GENERAL INFORMATION ON HOW THE UNIVERSITY'S CONDUCT PROCESS IS DIFFERENT THAN THE LEGAL, CRIMINAL PROCESS
One of the most common questions in the student conduct process is what the legal ramifications are for reporting to Student Conduct. It is important to know there are significant differences between the campus conduct process and criminal justice procedures. The processes are separate but incidents can be processed through both. As a student, you can:
- File a report with both the University and the criminal justice system at the same time;
- File a report with the University but not with the criminal justice system, or vice versa; or
- File a report with the University or the criminal justice system, and then later decide to file a report with the other system.
A student may be arrested and charged in the criminal justice system as well as be the respondent under the University’s Student Code of Conduct. Alternatively, charges can occur for alleged violations of the Student Code of Conduct, which may not be violations of the law. If a case is going through the criminal justice system, and a report has also been made to the University, the University may not wait until the criminal justice case is completed before conducting its own investigation and remedy/sanction process.
Students are entitled to one advisor throughout the process, which may be a friend, parent, attorney, or any person of their choosing excluding witnesses and Student Conduct must be notified in advance. However, the advisor may not represent that student by speaking on their behalf.
The standard of evidence in determining whether a student is in violation of the Student Code of Conduct is not as high as that of the criminal process. At MSU Denver, we use a level called “preponderance of evidence,” as opposed to “beyond a reasonable doubt” that is used in the criminal justice system. Preponderance of evidence means that it is “more likely than not” (i.e. 51% likely) that a conduct violation occurred. Legal rules of evidence do not apply in campus conduct cases.
Campus conduct cases are confidential, in compliance with a federal law called the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). Conduct and disciplinary records cannot be released to anyone without the student’s written permission. Conversely, criminal records are public records, and information may be shared with the community at large. Findings of responsibility in the University’s conduct process will not result in any criminal record. Additionally, findings of “guilty” or “not guilty” in the criminal system often have no bearing on the outcome of University conduct proceedings.
The University conduct process is intended to be educational, not punitive. Our goal is to help the student to better understand the impact of them actions and to help them take steps towards repairing the harm done to the University community. Sanctions are not predetermined, but rather are developed with consideration given to the individual circumstances of the case and any previous disciplinary history. Overall, the University conduct process is much less formal than criminal proceedings.