Frequently Asked Questions for Parents
What happens if my student gets an e-mail from the Office of Student Conduct (OSC) that s/he was named in an incident report?
When a student’s name appears on an incident report, the OSC wants to inform the student so that s/he can come to a meeting to explain the incident. An incident report is simply the document that alleges a student's involvement is allegedly in violation of university policy. Having an incident report written does not mean you are "in trouble." A hearing is held to determine whether a policy violation occurred. Incident reports can be written by any member of the campus community or anyone outside of the community.
How can I help my student?
You can help your student by being supportive while holding him or her accountable to your expectations and the university's. You can also help by supporting necessary interventions, such as alcohol or drug education, anger management, and other forms of education, so that your student can be successful at USC. Allow and expect the student to set appointments, attend meetings, and fulfill sanctions. It is usually not helpful to the educational development of the student for parents to take over the process for their students. Please ask your student three questions (in this order):
- “Have you read the initial appointment letter for the appointment time and details?”
- “What are you going to do about this?”
- “How can I support you?”
I know my student could not have done this; I didn't raise my student that way. So why is my student being charged?
Developmentally, college is a period of experimentation and exploration for students in an environment very different than what you, or they, may be accustomed to. They may be in a period of transition from late adolescence to adulthood, facing many new challenges. They may also be away from home for the first time and dealing with issues of independence in the more unstructured environment of a university. In addition, students are adjusting to the expectations and values of the university, just as they did at home. As students are testing these expectations and values, they may make choices that are inconsistent with their past choices. This exploration is a normal part of the developmental process. However, students must also learn that the choices they make may not be healthy and do have consequences. Engage your student in an open dialogue and be receptive to learn about the friends, behaviors, actions, and choices your student makes when he or she is out of your presence.
My student was charged criminally. Why go through student conduct too?
The criminal justice system and USC’s Student Code of Conduct are not mutually exclusive. By virtue of being enrolled at USC, each student is held responsible for upholding the standards of behavior in the university policies for student life, as well as local and state laws. The university conduct process does not constitute "double jeopardy" for situations in which a student is facing concurrent criminal proceedings. The constitutional right regarding double jeopardy is solely a criminal law concept and is not applicable to the university conduct process, nor are most other criminal/civil procedures.
This incident happened off campus. Why is the university involved?
The university has an interest in maintaining a safe community and appropriate standards of conduct for its students. Each student is accountable to USC regardless of whether an alleged misconduct took place on the campus, across the street from campus, or across town. USC is particularly concerned about high-risk drinking, drug use, and violent behavior, which compromise student health, safety, and academic success. This includes both on-campus and off-campus behavior that can have an adverse impact on the university community and its mission.
Can my student wait until the court case has been decided?
No. The university conduct system will proceed in as timely a manner as possible, even when a student is also involved in a criminal or civil case related to the incident for which he or she is facing university action. Although students may choose to not to answer questions, a violation of university conduct regulations may nevertheless be determined based upon the other information presented. In serious cases that may result in suspension, a student can elect to wait until the criminal case is resolved, but he/she cannot be enrolled as a USC student in the interim. Furthermore, a decision by the student to withhold participation in the university conduct process may not later be used to appeal the decision of the hearing officer/committee.
Does my student need a lawyer for his or her conduct hearing?
No. Since this is not a criminal proceeding, lawyers are not necessary. Since this is an educational process we expect students to speak on their own behalf during a conduct hearing. Both referral agents and charged students, however, may elect to have a single advisor accompany them to the hearing. Advisors are a student's choice and can be faculty/staff members, peers, parents, or lawyers. The role of the advisor is limited to conferring with their student. Advisors may be present at the hearing, but may not participate in the proceedings. The advisor's role is specifically limited to conferring with her or his advisee. Advisors are not permitted to speak on behalf of the student or question any potential witnesses. If you need to request a break in the hearing so that you can confer with your student privately, you may do so.
Can I be in a conduct hearing with my student?
We expect students to speak on their own behalf during a conduct hearing. Parents are permitted to serve as advisors in a conduct hearing with the permission of the student. Advisors may be present at the hearing, but may not participate in the proceedings. The advisor's role is specifically limited to conferring with her or his advisee.
Will we, as parents, find out?
In most cases, no. For many years, student disciplinary records were considered confidential under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974. This legislation, better known as the Buckley Amendment, sealed disciplinary conduct and other types of student records and limited access to the student and those other individuals at the university with a legitimate and compelling need to know. Students with conduct records must sign a consent form before this information can be released to other individuals.
However, under the recent amendments to FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974), parents of students under age 21 can be informed if their son or daughter is found responsible for a violation of the alcohol or drug policies. Parents of students under age 21 will be notified in writing if their son or daughter is found responsible for a violation of the alcohol or drug policies. Notification takes place via letter after the case is decided.
It is recommended that students inform their parents of all incidents that result in sanctions. Keeping this type of information from parents can make matters worse if additional violations occur. Records on violations involving student organizations are not confidential and may be released. A student will always be provided copies of the decision letter via e-mail, which can be electronically shared with parents. When they speak with you, it's encouraged that you ask them to send you copies of the information they've been provided.
I called the Office of Student Conduct and was told I need a waiver to talk about my student's disciplinary record. I pay his tuition, why can't I know?
We believe that students are adults and that if we set our expectations high, most students can and will live up to these standards. Some students make a minor slip-up, and the educational focus of the conduct system allows for that, as long as they are willing to learn from their mistakes. While we encourage open communication between students and their families, we are also guided by federal regulations (see Parental Notification Policy) that limit access to student records. In most instances a waiver must be obtained in our office and signed by the student to allow release of records or discussion of incidents, even with parents.
What is the agenda for a conduct hearing?
Please refer to Hearing Information to get detailed information regarding the hearing process.
What burden of proof is used during a conduct hearing?
Preponderance of the evidence is the standard of proof used in conduct hearings. For a student to be found responsible for a violation, the evidence must indicate that it is more likely than not that the violation occurred. This is different from the criminal court system.
Who is the hearing officer/conduct administrator?
The hearing officer is a trained staff member from the Division of Student Affairs and Academic Support, usually from the Office of Student Conduct or University Housing. These individuals are specially trained in student conduct practice and have a good working knowledge of university policy and current case precedent.
Who are the student conduct committee members?
The Carolina Judicial Council (CJC) consists of students, faculty, and staff members (CJC hearings consist of 3 student and 2 faculty/staff members). Undergraduate and graduate student members apply and are selected by the current Council. Each has undergone over a semester of training. Faculty and staff are appointed through the committee system via the president’s office. If the student feels that a CJC member cannot be fair and impartial in his/her case, the student can bring the reason why to the attention to the hearing chair at the beginning of the hearing for a final decision.
What kind of sanction is my student going to receive if he or she is found responsible?
A complete list of sanctions appears in the Student Code of Conduct found in the Carolina Community (STAF 6.26) Sanctions will follow current case precedent, but individual circumstances are taken into account. Sanctions are designed to alter behavior and to make statements about the university's expectations for student conduct. Even sanctions such as suspension are intended to help students learn from their actions and understand how unacceptable behaviors impact others. Some first-offense violations of university policy may result in suspension or dismissal from the university.
Who has access to my student's conduct record?
A student's disciplinary conduct file is kept for internal record-keeping purposes and to provide some insight into a student's past behavior if additional problems arise. Past decisions that resulted in a finding of responsibility will be considered in subsequent hearings when sanctions are determined. These records are released to no one other than university officials who have a legitimate need to know and others as permitted by law. Students with conduct records must sign a consent form before this information can be released to other individuals. (See Parental Notification Policy.)
Will a disciplinary record keep my student from getting into medical school, graduate school, etc.?
A disciplinary record does not automatically exclude a student from further study, jobs, etc. It does depend on the type or severity of misconduct in which a student is involved. A disciplinary record may lead an admissions office to more closely scrutinize the student's application. Again, we will only release information about a student's disciplinary record as permitted by federal law (see above). If the student authorizes a release of their record, it will be provided to whomever they request. Case records are expunged seven years following the date of resolution.
How can my student make a referral regarding another student?
To make a referral, a student can simply click the link “Incident Report” on this site’s homepage and type into the form a statement of the alleged incident. Students should be sure to include the name of the student they are referring (or as much of the name as they know and any other identifying information) on the referral. A referral should be made as quickly after the alleged incident as possible.
Where are the rules?
The Student Code of Conduct is part of the Carolina Community Student Handbook. For more information, call the Office of Student Conduct (803)777-4333, and we will be happy to answer all questions.
Adapted gratefully from Virginia Polytechnic Institution and State University’s Office of Student Conduct.