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 receive an alleged policy 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 educational processes may require the removal by suspension or expulsion of 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 notifying of alleged policy violation(s) 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 a Responding 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 the Responding Party and not to the Reporting Party. However, in cases alleging sexual misconduct, the Reporting Party is also extended the right to appeal.

The decision to postpone any aspect of the Accountability Process or the Sexual Misconduct Accountability Process for any reason is at the discretion of the Director of Office of Student Accountability and Restorative Practices or designee. Anticipated timelines, deadlines, restrictions, or procedures listed within the Accountability Process or Sexual Misconduct Accountability Process will not be altered except in necessary or extreme circumstances in order to uphold the intent of the process, as determined by the Director of the Office of Student Accountability and Restorative Practices or designee. Any requests for alterations must be communicated to the Director of the Office of Student Accountability and Restorative Practices or designee as soon as practicable.

Scheduled meetings with OSARP Staff, Administrative Case Reviews, Accountability Board Reviews, Sexual Misconduct Case Reviews, Appeal Reviews, Sexual Misconduct 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. 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. Further, when stated throughout the Student Handbook, references to the term “day” indicates a calendar day unless otherwise stated.

In most circumstances, the university will not proceed with the Accountability Process or Sexual Misconduct Accountability Process when the Responding Party is not actively enrolled in classes. The decision to proceed or not proceed with either process when the Responding Party is not enrolled in classes is at the discretion of the Director of the Office 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 Responding Party, the Reporting Party, Administrative Witnesses, and Office of Student Accountability and Restorative Practices staff members. If the Responding Party 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.

The Accountability Process and Sexual Misconduct Accountability Process will follow the procedures and policies as outlined in the Student Handbook for the academic year in which the case is being adjudicated. Additionally, the full title of this handbook is the JMU Student Accountability Process and Standards of Conduct Handbook; however, when referenced throughout, it will be referred to as the JMU Student Handbook.

 

Changes and Amendments

The Vice President for Student Affairs has the authority to enact changes to the policies and procedures defined in the Student Handbook at any time. During the yearly revision process of the Student Handbook, the Office of Student Accountability and Restorative Practices drafts proposed changes based on the needs and feedback from the community. These proposed changes are distributed to the members of the Accountability Control Board, serving as the voice of the community in the review of any proposed changes. OSARP provides the proposed rationale and any feedback from the Accountability Control Board to the Vice President of Student Affairs who authorizes any changes to the Student Handbook for the upcoming Academic year. The campus community shall be informed of any policy or procedural changes enacted.

The Accountability Control Board is convened by the Office of Student Accountability and Restorative Practices. The Accountability Control Board consists of the Student Government Association President, two faculty or staff members, and one student appointed by the SGA President. The Dean of Students (chair), the Director of the Office of Student Accountability and Restorative Practices, and two Student Case Administrators serve as ex officio members.

OSARP reserves the right to make grammatical, typographical, or other non-substantive changes to the handbook at any time without the approval of the Vice President of Student Affairs or feedback from the Accountability Control Board. Students will not be notified of grammatical, typographical, or other non-substantive changes.


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. The Office of Student Accountability and Restorative Practices may initiate an adjudication process prior to the outcome of a court or other adjudicative decision. If the Accountability Process or Sexual Misconduct Accountability Process for an alleged violation(s) in the Office of Student Accountability and Restorative Practices stems from a current criminal case, civil case, honor council case, or case being adjudicated by another conduct process on JMU’s campus, the case may be heard concurrently by the Office of Student Accountability and Restorative Practices. If the case was heard concurrently and the Accountability Process or Sexual Misconduct Accountability Process concludes prior to the resolution of the criminal process, civil case, honor council process, or other adjudicative process on campus, the case in the Office of Student Accountability and Restorative Practices will not be revisited at the conclusion of the other adjudicative process. 

The university may proceed with notice of alleged policy violation(s), the Accountability Process, or the Sexual Misconduct Accountability Process regardless of enrollment status if the Responding Party meets the definition of student as listed in the JMU Student Handbook, or have alleged violation(s) and/or sanctions remain pending until a Responding Party’s request to re-enroll, which will trigger the case to be heard at that time. In addition, the Office of Student Accountability and Restorative Practices reserves the right to retain information regarding alleged behavior that occurred while a person met the definition of a student, send notice of the alleged policy violation(s) to the student, and adjudicate the case should the person return to the university as a student.

Since policy violations occurring through the end of a student’s graduation day may result in alleged policy violation(s) being placed, in cases involving graduating students, the student’s diploma and/or official transcripts may be withheld pending the conclusion of the Accountability Process or the Sexual Misconduct Accountability Process and/or the completion of any outstanding sanctions. In addition, for these cases, if the sanction is immediate suspension or expulsion, it will be deemed effective for the most recent semester the student attended, which may mean a loss of academic credits for that semester.

For any student who receives an immediate suspension or expulsion, regardless of academic year, the immediate suspension or expulsion will be deemed effective for the most recent semester the student attended, which may mean a loss of academic credits for that semester. Further, an immediate suspension will begin on the date of the initial Case Review even if the final decision in the case goes through appeal and review by the Dean of Students or designee.


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, including Sexual Misconduct Case Review and Appeal Boards, in the adjudication of the case. These case files may include, but not be limited to, student directory information, information regarding the alleged violation(s), 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 and/or recommendations made in the case including any sanctions imposed.

If a student withdraws after being properly notified of alleged violation(s) 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.

If a student graduates after being properly notified of alleged violation(s) but prior to a decision being made in the case, the Office of Student Accountability and Restorative Practices reserves the right to retain the information regarding the alleged behavior as a pending case in accordance with its records retention policy listed later in this section.

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 case file(s) is retained in accordance with the procedures outlined in this section. Students who are found not responsible for a violation, have alleged policy violation(s) dropped, or have an alleged policy violation(s) held in abeyance are not considered to have a university 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 violation(s) (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 violation(s) 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 by the entity upon receiving permission from the student so it is important that the student review the questions being asked by the entity for which they are providing the release of records. For example, some entities ask about pending case records and some do not; if a student has given permission for the release of records to an entity requesting pending case records and one exists in the student’s record, then the Office of Student Accountability and Restorative Practices will release that information. Records may also be subject to disclosure through court orders or subpoenas.

Aside from the exceptions noted, the Office of Student Accountability and Restorative Practices generally destroys case files, including records of violation(s) and/or findings in a case (i.e. the “university disciplinary record”), after eight academic years from when the adjudication of the case occurs (e.g. all information regarding cases occurring during the 2010-2011 Academic Year will be destroyed at the conclusion of the 2018-19 Academic Year). June 30 marks the conclusion 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 university 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 along with any case files pertaining to the student’s disciplinary history prior to the suspension, expulsion, or finding of responsible in a sexual misconduct case and can be accessed if a university disciplinary record is requested and/or approved by the student. Case files for cases that are pending are retained indefinitely along with any case files pertaining to the student’s disciplinary history prior to the pending case 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 and can be accessed if a university disciplinary record is requested and/or approved by the student. If a student with a pending case returns to JMU, the Office of Student Accountability and Restorative Practices will hear the case prior to, or upon, the student’s return and retain the case files for the student’s cases for eight academic years from when the adjudication of the case 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. For the purposes of access to the educational record, the current or former student themselves must schedule a date and time with the Office of Student Accountability and Restorative Practices to view the documentation within the office during normal office hours. The Office of Student Accountability and Restorative Practices does not provide a process for a student to request the expungement of their 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 accordance with Virginia state law, in cases where a Responding Party is found responsible for and suspended or expelled for sexual violence, defined as physical sexual acts perpetrated against a person’s will or against a person incapable of giving consent, or where a Responding Party withdraws prior to a decision being made in such a case, a notation will be placed on the Responding Party’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

 

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