The purpose of this policy is to establish disciplinary procedures to guide the enforcement of the Student Code of Professional Conduct. These procedures apply to any student or student organization that is charged with a violation of the Code. However, because of the individual nature of students, their behaviors, and the circumstances involved, the University may not in every situation be able to follow these procedures precisely. Deviations from the outlined timeline and/or procedures may occur on occasion and will not invalidate a decision or proceeding.
These disciplinary procedures are designed to allow for fact-finding and decision-making in the context of an educational community and to encourage students to accept responsibility for their actions. The intent is to provide adequate procedural safeguards to protect the rights of the individual student and the legitimate interests of Sonoran University.
Records that are generated during the investigation and decision-making process associated with these procedures are general education records protected under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).
Initiation of Investigation
Investigation of alleged violations of the Code may be initiated at the discretion of the Dean of Students, with or without a referral from a member of the University community.
A member of the university community may refer a matter for investigation by submitting a completed Grievance or Violence/Assault Reporting Form on MySonoran, or through direct report to the Dean of Students. Based on the information provided, the Dean of Students will determine appropriate next steps. The Dean of Students will decide whether further investigation/fact-finding is necessary.
Where the alleged misconduct is related to discrimination or harassment, the Dean of Students will consult with the Office of Human Resources to determine whether an affirmative action investigation is warranted. A determination by the Dean of Students will be made following consultation.
At any time following the initiation of an investigation into alleged misconduct, the Dean of Students may suspend a student for an interim period prior to the resolution of the disciplinary proceeding, if the Dean of Students believes that the information supporting the allegations of misconduct is reliable and determines that the continued presence of the student at Sonoran University poses a threat to any individual, property or university function.
The Dean of Students will notify the student of a decision to suspend for an interim period effective immediately as of the date of the written decision. The notification will also identify the specific restrictions and limitations that have been placed on the student, including access to facilities, services, and activities.
The interim suspension will remain in effect until a final decision is reached on the pending charges or until the Dean of Students determines that the reasons for imposing the interim suspension no longer exist.
A student who is suspended for an interim period may request that the Dean of Students reconsider the interim suspension by providing a written explanation of why they believe the interim suspension is unwarranted. The Dean of Students will provide the student with a final determination of the reconsideration request within five (5) business days of receipt. The Dean’s decision on any request for reconsideration is not subject to further review.
The University reserves the right to place a hold or suspend the release of all federal financial aid funds until the investigation of alleged allegations and/or disciplinary process is completed, and the student is allowed to resume regular classroom or clinical studies.
Review and Decision
Upon their own initiative or based upon a referral by a member of the University community, the Dean of Students will investigate allegations of misconduct involving the Code. Such investigation may include interviewing the complainant, the alleged perpetrator, and other witnesses; gathering and reviewing documents; and taking other action to obtain information relevant to the allegations. The Dean of Students will notify the program Dean of the respective school that an investigation has begun on a suspected student.
Members of the university community will be expected to comply with any request or directive issued by the Dean of Students in connection with an investigatory/disciplinary proceeding.
A student who is charged with violating the Code will be provided with an opportunity to meet with the Dean of Students. Such meetings may occur simultaneously with the Dean of Student's interview of the student in connection with the Dean of Student's investigation or may occur separately, at the discretion of the Dean of Students. A student who fails to respond to the meeting invitation and/or fails to attend the meeting with the Dean of Students will forfeit their right to respond on their behalf regarding the alleged violation.
At the meeting, the student will be provided with an explanation of the charges which have been made. If the student denies the charges, the student will be provided an oral or written summary of the evidence against the student and will be given an opportunity to explain their side of the story.
Upon completion of the investigation, the Dean of Students will determine whether it is more likely than not that a violation of the Student Code of Conduct has occurred and, if so, the appropriate disciplinary sanction to apply.
The Dean of Students will inform the student of the decision, in writing. A copy of the decision will be maintained in the student’s file.
The written decision will include a statement of the charges, the determination, and the sanction to be imposed, if any. This decision is final and is effective immediately. However, in the case of a long-term suspension exceeding ten (10) school days or expulsion, the student may request an appeal hearing to review the determination. If the Dean imposes a sanction of long-term suspension or expulsion, the student shall be advised of their right to request an appeal as part of the notification of the decision.
If the imposed sanction includes either a long-term suspension or expulsion, the student may request an appeal hearing before a Hearing Officer. The student must file a written request with the Dean of Students Office no later than five (5) business days following the date on which notice of the written determination is sent to the student. After five (5) days, the determination becomes final, is effective immediately, and is not subject to further review.
The filing of a timely written request for a hearing may suspend the imposition of the disciplinary sanction of expulsion or long-term suspension, except for an interim suspension, pending the outcome of the appeal hearing. If the sanction is long-term suspension or expulsion, and the student requests a hearing, the student will not be permitted to graduate until the hearing process has been concluded.
Appeal Hearing before Hearing Officer
This hearing applies to long-term suspensions and expulsions only.
Purpose of the Appeal Hearing
Upon request of the student, an impartial hearing officer will conduct a hearing to review appeals submitted to the Dean of Students regarding long-term suspensions and expulsions. The purpose of the appeal hearing is to hear the evidence and formulate a recommendation to the Vice President of Student Affairs (VPSA) as to whether a violation of the Code of Conduct was more likely than not committed by the student, and if so, the appropriate sanction to be imposed.
Selection of the Hearing Officer
Upon receipt of a request for an appeal hearing, the Dean of Students will notify the VPSA of the request, and the VPSA will select an impartial hearing officer to conduct the appeal hearing. Subject to the requirement that the hearing officer be impartial and disinterested, the VPSA may select a Sonoran University employee with no prior knowledge of the case and no direct interest in the outcome to serve as the hearing officer. Alternatively, at the VPSA’s discretion, an independent hearing officer may be hired to conduct the hearing if an impartial and unfamiliar employee is not available. The hearing officer must be selected and identified to both parties within five (5) business days of the receipt of a request for an appeal hearing.
A student may challenge the participation of the hearing officer on the grounds of personal bias by submitting a written statement to the VPSA setting forth the basis for the challenge within two (2) business days of identification. The VPSA will determine whether to sustain or deny the challenge. If the challenge is sustained, a replacement hearing officer will be appointed.
In the absence of extenuating circumstances, when the University is in session, the hearing officer will notify the student, by both written and electronic mail, within ten (10) business days of their selection, when the appeal hearing will convene and the specifics of the hearing (hearing notice). The hearing date should be set no farther than twenty (20) days from selection of the hearing officer. Up to an additional five (5) days may be added, if agreed upon by both parties, to allow for extenuating circumstances.
The hearing notice provided to the student will include:
- A statement of the date, time, location, and nature of the hearing;
- A written statement of the charges, drafted by the Dean of Students, which specifies the allegations of misconduct in sufficient detail to enable the student to respond;
- Identification of where to review a copy of the Student Code of Professional Conduct and these Student Disciplinary Procedures in the Student Handbook;
- Notification as to whether the Dean of Students intends to be represented by legal counsel at the hearing;
- The name and contact information for the hearing officer.
- If the student cannot attend the hearing on the date scheduled for the hearing due to extraordinary circumstances, they must promptly notify the hearing officer in writing. The hearing officer will determine whether to approve or deny the request to reschedule the hearing. The Student and Dean of Students Office will submit a written statement of evidence that will be presented at the hearing, to the hearing officer for distribution to all parties, at least five (5) days before the hearing date. The statement of evidence will include a list of the names and titles of all witnesses who may be called to speak at the hearing;
- A concise summary of the relevance of each witness;
- Copies of all documents or statements to be presented.
Conduct of the Hearing
The hearing will be conducted in a closed (non-public) session to preserve the confidential nature of the disciplinary process, and to protect the privacy interests of the student who is charged with the violation and the witnesses who may be called to testify.
The hearing officer will preside over the hearing and will rule upon all procedural matters. Only evidence and witnesses identified in the statement of evidence will be allowed. Presentation of any additional evidence or witnesses will be at the discretion of the hearing officer, based upon relevance to the discussion. The hearing officer may exclude irrelevant, immaterial, privileged, or unduly repetitious information. The hearing officer may also establish reasonable limits upon the time allotted to the student and the Dean of Students for oral presentation and examination of witnesses.
The Dean of Students will present the information that supports the charges and will have the burden of showing that a violation of the Code was more likely than not to have been committed by the student.
The student who has requested the hearing will present information on their own behalf. A student who fails to appear at the hearing forfeits their request, and the Dean of Students’ initial determination will be affirmed, effective immediately. The hearing officer will sign a statement reflecting the student’s failure to appear at the hearing.
If an attorney represents the Dean of Students, the student may, at their own expense, be represented by legal counsel as well. Otherwise, neither party will be permitted to be represented by legal counsel at the hearing.
The hearing will be recorded on a recording device and will be transcribed in whole or in part at the request of the student charged with the misconduct. The student will pay the cost of such a transcript.
At the request of either party, witnesses other than the Dean of Students and the student alleged of misconduct will be excluded from the hearing except during their own testimony. However, a witness who is alleged to have been directly injured by the student’s alleged misconduct may be permitted to continue to attend the hearing after giving their testimony.
The order of presentation will be as follows:
- The Dean of Students may present an opening statement, which summarizes what the information that has been gathered is expected to show.
- The student may present an opening statement or may reserve it until the presentation of their case.
- The Dean of Students will call witnesses to provide statements and other documentary evidence. Witnesses will be questioned by means of direct examination.
- At the conclusion of each witness’s statements, they may be questioned by the student.
- Following the questioning by the student or their representative, the Dean of Students and the hearing officer may ask further questions of each witness.
- Following the testimony of all witnesses called by the Dean of Students, the student then presents their case.
- Each witness for the student is called to testify. The pattern remains the same as described above.
- Following the close of the student’s presentation, the Dean of Students may call witnesses to refute the student’s documentary evidence or statements made by the student or the student’s witnesses. If such rebuttal witnesses are called, they will be subject to the same procedure outlined above.
- Throughout the proceeding, the parties may introduce written documents. All such documents, which are admitted, will be marked as exhibits, (i.e., Dean’s Exhibit #1 or Student’s Exhibit #1) and may be considered by the hearing officer in reaching their decision.
- Following the presentation of witnesses, the parties will be allowed to present closing statements, which summarize the information that has been presented. The student presents their closing statement first, followed by the Dean of Students.
Hearing Officer Decision and Recommendations
Following the presentation of information and closing statements, the hearing officer will consider, outside of the presence of the parties, the evidence that has been presented, along with reasonable inferences to be drawn from this information, prior to reaching a decision.
Based solely upon the information presented during the hearing, the hearing officer will formulate a recommendation to the VPSA as to whether a violation of the Code of Conduct was more likely than not committed by the student, and, if so, the appropriate disciplinary sanction to apply.
The hearing officer will render a written recommendation following the hearing and will communicate the recommendation to the student, the Dean of Students, and the VPSA in writing no later than five (5) business days following the conclusion of the hearing. The written recommendation will include findings of fact and a statement of the reasons for the recommendation and will be signed by the hearing officer.
Recommendation Review and Final Decision
Following a review of the hearing officer’s recommendation, the VPSA will render a decision, which either affirms, denies, or modifies the recommendation of the hearing officer. The VPSA will not be bound by the recommended findings of fact. The VPSA will issue a written decision no later than ten (10) business days following receipt of the hearing officer’s recommendation unless the VPSA determines that it is necessary to conduct further investigation or to remand the matter to the hearing officer for additional proceedings. The student will be notified if the VPSA determines that such additional proceedings are necessary, and, in such cases, the VPSA’s final written decision will be transmitted to the parties and the hearing officer no later than ten (10) business days following completion of the investigation or the subsequent recommendation of the hearing officer.
Request for Reconsideration
A student who is dissatisfied with the decision reached by the VPSA may move for reconsideration by filing a written request with the University President no later than five (5) business days following the date of issuance of the written decision by the VPSA. The request must be based on one or more of the following grounds:
- Irregularities in the proceedings, including but not limited to any abuse of discretion or misconduct by the hearing officer or by the Dean of Students, which has deprived the student of a fair and impartial disciplinary process;
- Newly discovered material evidence which could not have been presented during the fact-finding or hearing process;
- Excessive severity of the sanction;
- That the decision is not justified by the evidence or is contrary to Arizona or Federal laws.
Following receipt of the student’s request for review, the President will make whatever review is deemed necessary to resolve the issues that have been raised.
The University President will respond in writing to the student’s request for review or rehearing within ten (10) business days of receipt of the request. The University President may uphold or modify the previous decision or grant a rehearing on the issues raised by the request. The decision of the University President is final.
Disciplinary Files and Records
Holds on Records
In addition to any disciplinary sanction imposed for a Code of Conduct violation, the Dean of Students Office may place a hold on a student’s academic and other institutional records should the student refuse to respond to, or comply with, the procedures, or sanctions imposed in accordance with these rules.
Student Disciplinary Records
Disciplinary records of students found to have violated the Student Code of Conduct shall be retained for five (5) years from the quarter of the determination or until graduation, whichever occurs first. Disciplinary records may be retained for a longer period, or permanently, if so, specified in the sanctions applied. Disciplinary records concerning long-term suspension or expulsion shall be retained permanently, regardless of whether the sanction so specifies.