How are decisions of guilt or innocence made?
St. Mary’s University uses the terms “Responsible” or “Not Responsible” instead of “Guilty” or “Innocent” to indicate whether a student has violated the University’s Code of Conduct. The standard of proof the University uses to determine whether a student is responsible for a violation is called the Preponderance of the Evidence. This evidentiary standard is contrasted with “beyond a reasonable doubt,” which is the higher standard of evidence used to determine guilt in U.S. criminal trials.
To find a student “responsible” for a violation under the preponderance of the evidence standard, the judicial adviser or University Judicial Board panel reviewing the incident must conclude that there is more credible information supporting the position that a student violated a University rule than there is credible information supporting the alternate position that a student did not violate a University Rule. In other words, if the adviser or a Judicial Board panel majority finds it more likely than not that an alleged act of misconduct occurred, a student will be found responsible for violating a University rule.
It is important to remember that the preponderance of evidence standard is based on the more convincing evidence available for review and not on the amount of information presented. For example, a single witness with accurate first-hand knowledge and great recall of an incident may provide a preponderance of evidence over several other witnesses whose knowledge of the incident or ability to remember what happened is less clear.
Will the judicial adviser or University Judicial Board be aware of a student’s previous disciplinary history?
A student participating in an informal conduct review with the judicial adviser should assume that the adviser has reviewed their case file, including all previously adjudicated conduct issues, prior to their conduct meeting. A student’s previous disciplinary history may be discussed during this meeting when previous violations on file indicate a pattern of misconduct exists, and this history may be considered as an aggravating factor by the adviser when assigning sanctions as part of a student’s latest conduct review.
University Judicial Board members are not made aware of a student s previous disciplinary history unless the Board finds a student. Responsible for at least one University Rules violation during their Board review. In this situation a summary of a student s previous University misconduct, including all previously assigned sanctions, is provided to assist the Board with their sanction recommendations.
What happens after a decision is made?
Students who have met with the judicial adviser usually receive and discuss their sanctions at the conclusion of their conduct meeting. Students who have had their misconduct reviewed by the University Judicial Board are usually informed of their sanctions within two to three University business days.
NOTE: A student who has been suspended, dismissed, or expelled may be required to leave campus immediately following the conclusion of their conduct meeting or Board review. A student whose sanctions include Loss of University Housing may be required to turn in their residence hall keys immediately and make arrangements to remove their belongings from their on-campus room within 48 hours.
Regardless of the type of conduct meeting, every student whose conduct has been reviewed through this process will receive an official decision letter containing the University’s findings of responsibility, all sanctions assigned to them and important information on the University appeals process. This letter is commonly sent to the student’s campus email and permanent mail address within two University business days.
Notice to parents
St. Mary’s University reserves the right to notify parents of all students who have been found responsible for violating the University’s illegal drugs policy and the parents of all underage students who have been found responsible for violating the University’s alcohol policy.
Notice to university offices
St. Mary’s University reserves the right to notify all university officials with an educational need to know about the status of a student found responsible for University misconduct. University officials who may be notified of a student s University Rules violations can include, but may not be limited to, the student s head coach, on-campus employer, faculty instructors or advisers, Residence Life hall director, ROTC Commandant, Student Psychological and Testing Services staff, Greek or student organization advisor, University Registrar and/or the University Business office.
Creation of a university conduct record
A student found responsible for University misconduct will have a disciplinary record of the incident, including all findings and sanctions assigned, kept on file in the Dean of Student’s office. Disciplinary records are maintained in the Dean s office for seven years after the term end of the last semester the student attended St. Mary’s, but may be kept longer due to special circumstance (such as suspension, dismissal, expulsion or a misconduct-related cancellation of a student’s housing contract) or as deemed necessary by the Dean of Students.
A student found responsible for University misconduct may request an appeal of any adverse misconduct finding or sanctioning decision reached by the University Judicial Board or the judicial adviser within five (5) business days of the receipt of the decision. Any appeal must be in writing and should be delivered to the judicial adviser or Dean of Students.
The appeal request will only be considered for the reasons given in the student’s written appeal and will be limited to review of the verbatim record of the initial conduct meeting and supporting documents for one or more of the following purposes:
- To determine whether the original hearing was conducted fairly in light of the charges and evidence presented, and in conformity with prescribed procedures giving the complaining party a reasonable opportunity to prepare and present evidence that the St. Mary’s University Code of Student Conduct was violated, and giving the accused student a reasonable opportunity to prepare and to present a rebuttal of those allegations.
- To determine whether the decision reached regarding the accused student was based on the evidence, that is, whether the facts in the case were sufficient to establish that it was more likely than not that the accused student violated the St. Mary’s University Code of Student Conduct.
- To determine whether sanction(s) imposed were appropriate for the violation of the St. Mary’s University Code of Student Conduct that the student was found to have committed.
- To consider new evidence, sufficient to alter a decision or other relevant facts not brought out in the original hearing because such evidence and/or facts were not known to the person requesting the appeal at the time of the original judicial meeting.
The Appeals Board may:
- Remand the matter to the original judicial body and the judicial adviser for reopening of the hearing to allow reconsideration of the original determination and/or sanction
- Refuse to hear the appeal (e.g. lack of specified grounds for appeal)
- Overturn the determination and/or sanction of the original judicial body
- Affirm the determination and/or sanction of the original judicial body
- Reduce the sanction of the original judicial body
In the case of suspension, dismissal or expulsion, a student may submit a written appeal request to the Title IX Coordinator or the Vice Provost for Student Development and Dean of Students, who will then appoint an Appeals Board to consider the appeal if the original conditions for an appeal still exist. There are no further appeals beyond this level. Should the sanction change from suspension, dismissal or expulsion during any part of the appeal’s process, the appeal body making the change is the final appeal.
For students who are found “Not responsible”:
A student who has been found “Not Responsible” for the misconduct alleged in their charge letter will have all reviewed charges dropped following their conduct meeting. The student will also receive an official follow-up letter from the Student Life confirming this decision.
Will this misconduct finding affect my financial aid or scholarship?
Possibly. Some financial aid or scholarships also require a student to remain in good conduct standing with their University to receive continued funding. You should contact the Office of Office of Financial Assistance at 210-436-3141 with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your individual situation.