Formal Hearing Process: A step-by-step guide
Within student affairs, the Office of Student Conduct is probably the one office you don’t want to go to while you are in school. It can be a little scary; however, I am giving you a step-by-step guide to the conduct process at UGA because I work with student conduct!
Say you are caught drinking underage and are arrested. While you may be in trouble with the police, you also agreed to uphold a high standard in the way you conduct yourself at UGA. Because you agreed to the Code of Conduct upon admission to UGA, you must go through the conduct process to resolve the issue at hand.
Step One: Meeting with OSC Staff Member
You will meet with a UGA OSC staff member to discuss what happened on the day of your alleged code of conduct violation. The staff member will outline the process (which is what I’m doing for you right now!). You can choose to speak with them about the incident if you feel comfortable. After you explain your side of the story, the staff member will then decide if there is enough evidence to find you in violation of the alleged code of conduct regulation.
Step Two: Make a decision
If there isn’t enough evidence, then you are done! Nothing goes on your record. If there is enough evidence, you have two options: either settle informally with the staff member and accept the sanctions they give you. These sanctions can include writing an essay on your reflections from drinking under-age and its risks/consequences all the way up to suspension or expulsion. If you do not agree with these sanctions, do not think you are in violation, or do not think that settling informally is the best option you can take the case to the formal resolution process.
So, let’s say you don’t agree that you are in violation for under-age drinking…
Step Three: Meet with an Advisor from University Judiciary
If you decide to go the formal route, you will meet with an advisor from University Judiciary, the student led group that conducts formal hearings for alleged code of conduct violations. Your advisor (possibly me since I serve as an advisor!) will explain to you that you will present your information to a panel consisting of two student justices and a UGA staff member. A University Advocate will present information against you and you have the opportunity to question the evidence. You will have an opportunity to present your information as well. The panel will weigh the evidence and make a decision.
Step Five: Attend your hearing
On the day of your hearing, you should dress in business formal attire if you are able to. Your advisor should have met with you throughout the week to help you submit your evidence, write your opening statements, and gather witnesses for the hearing. The presiding justice will start the hearing and explain all of the procedures for the hearing. Present your evidence with confidence. Do not be disrespectful to the panel or the University Advocate (because we are students too!) If at any time you feel uncomfortable or need to talk to your advisor, call a recess. This process is designed for the student to feel comfortable in talking about the incident. This is not like court or a scene from Law & Order. It’s just a conference room and a panel talking to you.
Step Six: Attend the Decision Delivery
After the panel has heard both the advocate and the student’s information and evidence, they will deliberate on their decision. First they must decide based on the preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not) if a violation did occur. If they do not find you in violation of the code of conduct, then nothing happens (Yay!). If they do find you in violation, they will then asses the proper sanctions. So let’s say they found you in violation. They will explain your sanctions and ask you to sign a form stating you have received the sanctions. Typically, the sanctions for underage drinking are 6 months probation and a required completion of an alcohol and other drug course. These sanctions are meant to be educational and NEVER punitive. Although Judiciary’s decision is direct and takes effect immediately, you do have the right to appeal on procedural or substantive grounds if you feel like the process was unfair in some way.
Step Seven: Complete Your Sanctions (If you are found in violation)
Make sure to complete your sanctions by the date provided by the panel.
And that is how the formal process goes at UGA!