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Know your rights when facing campus discipline

If you’ve been charged with a crime on campus and are facing disciplinary action from your university, you may be wondering about your rights as you proceed with a case. It’s important for you to take your charges seriously and to know what’s ahead while you navigate the process.

If you attend a public institution, your rights are guaranteed and protected under the United States Constitution. Public colleges and universities are government agencies and must follow certain procedures and standards for consistency in student discipline cases.

Student rights

Disciplinary action that may result in suspension or expulsion from a pubic college or university affords students a certain set of rights for students. These rights apply only to those involving disciplinary reasons, not academic reasons. According to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, students have the following rights when facing a harsh disciplinary charge:

  • The right to have his/her case heard under standard procedures
  • The right to a description of the charges against him/her
  • The right to be notified about the charges against him/her
  • The right to explain his/her side of the story

In some cases, students may also have the right to review the written documents and charges against them and the right to have an attorney present during their hearing.


Academic charges

In cases where the institution’s action is based on poor academic performance, the above rights don’t apply. Courts prefer not to question a school’s academic judgment and will let an institution determine the outcome based on their own established rules and protocols. However, schools are required to treat students fairly–and not arbitrarily–and give them a reasonable opportunity to present their circumstances.


Student rights at a private institution

Unlike public institutions, private colleges and universities are not required to give students constitutional due process. Private schools have their own disciplinary procedures and they are obligated to honor them as outlined in their guidelines or handbooks. These measures are “promises” made to students that universities must honor.


Facing disciplinary action on campus can be scary and confusing, but students have rights when they’re facing charges. If charges are filed against you, knowing your rights and exercising them as needed can help to ensure you’re treated fairly. Legal counsel can also help you to pursue the best possible outcome.

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