Section IV. Disciplinary Hearing Procedures for Student Misconduct
Disciplinary hearings at Valdosta State University are hearings to arrive at corrective recommendations regarding alleged student misconduct. These recommendations affect the student or organization's relationship with the University. The administration of discipline is viewed as an educational process NOT a criminal or civil trial proceeding. As such, the disciplinary procedures used are determined and administered by educators. Such procedures will give cognizance to the test of fairness, truth, and due process.
In no case shall a hearing to resolve charge(s) of student misconduct take place before the investigative report has been finalized or before the respondent has had an opportunity to respond in writing, unless the respondent has chosen to go through an informal process or otherwise provided a written waiver of rights to these procedures. Further, unrelated charges and/or cases shall be heard separately unless the respondent voluntarily consents to the charges/cases being heard jointly.
Where the respondent indicates that he or she contests the charges, and once the investigative report has been finalized and copies provided to the respondent and alleged victim, the case shall be set for hearing. However, the alleged victim (where applicable) and respondent may have the option of selecting informal resolution as a possible resolution in certain student misconduct cases where they mutually agree or except where deemed inappropriate by the Vice President for Student Affairs, or his/her designee or the System Director.
Where a case is not resolved through informal resolution or informal resolution is not available due to the nature of the charges, the respondent shall have the option of having the charges heard by either an administrative hearing officer or a hearing panel. If an administrative hearing is requested, the conduct officer shall use his or her discretion to determine whether a hearing panel should hear the case. However, all cases involving charges of sexual misconduct that go to a hearing shall be heard by a panel of staff and/or faculty. Sexual misconduct panel members shall receive appropriate annual training as directed by the System Director or Title IX Coordinator as required by the Clery Act. Additionally, the following standards will apply to hearings by any panel.
A. Standards for Disciplinary Hearings for Student Misconduct
- Notice of the date, time, and location of the hearing shall be provided to the respondent, complainant, and alleged victim (where applicable) at least five business days prior to the hearing. Notice shall be provided via institution email where applicable. After proper notification is given, if the respondent, complainant, or alleged victim student do not appear at the hearing, the hearing can proceed in their absence.
- All disciplinary hearings involving the responding student and the appropriate disciplinary committee are open meetings, but will be conducted in a manner consistent with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and applicable law.
- Disciplinary hearings are presided over a hearing officer. The hearing officer may exclude any person from the disciplinary hearing who materially interferes with the disciplinary hearing proceedings. Any disruptions of a disciplinary hearing can result in disciplinary action being taken against the student and or organization involved in the disruption. The hearing officer makes such a determination with input of the conduct officer, and when that determination is made those causing the disruption will be asked to leave the hearing and its premises immediately. If they do not voluntarily leave, the University Police will be contacted to escort them off the premises.
- The respondent and alleged victim (where applicable), as parties to these proceedings, shall have the right to use an advisor (including an attorney) of his or her choosing, and at his or her own expense, for the express purpose of providing advice and counsel. The advisor may be present during meetings and proceedings during the investigatory and/or resolution process at which his or her advisee is present. The advisor may advise his or her advisee in any manner, including providing questions, suggestions, and guidance on responses to any questions of the advisee, but shall not participate directly in the hearing. The University shall not prohibit family members of a party from attending if the party requests such attendance, but may limit each participant to two family members.
- The respondent shall have the right to present witnesses and evidence to the hearing officer or panel. Witness testimony, if provided, shall pertain to knowledge and facts directly associated with the case being heard. Both parties shall have the right to question any witnesses, including the other party, by submitting written questions to the hearing officer for consideration. Advisors may actively assist in drafting questions. The Panel shall ask the questions as written and will limit questions only if they are unrelated to determining the veracity of the charge leveled against the respondent(s). In any event, the Panel shall err on the side of asking all submitted questions and must document the reason for not asking any particular questions.
- Where the hearing officer or panel determines that a party or witness is unavailable and unable to be present due to extenuating circumstances, the hearing officer or panel may establish special procedures for providing testimony from a separate location. In doing so, the hearing officer or panel must determine whether there is a valid basis for the unavailability, ensure proper sequestration in a manner that ensures testimony has not been tainted, and make a determination that such an arrangement will not unfairly disadvantage any party. Should it be reasonably believed that a party or witness who is not physically present has presented tainted testimony, the hearing officer or panel will disregard or discount the testimony. In sexual misconduct cases, the hearing officer reserves the right to allow a party to testify in a separate room, so long as no party is unfairly disadvantaged by this procedure. A party must still give testimony in the presence of the Panel, and the opposing party must have the opportunity to view the testimony remotely and to submit follow-up questions.
- Formal civil rules of evidence do not apply to the investigatory or resolution process. The standard of review shall be a preponderance of the evidence; the disciplinary committee will determine based on the evidence presented at the hearing, whether it is more likely than not that the violation in question did occur. However, any decision to suspend or to expel a student must also be supported by substantial evidence at the hearing.
- Documentation of the proceedings, which may include written findings of fact, transcripts, audio recordings and/or video recordings, will be on file in the Student Conduct Office in accordance with USG records retention policy (Appendix C. Section III).
- Following a hearing, both the respondent and alleged victim (where applicable) shall be simultaneously provided a written decision via VSU email of the outcome and any resulting sanctions. The decision should include details on how to appeal. Additionally, the written decision must summarize the evidence in support of the sanction. The same information will be provided, regardless of whether the student opts for a hearing panel or an administrative hearing.
B. Disciplinary Hearing Committees
- The Student Judicial Council
- The Valdosta State University Conduct Committee
- The Sexual Misconduct Hearing Panel
The composition of each disciplinary committee is as follows:
- The Student Judicial Council shall be composed of 9-11 enrolled students representing a cross-section of the Valdosta State University student body. All members of the Council shall have a minimum 2.5 cumulative grade point average the semester of their appointment, and must maintain this average during their tenure. If a member does not maintain a 2.5 cumulative average, has two or more unexcused absences to scheduled meetings or hearings, or is found responsible for a violation of the Student Code of Conduct, then he/she will automatically forfeit his or her position on the Student Judicial Council.
- The Valdosta State University Conduct Committee shall be composed of three faculty or staff and two student members. The Assistant Dean of Students will make the appointments. One of the three faculty or staff members will serve as the hearing officer, and the two students will be from the Student Judicial Council.
- The Sexual Misconduct Hearing Panel will consist of three staff and/or faculty. Sexual misconduct panel members will receive appropriate annual training as directed by the System Director or Title IX Coordinator as required by the Clery Act.
C. Procedures for Disciplinary Hearings
- An oath is administered to all parties.
- Presentation of the alleged violation(s) to respondent.
- A call for a response from the respondent to each violation of either not responsible or responsible is requested by the hearing officer.
- Presentation of witnesses and documentation supporting the alleged violation(s) is made.
- Presentation of the comments and documentation supporting the respondent’s position.
- Examination and questioning by the committee and the respondent follows witness comments and information supporting the alleged violations and respondent’s position.
- Presentation of the closing comments by both parties, first the conduct officer and then the respondent.
- Committee deliberations then occur, and they are closed to everyone but committee members. The committee will hear only that information pertinent to the charge(s). The Committee may request assistance from the conduct officer in clarifying an issue in deliberations, or they may recall witnesses.
- The disciplinary committee has three charges.
- Determine the facts.
- Determine responsibility for any or all violations.
- If there is a finding of responsibility for any or all violations, they are to develop a suitable disciplinary recommendation(s).
- The disciplinary committee reconvenes after deliberations and will advise the respondent of its findings and recommendation(s). The recommendation(s) of the committee are also communicated to the respondent in writing, following the verbal notification at the disciplinary hearing.
- The responding student and/or organization are also informed both verbally and in writing of the right to an appeal and are informed of how to pursue the appeal process.
- Hearing is adjourned.
Vice President for Student Affairs & Dean of Students
Student Union 3160 (3rd floor)
Valdosta State University
1500 N. Patterson St.
Valdosta, Georgia 31698
1500 N. Patterson St.
Valdosta, GA 31698
- Phone: 229.333.5941
- Fax: 229.245.6481