Welcome to the Office of Student Conduct & Community Standards
Chances are you never thought that your student's Sacred Heart experience would include an interaction with our office. This page is designed to help answer some of the questions you may have about our student conduct process and give you information that can help you best support your student.
Please know that we start with a basic assumption that all our students are by nature motivated, energetic, creative and good people. We also recognize that our students (like all of us) make mistakes and can utilize poor judgment. Sometimes this involves the consumption of alcohol. Other times it may involve a rash decision made at a late hour. The environment at Sacred Heart University in which students want to excel both academically and personally (e.g., be socially accepted and liked by their peers) can sometimes lead to decisions that student’s later regret. Through our process, we want students to learn where they could have made different decisions and offer them strategies for making better choices in the future and help lead them down a more successful path.
The expectations we have for undergraduate students are found in the Student Handbook, under the Code of Student Conduct and Community Standards. As we all know from our own experiences, actions carry consequences. This is no different at Sacred Heart University. When students are found responsible for violating a University policy, they may face a set of sanctions. This may include but not limited to; a written warning(s), fine(s), community service, probation, referral for counseling, reflection papers, and, sometimes, separation from the University, either for a period of time (suspension), weekend suspension, or semester/year or permanently (expulsion). These are not consequences that we take lightly. We recognize that any sanction imposed upon a student is a burden and ultimately on the family. However, we also feel strongly that our process and sanctions play an important role in a student's education at Sacred Heart University not just during their time with us, but in life beyond college.
We encourage -but do not require- students to talk with their parents upon finding themselves in a tough situation that may involve violation of a university policy. We have found that students are often fearful to talk with their parents about their situation because of the reaction they think they will receive. While you will understandably be concerned about what may have happened, you will undoubtedly want to show support to your son or daughter. Listen to his or her perspective. Encourage him/her to accept responsibility for the role he or she played in a situation. And show that you still stand behind him or her.
A common reaction from parents is that their student could not have possibly engaged in the behavior of which they are accused. Or, at worst, the behavior of their student was unintentional and simply a mistake. We strive for a fair and thorough process in determining the extent to which a student was involved in a situation. Intent -or lack thereof- is most often considered not in a determination of responsibility, but in a determination of the sanctioning. We have high expectations for our students, and this includes seeking appropriate help when facing a difficult decision.
- How can I help my student avoid involvement in the conduct process?
We encourage you to talk with your student about their values and how their actions can impact their future. Often students find themselves in a conduct situation because they did not fully consider the consequences of their actions. While your student is an adult, college is a time of growth, change and challenge. As a parent you can be a valuable ally and support for your student.
Be very clear with him or her about what you expect regarding learning from the experience and what you hope he or she will do in the future. It’s also a good idea to check in regularly with your student about all things college-related – classwork, study habits, roommates, and social activities. A well-rounded and academically-focused student is less likely to get into trouble. Statistically, students that are engaged in the campus life, club sports, and other activities simply do not have time to be getting mixed up in misconduct and inappropriate behaviors. Resist the urge to jump in your car and drive to campus to “fix” every problem that arises. College is an opportunity for students to spread their wings, learn about independence. Offer support and suggestions, so your student learns how to solve and resolve situations on his or her own. Attempting to resolve the issue for you student will eliminate the opportunity for them to learn the necessary problem-solving skills required for life after the University setting.
- How will I know if my student has been found in violation?
It is not the practice of the university to notify parents or guardians if their student is involved in a conduct case. However, depending on the severity of the incident, and if it involves suspension from the Residence Halls due to alcohol or drugs, a phone call will be made to communicate with the parents. We ask and encourage students to speak with their parents prior to and after the conduct hearing and believe that as adults, students should take responsibility for initiating the conversation. It is our practice to allow students to speak with their parents first about the outcome of the hearing and ask them to have either a parent or guardian make a phone call to the conduct hearing officer to follow-up. However, if the parent or guardian does not connect with the conduct hearing officer, a phone call will be made to have the conversation about what has occurred and what will be expected.
With that said, we encourage you to talk regularly with your student about their adjustment to college life, academic progress and how you can be supportive. Just because your student acts like they are ready to live without your advice doesn't mean they don't appreciate it when you show that you care.
- My student has been asked to come in for a student conduct hearing, can I help?
Often students and parents are anxious about the conduct process. One way to help is to become informed about how our process works. You can review our website to learn about our expectations as well as how our conduct process works. The best role you can play is to be a support person for your student. We understand you may want to take a more active role. However, a cornerstone of our conduct process is that each student is responsible for his or her own conduct. Learning to take responsibility for his or her actions and to develop self-confidence and self-reliance happens best when a student takes a principal role in representing him or herself in the conduct process.
- Can I be present in a student conduct hearing with my son or daughter?
Though parents are an integral part of the learning process, they are not able to serve as advisers in the actual hearing process. Most students choose to meet with the condcut officer independantly, and we believe this helps make the meeting more personal for the student, as it fosters honest dialog a student may not otherwise share with someone else in the room. However, we maintain that students have the right to be assisted in a student conduct hearing / appeal hearing by one, SHU administrator, faculty member or student of their choice provided that individual is not legal counsel/attorneys, parents/family members. This individual may not address the conduct hearing Officer, but may consult freely with the student.
- Does my student need a lawyer?
The conduct process is separate and apart from the criminal or civil court system. Sometimes behavior that is prohibited under the Code is also a violation of criminal or civil law, and a student may be held accountable under both systems. Because of the inherent nature of the conduct process as an educational process rather than an adversarial system, we do not allow lawyers to participate in our process. Our office has worked with students' attorneys in the past to provide information about our process when the student faces a concurrent criminal or legal charge. Again, the underlying philosophy is that a student must have honest dialog and accountability with the conduct officer in order to grow and learn form the experience, something most often accomplished when a student represents him or herself.
- If my student is found responsible for a violation, what is the outcome?
The conduct process allows for flexibility in determining the outcome of a case based on the circumstances and severity of the incident. Sanctions are determined by considering the following factors and others: nature and severity of the violation, the number of violations applied, the student's role and impact of the student’s behavior in the incident, the effect of the incident on the community members, the student's developmental and educational needs, and the student's prior disciplinary record. Mitigating and aggravating circumstances are considered.
In all cases, sanctions are primarily meant to be educational for the student. It is our hope that students will reflect upon the decisions made in the situation, realize the impact these decisions had on both themselves and the community and determine changes that will ensure subsequent violations do not occur. In some instances sanctions may also be designed to protect the University community.
In serious cases outcomes such as residence hall suspension or removal (either on a temporary or permanent basis), University suspension or expulsion are potential outcomes of the conduct process. Since these sanctions hold significant implications both financially and in terms of a student's academic progress as noted, earlier communication to the parent or guardian will occur.
- Can my student appeal a disciplinary decision if they are not satisfied with the outcome of the case?
A student who has been found responsible of a violation(s) of the Code of Student Conduct has the right to request an appeal of the original decision within a 24 hour timeframe from the ending of the student conduct hearing. Please see the Appeal section for more detailed information on what the process allows. Remember, requests for appeals are limited to the following criteria:
- the sanctions imposed are substantially outside the parameters or guidelines set by the University for this type of offense or the cumulative conduct record of the responding student;
- to consider new evidence, unavailable during the original hearing or investigation, that could substantially impact the original finding or sanction (A summary of this new evidence and its potential impact must be included);
- a procedural or substantive error occurred that significantly impacted the outcome of the hearing
- What if a situation is being handled through the courts and the University?
This is not a situation of double jeopardy, which prohibits a person from being tried twice in a court of law for the same crime, for two reasons: 1) an alleged violation of the Code of Student Conduct is not a crime; and 2) the student is being held accountable for his or her behavior through an administrative hearing process, not a criminal trial. While both the criminal charges and the student conduct violation both ultimately have stemmed from one incident, the jurisdiction, procedures, and penalties for each are distinct and separate. In most cases, the University's process will run its course independently of the criminal process, and may yield a finding of responsible or not responsible before the court case is settled. This practice of adjudicating cases independently of the court proceedings is a national best practice, and is consistent with the expectations set forth by the Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights.
- Do sanctions or disciplinary files go away or get destroyed?
A student’s student conduct record is cumulative over the course of his or her academic career and is kept on file for seven years after the date of the last incident. In cases of a suspension or expulsion from the University, a student conduct file is kept indefinitely.
- What if I have more questions about the conduct process? Who can I call?
Parents have many questions about how student conduct action may affect their son or daughter’s future. We are happy to speak with you. Feel free to contact Mr. Channing Vidal, Director of Student Conduct & Community Standards by phone at 203-416-3421 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.