Chapter 6: The Student Conduct System
Violation of University Policy / Sexual Misconduct / Threat, Stalking, or Intimidation: Directives to Desist / Conduct at Athletic Events / Conduct in the Libraries / Damage to Property / Use of University Computers and Data Networks / Use of the University Telephone System / Firearms and Explosives / Hazing / The Student Conduct System / Jurisdiction Over Non-Vanderbilt Students / Undergraduate Student Conduct Council / Graduate Student Conduct Council/ Appellate Review Board / Student Conduct Councils and Hearings by Hearing Officers / Guidelines for Cases of Sexual Misconduct/ Appeals / Disciplinary Sanctions
Students and student organizations are expected to comply with all University rules of conduct. Standards of conduct are derived from tradition and evolve with contemporary practice. Grounds for discipline cannot always be the subject of precise statement; however, when commonly held standards of conduct are broken, discipline must be taken if the University community is to be sustained.
Students are expected to observe the standards of the University for activities that occur off campus. In cases of misconduct that occur off campus in which the University has an interest, a group may be disciplined and/or lose its registration or an individual may be disciplined.
The officers of organizations or individual hosts are responsible for the conduct of their members and guests. This responsibility includes compliance with federal, state, and local law and University policies. Those who fail in this responsibility will be subject to disciplinary action and/or referral for prosecution by government authorities.
The Vice Chancellor for Student Life or his designee may reprimand, institute restrictions on, or withdraw registration from organizations that violate University policy and regulations. The Office of Student Activities may impose restrictions or require conditions be met by organizations that are found to be in violation of policy.
An appropriate hearing officer or judicial body will decide whether the University has sufficient interest in an off-campus matter to exercise its jurisdiction, and the decision may be reviewed by the Appellate Review Board. Factors in the decision may be whether Vanderbilt University property or property of members of the University community is involved; whether the parties in a dispute are members of the University community; whether the misconduct occurred at an event sponsored by a Vanderbilt group or by a University department; and whether such misconduct may affect the welfare of the University community.
Violations of regulations of the residence halls, libraries, and other areas of University life may result in disciplinary action. The following regulations are general conduct guidelines. For further regulations pertaining to conduct within the resident halls, see Chapter 7, Residential Life.
Vanderbilt University desires to establish and maintain a safe and healthy environment for all members of the University community. The University, by providing resources for prevention, education, support, and a fair disciplinary process, seeks to eliminate all forms of sexual misconduct. Sexual misconduct of any kind represents socially irresponsible behavior and will not be tolerated by the University community.
It is a serious violation of University policy to engage in sexual conduct or activity without the consent of the other person. Consent may be withdrawn at any time, without regard to the activity that preceded the withdrawal of consent. Sexual misconduct includes, but is not limited to, actual or attempted rape and sexual battery. A student who violates this policy can be prosecuted in the courts of this state and, in addition, may be suspended or expelled from the University for the first offense.
Rape is defined as sexual penetration, no matter how slight, of the genital, anal, and/or oral openings of the person by any part of the student's body or by the use of an object, without the person's consent or against the person's will where the person
Sexual battery is defined as intentionally touching the person's intimate parts (primary genital area, groin, inner thigh, buttock, or breast) without or against the person's consent. This touching is either directly on the body part or on the clothing covering that body part. It is also sexual battery if the person is forced to touch the intimate areas of another individual.
Information and resources regarding issues of sexual misconduct can be found at www.vanderbilt.edu/ProjectSafe.*
Vanderbilt University expects students to refrain from conduct that threatens or through intimidation unreasonably impairs the security or privacy of another member of the University community. Such conduct is a violation of University policy and may result in disciplinary action. A student who feels that she or he is the subject of such conduct may request from the Chair of the Conduct Councils an order to the offending student to desist from the conduct in question. When a request is filed, a hearing will be held to determine whether the conduct warrants the issuance of an order prohibiting the continuation of the conduct. The student whose conduct is the subject of the request will be notified of the request and any other disciplinary charges and permitted to choose either the Chair or the Conduct Council to conduct the hearing. If the Chair or the Council after a hearing determines that the conduct complained of constitutes intimidation or threat or through intimidation unreasonably impairs the security or privacy of another member of the University community, the Chair or the Council shall issue an order prohibiting the offending student from engaging in that conduct. The Chair or Council may also impose other appropriate sanctions. Any student against whom such an order is issued may appeal the issuance of the order in the same manner that any other action by the Chair or the Council may be appealed.
Violation of an order by the student who is subject to the order will result in the filing of a disciplinary charge against that student. This charge will be adjudicated according to the usual disciplinary procedures. The hearing will be conducted by the hearing authority that issued the order. If the disciplinary procedures result in a finding that the charged student is guilty of violating the order, a disciplinary penalty will be imposed. This may include suspension or expulsion.
A hearing to determine whether an order should be issued and any order that may be issued shall not be considered a disciplinary proceeding or discipline for purposes of the student's record unless separate charges were brought and adjudicated in the same proceeding. A subsequent proceeding to adjudicate a charge that the student has violated the terms of an order shall constitute a disciplinary proceeding in the ordinary sense of that term and shall become a part of the student's record to the same extent that any other disciplinary action would become part of the record.
State law requires each college and university in Tennessee to adopt a policy prohibiting hazing. Hazing is defined in the law as "any intentional or reckless act in Tennessee on or off the property of any [college or university] by one (1) student acting alone or with others which is directed against any other student, that endangers the mental or physical health or safety of that student, or which induces or coerces a student to endanger his or her mental or physical health or safety. 'Hazing' does not include customary athletic events or similar contests or competitions, and is limited to those actions taken and situations created in connection with initiation into or affiliation with any organization."
While keeping with the statutory limitations of hazing above (i.e., student acts directed at students on or off campus), the University expands its definition of hazing to include any act that may produce, or is intended to produce, mental or physical discomfort, embarrassment, harassment, or ridicule. Such acts include--but are not limited to--inducement of excessive fatigue, or physical or psychological shocks; implementing or participation in treasure hunts, scavenger hunts, or road trips; publicly wearing apparel which is conspicuous and not normally in good taste; engaging in public stunts and buffoonery; drinking games, or, other organized activities, late work sessions, and other obligations which interfere with scholastic purposes of the organization; and any other activity inconsistent with the purposes of the organization's constitution, by-laws, standing rules and policies, or University policy. Students are subject to federal, state and local laws, and policies and regulations of the University.
The University prohibits the throwing of objects from the stands and abusive language or gestures. Students may paint their faces including the common names for our team (e.g., Dores, Vandy, VU. Students and/ or recognized student organizations may submit banners to be displayed at the game to the appropriate Athletic Department official, prior to the game. Banners with obscene or derogatory messages will not be displayed. Efforts will be made to display all banners submitted. Students are permitted to bring hand-held signs to athletic events provided that the signs meet the following guidelines:
Event staff has the discretionary authority to determine if a sign does not meet the guidelines. Signs that do not meet these guidelines may be confiscated at any time during the event. Students in possession of a sign that does not meet the guidelines may be ejected from the contest if they refuse to comply with the above stated policy. Student spectators who throw objects at athletic events will be ejected from the contest and may be subject to further disciplinary action. Other spectators will be similarly treated by local authorities. The consumption of alcoholic beverages is not permitted at athletic events.
Eating, drinking, and use of tobacco all endanger library materials. For that reason, these activities are either allowed only in certain designated areas of the University library system or prohibited entirely. In some locations, covered beverages are permitted. For clarification of the policy in the individual libraries, patrons may inquire at the respective service desks. Failure to observe these restrictions may result in disciplinary action.
Many libraries offer group study space, but a significant portion of each library is intended for quiet study. Users are expected to be considerate of others, particularly when using cellular phones or having conversations.
Mutilating or defacing library materials is prohibited and may result in disciplinary action. Defacing includes highlighting, underlining, and writing in or on library materials. Mutilation includes removing pages; removing library ownership marks, including labels, bookplates, and property stamps; or otherwise damaging library materials.
Damage, littering, or theft of University property or property of a University community member or campus visitor by a student or student groups may result in disciplinary action as well as the offender's being held financially responsible for the cost of repair or replacement. For example, a student may leave a window open during cold weather causing burst pipes and the flooding of student rooms and common areas. Or, a student may cause a fire triggering the building's sprinkler system causing both water and smoke damage to student rooms and common areas. In these cases, the perpetrators may be held responsible not only for disciplinary purposes, but also for the financial losses suffered by other students and the University resulting from these incidents. Students may be held financially responsible for damages or losses resulting from accidents or negligence. Students who suffer losses under such circumstances must take their claims to their own homeowners or renters insurance carriers. These companies may subrogate the claims to the carrier of the responsible student's insurance.
Students, faculty, and staff are expected to comply with The Computer Privileges and Responsibilities policy (http://www.vanderbilt.edu/HomePage/aup.html*).
Students should identify themselves to the persons called on the telephone and may not use the telephone system to intentionally harass another by threats, obscenities, or repeated calls in which they fail to identify themselves. Examples of improper use of the telephone are: calling repeatedly and breathing or not speaking into the telephone receiver; describing sexual activity without identifying oneself; and anonymously subjecting the listener to obscene names. Harassment by telephone is a violation of state law and will subject the caller to criminal prosecution as well as discipline by the University. Students who experience such calls should report the matter to an assistant director of Housing and Residential Education, and/or, to the University Police Department.
Unauthorized use of the University telephone system with the intent to avoid payment of long distance charges is unlawful and may result in disciplinary action. Misuse includes: the unauthorized acceptance of long distance collect calls, third party calls charged against the University, and use of a long distance authorization (V-Net) number not issued to the student.
The use or possession of fireworks, firearms, or other weapons on University premises is prohibited. (Student use or possession of these materials is prohibited off campus, as well, when such use or possession is illegal or may endanger the health or safety of members of the University community.)
Sports weapons must be kept in the custody of the Department of Police and Security, which is open twenty-four hours a day. It is a felony in the state of Tennessee to carry a weapon on a campus for the purpose of going armed.
Note: For general provisions of the University's Honor System, see The Honor System.
The bodies that comprise the judicial system are the Appellate Review Board, the Undergraduate and Graduate Student Conduct councils, their common Chair and the Chair's designees, the Undergraduate Honor Council and the honor councils of the Graduate School and the professional schools. For matters specific to their areas, and for matters delegated to them by the Conduct Council Chair, disciplinary authority may also be exercised by the Interfraternity, Panhellenic, and National Pan-Hellenic judicial boards, the Residential Conduct System, and Vanderbilt Student Communications, Incorporated. The nature of specific areas of disciplinary authority is described in the constitutions or bylaws of each of these bodies, or below, in the case of residence halls.
Rights of students or student groups charged with misconduct are addressed through the following judicial procedures that are designed to provide a fair hearing and a just decision. The basic elements of the process are:
All persons taking courses or participating in activities of the University as students, even if not registered primarily at Vanderbilt, fall under the jurisdiction of the student conduct system. This includes those taking part-time courses of study; participants in summer programs such as PAVE, Governor's School, etc.; transients during the summer or other sessions; and students cross-registered from a neighboring institution. Procedures for hearing charges against these students are the same as for full-time Vanderbilt students. A notification of the findings of hearings will be sent to the appropriate officer of the institution in which the students are primarily registered.
The Undergraduate Student Conduct Council, led by its Chair who is appointed by the Vice Chancellor for Student Life, is composed of one faculty member and one student representative from each of the undergraduate schools, and has original jurisdiction in all cases of nonacademic misconduct involving undergraduates.
The Conduct Council has original jurisdiction for violations of the University conduct regulations, for residence hall regulations, and for University policies referred to it by appropriate University officials or the Council Chair. The Chair or the Chair's designee may hear a case without benefit of the Council at the student's option except in cases of sexual misconduct, which will be heard by the Conduct Council, or in cases for which the Chair decides that it is more appropriate for the Council to be the hearing body.
In cases of sexual misconduct, the Chair or her designee will appoint a hearing panel of no more than five members from those serving on the Conduct Councils, and the hearing will follow the procedures given below (See Guidelines for Cases of Sexual Misconduct).
Procedures for the study abroad programs of the University are stated in the section on Study Abroad Programs for Undergraduates in Community Life.
Each residence hall is an autonomous unit of Interhall, and residence hall officers enforce the regulations the unit has adopted and University policies and regulations that have been delegated to it by the Conduct Council Chair. Undergraduate students who interfere with efforts of the officers to achieve an atmosphere conducive to study, rest, and appropriate recreation may be referred to the Residential Conduct System, Undergraduate Student Conduct Council, or the Chair's designee.
In matters pertaining to general residence hall regulations not within the scope of residence hall units and set forth in this Handbook in the Residence Hall Regulations of Residential Life, or not delegated to residence hall staff or officers, a student has the option of having a case determined by the Conduct Council Chair or Chair's designee or the Conduct Council.
The Graduate Student Conduct Council has original jurisdiction in all cases of nonacademic misconduct involving graduate and professional students. This Conduct Council may hear cases of violations of University policies referred to it by academic or Student Life administrators, or the Council Chair. The Chair or the Chair's designee may hear a case without benefit of the Council at the student's option, except cases involving sexual misconduct or other serious charge. All cases involving sexual misconduct are referred to a panel of the Conduct Councils (See Guidelines for Cases of Sexual Misconduct). In a matter not involving sexual misconduct but nevertheless deemed serious, the Chair of the Conduct Councils, in consultation with and upon the concurrence of the Dean of the appropriate school, shall require that the case be heard by the faculty and student panel of the Council from the accused student's school. The Graduate Student Conduct Council is composed of the Chair of the Conduct Councils or her designee, and two students and two faculty members of the Graduate School and each of the professional schools. Only the Council members of the school in which a violation is alleged to have occurred participate in a hearing regarding that violation.
Procedures of the Appellate Review Board may be requested from the Chair of the Conduct Councils or from Vice Chancellor for Student Life. For additional information, see the section on Appeals.
The procedures given here are followed by each judicial body and apply to individuals and groups. An accused student or officer for a group will be informed in writing of a charge at least three days before the hearing. Either may waive the three-day waiting period and request an earlier hearing. The charge notice will include the specific regulation or policy allegedly violated.
The accused may choose a faculty, staff, or student adviser who has not had formal legal training (except in cases concerning students in the School of Law), to accompany him or her during the hearing.
The accused may testify personally and present witnesses in his or her behalf. The student may examine all evidence that may form the basis for disciplinary action. The adviser may not address the judicial body, but may consult with the accused student during the hearing. No person who has a substantial interest in the case, or in a related case as an accused or adviser to an accused, may serve as an adviser.
Persons conducting the hearing and considering statements against the accused (for example, statements in the student's file), must advise the accused of the content of the statements and give the student an opportunity to rebut inferences that might be drawn. The accused may present testimony and make arguments not only with regard to the offense but also with regard to excuse, justification, and mitigating circumstances. The accused may also speak to the question of the appropriateness of any particular sanction.
The decision of the persons hearing the case will be based on evidence presented at the hearing. Evidence acquired through unauthorized searches will not be considered. A search of a student, a student's possessions, or a student's premises may be authorized by the Vice Chancellor for Student Life, the Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Life, or the Assistant Vice Chancellor for Housing and Residential Education, if there is reasonable cause to believe that a violation of University policy is occurring or has occurred.
If the accused is found guilty of misconduct, the decision will specify the acts of misconduct of which the accused is guilty and the sanction to be imposed. The decision will be delivered to the student promptly and, at the time of its delivery, the student will be reminded of the opportunity to appeal and of the time limits and procedures involved in an appeal.
Hearings may be recorded in writing, on audio or video tape, or other recording device. The Honor Council Adviser or Chair of the Conduct Councils, as appropriate, is custodian of the records of the hearings. A written record of conclusions and sanctions assessed must always be filed in cases resulting in disciplinary action. These conclusions become a part of the record and may be examined by the student in the case.
If a member of a judicial body has a conflict of interest, he or she is ineligible to consider a case or to hear an appeal. Individuals should declare themselves ineligible on these grounds. In addition, the judicial body may, by a majority vote, declare any member ineligible on these grounds.
Students may be accountable both to civil authorities and to the University for acts that constitute violations of law and of University policies and regulations. Those accused of violations of these policies and regulations are subject to the University disciplinary proceedings delineated in this Handbook while criminal or civil proceedings regarding the same conduct are pending. Accused students may not challenge University disciplinary proceedings on the grounds that criminal charges or civil actions regarding the same incident are pending, may be initiated, or have been terminated, dismissed, reduced, or not yet adjudicated. When appropriate, the University may refer matters to federal, state, and local authorities for prosecution.
8. both the accused and the accuser will be allowed to choose one person who has not had formal legal training (except in cases involving students in the law school) to accompany them throughout the hearing;
A student or group found guilty of misconduct and/or against whom a sanction has been imposed may appeal to the Chair of the Appellate Review Board. The appeal petition must be in writing and specify the grounds for appeal. The petition must be filed within ten class (or exam) days of the original notification of the finding of guilt, or within two calendar weeks if classes (or exams) are not in session for ten days following the notification.
The petition, including all supporting evidence provided by the petitioner, will be reviewed by the Chair to make a determination as to whether the petition, when considered in the light most favorable to the petitioner, sets forth a basis sufficient to provide the relief sought by the petitioner. If the Appellate Review Board Chair determines that the petition, when considered in the light most favorable to the petitioner, does set forth a basis sufficient to provide the relief sought by the petitioner, the Chair will forward the petition to the original hearing authority for a response. If the Chair determines that the petition, when considered in the light most favorable to the petitioner, does not set forth a basis sufficient to provide the relief sought by the petitioner, the Appellate Review Board Chair will dismiss the petition. The Appellate Review Board Chair's decision is final.
The function of the Appellate Review Board is to consider whether the persons conducting the original hearing proceeded fairly and decided the case justly. A copy of the Appellate Review Board's procedures is available at the offices of the Vice Chancellor for Student Life and Chair of the Conduct Councils. Normally, the Appellate Review Board chooses to consider only the written petition and written responses. The Appellate Review Board or its authorized agent may call witnesses, including the appellant, and may examine the record of the case at will. Disposition of the petition is made by a majority vote of the hearing panel appointed to consider the appeal.
The Appellate Review Board may affirm the original decision, remand the case back to the original hearing body with instructions, or hear the case de novo. Only in extraordinary circumstances would the Appellate Review Board reconsider the entire case. In the event of a rehearing, standards of procedure will in substance be those for original hearings, but the board may provide additional procedural rules, if necessary.
Students, faculty members, administrative officers, or groups within the University may request the Appellate Review Board to consider a concern that the disciplinary system of the institution is not operating effectively or justly. Upon receipt of such a request for review, the Appellate Review Board Chair makes a preliminary investigation to clarify the matter. The Appellate Review Board Chair then brings the request to the attention of the Appellate Review Board, which may make recommendations for action to the appropriate authority.
The Appellate Review Board also has supervisory authority, in consultation with the University Office of General Counsel, the Vice Chancellor for Student Life, the Office of Student Conduct and Academic Integrity, the Office of Housing and Residential Education, and other appropriate University officials, to review and propose updates of the procedures of the persons and bodies whose decisions have been appealed to ensure that the student's rights are protected.
In all cases, judicial bodies have authority to establish various sanctions appropriate to violations or infractions. Routine sanctions may be established for certain infractions and may also be appealed to the appropriate body according to prescribed appeal procedures. Disciplinary actions may also be applied in combination. For example, a student may be suspended for one term and readmitted subject to restrictions (as in probation) for the next term. A student's previous disciplinary record may be considered when a disciplinary sanction is imposed. When disciplinary sanctions are indicated for a student organization, the group's disciplinary record for the current academic year, as well as the previous three academic years, may be considered in determining the appropriate sanction.
Penalties for violations of student regulations may be increased by one level of severity when it is determined that the violation was motivated in part by prejudice toward the victim because of the perception that the victim is of a different race, sex, religion, color, national or ethnic origin, age, sexual orientation, disability, or veteran's status. Thus, the penalty of reprimand may become disciplinary probation; probation may become suspension; and suspension may become expulsion.
If a student admits to being, or is found to be, in violation of University policy, the results of the hearing, including any sanction, may be made known to the complainant, the appropriate academic dean, the faculty adviser, appropriate residential staff members, and the guilty student's parents or guardian.
Upon completion of cases involving a disciplinary sanction, the appropriate University official will take action to implement the decision of the judicial body, and the dean of the school in which the student is enrolled will be notified if the finding will affect the student's academic status. However, action is normally not taken until final judicial decision is reached, including appeal.
Students may leave the University involuntarily for academic failure, failure to meet financial obligations to the University, or circumstances outside the University's jurisdiction. Withdrawal from the University under these circumstances does not constitute disciplinary sanction; therefore, re-enrollment after such withdrawal is handled through normal administrative processes. Students who voluntarily-or involuntarily-withdraw from the University for medical or mental/emotional health reasons must be cleared by the Director of the Student Health Center before being permitted to re-enroll.
Upon graduation or withdrawal from the University, student records in the Office of Housing and Residential Education and the Office of Student Conduct and Academic Integrity are maintained for a period of seven years, after which time they are destroyed. Records of students who are suspended or expelled from the University may be maintained indefinitely.
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