University Accountability System Structure

JMU has both a right and an obligation to set reasonable standards of conduct for students who voluntarily and willingly choose to become members of the university community. In conjunction with its right to determine reasonable standards, the university has established a system of procedures for use when university policies are violated. In turn, the university recognizes the need to ensure that students have the right to fair and equitable procedures in the event they are charged with a violation of university policies.

Whereas criminal courts most often seek to punish or deter unlawful behavior, it is generally accepted that conduct proceedings at educational institutions are intended to impress upon individuals their responsibilities and are an extension of the educational process. In the most severe cases that education may require the removal by suspension or expulsion those who should not remain in the university community. The federal courts have called discipline a part of the educational process. The authority and purpose of university conduct systems have been recognized and affirmed by the courts and are authorized by the President of the University. This authority, which JMU exercises in charging and sanctioning students for violations of its policies, differs in many ways from the power exercised by civil authorities in prosecuting cases of general law.

In adopting an accountability system that depends largely on the participation of students, faculty and staff, JMU recognizes that errors in procedures and rulings may occur. Therefore, when appeals of decisions are made on a basis of technical, procedural or interpretive errors, they will be acted upon within the bounds of two principles. First, the accountability process adopted by the university is administrative and not judicial in spirit; considerable latitude must be permitted in order to avoid excessive legalisms. Second, only errors that may reasonably have prejudiced in a significant way the interests of an accused and/or reporting party are to be grounds for reversal; it is not intended that technicalities should avert a decision that is substantially valid. Additionally, the right of appeal will typically be extended to accused students and not to their accusers. However, in cases alleging sexual misconduct, the reporting party is also extended the right to appeal. Other special circumstances may warrant a change in procedures to uphold the intent of the university accountability system. Such changes are at the discretion of the Director of Student Accountability and Restorative Practices or designee.

Scheduled meetings with OSARP Staff, Administrative Case Reviews, Accountability Board Reviews, Sexual Misconduct Case Reviews, Appeal Reviews, or Interim Appeals will be postponed, delayed, or rescheduled when they conflict with days in which the university is closed, including but not limited to university holidays, weekends, or closings due to inclement weather. In most circumstances, the university will not proceed with the Accountability Process or Sexual Misconduct Accountability Process when the Accused Student is not actively enrolled in classes. The decision to proceed or not proceed with the Accountability Process when the Accused Student is not enrolled in classes is at the discretion of the Director of Student Accountability and Restorative Practices or designee and will be based on the severity of the case and the availability and/or preference of relevant persons to the case, including but not limited to the Accused Student, the Reporting Party, Administrative Witnesses, and Office of Student Accountability and Restorative Practices staff members. If the Accused Student is enrolled in classes and relevant persons to the case are available, the Office of Student Accountability and Restorative Practices will generally proceed with the Accountability Process.   Further, when stated throughout the Student Handbook, references to the term “day” indicates a calendar day.

Timelines stated for the submission of documents to be submitted electronically will not be altered for university closures due to inclement weather, university breaks, university holidays, and weekends. When relevant, students will be informed of the date of any deadlines for submission in their cases by a staff member in the Office of Student Accountability and Restorative Practices.


Jurisdiction

Adjudicative jurisdiction for all cases shall be assigned by the Office of Student Accountability and Restorative Practices. Jurisdiction includes any alleged violations occurring on campus, on university leased or controlled properties, on study abroad programs, or reported by JMU Police Officers. Jurisdiction also includes any criminal alcohol, drug, or felony violations that occur off campus in Harrisonburg or Rockingham County. Further, jurisdiction includes but is not limited to felonies, sexual misconduct, or student behavior that is against the mission of the institution regardless of the location in which it occurred. If the Accountability Process for a charge in the Office of Student Accountability and Restorative Practices stems from a concurrent criminal case, and the Accountability Process concludes prior to the resolution of the criminal process, the case in the Office of Student Accountability and Restorative Practices will not be revisited at the conclusion of the criminal process.


Case Files, Records, and Transcript Notations

As a part of the Accountability Process, Sexual Misconduct Accountability Process, and Interim Suspension Process the Office of Student Accountability and Restorative Practices creates case files to be used by Office of Student Accountability and Restorative Practices staff members, University Case Administrators, and/or members of the Accountability Board in the adjudication of the case. These case files may include, but not be limited to, student directory information, information regarding the charges and alleged violation, incident documentation or other statements and/or evidence and information gathered during follow-up conversations, correspondence between the Office of Student Accountability and Restorative Practices and the student, notes and/or audio or video recordings submitted to the case, audio and/or video recording made during Accountability Board Case Reviews, Appeal Reviews Sexual Misconduct Case Reviews, or Sexual Misconduct Appeal Reviews, and record of the decisions made in the case including any sanctions imposed.

If a student discontinues an enrollment but still meets the definition of student as outlined in the JMU Student Handbook and engages in behavior that violates JMU Policies, the Office of Student Accountability and Restorative Practices reserves the right to retain information regarding that behavior in order to charge the student with a violation should he or she choose to return to JMU. If a student withdraws or graduates after being charged with a violation but prior to a decision being made in the case, the Office of Student Accountability and Restorative Practices will retain the case file and include a notation that the student has a pending case to be heard if the student chooses to return to JMU.

After August 2012 and aside from the exceptions noted in this section, after being found responsible for any violation in the Office of Student Accountability and Restorative Practices students are considered to have a university disciplinary record and their casefile is retained in accordance with the procedures outlined in this section. Students who are found not responsible for a violation, have a charge dropped, or have a charge held in abeyance are not considered to have a disciplinary record, but the Office of Student Accountability and Restorative Practices does retain the case file in accordance with the procedures outlined in this section. In some circumstances, students may need to disclose the status of their university disciplinary records or charges (e.g. on applications to other universities, job applications, background checks, or some positions and programs at JMU); students who are unsure of what their response should be or who need verification of their charges should contact the Office of Student Accountability and Restorative Practices. Students must provide permission for the Office of Student Accountability and Restorative Practices to release retained records; the Office of Student Accountability and Restorative Practices will provide the information requested upon receiving permission from the student. Records may also be subject to disclosure through court orders or subpoenas.

Generally, the Office of Student Accountability and Restorative Practices destroys case files, including records of charges and/or findings in a case (i.e. the “university disciplinary record”), after seven academic years from when the case occurs (e.g. all information regarding cases occurring during the 2010-2011 Academic Year will be destroyed at the conclusion of the 2017-18 Academic Year). June 30 marks the end of an academic year in the Office of Student Accountability and Restorative Practices. Upon destruction, the Office of Student Accountability and Restorative Practices will not be able to confirm, deny, or reference any disciplinary records or case files that have been destroyed. However, the case files for cases that resulted in suspensions, expulsions, and in those that involve allegations of sexual misconduct are retained indefinitely. Case files for cases that are pending (i.e. cases where a student discontinues enrollment prior to a decision being finalized in the case) are retained indefinitely or until the student returns to JMU. Further, if a student has a case that is indefinitely retained, the case files for any other case that student has in the Office of Student Accountability and Restorative Practices will also be retained indefinitely or until the student returns to JMU, regardless of the outcome of those cases or the Academic Year in which they were heard. If a student with a pending case returns to JMU, the Office of Student Accountability and Restorative Practices will hear the case upon the student’s return and retain the case files for all of the student’s cases for seven academic years from when the case review occurs or according to the Office of Student Accountability and Restorative Practices’ guidelines for indefinite retention as applicable.

Case files in the Office of Student Accountability and Restorative Practices are considered educational records under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and are handled in accordance with any restrictions or rights students are granted regarding their disclosure or review. The Office of Student Accountability and Restorative Practices does not provide a process for a student to request the expungement of his or her university disciplinary record.

Except for certain circumstances in cases alleging sexual misconduct, the Office of Student Accountability and Restorative Practices does not make notations on a student’s transcript of suspensions, expulsions, decisions, sanctions, or cases. Transcripts will reflect withdrawal from the university in accordance with the dates, deadlines, and procedures set by the Office of the Registrar for cases resulting in suspension or expulsion.

In cases where an Accused Student is found responsible for and suspended or expelled for physical sexual acts perpetrated against a person’s will or against a person incapable of giving consent, or where an accused student withdraws prior to a decision being made in such a case, a notation will be placed on the Accused Student’s transcript for the duration of the suspension or expulsion, or until a decision in the case is made in situations involving a withdrawal. Students must contact the Office of Student Accountability and Restorative Practices to have their transcript notation removed in cases of suspension; notations in cases of expulsion are permanent. Such notations will read (as applicable):

  • Expelled for violation of Student Standards of Conduct
  • Suspended for violation of student Standards of Conduct
  • Withdrew while under investigation for violation of Student Standards of Conduct

Changes and Amendments

All policies and procedures defined in these sections are subject to change by the Vice President of Student Affairs or the Accountability Control Board at any time. The membership of the Accountability Control Board is convened by the Office of Student Accountability and Restorative Practices and consists of the Dean of Students (chair), one faculty member and two students (the Student Government Association president and one other student). The Student Case Administrators and the director of the Office of Student Accountability and Restorative Practices serve as ex officio members. Students shall be informed of any policy or procedural changes in this document. The Office of Student Accountability and Restorative Practices reserves the right to make grammatical, typographical, or other non-substantive changes to the handbook at any time without the approval of the Accountability Control Board. Students will not be notified of grammatical, typographical, or other non-substantive changes.

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