Jun 17, 2019  
Student Handbook 
    
Student Handbook

Student Conduct Hearings


ADMINISTRATIVE HEARINGS

The majority of student conduct incidents at Merrimack College are adjudicated in a meeting with an Administrative Hearing Officer (AHO). The Director of Community Standards, Assistant Director of Community Standards and administrators in the Office of Residence Life serve as AHOs.

  • Resident Directors may hear matters with a maximum possible sanction of removal from housing for designated periods of time.
  • Assistant/Associate Directors of Residence Life may hear matters with a maximum possible sanction of removal from housing for extended periods of time.
  • The Director of Community Standards, Assistant Director of Community Standards and the Student Conduct Board can hear any matter, including those with a maximum possible sanction of expulsion from the College
PROCEDURES FOR AN ADMINISTRATIVE HEARING

An AHO utilizes the following procedures when meeting with a student:

  • The AHO will explain all alleged student conduct violations to the student(s); review the details of any incident report and discuss any further information that the AHO may have gathered.
  • The student(s) will have an opportunity to respond by presenting their own version of the events, as well as a reasonable number of witnesses (up to the AHO’s discretion) relevant to the matter.
  • During a hearing, the AHO will ask questions of the student(s) and/or witnesses to clarify the event. An AHO will not ask about any past violations of student conduct policy in relation to whether or not a violation has occurred in the event being discussed. The student(s) can also ask questions of any witnesses and can ask the AHO any questions they have surrounding student conduct policy or procedures.
  • The AHO will then conclude the meeting in one of three ways:
    1. If the student(s) has stated that they are responsible for all violations, the AHO will then discuss possible sanctions with the student(s) and give the student(s) a deadline by which they will receive their final notice regarding the sanctions.
    2. If the student(s) have stated that they are not responsible for any charges brought against them, the AHO will then give the student(s) a deadline by which they will receive the decision from the AHO. The AHO will thoroughly review all of the information available and, using a standard of more likely than not, will decide if the student is responsible or not responsible.
    3. If the AHO requires further information, the AHO can seek out the information and schedule another discussion with the student(s) if needed

Written notification of the outcome and sanctions of any hearing will be sent to the student(s) via email, with a copy going to the Office of Community Standards for the student’s file. The Director of Community Standards will have discretion to forward copies of all hearing results to parents of dependent students. In the case of student athletes, the Director of Athletics and the student’s coach may also be notified and, in the case of student leaders, their appropriate advisor.

STUDENT CONDUCT BOARD HEARINGS

The Student Conduct Board will consider all cases that may result in loss of housing, suspension, or expulsion from the College and other cases that are referred directly to it by the Director of Community Standards due to unusual complexity or seriousness. Examples include drug violations, sexual misconduct, assault, and other offenses. Finally, cases involving sexual misconduct may be adjudicated by a sub-committee of the Student Conduct Board as described in the College’s Sexual Misconduct procedures.

At certain times of the year (i.e. summer, vacation, exam periods, etc.) it may be impossible to convene the Student Conduct Board in a timely manner. At these times, and when cases would otherwise require Student Conduct Board attention, the Director of Community Standards may conduct hearings or authorize another AHO to conduct hearings, make any findings of responsibility, and impose any appropriate sanctions if there is a determination of responsibility.

The membership of the Student Conduct Board is comprised of the following representatives who will each serve a term of one academic year, and may be reappointed to serve subsequent terms:

  • Students selected from among potential candidates who are nominated or request to be a member of the board. The Director of Community Standards will consider the candidates and select a few to be trained. All students must be in good disciplinary standing to serve as a Student Conduct Board Member. 
  • Faculty members appointed by the Faculty Senate, who are nominated or request to be members of the board. The Director of Community Standards will consider the candidates and select a few to be trained.
  • Administrators who are nominated or request to be members of the board. The Director of Community Standards will consider the candidates and select a few to be trained.

An odd number and a minimum of five Board members, with at least one student representative and one faculty/staff representative, must be present to proceed with a hearing. In the event that five Board members are not available at the scheduled hearing time, the involved parties may agree to conduct a board with only three members. Generally, the Director of Community Standards (or designee) will act as a liaison to the Office of Community Standards for all meetings of the Student Conduct Board. In this capacity, s/he will not actively participate in the hearing and will be present only to ensure that procedures are followed throughout the hearing and will answer any procedural questions that may arise. The Director of Community Standards (or designee) will also prepare cases to be heard by the Student Conduct Board, including contacting people who may have direct knowledge of the events in question. A hearing will then be conducted and, based upon a thorough review of the information and using a standard of more likely than not (“preponderance of the evidence”), the Student Conduct Board will render a finding that a student is “responsible” or “not responsible” for an alleged violation. All decisions are made by majority vote. If responsible, the Student Conduct Board will consider the gravity of the matter and the student’s conduct history and determine an appropriate sanction. The Director of Community Standards (or designee) will be responsible for notifying students of the hearing body’s resolution. 

PROCEDURES FOR A STUDENT CONDUCT BOARD HEARING

These procedures will generally be followed for Student Conduct Board Hearings:

  • Members of the Student Conduct Board arrive ahead of the scheduled hearing start time to review reports and prepare questions.
  • Persons issuing incident reports (presenters) and accused students are brought into the hearing room.
  • The presenter(s), accused students and all members of the Student Conduct Board have copies of the incident report.
  • All parties will introduce themselves starting with the Director of Community Standards (or designee).
  • The chairperson of the board reads aloud the description of the alleged violation of College policy.
  • The student is asked if he or she understands the accusations and is asked to enter a response of responsible or not responsible.
  • Presenter(s) gives a description of the incident.
    • Board members ask questions for clarification and fact finding.
    • Student(s) ask questions, through the chairperson.
  • Accused student gives description of the incident. (In the event that there is more than one student, they shall give their descriptions in alphabetical order. This process shall prevail throughout the remainder of the hearing procedure.)
    • Board members ask questions for clarification and fact finding.
    • Presenter (s) ask questions.
    • Any other accused students can ask questions in alphabetical order.
  • Witnesses are brought in and dismissed by the chairperson. Members of the Student Conduct Board, presenter(s), and accused students (in this order) may ask questions of witnesses for clarification and fact finding.
  • Accused student may present two written character references to the hearing body. In person character witnesses are not permitted during a hearing.
  • Presenter(s) makes final statement.
  • Accused student makes final statement.
  • The hearing is concluded and the Board begins its private deliberations. All decisions are made by majority vote. Decisions are “responsible” or “not responsible” and the Student Conduct Board makes a determination of sanction if responsibility is determined.
SEXUAL MISCONDUCT PROCEEDINGS

Allegations of sexual misconduct, dating violence and/or stalking will be addressed within the Merrimack College student conduct system. Due to the sensitivity of these types of allegations, there are unique procedures that are used to facilitate the process.

Violations will be jointly investigated by the Director of Community Standards and the Merrimack College Police Department.  Upon the completion of the investigation, the Director of Community Standards and Merrimack College Police Department will summarize their findings and recommendations for resolution.  The investigators will present their findings and recommendations to both parties for their review.  The parties involved will then have an opportunity to review the investigators’ findings in an administrative conference.  The parties have the opportunity to agree to the recommendations of the investigators.  If either party does not agree with the recommendations of the investigators, the findings will be forwarded to a panel of the Student Conduct Board for a hearing.

Hearing boards convened to discuss allegations of sexual misconduct will adhere to the following guidelines:

  • A subcommittee of the Student Conduct Board will conduct these hearings.  This board will ONLY be comprised of faculty and administrators. Three of the board members, including the chair, need to be present for a hearing to occur.
  • The Student Conduct Board will be chaired by the Deputy Title IX Coordinator or her/his designee.
  • The parties will be allowed to bring an advisor to any formal proceedings.
  • Both parties will have the opportunity to submit written questions to be asked by the board at the hearing. The board will not allow questioning which they deem to be inappropriate or unrelated to the matter being discussed. Questions surrounding past sexual activity of either party are expressly prohibited.
  • Each party will be given the opportunity to address the board either in person or via written statement. 
  • Both parties will have the opportunity to submit character references to the board. 
  • At least one of the investigators will be present throughout the hearing. 
  • Once all parties have answered questions from the board, the board will determine responsibility for the violation and issue sanctions. 
  • The Deputy Title IX Coordinator will then notify the parties simultaneously.
  • Board findings can be appealed by either party to the Dean of Students (or designee) based on the guidelines laid out in the Appeals policy. 

Please see the Sexual Misconduct, Relationship Violence & Stalking Policy for more details.

MEDIATION

Mediation may be an appropriate alternative to the student conduct system in a situation that involves two or more individuals who are in a dispute with each other. The individuals involved in the dispute must both seek a mutually agreeable resolution. The mediation process is private, unless one of the participants reveals information that could constitute a risk to the college community or its members.  Mediation is not available once a formal student conduct decision has been made by a hearing officer or student conduct board.

In mediation, a trained staff member will facilitate a conversation between the students involved with the goal of reaching an agreement that satisfies all parties involved.  The mediator will not impose a solution or offer intervention through the student conduct process.  At the conclusion of the mediation, all agreed-upon recommendations, stipulations, and expectations are recorded and signed by the parties involved. Any outcome from mediation will not be imposed or enforced by the college; a failure to abide by the resolution of the mediation may prolong the dispute until such a time that college intervention through the student conduct process becomes necessary. 

Students seeking mediation should contact the Director of Community Standards.

Mediation is NOT available in cases of allegations of Sexual Misconduct, Relationship Violence or Stalking.