Last week we started our look at the Texas A&M Student Conduct System. We learned the disciplinary system was not designed to establish criminal guilt, but there were procedures built into the system that could cause the accused student to incriminate themselves. This week we'll look at some selected student rights that apply to University disciplinary proceedings. These rights apply to a student conduct proceeding that might result in expulsion, dismissal or suspension of the student. An accused student subject to less severe sanctions may, or may not, be afforded these rights:
First, the student has the right to be informed in writing of all charges at least three class days before any hearing. This is what we talked about last week when Student Conflict Resolution Services sends a letter to the student at their address on file with the University. When you receive this written notice you should contact a College Station criminal defense attorney immediately to advise you.
Along with the right to notice, the student has the right to reasonable access to the case file. The file is maintained by Student Conflict Resolution Services. If the student is a member of the Corps of Cadets the case file is maintained by the Office of the Commandant. Access to this file is very important, especially for your defense lawyer. Since the prosecutor's policy in Brazos County is to maintain a closed file, access to your University file can help your lawyer get information about the case they would not otherwise be entitled to receive. Simply sign a release form provided by Student Conflict Resolution Services allowing your lawyer to get access to the file.
The student has the right to remain silent during student conduct proceedings. However, many students mistakenly waive this right when appearing at a hearing, which causes problems we discussed in last week's post.
The student also has the right for one person to serve as a personal advisor during the hearing. This person can, and should be, a criminal defense lawyer. However, even though the advisor may appear at student conduct proceedings with the student, they may not represent the accused student or directly question or cross-examine witnesses. This rule presents a problem. In past cases where I've counseled accused students, we prepared a list of questions for the student to ask their accusers. In one case we spent 3 hours taking the deposition of the alleged victim through written questions prepared in advance.
The student has the right to request the University make an audio recording of the student's own proceedings at the student's expense. The record will then become part of the student's conduct file. This recording is useful after questioning key witnesses since we can obtain a transcript of the recording for future use.
These were some selected student rights with which you should be familiar. Feel free to review the comprehensive list here. Next week we will review the possible sanctions imposed for violation of the Student Conduct Code.