violation of the alcoholic beverage or illegal drug policies. Parents of students under age 21 will be notified in writing if their son or daughter is found responsible for a violation of the alcoholic beverage or illegal drug policies. Notification takes place via letter after the case is closed.
It is recommended that students inform their parents of all incidents that result in sanctions. Keeping this type of information from parents can make matters worse if additional violations occur. Records on violations involving student organizations are not confidential and may be released. A student will always have access to view their conduct file. When they speak with you, it’s encouraged that you ask them to send you copies of the information they’ve been provided.
We believe that students are adults and that if we set our expectations high, most students can and will live up to these standards. Some students make a minor slip-up, and the educational focus of the conduct system allows for that as long as they are willing to learn from their mistakes. While we encourage open communication between students and their families, we are also guided by federal regulations (see the Parental Notification Policy section) that limit access to student records. In most instances a waiver must be obtained in our office and signed by the student to allow release of records or discussion of incidents, even with parents. If your student has a FERPA disclosure and passcode, you can provide us with that to access the information in the student conduct file.
Preponderance of the evidence is the standard of proof used. For a student to be found responsible for a violation, the evidence must indicate that it is more likely than not that the violation occurred. This is different from the criminal court system.
The hearing officer is a Student Conduct professional staff member or student affairs faculty member who has been appointed as a university conduct officer. These individuals are specially trained in student conduct practice and have a good working knowledge of university policy and current case precedent. If the student feels that the staff member is not in a position to render a "fair and impartial" judgment, they may ask that the case be assigned to someone else. In doing so, they must demonstrate grounds for requesting their case be re-assigned, and the decision will ultimately rest with the director of Student Conduct. This request must be made in writing within reasonable time for the case to be assigned to a different hearing officer at the already determined time and date. Parents may not make this request for their students.
Undergraduate and graduate students serve as committee members. These students are at least second semester freshmen. All committee members are interviewed, selected, and trained by Student Conduct. Committees generally meet during the regular work week and are advised by a staff member in Student Conduct. If the student feels that a committee member is not in a position to render a "fair and impartial" judgment, then prior to the hearing they should notify the committee chair or committee advisor.
A complete list of sanctions appears in the University Policies for Student Life found in the Hokie Handbook. Sanctions will follow current case precedent, but individual circumstances are taken into account. Sanctions are designed to alter behavior and to make statements about the university's expectations for student conduct. Even sanctions such as suspension are intended to help students learn from their actions and understand how unacceptable behaviors impact others. Some first-offense violations of university policy may result in suspension or dismissal from the university.
A student's disciplinary conduct file is kept for internal record-keeping purposes and to provide some insight into a student’s past behavior if additional problems arise. Past decisions that resulted in a finding of responsibility will be considered in subsequent cases when sanctions are determined. These records are released to no one other than university officials who have a legitimate need to know and others as permitted by law. Students with conduct records must sign a consent form before this information can be released to other individuals (see Parental Notification Policy section).
A disciplinary record does not automatically exclude a student from further study, jobs, etc. It does depend on the type or severity of misconduct in which a student is involved. A disciplinary record may lead an admissions office to more closely scrutinize the student's application. Again, we will only release information about a student’s disciplinary record as permitted by federal law (see above). If the student authorizes a release of their record, it will be provided to whomever they request. Case records are expunged five years from the date of the incident.
To make a referral to Student Conduct, a student must simply write or type a statement of the alleged incident, sign and date it, and mail or deliver it to Student Conduct. Students should be sure to include the name of the student they are referring (or as much of the name as they know and any other identifying information) on the referral. A referral should be made as quickly after the alleged incident as possible. However, the case can be heard as long as the charged student is still a student at the time the referral is brought forward.
Students who feel they have been the victim of sexual assault may initiate university disciplinary action against the alleged assailant. The student can participate in the investigations conducted by the title IX coordinator which will serve as the conduct referral. In addition, the student may submit to Student Conduct a Student Conduct referral, which is a written narrative of the incident in question, and may attend the Student Conduct hearing for the charged student. The student making a complaint may choose to have a support person with them at the hearing. Initiating university Student Conduct action against the accused does not preclude taking civil or criminal action. Students who pursue university Student Conduct action will be notified throughout the Student Conduct process. This notification includes notice of the outcome and the opportunity to appeal the decision.