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A. Tips for Accused Student in a Disciplinary Hearing

This information was developed to help you prepare for a disciplinary hearing. It is meant to supplement the Code of Conduct in the Student Handbook, which details the judicial process you will go through. You should read the section thoroughly as well as follow these tips when preparing to appear. Questions about the process should be referred to staff in the Office of Student Conduct.

You have been charged with a violation of the Ramapo College Code of Conduct. Although you have been charged with a violation, you are presumed “not responsible” until proven “responsible.” It is the responsibility of the complainant to present and “prove” the case against you. The standard of proof that a Hearing Officer/Disciplinary Board will use to reach a decision will be the preponderance of the evidence, whether it IS MORE LIKELY THAN NOT that the violation occurred.

As you prepare for the disciplinary hearing, you should keep in mind the following pointers:

  1. Tell the truth. Failure to tell the truth is itself a serious charge and can result in further disciplinary action even if you are found not in violation for the charge against you.
  2. You will be allowed to submit documents or statements for use at the hearing. They must be submitted to the Office of Student Conduct prior to the hearing so that copies can be made and distributed to the appropriate persons. Statements should be submitted, signed, dated, and typed or clearly written in ink. Statements should be recollections of the incident and answer who, what, where, when, and why questions. Only individuals who have first-hand knowledge of the incident should submit them. These individuals may also be called as witnesses at the hearing. Written statements will generally be requested during the investigation and should be turned into the Office of Student Conduct. Character witnesses will not be permitted to appear as they are not needed and have little, if any, relevance to the charges against you.
  3. You are entitled to review the submitted written statements and incident reports that will be used by the complainant in the case. Please contact the Office of Student Conduct at 201-684-7869 to set up an appointment to view the file. You may not duplicate these materials. Read the materials carefully and think of any questions you will want to ask at the hearing. Write the questions down in advance. When reviewing these documents, look for missing information, gaps in time that are not explained well or fully, and misinformation or inconsistencies among statements. This approach will probably be used by the complainant in preparing the case against you.
  4. You are permitted to have an advisor present for the hearing. The advisor in a disciplinary hearing may be anyone of your choosing (including an attorney.) The advisor is not permitted to speak during the hearing. The advisor may confer and speak privately to you. The advisor may not be included in the list of witnesses. S/he may only function in the capacity of an advisor. The advisor can assist you with the following:
    1. Reviewing the charge(s) and the student conduct process
    2. Preparing the Presentation of the case
    3. Thinking of questions to ask the witness(es) called to testify at the hearing
    4. Taking notes during the hearing
    5. Suggesting additional questions to ask witnesses and the other party based on their testimony
    6. Helping keep you calm and in control
    7. Providing you with moral support during the hearing
  5. Your presentation of the case and closing statements are important. If you engaged in prohibited conduct, you may say this up front then speak to mitigating factors surrounding the incident that the person(s) writing the reports may not have been aware of. If you are not responsible for the charge, you should also state this up front and be prepared to show why the complainant is wrong in bringing the charge against you. If you prefer not to read a prepared statement, you may want to prepare an outline to ensure that you do not forget any major points. Your closing statement is always presented last and will allow you to summarize the findings of the case from your perspective.
  6. During the hearing the complainant and the Hearing Officer/Disciplinary Board may ask you questions. Answer only the questions asked of you and do so in a clear, concise and direct manner. Do not be evasive.
  7. When you question parties at the hearing you may ask “open” or “closed” questions. A “closed” question can usually be answered with a one-word response. Asking an open ended question will draw out more information. Ask concise, specific questions to the other parties at the hearing. Seek general information first; then move to more specific questions. Do not badger others while questioning.
  8. Eye contact should be made with the Hearing Officer/Disciplinary Board when they address you. They are not the enemy! They are there to do three things: hear the information, formulate an opinion regarding whether it is more likely than not that you engaged in prohibited conduct and if so, impose a sanction. Do not allow yourself to become defensive or argumentative with the Hearing Officer/Disciplinary Board.
  9. You may appeal certain sanctions. The appeal process is explained in the Student Handbook. Your advisor may be helpful in formulating your appeal letter if you choose to appeal the decision.
  10. Do not hesitate to consult with the Director of Office of Student Conduct if you have any questions on how to prepare for the hearing or an appeal. In general, you should take the process seriously and prepare carefully.

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B. Tips for the Complainant in a Disciplinary Hearing

This information was developed to help you prepare for a disciplinary hearing. It is meant to supplement the Code of Conduct in the Student Handbook, which details the judicial process you will go through. You should read the section thoroughly as well as follow these tips when preparing to appear. Questions about the process should be referred to staff in the Office of Student Conduct.

Preparation

  1. Read all witness and incident reports
  2. Prepare a short outline that identifies key players. Identify which individuals will be needed to testify at the hearing.
    1. Identify sequence of events
    2. Identify special circumstances associated with the incident (i.e., alcohol or other drug use, harassing or provoking speech or actions).
    3. Be sure to have a clear understanding of the specific rule, regulation or standard of conduct the accused student has allegedly violated as stated in the Student Handbook.
  3. Clarify discrepancies in and between statements.
  4. Anticipate questions the Hearing Officer/Disciplinary Board and the accused may ask.
  5. Identify questions you will want to ask of the accused and the witness(es).
  6. Upon request you will be provided an opportunity to view the file for the case. Please contact the Office of Student Conduct at 201-684-7869 to set up an appointment to view the file.

College Disciplinary Review Board Process

Please review the Student Handbook, Section L. “Disciplinary Board Hearing Format.” The hearing can be divided into four segments.

  1. Presentation of case – Complainant then Accused
  2. Questioning of the Parties
  3. Questioning of the Witnesses
  4. Closing statement – Accused then Complainant

Presentation of case

Prepare and write out an outline for the presentation of your case. The presentation should begin with a brief and sharp statement of what you will show. The rest of the presentation is a narrative about the incident and the key facts.

Questioning

When responding to questions, avoid providing unnecessary information. Short, direct responses are preferred by the Disciplinary Board. Do not make personal comments about the accused student. Ask questions of the accused and witnesses that will highlight discrepancies in testimony.

Closing Statement

State what you have shown throughout the hearing. Point out any discrepancies you have discovered during the hearing. Explain the impact of the incident on the complainant and the College Community. Suggest to the Disciplinary Board how sanctioning the accused student will protect the interests of the complainant and the College Community.

Reminders

  1. The use of alcohol or other drugs may not be used as a defense.
  2. In cases of sexual violence, the alleged victim’s past sexual history may not be revealed unless said activity was with the accused and can be shown to be relevant to the case at hand.
  3. The hearing and all materials associated with it (incident reports, statements, etc.) are to be considered confidential. You may not discuss this case with anyone, including any member of the Disciplinary Board following the hearing except the Director or Assistant Director of Student Conduct.
  4. Character witnesses are not permitted in the hearing since they have little if any relevance to the charges.

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C. Tips for the Witness in a Discipline Hearing

You have been called as a witness in a disciplinary hearing before a Hearing Officer or Disciplinary Board. This is not a court of law, but rather a part of our student discipline system for addressing complaints about student behavior. The fact that allegations have been made and are taken seriously does not mean that they are true.

The role of a witness is not that of an advocate or helper for one side; a witness’s obligation is simply to tell the truth. You have been asked to be a witness because you know something about the incident or about matters directly related to the incident in question. You are asked to share that information at the hearing.

The parties involved and the Hearing Officer/Disciplinary Board may ask you questions. You are asked to give truthful, thoughtful answers. You will be given ample opportunity to tell what you know about the case. Upon entering the hearing you will be sworn in and then asked to testify. When the Hearing Officer/Disciplinary Board excuses you, you may leave. As student judicial records are confidential, you are not to discuss the case outside the hearing unless authorized to do so by the Office of Student Conduct.

If you anticipate a scheduling conflict notify the Office of Student Conduct. You are advised to consult the Student Handbook and familiarize yourself with the student conduct system and the Code of Conduct. Questions about the process should be referred to staff in the Office of Student Conduct.

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D. Tips for the Advisor of a Student in a Disciplinary Hearing

This information was developed to help you prepare to serve in your role as ADVISOR for a student in a disciplinary hearing. It is meant to supplement the Code of Conduct in the Student Handbook, which details the student judicial process. You should read the section thoroughly as well as follow these tips when preparing for the hearing. Both accused and complainant students have access to similar “Tips” documents to assist in preparing for the hearing. Questions about the process should be referred to staff in the Office of Student Conduct.

The advisor in a disciplinary hearing may be anyone of the student’s choosing (including an attorney.) The advisor is not permitted to speak during the hearing. The advisor may confer and speak privately to the advisee. The advisor may not be included in the list of witnesses. S/he may only function in the capacity of an advisor. The advisor should assist the advisee with the following:

  1. Review and understand the charge(s) and the student conduct process
  2. Prepare the Presentation of the case
  3. Think of questions to ask the witness(es) called to testify at the hearing
  4. Take notes during the hearing
  5. Suggest additional questions to ask witnesses and the other party based on their testimony
  6. Help keep the advisee calm and in control
  7. Provide moral support to the advisee during the hearing

The advisor’s assistance may also be needed in preparing a letter of appeal (if advisee is the accused student), should the student choose to appeal the decision.

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E. Justifiable Excuses for “Charged” Students not to Appear at Disciplinary Board Hearing or Disciplinary Hearing

  1. Serious illness or hospitalization. Physician’s letter required within five business days attesting to inability of charged student to be present for reasons of illness or injury.
  2. Death of member of immediate family of charged student or in domicile with family. Copy of death notice in newspaper or death certificate required.
  3. Serious physical emergency at student’s permanent home (i.e., fire, flood, etc.). Local Police Department verification in writing required.
  4. Charged student under arrest and incarcerated. Written court or police verification required.
  5. Charged student involved in unavoidable transportation delay. Must be documented in writing by police in locale where delay took place.
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F. Conduct Charges Flowchart

This information was developed to help educate you about the judicial process. It is meant to supplement the Code of Conduct in the Student Handbook, which details the student conduct process.

Student Conduct Flowchart (PDF)