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Student Conduct & Conflict Resolution

Preparing for Your Disciplinary Hearing

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This page is designed to assist individuals participating in a disciplinary hearing. After reading this, you are strongly urged to make an appointment with the director or assistant director of Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution Services prior to your hearing. That meeting will allow you to ask questions, obtain clarification if needed, and see the hearing room. Below is information on preparing for a disciplinary hearing. Whether you are a complainant or a respondent, being involved in a disciplinary hearing is a situation that requires careful thought and preparation. Advance preparation for a hearing is time well spent, since the hearing panel members will best be able to understand your position, arguments, and evidence if you can clearly articulate your case.

How to Prepare for a Disciplinary Hearing

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Asking Questions in a Disciplinary Hearing

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Preparing Witnesses for a Disciplinary Hearing

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Preparing for Your Disciplinary Hearing continued

Complainant: Your task is to provide a preponderance of evidence (through testimony, witnesses, physical evidence, etc.). Specifically:

  1. that the incident occurred as you have documented in the Student Conduct Case Referral Form;
  2. that you have identified the person(s) who engaged in the behavior;and
  3. that what happened is a violation of the University's Student Conduct Code.
Remember: the burden of proof rests with you, the complainant.

Respondent: Your task is to respond to the charges. This can be done primarily by responding to what the complainant presents. The burden of proof rests with the complainant. You are not obligated to respond or to answer questions. The hearing panel will make their decision based on available information.

Advisors: The complainant and the respondent each may bring one advisor to the hearing to assist them throughout the case. Your advisor should be thoroughly acquainted with your conduct case (i.e., your testimony, evidence and witnesses). The role of the advisor is strictly limited to consultation. The advisor may observe the proceeding and advise you during the hearing. However, the advisor may not do the following:

  1. represent the parties;
  2. object during the hearings;
  3. address the hearing panel or others present at the hearing;
  4. ask questions of complainants, respondents, witnesses, or hearing panel members;or
  5. be engaged in the hearing in any fashion.

Advisors must be a student, staff, or faculty member at American University. Participation of persons acting as legal counsel is not permitted (exception for Title IX cases, please see Student Conduct Code for details). For more information on the role of an advisor, see the Student Conduct Code.

Witnesses: Both the complainant and the respondent may bring witnesses to the hearing. Witnesses may be either be fact witnesses or character witnesses. Fact witnesses have relevant information to provide about the incident in question. Complainants and respondents may call fact witnesses. Character witnesses attest to the respondent's character. Only respondents may call character witnesses. Character witnesses may only be called during the sanctioning phase of the hearing to provide a statement. Character witnesses are not asked any questions.

Witnesses may be called by the complainant and respondent, provided the witnesses were listed in the complaint form or on the submitted witness list. It is your responsibility to inform your witnesses of all relevant information, such as the Honesty Policy, the time and location of the hearing, etc. If your witness is unable to attend the hearing, he/she may provide a written statement containing his/her testimony, which may be presented on your behalf. Please note that a signature on all Statement Forms must be witnessed by the director of Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution Services or designee (i.e., any Student Conduct staff member, Resident Hall Directors, Assistant Director of Housing and Dining Programs, or Offices with supervisory authority in the Department of Public Safety). A Statement Form is available on our website for this purpose.

Testimony: It is helpful to outline your testimony and write down potential questions you want to ask witnesses. Some people become nervous and may forget what they want to say. With an outline, you are better able to ensure that you cover all the information you want the hearing panel to know. It is helpful to the hearing panel if you relay detailed, concise information to the panel in chronological order, then draw the relation between the alleged action and the related charges from the Student Conduct Code.

Hearing Format: A detailed outline of the hearing procedure is available in the Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution Services office.

Deliberations: After the complainant and respondent have completed their presentations, the hearing panel meets in a closed session to determine whether or not the respondent is responsible as charged, and if so, what would be fair and appropriate sanctions to recommend to the Dean of Students. You may notice that the Hearing Administrator is in the hearing room during the deliberations phase. It is important to know that the Hearing Administrator has no vote in the outcome of the hearing. The Hearing Administrator is responsible for documenting the findings and the rationale for those findings. If deliberations about sanctions occur, the Hearing Administrator will provide information on typical sanctions to the hearing panel. Information about prior findings of responsibility will be provided to the hearing panel members during the discussion on sanctions. The Hearing Administrator documents the findings and sanction recommendations and forwards this paperwork to the Dean of Students.

Examples of Sanctions: Below are examples of sanctions that the hearing panel has recommended in the past. Remember: the hearing panel is not limited to this list and may always recommend alternative sanctions. Complainants and respondents can make statements regarding what sanctions they believe are appropriate. Hearing panels routinely recommend multiple sanctions.

  • Community Restitution Service Hours/Project: Community restitution is work without monetary compensation. The panel may recommend that restitution hours be completed with a specific office on campus or a specific organization off campus. The respondent may have to complete the restitution around a certain issue or project (i.e., a poster project addressing quiet hours).
  • Denial of a privilege: This sanction may include denial of the use of a specific facility (i.e., meeting room, lounge), residence hall living privileges, visiting privileges, parking privileges or denial of Greek rush activities. This sanction may include a student being denied access to campus while on suspension or dismissal. Denial of a privilege may be for any amount of time, including a permanent denial of said privilege. Failure to abide by this sanction will result in new charges being filed against the respondent. (Note: It is customary, but not necessary, for a respondent to be denied residence hall visiting privileges in conjunction with being denied residence hall living privileges).
  • Removal from housing: This sanction requires permanent removal from university housing. Students assigned to removal of housing who need access into the residence halls, are required to obtain prior written permission to enter the building by contacting the Student Conduct office via email at no less than two (2) business days in advance.
  • Restitution for damage/services: Monetary restitution will be required for repair or replacement of damaged property (i.e., broken ceiling tiles, broken furniture, stolen/damaged items). If the dollar amount is known, it will be specified at the hearing. If not, all costs will be specified by Student Conduct at a later date.
  • Research paper: This sanction requires the respondent to undertake a research project, such as a paper or project collecting written resource materials on a given subject. The paper is to be a standard research paper expected of university students. The director of Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution Services, or designee, reviews the finished paper to ensure that the spirit of the sanction has been fulfilled. The panel specifies the topic to be researched, the scope of the task (i.e., 20-page typewritten paper with 15 bibliographic sources), and the date due.
  • Disciplinary probation: This sanction is a status assigned for a designated period of time, during which any other violation of the Code may result in removal from university housing, suspension, or dismissal from the university. Students on disciplinary probation may not hold or run for any elected or appointed positions. Additional conditions appropriate to the violation may be imposed.
  • Workshops: This sanction requires a respondent to attend an educational workshop or program on a related topic such as alcohol and other drugs, sexual harassment, or conflict management. A respondent may be asked to make a presentation and provide handouts on a related issue.
  • Suspension: A suspension is an exclusion from university premises and other privileges or activities as set forth in the suspension notice. This action will be permanently recorded on the student's academic transcript. The length of a suspension is to be specified precisely at the time the action is taken.
  • Dismissal: Dismissal is a permanent termination of student status and exclusion from university premises, privileges, and activities. This action will be permanently recorded on the student's academic transcript. Dismissal is a penalty invoked in cases of serious infraction of rules and regulations, and when circumstances indicate that a student's association with the University should be terminated in the interests of maintaining the standards of behavior and conduct normally expected in a university community.

Appeal Request: If there is a finding of responsibility, the respondent has the right to appeal. The complainant may only appeal in cases where the complainant has the right to know the outcome of the case under the Campus Security Act of 1990. In cases where the complainant is not the victim/survivor of the respondent's actions, the right of appeal applies to the complainant only with the written permission of the person identifying as the victim/survivor. Appeals must be in writing and delivered to the Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution Services office within seven business days (excluding weekends, official University Holidays, and Spring and Winter Breaks) after the notice of the case outcome. There are four grounds for filing an appeal:

  1. new information that significantly alters the findings of fact;
  2. evidence of improper procedure;
  3. findings that are against the weight of the evidence;
  4. insufficient / excessive sanctions.

Neither the complainant nor the respondent makes a personal appearance before the Appellate Board. The complainant and other interested parties may provide a written statement to the Appellate Board. The director of Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution Services will provide in writing of the outcome of the request. If the appellate board finds merit to the request for a review, the case will be forwarded to the vice president of Campus Life. Appeals will be decided based on the report filed by the Hearing Administrator and the hearing panel, including any information obtained during the hearing and contained in the case file, the respondent's written statement, and any written response or memoranda prepared by university officials. All written materials considered by the Appellate Board and vice president of Campus Life will be subject to inspection by the respondent. The respondent may request an opportunity to discuss the written materials in person with the vice president of Campus Life. Decisions rendered by the vice president of Campus Life are final.

Action: If a request for an appeal is not filed within the appeal period, the decision of the hearing panel and the Dean of Students is final and will be implemented. The respondent is required to follow the implementation letter outlining the sanctions and terms for completion of the sanctions.


An academic community exists to promote the pursuit of learning and truth. Honesty is the cornerstone of this pursuit. Furthermore, a disciplinary proceeding requires honesty if it is to be fair and just to all concerned. Therefore, it is the policy of American University's Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution Services office to accept into any investigation, disciplinary record or proceeding only those statements/evidence in which the attesting party has clearly sworn to the truthful nature of the statement in the presence of an authorized University Official or Notary Public. This policy pertains to all statements, written or verbal in nature, issued by complainants, respondents, or witnesses who may have knowledge of incidents or information pertinent to any case on file in the Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution Services office. In the event that any individual knowingly offers false testimony in violation of this policy, that individual may be subject to disciplinary action taken by the University, including but not limited to suspension or dismissal from the University.

Any information disclosed at the proceeding is confidential and shall not be disclosed to parties outside of the hearing. The information disclosed at the hearing is not be discussed, shown, or shared in any way with anyone outside of the membership of the hearing body or the Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution Services office. Discussion will be constrained by institutional and statutory regulations and policies.