FSU’s Student Conduct Code – Can the University Suspend or even Expel you for a Violation?

April 25, 2022 College, College Student Disciplinary Hearing, Criminal Defense

It is common for students facing disciplinary action from their school to feel panic or to be scared at the possible repercussions they are facing. It can be especially difficult depending on the charges the student is facing, as it’s not uncommon for some young adults in college to start drinking and experimenting with illegal drugs.

An old post by a freshman student at Florida State University (“FSU”) still exemplifies the many feelings and difficulties that students can face when receiving a dreaded email alleging they’ve violated the Student Conduct Code. Expecting to receive something, and then actually getting it is not the same but at least students facing disciplinary action don’t have to do it alone.

In this blog, we will cover the previous incident at FSU, along with an explanation of the Student Conduct Code and other helpful information when facing an alleged violation of it.

Charged by the University for an Alleged Crime?

For those who may not know, Reddit is a forum platform that merges media, news stories, cultural and niche communities, and even just jokes and humor into one social media site. Thomas J Law explains in his article “What is Reddit? The Ultimate QuickStart guide for 2022” how confusing Reddit can be for those unfamiliar with the platform while doing a great job of simplifying the site.

On April 28, 2014, Redditor Mr_MIP wrote a post on the Subreddit r/legaladvice asking what to do after FSU emailed him of allegedly violating the Student Conduct Code. In his post, Mr_MIP states how he was a freshman student and still only 18 years old when he went out drinking with some other students.

On his way to a bus that would lead them to a bar, he is carrying a red solo cup when he encounters a police officer that asks him to talk. The officer leads him away from the other students and then asks him for identification. In a panic, he shows him his older brother’s ID and the police asked for a second form of ID. When Mr_MIP presents a credit card with a different name the police end up taking him to his police cruiser. There the police officer handcuffs him and searches him for weapons and possibly other illegal items. The police officer finds a flask with alcohol and decides to let him go after issuing what was very likely a Notice to Appear. When there is probable cause for an arrest, Police often use a notice to appear when dealing with college students. This notice is really an arrest where the police don’t actually take the person into custody and basically given them notice they need to appear at a specified date and time in court. To read more about what a Notice to Appear is read our blog post here

Five months after the incident happened, Mr_MIP received an email from the Dean of Students Department informing him he was being charged by FSU for an alleged violation of the Student Conduct Code. While the post does not go over what he did or how it was resolved, we will now delve into the possible repercussion of such an offense and what to do if facing a similar issue.

What is a Diversion Program?

Mr_MIP stated he went through a diversion program and the arrest was removed from his record after completion of community service and paying a fine. Diversion programs can be described as strategies that the accused can take to avoid the formal processing by the justice system. These programs are divided into two key forms – formal and informal. Formal Diversion is a voluntary treatment that must be completed to justify closing the case. Informal Diversion, however, occurs as an alternative to keep the case out of the justice system altogether. This means that with the right help, those that are charged with a crime can avoid jail time and even keep their criminal records clean. To read more about Different Diversion Programs, you can read our blog post here.

What Constitutes a Violation of the Student Conduct Code?

FSU sets out expectations for those students attending or wishing to attend their university in a Student Conduct Code (the “Code”). This Code sets out the many policies, procedures, and offenses that students are responsible for while they attend the University. The Code makes it so that students who don’t meet FSU’s conduct standards have their behavior evaluated and see if it “warrants modification of or restriction” of their FSU membership.

This means that depending on the severity of the violation, FSU can and will suspend or expulse the student. While there are many different types of outcomes, it is important to know that the school bases its decision on the many factors of the individual student’s case.

Violations of the Code include:

  • Unlawful possession of Alcohol, Controlled Substances, and Illegal Drugs,
  • Sex Discrimination and Sexual Misconduct,
  • Endangerment of people or property,
  • Harassment,
  • Invasion of Privacy,
  • Hazing,
  • Weapons and Dangerous Substances
  • Fire and Safety,
  • Disruptions and Obstruction to the University process,
  • Falsification and Misrepresentation,
  • Damage or Destruction of Property,
  • Unauthorized access or entry into a Computer or Computer Systems,
  • Gambling, and
  • Other Violations
    • Which can include violations of federal or state laws
    • As well as a violation of the Academic Honor Policy

To read more about FSU’s Conduct Violations, visit our blog here.

What are the Possible Penalties for these Violations?

Whether a student is expelled or suspended will depend on the factors of the specific incident. However, FSU has many different resolutions they try to employ before they hand out serious punishments. FSU’s Department of Student Conduct and Community Standards is responsible for sustaining the community behavior standards, as well as educating FSU’s students on how to responsibly engage with the FSU community.  

FSU’s Conduct Process uses two methods of resolving Student Conduct Proceedings – Hearings and Informal Resolutions. Hearings tend to be used when evidence needs to be presented to determine whether a violation occurred. Hearings are further broken down into (1) Formal Hearings, (2) Informal Hearings, and (3) Outcome-Only Hearings. On the other hand, Informal Resolutions can be used when the issue to be resolved is deemed to be simpler or is not being contested. Informal Hearings include (1) issuing a warning to the Respondent for small violations, (2) having the Respondent and the complainant undergo an Alternative Resolution Process, or (3) issuing a No-Contest Resolution.

To learn more about FSU’s Hearings and Informal Resolutions visit our blog here.

List of Penalties and Outcomes

Depending on the type of hearing or resolution employed, the University can impose on students some or a combination of the following outcomes:

  • Reprimand (written or verbal).
  • Parental Notification Letter.
  • Service Hours – completion of tasks under the supervision of a University department or outside agency.
  • Educational Activities – attendance at educational programs, interviews with appropriate officials, planning and implementing educational programs, or other educational activities.
  • Counseling Assessment – referral for assessment at a counseling center for alcohol/drug dependence, general mental health, or other counseling issues.
  • Restitution only in cases involving University property. Restitution must be submitted to the appropriate University department in a manner that is approved by that University department.
  • Disciplinary Probation – During this probation, any further violation of the Student Conduct Code will place your status with the University in jeopardy. If you are found “responsible” for another violation of the Code during the period of Disciplinary Probation, serious consideration will be given to imposing an outcome of Suspension or Expulsion from the University.
  • Change in University Housing assignment.
  • Exclusion (either temporary or permanent) from University Housing.
  • Suspension – separation from the university for a specified period, not to exceed two years. This may include restricted access to campus and/or other specified activities.
  • Expulsion – separation from the University without the possibility of readmission. This may include restricted access to campus and/or other specified activities.
  • Withholding of diplomas, transcripts, or other records.
  • Transcript Notations – a written notation indicating that disciplinary action was taken. 
  • Restrictions on contact with specified people.

Student Rights during Alleged Conduct Violations

Thanks to a new bill that was recently signed by Governor DeSantis, students now have much stronger Due Process rights when facing disciplinary hearings. This new bill amended Fla. Stat. § 1006.60, which sets out the State Board of Education codes of conduct for the Florida College System. Students can now have an attorney with them during their disciplinary hearings. This allows for an experienced attorney to effectively present evidence, including witnesses, making the student’s defense during the school’s proceedings more effective. 

This new bill opens many opportunities for students while ensuring the proceedings are fair and dependable for all the parties involved. This is thanks to the new bill’s due process protections that apply to students facing the disciplinary hearing, as well as the student bringing the complaint. To read more about the new bill introducing students’ rights visit our blog here.  

Finding a Defense Attorney in Tallahassee, Florida

If you or a loved one has been accused of drinking while underage, taking or possessing illegal drugs, or another type of student code violation, it is of the utmost importance that you seek out the help of an experienced Tallahassee criminal defense attorney. If you face criminal charges while enrolled at FSU, Florida A & M University, or Tallahassee Community College, these Universities can find you in violation of their Student Conduct Code. Depending on the severity of the charges, this can lead to possible suspension or even expulsion. Don Pumphrey and his team at Pumphrey Law Firm have experience representing clients from all over the state of Florida. Call (850) 681-7777 or send an online message today for a free consultation.

Written by Jesus Lozano

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