Student Academic and Sexual Misconduct Investigations and Hearings

Howard Community College's Dragon Radio presents "Everyday Law" episode 3, wherein host, Bob Clark and guest, Ronald Schwartz, tackle student misconduct investigations and proceedings.

There is an inevitable tendency to assume that the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights endow students with protections, including those often heard on television, the so-called "Miranda warnings" and of course the rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights, such as the right to confront witnesses, the right to an attorney and due process of law.

As it turns out, the rights of college and univesrity students in student misconduct proceedings are much less. While these "rights" vary from school to school, private colleges and universities are obliged to provide minimal due process rights. Even state universities often minimize or virtually eliminate due process rights of students accused of sexual misconduct.

This can lead to severe penalties such as expulsion from school, without providing an unbiased mechanism for examiming the alleged sexual misconduct. For example, the complaining party often doesn't have to appear at the disciplinary hearing at all and is not subject to any questioning by the student who is in jeopardy of being expelled. Exculpatory witnesses aren't necessarily allowed to testify at such a hearing and lawyers aren't allowed to partcipate actively, notwithstanding the serious possible sanctions.

Students often do not appreciate the risk they are being subject to from such a proceeding and the rules change from year to year. The schools themselves are often guilty of failing to follow their own rules and procedures and are loathe to continue hearings which are scheduled on a short notification turnaround time.

Mr. Schwartz suggested, with only a hint of irony, that at the University of Maryland College Park, a student who stabbed their roomate would have more rights in school disciplinary proceedings than a student who hit on their roomate. He also suggested that students obtain written consent from their sexual partners and that they never have sex when drunk or high because intoxicated students may never be able to grant consent sufficient to satisfy university. Good luck with that.

Robert V. Clark
Maryland Car Accident and Personal Injury Lawyer