Thomas More College

Discipline Response Procedures

Allegations Against Students
Sexual assault is a serious charge and could result in suspension or dismissal from the College.  Charges of sexual assault are adjudicated through the campus judicial system.  When the initial investigation of sexual harassment or sexual misconduct is concluded, the Dean of Student Affairs Office will determine whether probable cause exists to file charges under the Saints Community Standards. Charges are filed when probable cause exists.

The purpose of the Thomas More College Judicial Process is to determine the level to which a student (or students) is responsible for actions that violate the College’s Community Commitments which includes the Sexual Misconduct Policy.

Terms:

  1. Chief Conduct Officer - This refers to the staff member in the Department of Student Affairs who oversees the Saints Community Standards and Judicial Process directly.
  1. Chief Appellate Officer - The Chief Appellate Officer in the Judicial Process is the Dean of Student Affairs.
  1. Hearing Officer - The Hearing Officer is a trained member of the Faculty or Staff at Thomas More College who is appointed by the Dean of Student Affairs to determine a student (or students) responsibility for an alleged violation of the Community Standards. The Chief Conduct Officer may serve as a Hearing Officer.
  1. Respondent - The individual who as allegedly committed behaviors that betray a Community Commitment.
  1. Active Complainant - another student or community member who has brought forth a complaint against another student. Many cases will not have an Active Complainant, as a many complaints come in the form of an Incident Report through residence life or the Campus Safety Office (for example). In those cases, the report (itself) exists as the complainant, though individuals named in the report may be asked to provide more information during the investigation or to be present for a hearing.
  1. Judicial Board - A Judicial Board may be appointed by the Chief Conduct Officer to hear a case. Judicial Board consists of one student and two members of the faculty or staff.
  1. Preponderance of Evidence - The evidentiary standard used when determining a student (or students) responsibility. “Preponderance of Evidence” means that the information as a whole, shows that the fact(s) supports the conclusion that is “more likely than not” that the student engaged in the alleged behavior.
  1. Responsible and Not Responsible - A student is asked to make a declaration of “Responsible” or “Not Responsible” during their Preliminary Conference. When a student declares that he or she is “Not Responsible” for an alleged violation – a Hearing Officer(s) is appointed to decide whether or not the student is responsible by the preponderance of evidence in a hearing. 
  1. Hearing - A hearing is the opportunity for the College to determine the level to which a student is responsible/not-responsible for an alleged violation of the Community Commitments.

Types of Hearings:

  1. Administrative Hearing - An Administrative hearing will be conducted by the Chief Conduct Officer and/or an appointed Hearing Officer.

  2. Judicial Board Hearing - The Judicial Board may consists of up to two faculty or staff members.  If a Judicial Board cannot be established (i.e. summer); violations of College policy will be resolved through an Administrative Hearing.

  3. Informal Hearing - During an Informal Hearing, the student responsible for the behavior will be provided a document describing the charges against them and a list of sanctions, determined by the Chief Conduct Officer. The student will have the opportunity to sign the document, accepting responsibility for the charges, or to choose to schedule a formal hearing.

The Department of Student Affairs will consider severity and frequency of the charge(s) and will decision for the appropriate hearing format. During the Preliminary Conference, the student(s) in question will have the opportunity to submit a written request for their preferred hearing format. The Chief Student Affairs Officer, or his/her designee will make the ultimate decision who will hear the case. This determination is made on a case-by-case basis.

Preliminary Conference:

The purpose of the preliminary conference is to provide guidance to the accused in the disposition of the charges, to answer questions regarding the procedures and format of the campus judicial system, and to make arrangements for the hearing. The accused student will be given 3 business days to schedule a preliminary conference once notification of an alleged violation has been received.

During the Preliminary Conference, the accused will be given the opportunity to accept responsibility for all charges against them. If an individual accepts responsibility for all charges, the Chief Conduct Officer will conduct an Informal Hearing.

If a student is not present for their Preliminary Conference, their case will automatically be scheduled for a hearing. Hearings may be scheduled at the convenience of the appointed Hearing Officer (s) with consideration of the students’ class schedule(s). The student(s) in question will be given notice of the date, time, and location for their hearing via their Thomas More email account. Hearings will be scheduled a minimum of 24 hours after the preliminary conference.

Hearing Procedures:

  1. Hearing Procedures will be conducted in private. Judicial Board and Administrative Hearings will be recorded for College records. Students will receive notice of the date, time, and location of their hearing via their Thomas More email account. Hearings will take place with or without the presence of the accused.

  2. Admission of any person to the hearing shall be at the discretion of the Chief Conduct Officer. As conduct hearings are designed to ensure accountability for the Thomas More Community, individuals who are not a part of this community are not normally permitted to be in attendance during college proceedings (parents, legal counsel...etc.). Students may petition to allow advocates or advisors to be present for the hearing to the Chief Conduct Officer. These petitions must be submitted in writing 48 hours prior to the scheduled hearing. Permission for outside individuals does not equate participation. Outside guests are not permitted to speak or participate in judicial proceedings but will be asked to state their name and relationship to the student for the record. The Hearing Officer reserves the right to dismiss any individual from conduct proceedings based on an individual’s failure to comply with direction.

  3. In cases involving more than one accused student, the Hearing Officer may choose to conduct hearing proceedings together or individually.

  4. During a hearing, the student will have the opportunity to present information, to challenge or clarify information, and to submit questions for anyone involved in the proceedings who appears in person to provide information.

Hearing Order of Events:

  1. Introduction
  2. Statement of Charges
  3. Respondent will be asked to accept or deny responsibility all charges
    1. Respondent may accept responsibility for some but not all
  4. Complainants information to support charges/Investigation Report
    1. If there is not an active complainant in a case, the investigation report may be read aloud.
  5. Respondent Opening Statement
  6. Respondent is questioned by Hearing Officer(s)
  7. (If there is an active complainant, 5 and 6 will be repeated for complainant. Respondent will also have an opportunity to submit questions to the complainant)
  8. Witness Statements
  9. Hearing Officer(s) question witnesses.
  10. Hearing Officer clarifying questions (may be asked of complainant, respondent, or witnesses)
  11. Closing Statements
    1. Active Complainant
    2. Respondent
  12. Dismissal for Deliberations
  13. Written notification of hearing results within 5 business days

Discipline proceedings involving sexual misconduct shall specifically ensure the following:

  1. The complainant and respondent shall have the opportunity to be present during the proceedings, produce witnesses and question witnesses except in extremely rare situation when a witness may not be available and may supply a statement notarized to its truthfulness.
  2. Under no circumstances shall a complainant of sexual harassment or sexual assault be subjected to mediation with the alleged perpetrator.
  3. Both parties shall be notified at the same time of the outcome of the hearing within one business day of the proceedings.
  4. Discipline cases may involve the interim suspension of the accused when there is probable cause to believe that the safety and wellbeing of either party is in jeopardy.
  5. Cases will be scheduled to begin promptly and will not be delayed for criminal proceedings. An exception to this timeline may occur in situations where the respondent is suspended on an interim basis and not permitted to return to campus until the case is completed. This may extend the time by no more than thirty days at which time a hearing is required to be scheduled.
  6. In all cases involving sexual misconduct, the standard shall be “preponderance of the evidence,” and sanctions may include warning, probation, suspension or expulsion in addition to educational sanctions.
  7. For sensitive complaints such as sexual misconduct, alternative testimony options will be available to all parties, such as placing a privacy screen between parties or use of technology such as skype/facetime to allow for testimony outside the physical presence of the other parties. These options are intended to make the parties more comfortable without working to the disadvantage of the other party.
  8. The College will work to maintain the rights of both parties and no determination of being in violation shall be made until a hearing is completed. Filing a false report is a serious matter and will result in discipline charges being filed with the potential of suspension or expulsion from the institution.
  9. Both parties have the right to appeal a hearing decision not in their favor by notifying the Dean of Student Affairs in writing of the grounds for appeal with a statement supporting their appeal within two (2) business days at 5pm. The Dean of Student Affairs will review: a. whether the rights affirmed by the Board of Trustees have been denied; b. whether the adjudication was supported by the preponderance of the evidence; c. whether the procedures for a campus judicial proceeding and the sexual misconduct policy were appropriately applied. The decision may be upheld or overturned on these criteria.      

Appeal Process:

Decisions or sanctions made as a part of an Informal Hearing, Administrative Hearing or Judicial Board Hearing can be appealed. The Chief Student Affairs Officer hears all appeals. In the event that the Chief Student Affairs Office is not able to hear an appeal, they will designate a Hearing Officer (who played no role in the case) to hear the appeal. All appellate responses are final.

Appeal Procedures:

  1. Appeals must be submitted in writing in the form of an Appeal Letter to the Appellate Officer through the Department of Student Affairs within 48 hours of delivery of the Outcome Letter.
  2. Appeal letters must be authored and signed by the student submitting the appeal.
  3. The Appeal letter should state the reason(s) for the appeal and the supporting facts. In order for an appeal to be considered valid, the request and supporting facts must be directly connected with one or more of the Scope of Appeal Criteria.
    1. The Scope of Appeal Criteria lists the parameters within which a student may file an appeal. To be considered valid, any appeal must reference one of the following criteria:
      1. Procedural error, which had a bearing on the original decision.
      2. New information that was not available at the time of the inquiry which had a bearing on the original decision.
      3. Bias. Information demonstrating that there is no way a reasonable person could have arrived at decisions similar to the original decision absent of bias.
      4. Disproportionate Sanction - Whether the sanction imposed was in due proportion to the gravity and nature of the conduct.

Allegations Against Staff/ Faculty:

Allegations against faculty/staff will be forwarded to the Director of Human Resources who will conduct an initial investigation. Upon a finding of probable cause that the sexual misconduct/sexual harassment policy has been violated, the matter will be referred to the department head employing the accused staff/faculty member. The department head shall follow the process outlined in the faculty/staff manual. Resources to support both parties will be provided.