Student Code of Conduct
Aquinas College Conduct Process
Aquinas College, rooted in the Catholic Dominican tradition and inspired by the pillars of Prayer, Study, Service, and Community, is committed to fostering an inclusive educational community where all faculty, staff, and students are able to learn and grow as lifelong learners dedicated to a pursuit of the common good. The Student Conduct Process exists as a tool to foster this environment and ensure that the individual rights and responsibilities of community members and the best interest of the community as a whole are taken into account.
The Student Conduct Process, within the Dean of Students Office, is designed to be educational, restorative, and a means by which groups and individuals are held accountable in an equitable manner. Standards of conduct, as outlined in the Student Handbook and other college policies, at times fall within the purview of federal, state, and/or local requirements. Additionally, in holding the community to a high standard these policies may exceed federal, state, and/or local requirements.
The Student Conduct Process applies to all students, both undergraduate and graduate, and all Registered Student Organizations (RSOs).
College policies apply to the education programs and activities of the College, to
conduct that takes place on the campus or on property owned or controlled by the College,
or at college-sponsored events. College policies also apply to activities on the College's
computer and internet networks, digital platforms, and computer hardware or software
owned or operated by the College.
College policies can also be applicable to the effects of off-campus misconduct that effectively deprive someone of access to the College’s educational programs. The College may also extend jurisdiction to off-campus locations and activities when the Dean of Students determines that the conduct meets the definition of prohibited conduct and affects a substantial College interest.
A substantial College interest includes:
- Any action that constitutes a criminal offense as defined by law. This includes, but is not limited to, single or repeat violations of any local, state, or federal law;
- Any situation in which it is determined that the Respondent poses an immediate threat to the physical health or safety of any student or other individual;
- Any situation that significantly impinges upon the rights, property, or achievements of oneself or others or significantly breaches the peace and/or causes social disorder; and/or
- Any situation that is detrimental to the educational interests or mission of the College.
As entrusted by the Board of Trustees and under the direction of the Office of the President, the Dean of Students Office is responsible for direct oversight and implementation of the Student Conduct Process.
The Student Code of Conduct and the procedures related to its implementation are under the direction of the Dean of Students, who has the authority to make decisions related to policy, procedures, and interpretation.
The Dean of Students will appoint trained college officials or qualified external individuals to carry out the roles in the student conduct process. These individuals are given the responsibility of administering the rules and regulations of the College in a fair and impartial manner.
1. College Receives Notice
The Dean of Students Office receives a report alleging a violation of the Student Code of Conduct. The Dean of Students will appoint and assign the report to a Conduct Officer, who will begin a fact-finding process and make one of the following preliminary decisions:
- There is insufficient information to pursue the allegation further or the reported activity is not a violation of the Student Code of Conduct and the matter is closed.
- There is sufficient information to determine that there may be a violation of the Student Code of Conduct, and proceeds with the process.
2. Student Receives Notice
The student will be notified via email of the allegation which includes a notice to attend an initial meeting with the Conduct Officer. Students may have an advisor present at any meeting or hearing. Students may select any current faculty member, staff member, or student at Aquinas College to serve as their advisor. This means that students may not have family members and/or attorneys accompany them to meetings or hearings. The advisor cannot speak on behalf of the student or otherwise disrupt any meeting or hearing, but may advise the student during and after the meeting. Should additional allegations emerge, the student will receive an updated and revised notice of allegation(s).
3. Initial Meeting with Student
During this meeting the Conduct Officer will:
- Review allegation(s) with student(s).
- Allow student(s) to respond to the allegation(s) and the evidence compiled.
- Review relevant policies and issues with student(s).
- Review process and answer student’s questions.
- Establish temporary measures where necessary.
- Provide student(s) with opportunity to:
- Present further information,
- Offer additional perspectives, and/or
- Suggest avenues of investigation.
Following this meeting, the Conduct Officer will, based on the facts of the situation and the input of the student, decide to:
- Move to closure because no further action is necessary.
- Move to investigation to gather additional information, if necessary.
- Refer the matter for resolution under another Aquinas College Policy.
- Move to resolution by Conduct Officer or by Conduct Hearing Panel.
4. Resolution by Conduct Officer
Aquinas College’s Student Conduct Process requires a “preponderance of evidence” for finding an individual responsible for a violation. The preponderance of evidence standard requires that the available information indicates that it is “more likely than not” that a violation occurred. If the allegation moves to resolution:
- The student will have the opportunity to accept or deny responsibility for the alleged violation.
- If the student does not accept responsibility, the Conduct Officer will determine
whether the allegation constitutes a violation of the Student Code of Conduct.
- If a violation is found, the Conduct Officer will make appropriate sanction decisions.
- If a violation is not found, the matter will be closed.
- The student will receive a Notice of Outcome via email including the findings, any sanction(s), and procedures for requesting an appeal.
5. Resolution by Conduct Hearing Panel
The College reserves the right to refer conduct matters to a hearing panel usually when the situation involves:
- Community safety issues
- Repeated violations
- A Conduct Officer appoints a College Hearing Panel (CHP) and designates a chairperson.
- CHP reviews investigation summary and notes from previous process steps.
- CHP decides on witness participation, confirms witness list.
- CHP sets a hearing date and notifies the responding student, and witnesses.
- CHP conducts the hearing.
- CHP prepares a written report detailing violations, findings, and sanctions.
- The student will receive a Notice of Outcome via email including the findings, any sanction(s), and procedures for requesting an appeal.
The purpose of sanctions is to help students understand their behavior in the context of the Aquinas College community and to deter inappropriate behavior in the future. The College strives to apply sanctions that are commensurate with the misconduct and to assign an educational element and/or intervention measure, and where appropriate a restorative element to address harm to individuals and/or the community. Sanctions are decided based on the facts available in each situation.
The following range of sanctions may be imposed upon any student found to have violated the Student Code of Conduct:
- Warning: An official, written notice of violation.
- Education: A requirement to attend, present and/or participate in a program, meeting, or workshop related to the violation. It may also be a requirement to sponsor or assist with planning or presenting a program for others at the College.
- Probation: An official notice that should further violations occur during a definite/indefinite period the student may face suspension or expulsion. Regular probationary meetings may also be imposed.
- Restitution: Compensation for damage or loss incurred by the College or another person.
- Community Service: Requirement for a student to perform assigned task(s) through a designated office or department.
- Loss of Privileges: Denial of specified privileges for a definite/indefinite period of time. Examples may include, for example, operating an automobile on College property; participating in and/or holding an office in a College organization; representing the College in any official capacity; access to a designated College facility or area; participating in a College function.
- Course/grade Penalty: Academic penalties are applicable in cases involving academic integrity.
- Suspension: Suspension from the College for a specified minimum period of time, after which the student may be eligible to return. Eligibility may be contingent upon satisfaction of specific conditions noted at the time of suspension. For the duration of the suspension, the student shall forfeit all rights of their student status and may also forfeit their privileges of access to property owned or controlled by the College or engaging in College sponsored activities or programs. This restorative measure may be enforced with a trespass action if deemed necessary.
- Dismissal: Permanent separation from the College. The student is banned from property owned or controlled by the College and is prohibited from College sponsored activities or programs. This restorative measure may be enforced with a trespass action if deemed necessary.
- Other Sanctions: Additional or alternate sanctions may be created and designed as the College deems appropriate.
Student Conduct Records
When a student is found responsible for a violation of the Student Code of Conduct, a record of the violation will be maintained by the Dean of Students Office. These files are maintained separately from a student’s academic transcripts, but are considered educational records subject to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).
Student conduct records are generally maintained for seven years beyond the incident, but in some cases, the College may retain student conduct records beyond this timeframe. Student records involving a sanction of suspension and expulsion may be retained indefinitely.
Aquinas College’s Dean of Students Office may legally disclose information related to student conduct records to Aquinas College officials with legitimate educational interests without prior consent from students. For routine internal record checks as part of application processes (off campus travel, admission to academic departments/programs, student leadership positions, etc.) the Dean of Students Office requests that these departments notify the students in advance of the record inquiry and/or have students sign a waiver related to the confidential record release.
For record release requests beyond Aquinas College, (graduate school applications, job applications, background checks) students can make these requests and will sign a waiver prior to the release of the student conduct record. With written consent/request from the student or as otherwise provided by the law, student conduct records are externally reportable when the conduct record is retained by the College.
Any party may submit a Request for Appeal within five (5) business days of the delivery of the Notice of Outcome. Appeal requests must be submitted through the Appeal Request Form.
Grounds for Appeal
Appeals are limited to the following grounds:
- A procedural irregularity that affected the outcome of the matter;
- New evidence that was not available at the time the determination regarding responsibility or dismissal was made, that could affect the outcome of the matter; and
- The Conduct Officer or a member of the Conduct Hearing Panel had a conflict of interest or bias for or against the Complainant or Respondent that affected the outcome of the matter.
The College will appoint an Appeal Chair, who will review the appeal request to determine whether grounds for appeal are met. If any of the grounds for appeal are met, the Appeal Chair will collect any additional information needed and all documentation regarding the approved grounds and render a decision in no more than five (5) business days. The Appeal Chair does not meet with involved parties during the appeal process.
The student will receive a Notice of Appeal Outcome via email including the decision and rationale for each approved ground.
A Notice of Appeal Outcome will be sent to all parties simultaneously including the decision on each approved ground and rationale for each decision. Once emailed, the notice will be presumptively delivered. The Notice of Appeal Outcome will specify the finding on each ground for appeal, any specific instructions for remand or reconsideration, any sanctions that may result which the College is permitted to share according to state or federal law, and the rationale supporting the essential findings to the extent the College is permitted to share under state or federal law.
- Decisions on appeal are to be deferential to the original decision-maker, remanding only when there is clear error and a compelling justification to do so.
- Appeals are not intended to provide for a full re-hearing of the allegation(s). In most cases, appeals are confined to a review of the written documentation or record of the original hearing and pertinent documentation regarding the specific grounds for appeal.
- An appeal is not an opportunity for the Appeal Chair to substitute their judgment for that of the original Decision-maker(s) merely because they disagree with the finding and/or sanction(s).
- The Appeal Decision-maker may consult with the original Decision-maker on questions of procedure or rationale, for clarification, if needed. Documentation of all such consultation will be maintained.
- Appeals granted based on new evidence should normally be remanded to the original Investigator(s) and/or Decision-maker(s) for reconsideration.
- Once an appeal is decided, the outcome is final: further appeals are not permitted, even if a decision or sanction is changed on remand (except in the case of a new hearing). When appeals result in no change to the finding or sanction, that decision is final.
- In rare cases where a substantive error cannot be cured by the original Decision-maker(s) (as in cases of bias), the Appeal Chair may order a new hearing with a new Decision-maker(s).
- The results of a remand to a Decision-maker(s) cannot be appealed. The results of a new hearing can be appealed, once, on any of the three available appeal grounds.
- In cases where the appeal results in reinstatement to the College or resumption of privileges, all reasonable attempts will be made to restore the Respondent to their prior status.