Frequently Asked Questions

How is a conduct complaint filed?

Typically anyone can file a report. Most campuses receive reports from the campus police department, residential education staff, faculty and other university staff, and students. To file a complaint, your student should contact a WSU Resident Assistant or the Security Office.
 
If your student chooses to file a complaint (which is also referred to as an incident report), his/her role becomes one of witness in the case; however, the student may also be required to assume the role of complainant. The submitter of the complaint is sometimes asked to participate in the adjudication of the case to explain what he/she saw or heard and to answer questions about the incident.
 
Please note that filing a complaint with the Security Office does not constitute filing a criminal charge. The Security Office can assist students in contacting the local police department if they wish to file a police report.

If my student is a victim in a conduct case, what support do they receive?

This depends on the specific situation. WSU is first and foremost concerned about your student’s safety. WSU Security, the Director of Citizenship and Conduct, Resident Assistants and Residential Education staff can assist students with safety planning as well of inform them of the various options for resolving their complaint. 

How is the campus process different from a criminal charge through the City of Winona?

There are several differences between the systems. The rules governing the handling of student conduct matters at institutions of higher education are different from criminal statutes. Criminal prosecutions take place only when violations of law are alleged. On university campuses, there are many types of violations that may not be violations of law, but violate institutional community standards, such as academic dishonesty.
 
There are other types of violations that mirror criminal statutes such as underage drinking. There are still others that may use similar terminology but are defined differently. Sexual assault and rape are examples of these.
 
A second difference between the campus process and the criminal process is the standard of proof. On most campuses, there must be a preponderance of the evidence, enough evidence to tip the scales (i.e. 51% or “more likely than not”), before a student is found responsible for violating the student conduct code. This is the same standard used in most civil cases. In contrast, the standard in a criminal case is beyond a reasonable doubt.
 
Another difference is that the campus process is usually confidential whereas a criminal prosecution creates public records. For more on the limitations on disclosure of student records see the section below on the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).
 
In addition, a campus’s jurisdiction is more limited than the courts. Most institutions of higher education require some connection to the campus in order to address a violation of the code.
 
Yet another difference is that the hearing  process on the WSU campus is an administrative hearing and not a trial, and as such not adversarial in nature. Therefore, the hearing process through the Office for Student Life and Development does not have the same procedures as a criminal trial. While students may have a third party present at their hearing, the student must speak for themselves. This is mainly to preserve the educational nature of university disciplinary hearings. It is important for students to represent themselves and to explain their conduct to others.
 
Finally, as the citizenship education process is considered an educational tool, the sanctions imposed tend to focus on repairing harm to the community, to victims, and to the institution as a whole. They also take into account what the accused student needs to learn from the situation. The process focuses on helping the student understand why his/her behavior violated community standards and how the person can avoid making the same mistake again. It is also focused on helping the student see how the instances of misconduct affect others. These are generally not addressed in the criminal process. However, where weapons or violence are involved, students may be facing separation from the institution. In these instances, the campus’s primary concern is maintaining a safe environment and an educational response would not be appropriate.

Does being convicted on campus give you a criminal record?

The university’s student conduct process does NOT lead to anyone being “convicted of a crime.” It is a process to determine if a student is to be found responsible for violating the Student Code of Conduct and other campus regulations. It can only result in a student discipline record that is maintained for a finite time.

Can criminal charges be filed at the same time as a campus complaint?

Yes: the criminal justice system and the student conduct process are completely independent.

What are the appeal rights in the WSU Conduct system?

Student may appeal any decisions made by a Judicial hearing board. Once a decision has been made, the student has a finite amount of time to file a notice of appeal. Appeals, however, are generally limited to specific conditions. Generally, some reasons for granting an appeal include:
Procedural error;
New evidence not available during the hearing;
The conclusion reached was not supported by the information provided in the hearing; or
The sanction imposed is unduly severe compared to the nature of the violation.
 
In most student conduct processes, a student is not granted an appeal automatically if he/she objects to the outcome of a hearing – one or more of the above conditions must be satisfied.

How long does it take to resolve a case?

Cases that are handled informally are often resolved in a matter of weeks. When a formal hearing is required, the process takes longer. All parties have a right to develop their respective arguments. It can take 4 to 6 weeks to arrange for a day when all parties and the hearing panel are available.

Do colleges and universities have any written policy about information from student records that can be shared with a parent?

Yes, institutions of higher education are subject to a federal law called Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).  FERPA sets privacy standards for student’s educational records and requires colleges and university to publish compliance statements, including all related institutional policies.

Where can I find more information about FERPA?

FERPA is enforced by the U.S. Department of Education. The department maintains a FERPA website (with links to FERPA regulations): http://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/reg/ferpa/index.html

What records does FERPA cover?

The privacy protection FERPA gives students is very broad. With limited exceptions discussed below, part 99.3 of the FERPA regulations gives privacy to all students’ educational records. Educational records are defined as “those records that are directly related to a student and are maintained by an educational agency or institution or by a party acting for the agency or institution.” Examples of student records entitled to FERPA privacy protection are grade reports, transcripts, and most disciplinary files, among others.

What protection does FERPA give to students concerning their records?

ü  Right to Inspect and Review Educational Records
ü  Right to Request to Amend Educational Records
ü  Right to have some control over the Disclosure of Information from educational records (“Personally Identifiable Information” or information that would directly identify the student or make the person’s identity easily traceable).

What does FERPA require of colleges and universities?

A public university must notify students annually of their rights (typically via the student handbook), and agree to give students the opportunity to limit the disclosure of personal identifiable information annually (such as information contained in a student directory). Also, public colleges and universities are required to:
ü  Protect Students’ Rights to Inspect and Review Records
ü  Protect Students’ Rights to Request to Amend Records
ü  Protect Students’ Rights to Limit Disclosure of Personal Identifiable Information contained in Educational Records
ü  Ensure that authorized third parties do not redistribute personally identifiable information, except under a few circumstances
ü  Maintain records of requests for and disclosures of student education records

What does it mean to say a record is ‘protected’ by FERPA?

Unless personally identifiable information from a student’s education record falls under a specified exception, the information cannot be released to third parties (including parents) without a signed and dated written release from the student.

There appears to be many exceptions to FERPA release of records, do any apply to parents and guardians?

ü  In cases where there is an alleged victim, the final results of disciplinary hearing regarding an incident alleged to involve acts of violence, or forcible or non-forcible sex offense is disclosed to the victim (disclosure required)
ü  To the public, the final results of a disciplinary hearing against an alleged perpetrator of a crime of violence or non-forcible sex offense (disclosure permitted, not required) (Foley Amendment)
ü  To parents/legal guardians of students under 21, if students are found to have violated the alcohol or drug policy of the institution (Warner Amendment)
ü  Some states have determined conduct records are not educational records and are public information
 
Many of these are permissible exceptions and are not required.

How can I learn how my child is doing?

The best approach is to ask your son or daughter directly. Communicating with young adults isn’t always easy. They are often not as forthcoming as we would like. The college years, however, are a period of remarkable growth and maturation. The ability and willingness of students to share information and insights usually grows, especially as they acquire the confidence that comes with assuming greater responsibility for their own lives.

I had easy access to my student’s high school records, why don’t I have the same access to records kept by the university?

Under FERPA, the access rights that parents and legal guardians had in the elementary and secondary school setting are transferred to students, once a student has turned eighteen, or is attending any postsecondary educational institution.

Why do I have limited access to my child’s college records when I’m paying the college expenses?

Student records are confidential. As a parent of legal guardian you must have a signed release from your student to access your student’s college records. FERPA does not require colleges and universities to grant such parental access.

Will I be notified if my child is hurt or in danger?

FERPA does allow for an exception in emergency situations. There are also exceptions if your student is a threat or danger to others.

How will I know if my child is subject to university disciplinary action?

Student disciplinary records are protected under FERPA. The best practice is for your student to inform you about disciplinary charges directly. Students can also authorize the release of all the information in their disciplinary files.

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Information gathered from the Association for Student Judicial Affairs