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B.2.d. Student Conduct Process


TABLE OF CONTENTS

I. Introduction to Middlebury Student Discipline Processes

a. Overview

II. Preliminary Issues

a. Applicability of These Procedures

b. Administrative resolution

c. No Contact Orders

d. Legal Proceedings and Legal Counsel

e. Cooperation and Honesty

f. Principles of Fundamental Fairness

III. Charges and Evidence

IV. Restorative Resolutions

V. Dean’s Dispositions

VI. The Judicial Board

a. Composition

b. Hearing Procedures

VII. Sanctions

VIII. Appeals

 


I. Introduction to Middlebury Student Discipline Processes

a. Overview

Middlebury strives to balance individual growth with community health and growth, through our shared Community Standards, Middlebury-Wide Policies, General Conduct Standards for students, and the student discipline procedures that enforce general conduct expectations. Our discipline processes are intended to be educational, first and foremost. Where other Middlebury policies specify separate procedures, those procedures will apply.

The Office of Community Standards and the Judicial Board’s enforcement of Middlebury policies is under the oversight of the Vice-President for Student Affairs and the Dean of Students.  The VPSA/DOS is responsible for consulting with the Vice-President of Academic Affairs/Dean of the Faculty in regards to academic honesty and integrity, and other student conduct expectations.  The VPSA/DOS is responsible for establishing appropriate investigation, adjudication, and appeal procedures for the Judicial Board.  These procedures are published in the Middlebury Handbook.  Suggested revisions may be submitted to the Office of Community Standards, and/or the VPSA at any time, although revisions are ordinarily implemented during the summer.  The Office of Community Standards will make available to the faculty a report about Judicial Board matters in the aggregate, without personally identifiable information, on an annual basis.

Concerns about student behavior should be shared with the Office of Community Standards as a starting point, although the Office may refer specific behaviors to other processes, for example the TIX Sexual Harassment Investigations & Resolutions Procedure.   The Office of Community Standards administers the disciplinary procedures for both academic conduct, and student life conduct.  Concerns about academic integrity as well as non-academic student behavior should first directed to the Office of Community Standards, unless they involve discrimination, in which case they should be directed first to the Civil Rights/Title IX Coordinator. 

Conduct matters may be resolved in several ways.  Restorative justice may be available for both academic and non-academic issues.  Conduct issues where the relevant facts are not in dispute will ordinarily be resolved by the assignment of a sanction from the Office of Community Standards.  If a student is assigned a sanction of official college discipline, they may appeal that sanction to the appropriate Vice-President or Dean.  For conduct issues where the facts are disputed, a hearing will be held before the Judicial Board.  The Board will determine the facts and make a recommendation regarding sanction to the Office of Community Standards.  Procedures for Judicial Board hearings are outlined below.

II. Preliminary Issues

a. Applicability of These Procedures

As described in Section B.2.a.iii, Scope of Oversight, students will be held accountable for policy violations that take place between the time they first arrive on campus to begin their Middlebury program and their graduation, or the College's confirmation of their withdrawal or resignation.  As described in Section B.2.a.iv, Pending Discipline, a student respondent will not be permitted to graduate from or otherwise be deemed to have officially completed a Middlebury program in which they are enrolled while a disciplinary matter is pending.

b. Administrative resolution

In certain circumstances, the Office of Community Standards (or the Vice President for Student Affairs/DOS) has discretion to charge an appropriate Middlebury Vice President/Dean, such as the Vice President for Academic Affairs/Dean of the Faculty, to adjudicate a matter. Such circumstances may include adjudicating a matter with compelling privacy interests, such as a case of sexual exploitation, or an alleged violation of an active NCO after the conclusion of an SMDVS investigation, or adjudicating an alleged academic conduct violation during the summer when there are compelling circumstances, etc. While the adjudication process will be tailored to the particular circumstances of the matter, it will adhere to the principle of fundamental fairness for the parties involved. In these cases, the Office of Community Standards or Vice President for Student Affairs may also adjust the sanctioning and appellate authority as necessary.

c. No Contact Orders

When a verbal or physical altercation, sexual misconduct, stalking, harassment, discrimination, retaliation, or hazing has been alleged, or when otherwise deemed appropriate under the circumstances, the VPSA, dean of students, deans, Human Relations Officers, Civil Rights/Title IX coordinator, and members of the Public Safety staff have the authority to issue No Contact Orders to the persons involved, whether or not disciplinary action is taken. A No Contact Order is used to restrict encounters between individuals. While a No Contact Order is not a disciplinary sanction, and will not appear on a student’s disciplinary record, refusal to adhere to the order after written or verbal notification of its terms is prohibited and may result in disciplinary action.

d. Legal Proceedings and Legal Counsel

Middlebury College disciplinary action is distinct from and not dependent upon the outcome of any legal proceedings involving a student, although conduct that forms the basis for legal proceedings may also warrant disciplinary action by Middlebury, and conviction of a crime may in itself justify disciplinary action.

Individual students may pursue criminal or civil legal action, or be required to respond to it.  While students are enrolled in any Middlebury program, they must inform Middlebury if they are charged with a felony by state or federal authorities. Failure to do so may itself result in disciplinary action.

Middlebury endeavors to provide general supports to students involved in personal legal proceedings but has no role to play in such actions, and may not interfere in them.   Middlebury officials and other students may, like all persons, be compelled to give testimony or evidence if subject to the subpoena power of a court.

e. Cooperation and Honesty

Consistent with Middlebury’s core requirement of honesty and cooperation, students are expected to cooperate in all disciplinary proceedings, be honest and straightforward in their participation, and provide accurate information.  The provision of false or misleading information to the Office of Community Standards or the Judicial Board may itself be grounds for disciplinary action.  Deliberate violations of this provision are considered serious offenses.

f. Principles of Fundamental Fairness

Middlebury’s discipline procedures are driven by our commitment to fundamental fairness.  Among the considerations weighed by the Vice President for Student Affairs in establishing these procedures are: (1) ensuring that Middlebury’s conduct expectations are reasonable, (2) ensuring that students have reasonable notice (they know or should have known) about the conduct expectations, (3) providing that disciplinary procedures are carried out by individuals who are properly trained and authorized to act, (4) utilizing procedures that result in outcomes based on meaningful evidence, and (5) ensuring that students have notice of the charges against them, as well as an opportunity to present evidence, and (6) providing for appeals in processes that result in a sanction of official College discipline. 

Colleges are not courts of law, and Middlebury’s disciplinary proceedings have as their fundamental goal education, rather than criminal punishment or compensation.  Middlebury does not have the power to subpoena evidence or place witnesses under oath, and procedures are therefore necessarily different from a civil or criminal legal proceeding. However, the procedures outlined below and in the TIX Sexual Harassment Investigations and Resolutions Procedure, as well as the Non-Discrimination Investigations and Resolutions Procedure, are designed to provide fundamental fairness and to protect students from arbitrary or capricious disciplinary action. All disciplinary authorities of Middlebury, including judicial board members, deans and Human Relations Officers conduct their proceedings in the spirit of these principles. If exceptional circumstances dictate variation from these procedures, the variation will not invalidate a decision unless it prevented fundamental fairness.

III. Charges and Evidence

a. Concerns regarding student behavior may be brought to the Office of Community Standards by any individual, whether or not they are a member of the Middlebury College community.

b. A faculty member who believes a student has engaged in academic dishonesty shall submit a written statement of the facts supporting the charge to the Office of Community Standards. The faculty member's statement will serve as the formal presentation of charges to the Judicial Board, and therefore should be sufficiently detailed to enable all parties to respond and prepare for the hearing, if necessary.

c. The Office of Community Standards may conduct an initial inquiry into the concern to determine whether or not to bring charges against a student. This inquiry may include gathering evidence, including statements from witnesses and documentary evidence, as well as other steps to understand the issue. 

d. The Office of Community Standards may have an investigative report prepared, for example by the Department of Public Safety, ITS, or other individual, as appropriate.

e. The Office of Community Standards will ordinarily notify the student with a written statement of the charges being considered, and explain how the student may provide information for consideration.

f. Formal or legal rules of evidence do not apply in Middlebury disciplinary proceedings.  The Office of Community Standards is responsible for administering procedures to ensure they are based on meaningful evidence.  If a hearing occurs, the chair will make decisions on evidentiary or procedural questions that must be resolved during the hearing.  The majority of the Board may override the chair’s decision, if they disagree. 

IV. Restorative Resolutions

a. If a student accepts responsibility for violating academic or non-academic policy, a Restorative Justice Panel (RJP) may be called to explore and identify the harm to individuals and/or community, and work with the responsible party to design an action plan and outcomes to repair harm caused.

b. For academic policy violations, the faculty member must be a willing participant in the restorative process and agree to the action plan/outcomes. If the faculty member is unwilling to participate, students may choose to engage the Dean’s Disposition process.

c. For non-academic policy violations, harmed parties are welcome participants in a Restorative Justice Panel, but they are not required to attend, as board members can represent the perspective of the community.

d. All action plans must be approved by the Office of Community Standards. Students participating in a Restorative Justice Panel are required to complete the action plan within the agreed-upon timeline or they will be referred back to the Office for Community Standards for sanctioning.

e. Restorative Panels will be comprised by one faculty, one staff, and two student members of the current Judicial Board.

V. Dean’s Dispositions

a. After written notice of the concern or charges against them, and the student’s opportunity to provide evidence, the Office of Community Standards will determine whether there are disputed facts at issue. 

b. At any time, a student respondent may notify the Office of Community Standards that they do not contest the charges and the Office may issue a sanction appropriate to the violation.

c. Where there are no disputed facts at issue, the Office of Community Standards will issue a sanction appropriate to the violation. 

d. If the student objects to a sanction other than official College discipline, they may submit a statement of their objection within three days to both the Associate Dean and the Dean of Students. The Dean of Students and the Associate Dean shall discuss the sanction and the student’s objection, and provide a written explanation of a decision to retain or adjust the sanction if appropriate.

e. If the sanction is a form of official College discipline for academic misconduct, the respondent may appeal the determination of responsibility to the VPAA/Dean of Faculty, as described below.

f. If the sanction is a form of official College discipline for non-academic misconduct, the respondent may appeal the determination of responsibility to the VPSA or Dean of Students, as described below. 

VI. The Judicial Board

a. Composition

i. The Judicial Board is comprised of students, faculty and staff, specifically: (1) a member of the faculty or academic administration appointed by the president of Middlebury, (2) two faculty members, (3) four students, (4) a dean of student life, and (5) a staff member.  There will be two student alternates, one faculty alternate, and one staff alternate.  Alternates will only substitute for absent members of their own constituency.  Either the presidential appointee or a dean of student life shall serve as the chair of the Judicial Board.

  1. Faculty Council appoints the faculty members.
  2. Community Council appoints student members recommended by the selection committee. First-year students may not serve on the Judicial Board, however,  Febs are eligible to apply for the fall semester after their arrival on campus.  A student charged with a serious conduct infraction during their term of service may be required to step down from the Judicial Board, upon the request of the Office of Community Standards or a majority of the Judicial Board. 
  3. Staff members are recommended by Staff Council and appointed by the President.
  4. After the Judicial Board is constituted, it will elect from its members a student co-chair.  At least one co-chair must be present to convene a hearing.

ii. Selection Committee:  The Office of Community Standards will convene a selection committee each spring, including one Community Council student member, one Community Council staff or faculty member, one non-returning student member of the Judicial Board, and one staff or faculty member of the Judicial Board. This selection committee will be responsible for advertising the availability of student positions on the Judicial Board; interviewing applicants; and submitting a slate of student members for the board to the Community Council for ratification. Whenever possible, at least one student member of the Judicial Board will have at least one year of prior experience. A student found guilty of a serious infraction of Middlebury rules by any Middlebury authority will be eligible for membership only after review by the selection committee in consultation with the Dean of Students/Office of Community Standards.

iii. If the case involves a technical matter that falls outside the expertise of the members of the Judicial Board, the Office of Community Standards may invite an appropriate faculty and/or student adviser (without voting privileges) to assist the body during a hearing or deliberations.

iv. Quorum:  Seven members of the Board shall constitute a quorum, of whom at least three must be students.   A finding of responsibility for a policy violation will result where no more than two Board members vote against a finding of responsibility.

v. Disqualification:   Any member of the Judicial Board who has a conflict of interest in a particular proceeding is disqualified from sitting on that case. If a member of the Board is disqualified, normally an alternate member from the same constituency will be selected to participate. If all of the deans of student life are disqualified from sitting on the Judicial Board in a particular proceeding, the VPSA/DOS will appoint a member of the administration to fulfill the duties of the representative from the Office of the Dean of Students/VPSA. If the faculty or administrative co-chair is disqualified from sitting on the Board in a particular proceeding, the VPSA/DOS will appoint a member of the academic administration to perform the duties of the administrative co-chair in that case.

b. Hearing Procedures

i. The Office of Community Standards administers hearings, including but not limited to assisting in scheduling, identifying and approving witnesses, providing required notice to parties, witnesses and Board members, identifying and preparing materials to be reviewed by the Board, and offering access to those materials to the parties.  Staff of the Office must be present during deliberations of the Board and may provide procedural advice to the Board, to ensure consistency and equity.  Staff of the Office serve as secretary to the Board, to formally record factual findings and recommendations of the Board regarding sanction.  Hearings and all Board deliberations are confidential. 

ii. The burden of proof rests on Middlebury to establish by a preponderance of the evidence that the charged conduct occurred.

iii. Accused students will be provided with access to the charge statement, if applicable, and all related materials that will be shared with the Board, in advance of a hearing.

iv. Normally, a hearing will be scheduled at least one week after the charge statement has been provided to the student. (Shorter deadlines may apply in cases involving seniors at the end of their final term, or with the agreement of the accused student(s).)  Participants will be notified of the date, time and location of the hearing at least two business days before the hearing. 

v. The responding student will be notified in advance of the identity of any complainant as well as any witnesses who will attend the hearing.

vi. All written evidence intended to be introduced at the hearing must be provided to the chair of the board prior to the commencement of the hearing. The chair reserves the right not to consider written evidence not provided in advance.

vii. In academic honesty cases, the faculty member initiating charges shall participate in the hearing to explain the charges and to ask and answer questions.

viii. Attendance:  The respondent, complainant, and all required witnesses are expected to be present at the time and place of the scheduled hearing.  Normally, participation in or attendance at judicial hearings shall be limited to students and employees of Middlebury, unless another person can offer directly relevant testimony, which must be approved by the Office of Community Standards. Failure to appear at a scheduled hearing after proper notice may subject a student to disciplinary penalties up to and including suspension. Judicial proceedings take precedence over academic and nonacademic activities, and students shall be excused from other obligations to participate in the proceedings. Should a respondent who has been properly charged and notified of a scheduled hearing fail to appear, the hearing may proceed and sanctions may be imposed as if the respondent were present.

ix. Hearings will be recorded, which recording is the property of Middlebury.  In the event of an appeal, the recording will be made available to the respondent and the appellate authority. The respondent must return copies of the recording after filing their appeal; recordings may not be used for any other purposes.  Recordings will be retained for an appropriate period of time and then destroyed.

x. Individuals participating in the hearing as a complainant (including a faculty or staff member) and the student-respondent may each be accompanied by an adviser of his or her choosing from the Middlebury community. This person may be consulted by the respondent during the hearing, but, unless specifically invited by one of the co-chairs, may not otherwise participate in the proceedings. Prior to the commencement of the hearing, each student shall provide the chair with the names of persons serving as their support person. The names will be shared with the respondent and complainant.

xi. The respondent has the right to be present throughout the hearing and to hear adverse testimony. In no case should the Board consider evidence against a student unless the source, author, and content of any statement or other evidence has been identified to the student, and the student has been given the opportunity to rebut the statement or respond to the evidence.

xii. Immediately after a hearing, the Board will deliberate and make determinations of the facts, based on the preponderance of the evidence under consideration at the hearing.  After the facts have been determined, the Judicial Board will make a recommendation to the Office of Community Standards on whether or not the respondent should be found responsible, or not responsible for a policy violation. 

xiii. After a finding of responsibility, the Office of Community Standards may share a written character reference relating to the respondent with the Judicial Board, for their consideration in connection with their recommendation for a sanction.

xiv. If a hearing results in a finding of not responsible, there will be no record of the charges or the hearing in the student’s permanent file.

xv. The Office of Community Standards will ordinarily give written notification of the determination of the Board, and the sanction assigned by the Office, to the student charged.  Failure to meet this guideline does not invalidate a decision or form a basis for appeal.

VII. Sanctions

Middlebury College’s sanctions are generally described in Section B. 2. e. of the Handbook and the information below is specific to conduct matters addressed under this process. 

a. After the Board makes the factual findings and if it makes a finding of responsibility, the respondent student is notified by letter.  The student may submit a sanctioning statement, which may include information about significant mitigating circumstances, to the Office of Community Standards, within 24 hours of receiving the outcome letter. 

b. Sanctioning Philosophy: When assigning a sanction, mitigating factors such as apparent motivation of behavior or a student’s response to the process may be considered. Additionally, since conduct is cumulative at Middlebury, disciplinary history may be a factor in sanctioning. To the extent possible, sanctions will balance the principles of consistency and equity.

c. Sanctions are ordinarily issued by the Office of Community Standards.  However, Middlebury officials including the VPSA, DOS, Deans, and RDs may issue sanctions when they determine that Middlebury student life policies have been violated.  These officials, and the Office of Community Standards, may also issue restrictions on Middlebury privileges, such as housing lottery participation or guest privileges, and assign educational sanctions such as research or reparative community service, as appropriate.  Students may appeal the issuance of official College discipline by Deans and RDs; they may not appeal unofficial sanctions, such as warnings, reprimands and probationary status.

d. Plagiarism, cheating, or any other violation of the Undergraduate Honor System is normally punishable by suspension. In 1997, the faculty reaffirmed its commitment to suspension as the normal outcome for violations of the standards of academic integrity. Students found guilty of academic dishonesty will normally fail the course in which the offense occurred.  On rare occasions, if compelling reasons exist for not suspending a student found guilty of academic dishonesty, the sanctioning authority may issue no less than a reprimand and invoke either of the following penalties: a 0 or an F on the piece of work, or a 0 or an F in the course.

VIII. Appeals

a. Appeals are reviewed by Middlebury authorities who did not participate in the initial determination, and are trained to be impartial and free from a conflict of interest.

b. Appeals are permitted on the following bases only:

i. Discovery of significant new factual evidence not available to the initial decision-maker (does not include omission by the respondent of information or testimony)

ii. A procedural error or violation that prevented fundamental fairness.  A determination that a procedural error or violation occurred and prevented fundamental fairness may result in a new determination using the correct procedures but a procedural error is not a factor in reducing a sanction when the appeal upholds the finding of responsibility for violating a policy. 

c. Appeal submissions that do not satisfy at least one of these bases will be denied without further process, either by the Office of Community Standards or the appeal authority.

d. A sanction of suspension or expulsion is ordinarily stayed pending the outcome of any appeal authorized by the Handbook. However, in circumstances that satisfy the Emergency Removals provision in Middlebury-Wide Policies, suspension or expulsion will take effect immediately regardless of the pendency of an appeal.

e. Appeals from Dean’s Dispositions and Judicial Board hearing procedures:

i. If the sanction is a form of official College discipline for academic misconduct, the respondent may appeal the determination of responsibility to the VPAA/Dean of Faculty by submitting a written appeal within five business days of being notified of the determination and sanction

ii. If the sanction is a form of official College discipline for non-academic misconduct, the respondent may appeal the determination of responsibility by submitting a written appeal within five business days to the VPSA or Dean of Students. 

iii. Appeals to the VPAA/DOF and the VPSA will follow the same process:

1. The VPAA/DOF or the VPSA may grant extensions of time for the respondent to appeal, upon request. 
2. The VPAA/DOF or the VPSA will provide a copy of the written appeal to the Office of Community Standards, and the Office will provide access to the records of the case to the VPAA/DOF or VPSA.
3. The VPAA/DOF or the VPSA may consult with the Office of Community Standards and any other relevant individual regarding the appeal, as appropriate. 
4. The VPAA/DOF or the VPSA will consider whether the appeal demonstrates by a preponderance of the evidence one of the bases for further action, and may require re-consideration by the initial decision-maker, re-convening the original Judicial Board, convening a new Judicial Board, to re-hear the entire matter or only a limited portion, or may require re-deliberation on the sanction. 
5. The VPAA/DOF or the VPSA will ordinarily notify the student of their decision within seven business days of the receipt of the records of the initial determination, but this time may be extended if compelling circumstances warrant, and variation from this shall not invalidate a decision.
6. If reconsideration of some kind is required, the Office of Community Standards will take the appropriate steps to implement the decision of the VPAA/DOF or the VPSA, as necessary.
7. Decisions of the VPAA/DOF and the VPSA, or reconsideration of the initial determination by the Dean or the Board after a successful appeal are final, and not subject to further appeal, absent extraordinary circumstances.

 Adopted as a provisional policy on Sept. 11, 2020