Friday, August 31, 2007

Texas A&M Student Conduct System

The Texas A&M University student conduct system is designed to determine whether the University's standards of conduct have been violated. Although the student conduct system is not designed to determine criminal guilt, the student must be aware that procedures built into the system can result in the student incriminating themselves and providing evidence to the state prosecuting authorities.

Any member of the university system may initiate a complaint against a student for an alleged violation of University Student Rules. If circumstances surrounding the complaint suggest that a violation of the Student Conduct Code (a quasi-criminal subset of the Student Rules) has occurred, disciplinary charges may be issued against the student. Students are notified of disciplinary charges in writing by a letter of charges issued to the student’s address on file with the University. If you are contacted by the University regarding alleged violations of the Student Conduct Code, contact a qualified College Station criminal defense lawyer immediately.

Off campus violations of the Student Conduct Code are also subject to University disciplinary action. When a student is alleged to have violated the Student Conduct Code by an offense committed off university premises, the University reserves the right to investigate and adjudicate these violations. The University may take action in situations occurring off university premises when student misconduct demonstrates a flagrant disregard for any person or persons, or when a student's behavior is judged to threaten the health, safety, or property of any individual or group.

Further disciplinary action may be taken against a student for failure to appear after proper notice that disciplinary charges have been filed. The student should always consult a qualified criminal defense attorney when disciplinary charges brought by the University involve a violation of the Student Conduct Code or any alleged violation of criminal law.

A disciplinary hearing can be conducted in different ways depending on the nature of the alleged violation. The method most critical here is when the student meets with one or more administrative hearing officers to discuss the charges, the student’s involvement in the incident, and any other information relevant to the charges. This type of hearing is where the student may inadvertently incriminate themselves by speaking with the hearing officer. In more serious cases, the hearing is tape recorded. This tape recording is often made available to state prosecuting authorities. If the student testifies at the hearing, their statements will be admissible evidence in criminal court. Even if the hearing is not recorded, any statements the student makes are admissible in criminal court through the testimony of the hearing officer.

Based on the information presented and discussed at the hearing, the administrative hearing officer will determine whether a violation has occurred and issue sanctions accordingly. Any sanctions issued are in addition to penalties assessed by a criminal court judge.

Next Friday we'll look at the issue of student rights regarding University disciplinary proceedings.

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