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Hilltops
Hartwick College's Student Newspaper

The View From Oyaron Hill

Know Your Rights

03.15.16

Charlie Feher-Peiker


Interacting with the college administration in a disciplinary context can induce great anxiety when the future of one’s academic career hangs in the balance. For this reason, it is important to know your rights regarding reporting and being charged with misconduct, before you need to worry about them. What follows is a rundown of the rights students have in regards to reporting misconduct (i.e. being a “whistle-blower”) and facing allegations of student misconduct, here printed for those who have not seen these policies or who wish for a “refresher.”


When it comes to reporting misconduct, according to the Hartwick Whistleblower Policy, anonymous reports will get the same treatment as signed reports. If a student does not feel comfortable revealing their identity for any reason, their report of suspected misconduct will be taken just as seriously whether it is signed or unsigned.


The Whistleblower Policy also prohibits harassment and retaliation against Whistle-blowers who, in good faith, submit reports of suspected misconduct through the appropriate channels. This policy, protecting the safety of Whistle-blowers, also ensures that college employees cannot engage in the intimidation of, retaliation against, or harassment of Whistle-blowers. Anyone who does so will have committed an act of misconduct themselves, and can then be subject to disciplinary action as the result of a misconduct investigation.


While reports of administrative misconduct on the part of students or other members of the Hartwick community are rare, investigations of student misconduct are much more common, and can potentially result in serious consequences for students and their academic careers. Students can be charged with misconduct for violations ranging from disobeying the requests of a college official in the performance of their duties, to alcohol and illegal substance violations, all of which are spelled out in detail in the Hartwick Student Handbook. Since, according to the Handbook, ignorance is no defense for misconduct, it’s important for students to know the College’s conduct policies.


When it comes to student misconduct, students are processed through the College’s disciplinary system, which is independent of the legal system. Therefore, according to Hartwick Student Handbook, even if a student is being tried by the criminal justice system, the school reserves the right to conduct its own hearing process and assign sanctions as necessary. Even if a student was arrested but never charged and is not facing legal action, the school still reserves the right to charge the student with misconduct and assign sanctions. The rights of students being charged with misconduct or a violation of Student Conduct can be found in the Hartwick Student Handbook along with the rights of students filing a claim of misconduct.


In most cases, according to the Student Handbook, when a student is being charged with misconduct, they have an initial meeting with an Administrative Hearing Officer who informs the student of the misconduct of which they are being charged and recommends sanctioning according to the severity of the offense. Students have the right not to accept the sanctions, on the grounds that they do not agree with the sanctioning, or because they do not accept responsibility for the conduct violation(s). In the case that the student does not accept the sanctions, for whatever reason, the student has the right to appeal their case before a Student Hearing Panel. The Student Hearing Panel consists of eight student panelists who hear cases, determine responsibility, and recommend sanctions to the Dean of Student Affairs, who then approves sanctioning. This procedure does not apply to cases of misconduct that could result in suspension or expulsion.


Students charged with violations that could result in their suspension or expulsion follow a different procedure, in which a College Hearing Board deals with their cases.


The College Hearing Board, according to the Student Handbook, is made up of three members of the Hartwick faculty and staff who hear cases to decide the student’s sanctions. The same rights apply to students going before College Hearing Boards as they do for students going before the Student Hearing Panel, though the severity of the misconduct charge is different.


The same rights and procedures apply to all students enrolled at Hartwick College and are always to be observed in dealings with students when it comes to cases of misconduct; administrative, student, or otherwise. To read the policies, protections and procedures in their entirety, look for the Student Handbook, the Student Code of Conduct and the Hartwick College Whistleblower Policy, all of which can all be found on the Hartwick College website.


STUDENT RIGHTS DURING THE CONDUCT PROCESS

1. The right to remain silent.  If the complainant decides to exercise this right, the process will continue and a decision will be made based on the remaining evidence.

2. The right to confer with a procedural advisor of not more than one person to be chosen by the complainant from the Hartwick College campus community (student, faculty or staff member) to help prepare information to present at the hearing. This advisor may be present at the hearing, but only to answer questions that the complainant may have during the course of the proceedings. The advisor may not speak at the hearing unless specifically requested to do so by the chairperson of the Special Hearing Board.  The advisor may not be called as a witness on behalf of the complainant.

3. The right to make his/her statement without being in the presence of the respondent in the hearing.

4. The right to make, deliver or submit an “Impact Statement,” an oral or written statement that describes the effect that the incident has had on them as an individual both emotionally and/or physically.

5. The right not to have his/her past history with person(s) other than the respondent discussed during the hearing unless it is pertinent (character defamation is not permitted).

6. The right to call witnesses (other than character witnesses) to testify at the hearing. However, the Special Hearing Board may establish a reasonable limit to the number of witnesses.

7. The right to review a copy of the written statement from the respondent. Such statements must be submitted to the Dean of Student Life or his/her designee at least 24 hours prior to the scheduled hearing.

8. The right to read the written statements of all involved.

9. The right to have witnesses (other than character witnesses) submit written statements.

10. The right to withdraw a complaint at any time prior to the imposition of sanctions.

11. The right to appeal.