Student Handbook

Chapter 7: Student Conduct System

The Student Conduct System / Jurisdiction Over Non-Vanderbilt Students / Undergraduate Student Conduct Council / Graduate Student Conduct Council / Appellate Review Board / Student Conduct Councils, Honor Councils, and Hearings by Hearing Officers / Guidelines for Cases of Sexual Misconduct / Appeals / Disciplinary Sanctions

The Student Conduct System

Note: For general provisions of the University's Honor System, see Chapter 2, "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:

  • Written and timely notice of charges against students, including possible consequences
  • Opportunity for students to present all relevant evidence at a hearing, to challenge adverse testimony and evidence, to speak in their own behalf, to call witnesses, and to be accompanied by a student, faculty, or staff adviser of their own choosing who has not had formal legal training (except in cases involving students in the law school)
  • Decisions reached on the basis of the evidence presented, proof that is clear and convincing to the hearing panel or officer for a finding of guilt, disciplinary regulations, and the character of the students.
  • An unbiased appellate body to which students may appeal.

Jurisdiction Over Non-Vanderbilt Students

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.

Undergraduate Student Conduct Council

The Undergraduate Student Conduct Council, led by its Chair who is appointed by the Dean of Students, 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 the Chair's 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 below, "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 Chapter 3.

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" in Chapter 8, 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.

Graduate Student 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 Office of the Dean of Students 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 below, "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.

Appellate Review Board

The Appellate Review Board is chaired by a member of the faculty. Faculty and student representatives from each school of the University complete the board.

The following decisions may be appealed to the Appellate Review Board:

  • Decisions of honor councils
  • Decisions of the student conduct councils
  • Decisions of other organizations such as the Student Government Association
  • Decisions of the Interfraternity, Panhellenic, and National Pan-Hellenic judicial boards (after completion of any appeal process internal to IFC, Panhel, or NPHC)
  • Decisions of other designated University hearing officials

Procedures of the Appellate Review Board may be requested from the Chair of the Conduct Councils or from the Dean of Students. For additional information, see the section on Appeals.

Student Conduct Councils, Honor Councils, and Hearings by Hearing Officers

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 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 student may present one character witness as well.

Given the nature of University judicial proceedings (including, but not limited to, Conduct Council hearings and the proceedings of all University honor councils), the testimony of and information derived from experts, such as reports of handwriting experts, are not admissible and will not be considered, except in rare circumstances. In those rare cases, determinations as to the admissibility of testimony of or evidence derived from an expert will be made in the sole discretion of the Director of the Office of Student Conduct and Academic Integrity. Under no circumstances, however, will the use of polygraph examinations be permitted.

The accused may choose a Vanderbilt 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 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 Dean of Students or the dean's designee 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.

Investigations and hearings are not publicized or open to the public. Hearing officers must hold these matters in confidence.

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 criminal or 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.

Guidelines for Cases of Sexual Misconduct

In cases of sexual misconduct, the procedures will be as follows:

1. the Chair of the Conduct Councils or her designee will appoint a hearing panel of no more than five members from those serving on the Conduct Council or the Graduate Student Conduct Council;

2. the Chair of the Conduct Councils or the chair's designee will chair each panel;

3. both women and men will serve on the hearing panel;

4. the hearing panel will be composed of both students and faculty/administration, not including the Chair of the Conduct Councils or her designee;

5. any appointed panel member who personally knows either the accuser or the accused will not be allowed to sit on the panel;

6. all members of the Conduct Councils will be counseled on issues involved in sexual misconduct prior to the hearing;

7. both the accused and the accuser will be allowed to be present throughout the hearing;

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;

9. both the accused and the accuser will have the opportunity to ask questions of each other and any other witness testifying at the hearing;

10. the consumption of alcohol or any other drug may not be used as an excuse for sexual misconduct by the accused;

11. the accuser's sexual history is not relevant to the outcome of the hearing;

12. the members of the panel shall determine innocence or guilt. The Chair shall determine the sanctions when guilt is established by the panel.


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.  No special format for a petition is required; but the petition should specify the facts supporting the stated grounds for the 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. Petitions may be filed with the Office of Student Conduct and Academic Integrity in appeals from decisions of the Conduct Councils and Undergraduate Honor Council. Any petition may be filed with the Appellate Review Board by bringing the petition to the Office of the Dean of Students in 310 Sarratt. Extensions of time may be requested from the Chair of the Conduct Councils (in Conduct Council cases), the Honor Council Adviser (in cases decided by the Undergraduate Honor Council), or the Chair of the Appellate Review Board.

Grounds for review for those petitioning for appeal are:

  • Insufficient evidence to support the decision
  • Harshness of sanction sufficient to show an abuse of discretion by the original hearing authority
  • Procedural irregularity sufficient to affect the decision
  • New evidence that was not reasonably available to be presented to the original hearing authority, the introduction of which may reasonably be expected to affect the decision.

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 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.

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. The original hearing authority will provide a response to the Appellate Review Board and the petitioner in a timely manner. The petitioner then may file a reply to the hearing authority's response within seven calendar days. After receiving the petitioner's reply or after the time for filing a reply has passed, the Chair of the Appellate Review Board will convene a panel of the Board to consider the appeal.

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 Dean of Students 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. Once the appeal has been decided, the Chair of the Appellate Review Board will provide written notification of the result to the petitioner and original hearing authority.

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 Dean of Students, 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.

Disciplinary Sanctions

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.

The following, although not exhaustive, is a list of frequently used sanctions:

  • Reprimand. (An admonition and an official warning). Reprimands are treated as educational counseling, rather than disciplinary sanctions, for purposes of reporting to outside entities.
  • Restriction. Loss of privileges that are consistent with the offense and the rehabilitation of the student. This may include directives to refrain from entry to certain areas of campus or contact with particular individuals.
  • Disciplinary probation. Placing a student in a probationary status that takes away the privilege of holding office and may also include social restrictions. Probations are entered upon the student's permanent disciplinary record. Probation may, but does not always, restrict a student's activities on campus. Violation of probation may lead to further restrictions or suspension.
  • Suspension. Dismissal from the University for a specified or indefinite period of time. Suspension, pending a hearing, may be imposed when there is reason to believe the action is necessary to maintain University functions or to protect the safety of individuals. Conditions may be placed upon a student's return to campus.
  • Expulsion. Permanent dismissal from the University.
  • Counseling, evaluation, and treatment programs. In some cases of misconduct, such as those committed under the influence of alcohol or other drugs, participation in an evaluation and/or treatment program by an approved counseling service may be required as a part of a sanction. Such treatment may also be a condition of readmission to the University or a condition for remaining in the University.
  • Restitution. Repair or replacement of lost or damaged property or compensation for other costs arising from a violation.
  • Fines/fees. Published monetary fines for certain violations. Fees to cover the expense of educational or work service programs also may be imposed.
  • Work Service. Students may be assigned work details appropriate to the violation.
  • In cases of sexual misconduct the following policies will apply:
    1. On the first conviction, the expected sanction will be a suspension beginning immediately and extending for the remainder of the semester in which the offense occurred through the following semester.
    2. For conviction of two offenses, the expected sanction will be immediate expulsion.
    3. The Chair may consider circumstances which would reduce or enhance these penalties.
    4. Psychological counseling may be required for those found guilty of sexual misconduct as a condition for re-admission. The Chair may set conditions for readmission to Vanderbilt at the Chair's discretion.

Aggravated Offenses - Bias-Related Offenses

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 appropriate persons, including, but not limited to, the complainant, the appropriate academic dean, the faculty adviser, appropriate 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.

In reporting a disciplinary sanction effective for an indefinite period, the judicial body will ask the appropriate hearing officer to recommend when the sanction should be terminated.

Withdrawal and Readmission

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.

Disciplinary Records

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.