Student Conduct at Westmont College
Westmont desires to be a redemptive community. In order for this to occur, the college believes that students need the opportunity to learn and grow through accepting responsibility for their actions. While discipline is sometimes a difficult, awkward and painful process, it can and should be an opportunity for significant growth in students’ lives.
Initiating Student Conduct Proceedings
Student conduct proceedings are initiated when the associate dean for residence life (which, for all purposes described in this section, includes his or her designee) receives an incident report regarding alleged student misconduct. After this information is received, a preliminary review will take place to determine whether enough information exists to warrant a student conduct meeting. In most cases, the review is as simple as reading an incident report submitted by student life staff on the alleged misconduct. However, a review could also include interviewing witnesses or obtaining other documentation of the incident.The student facing allegations of misconduct will be notified of the alleged misconduct and given the opportunity to respond. Notification will be communicated no more than five business days following the associate dean for residence life’s receipt of information concerning the student’s alleged misconduct.
At the conclusion of the preliminary review, the associate dean for residence life will determine whether enough evidence exists to hold a student conduct meeting. If enough evidence does not exist, then no further disciplinary action will be taken. If it is deemed that enough evidence exists, the associate dean for residence life will initiate a student conduct proceeding using either the Administrative or Committee Resolution (see section below).
Support and Representation in Student Conduct Proceedings
Experience has shown that the learning that takes place through this process is maximized when students bear the full responsibility of representing themselves. Therefore, parents, relatives and friends are not permitted during student conduct proceedings. However, any student involved facing allegations of conduct violations has the option of choosing—upon approval of the associate dean for residence life—a faculty or staff member to serve as a source of support during student conduct proceedings. The individual chosen may not be a student, parent, relative, an attorney or representative of an attorney. The faculty or staff member chosen may be present at any time during the proceedings but is not an advocate for the student and may not address the student conduct officer or speak on behalf of the student. The faculty or staff member may speak with the student privately and in a manner that is not disruptive.
In any conduct matter that involves actual or potential criminal charges, the person facing actual or potential criminal charges may request to have legal counsel present during any portion of the proceedings. In cases where a student faces allegations of sexual assault or rape* both the accused and the accuser can have legal counsel present. In no case may counsel speak or take an advocacy role during the proceedings.
* For a complete policy including definitions of sexual assault and an explanation of the procedures that the college will follow in cases of disciplinary matters related to sexual assault, refer to the College Sexual Assault Policy and Procedures.
Types of Student Conduct Proceedings
There are two types of student conduct proceedings:
- Administrative Resolution and
- Student Life Committee Resolution.
The details of each procedure and an explanation for when each procedure will be used are described below.
Administrative ResolutionThe Administrative Resolution proceeding is used when the associate dean for residence life determines that the nature and circumstances of the alleged violation do not warrant Student Life Committee resolution and the student facing allegations of misconduct does not request Student Life Committee resolution. The Administrative Hearing is conducted by one or two student life staff members, referred to as “student conduct officers.”
At the time of the student conduct meeting, the student facing allegations of misconduct will meet with the student conduct officer to respond to allegations of misconduct. The student may request that the student conduct officer receive written statements from any potential witnesses. The student conduct officer will review all written statements but is not required to meet with any witnesses. The student will not have the right to question any witness or victim but will have the opportunity to respond to written statements or testimony submitted by the victim or witnesses. If the student refuses to answer questions at the meeting on the grounds of the Fifth Amendment privilege, or if they choose not to attend the meeting, the meeting can still take place, and the student conduct officer may draw negative inferences that may result in sanctions.
Following prompt, full and effective inquiry into the merits of the information obtained, the student conduct officer will make a decision as to whether it is more likely than not that the student has violated college policy and impose sanctions if appropriate. Any sanction(s) given will be set forth in writing and delivered to the student. In most cases, notification of sanctions will be communicated no more than five business days following the decision to impose the sanction(s). In some cases due to scheduling challenges, the time may be extended.
Student Life Committee Resolution
The Student Life Committee Resolution proceeding is used when:
- the associate dean for residence life determines that the nature and circumstances of the alleged violation of college policy warrant resolution by a meeting conducted by the student life committee (the “committee”); or
- the student facing the allegations requests a committee hearing. The committee includes the dean of students, a provost’s representative, three faculty members, two student life members and two students. At least two faculty members (which could include the provost’s representative), two student life members and one student must be present to convene the committee.
Before the Student Conduct Meeting
Prior to the committee hearing, all relevant information regarding the alleged misconduct will be forwarded to the student life committee. Within seven days of the committee's receipt of the information, the Student Life office will notify the student of the time and date of a hearing and a statement of the alleged misconduct. Student Life is committed to prompt resolution of all student conduct proceedings. However, in some cases, such as insuring the thoroughness of the review or to permit time for students to secure legal counsel, the dean of students will permit a short delay of the proceedings.
Committee Student Conduct Meeting
Prior to the hearing, the student(s) may arrange to have witness statements submitted. The associate dean for residence life will determine when such statements must arrive in order to give the committee adequate time to review the submitted statements. At the time of the meeting, the staff member(s) who obtained the information upon which the allegation is based may be called to meet before the committee. The committee may also choose to meet with any witnesses or others referenced in the information it receives.
The student facing allegations of misconduct will be called to meet before the committee. The student will not have the right to question any witness or victim, but will have the opportunity to respond to written statements or testimony submitted by the victim or witnesses. If the student refuses to answer questions at the meeting on grounds of the Fifth Amendment privilege, or if they choose not to attend the meeting, the meeting can still take place, and the student conduct officer may draw negative inferences that may result in sanctions.
At the conclusion of the meeting, the committee will render a decision by majority vote as to whether it is more likely than not that the student has violated college policy and impose sanctions if appropriate. The decision will be given to the student in writing, and the committee chair and the dean of students will meet with the student to explain the outcome. In most cases, notification of sanctions will be communicated no more than five business days following the decision to impose the sanction(s). In some cases due to scheduling challenges, the time may be extended.
Students often ask what happens when a college policy is violated. The short answer is that our hope is to provide as redemptive of a process as possible. We all make mistakes. In fact, learning from our mistakes is one of the ways we learn. Most of the mistakes students make won't keep them from continuing as a student at the college, but it will often require some action as a means of accountability and to encourage different decisions in the future. Our goal is to provide clear expectations and a supportive environment to encourage students to live within the guidelines we have agreed upon.
With that in mind, the following section lists some examples of student conduct violations that differ in levels of seriousness and the more common resulting sanctions (consequences). This list is not exhaustive but it serves as a guide in the student conduct process. In reviewing each violation, the following variables will be considered to determine the range of appropriate sanctions and whether or not additional sanctions may be imposed beyond this general framework: attitude and/or truthfulness of student when confronted and throughout the student conduct process, prior student conduct violations, impact of the violation on the community, when the misconduct occurred, and whether or not the student came forward to assume responsibility.
Level I Violations
Generally result in either warnings (for very minor violations) or being assigned 1-6 total sanction hours*. Sanctions could also include a fine and/or losing some privileges (e.g. open hour visitation).
- Repeated noise violation
- Open hour violation
- Tobacco on campus
- Candle hazard
- Dining commons behavior
- Sports in the halls
- Pet policy violation
Level II Violations
Generally result in losing some privileges and being assigned 10-30 sanction hours*. In addition, a student is typically placed on Student Life Probation or Deferred Suspension (depending upon the severity of the violation and/or previous student conduct violations).
- Three Level I violations during a 12 month time period
- Alcohol violations
- Possession or use of controlled substance
- Sexual misconduct
- Abuse of the student conduct process
- Disurption of college activities
- Failure to comply with college official
- Failure to complete assigned sanctions
- Property damage/vandalism
Level III Violations
Generally result in an immediate suspension from the college for one or two semesters. Can also result in permanent expulsion from the college.
- Assault (physical or sexual)
- Providing or sale of a controlled substance
- Multiple Level II violations in the same incident (based on severity of the violations)
*Sanction Hours: In keeping with our goal of making the student conduct process a redemptive and learning experience, students are often required to complete an assignment that is designed to offer opportunities to develop new knowledge or skills, reflect on their experiences, and contribute to the community in some way. Some examples of these opportunities are written reflection papers, community service, mentoring, educational programs, and counseling. In some cases - like community service - it is easy to quantify the amount of time required to complete. In other cases, an estimate of the time required to complete the assignment is determined to calculate the approximate number of total hours to complete all sanctions.
Sanctions may also include, but are not limited to one or more of the following:
- Formal apology. A written and/or verbal apology to the offended party/parties.
- Restitution. Compensation for loss, damages or injury. This may take the form of completing appropriate service and/or monetary or material replacement.
- Fines. Previously established and published fines may be imposed.
- Parental Notification. Parental notification may be required as a sanction through the student conduct process, and is generally required as a result of violations of the alcohol or drug policy, any Level III violation, or when a student is placed on deferred suspension.
- Drug testing. Students who violate the drug policy are generally required to participate in random drug testing for a period of time.
- Loss of privileges. Denial of specified privileges for a designated period of time. Loss of privileges includes, but is not limited to, open hours, vehicle permit, living in residence halls or off-campus, entering the dining commons, withholding transcripts, and attending or participating in college programs or activities (such as athletic events, intramurals, music performances, drama productions, intercollegiate athletics, graduation exercises, student leadership positions, club activities, off-campus study programs, summer travel programs, etc.).
- Student Life probation. Students are typically placed on Student Life probation for 15 or 30 weeks of the academic calendar after a Level II violation. Students who are found responsible for a Level I violation while on Student Life probation are typically required to complete 10 additional sanction hours plus the new sanctions for the current violation; in addition, the length of probationary status will be extended by 15 academic weeks. Students who commit a Level II violation while on Student Life probation are typically required to complete the same number of sanction hours from the previous student conduct process plus the new sanctions for the current violation. Additionally, students who commit a Level II violation while on Student Life probation are placed on deferred suspension.
- Deferred suspension. Deferred suspension is a formal warning that a minimum one semester suspension will result from another Level II violation (the suspension may be imposed immediately with the loss of the current semester). Students are placed on deferred suspension for 15 or 30 weeks of the academic calendar. The student's academic adviser will be notified of the deferred suspension status, as will the student's parent(s) if he/she is claimed on the parent's tax return. Students who commit a Level I violation while on deferred suspension are typically required to complete 10 additional sanction hours plus the new sanctions for the current violation; in addition, the length of probationary status will be extended by 15 academic weeks.
- College suspension. Separation of the student from the campus for a specified period of time, after which the student is eligible to return. While suspended, students may not be on campus or participate in any college related event. Length of suspensions may vary from one or more days to one or more semesters. The timing of the suspension will not occur at the convenience of the student. The Academic Policies and Procedures state, "Faculty are not permitted to provide make-up opportunities or alter established class schedules for suspended students. Where this creates a hardship for students, they are to be referred to the dean of students." Conditions for the student's return to campus may be specified. If a student is supsended for the remainder of a semester or the entire semester, they must re-apply for admission to the college.
- College expulsion. Permanent separation of the student from the college.
Under either Student Conduct proceeding, while the investigation is being conducted, and based upon the information received by the dean of students regarding the matter, the dean of students may take any one or more of the following actions:
- Impose immediate interim sanctions pending a final determination in the matter, including, but not limited to: stay-away orders; removal from the residence halls; suspension from campus, classes, or Westmont-related off-campus events.
- Enter into the residence hall, room, or apartment of the student facing the allegations of misconduct for the sake of removing any material that constitutes a serious risk of harm to other persons or property in the residence halls.
- Refer the matter to the appropriate police authorities.
The interim sanction will remain in effect until it is otherwise revoked by an appropriate representative of the college or expires by its own terms.
Sanctions and Student Records
Student conduct sanctions are maintained in the student’s confidential record in the student life office and may be disclosed to other college personnel with a legitimate educational interest in the information in accordance with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974. Student conduct sanctions shall not be made part of the student’s transcript but shall become part of the student’s student conduct record. Cases involving the imposition of sanctions other than college expulsion shall be expunged from the student’s confidential record five years after final disposition of the case. Upon graduation, a student may make a written request that their record be expunged of student conduct actions. Requests should be directed to the vice president for student life who may or may not choose to grant such a request.
Students may request review of decisions rendered in student conduct meetings by making an appeal. Appeals from administrative resolution should be submitted to the dean of students; and appeals from student life committee resolution should be submitted to the provost (both of whom are referred to as the “appeals officer”).
Appeals must be in writing and submitted to the student life or provost’s office during regular business hours (Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.) within three calendar days of the decision. If the third day falls on a non-business day, appeals should be submitted via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. In extremely unusual circumstances, students may make a request in writing to the appeal officer for more than three days to submit an appeal. Such requests are rarely granted, and the decision to grant or deny an extension is within the sole discretion of the appeal officer.
An appeal must be in writing and consists of:
- A completed Appeal Request form (available in the Student Life office or the Office of the Provost), and
- A statement outlining and supporting the specific grounds on which the student is appealing.
The appeal is not a re-hearing of the original conduct meeting and the role of the appeal officer is not to substitute his or her own judgment for the judgment of those who rendered the original decision. The role of the appeal officer is to determine whether a new decision is warranted due to a procedural error, the availability of new information or the imposition of excessive sanctions. Therefore, a student’s appeal must be based on one or more of the following grounds:
- A process or procedural error was made that was significantly prejudicial to the outcome of the student conduct meeting as it affects the student appealing.
- New information that was not available or known to the student appealing at the time of the student conduct meeting has arisen which, when considered, may materially alter the outcome. Note: Information that the appealing student chose not to present at the time of the hearing is not considered new information.
- The sanctions imposed are so unfair — considering the nature of the violation, student attitude, previous history, impact of the student's behavior on the community and other specific circumstances — that they demonstrate an abuse of discretion by the student conduct officer or review body. (See the Student Conduct Policy section on Sanctions for common sanctions imposed for conduct violations.)
It is not enough to simply assert one of the grounds for appeal. The written statement accompanying the appeal form must provide information that supports grounds upon which the student bases the appeal. For example: If the student asserts that a procedural error occurred; he or she must name the procedure with specificity and explain how the error affected the decision made.
During the appeal process, the associate dean for residence life may choose to set aside sanctions as appropriate.
Review of Appeal
The appeal officer will grant or deny review of decisions rendered in student conduct meetings based on the student’s written appeal.
Appeal officers will not review an original decision based on an appeal that fails to meet the criteria outlined above. In such cases, the appeal officer will make no inquiry beyond the written material submitted and the original decision and any sanctions imposed will stand.
If the student’s appeal satisfies the appeal criteria, the appeal officer will consider material and/or testimony previously presented or a written summary of the previous proceedings. The appeal officer may also meet with the student, any witnesses and/or the original decision makers prior to making a decision.
Decision on Appeal
Following a prompt and effective review, the appeal officer will communicate his or her decision on the student’s appeal in writing no later than seven business days following receipt of the appeal. The appeal officer’s decision will be in one of the two following forms:
Original Decision Upheld
Where review of the original decision does not demonstrate a different decision is warranted, the appeal officer will uphold the original decision.
Original Decision Modified
Where review of the original decision demonstrates support for the appeal and a different decision is warranted, the appeal officer will modify the original decision. This decision may include sanctions being decreased, modified, or revoked. In no case will sanctions be increased.
Decisions on appeal are final and no other office will accept or review appeals following a decision made under this procedure.
Non-Disciplinary Policy of Westmont College
Students struggling with difficult issues in their personal lives are encouraged to seek out a student life staff member for help at any time. Except in situations where the college is required by law to take appropriate disciplinary action (e.g. harassment, sexual assault, etc.), students who come to a Student Life professional staff member for help related to lifestyle behaviors (e.g. alcohol, drug use, tobacco dependency, sexual issues, etc.) prior to staff becoming aware of a violation of college policy will be offered support and help outside of the regular student conduct process.