Disciplinary Process

scalesMTSU’s disciplinary process is a flexible, multi-faceted process. The following information describes the procedures related to each level of process.

Disciplinary Procedures

  1. Responsibility for Administration. The administration of discipline is a function of the Dean of Students Office and/or the appropriate adjudicating body with the exception of matters concerning academic misconduct which is a function of the Office of the University Provost and/or the Academic Misconduct Committee, set out with specificity in Policy 312 Academic Misconduct. All matters involving sexual discrimination, sexual harassment, dating violence, domestic violence, or stalking will proceed pursuant to Policy 27 Misconduct, Discrimination, and Harassment Based on Sex Including Pregnancy, Sexual Orientation, and Gender Identity/Expression rather than the process specified in this Section VII.
  2. Standard of Proof. The standard of proof utilized in all student disciplinary matters is the preponderance of the evidence.  Students should be aware that the student conduct process is different from criminal and civil court proceedings.  The student conduct process is built on fundamental fairness, but does not include the same protections of due process afforded by the courts.  Due process, as defined in this policy, includes written notice of the student disciplinary rules that are in question and an opportunity to be heard by an objective decision-maker.  Students will only be found in violation of the student disciplinary rules when it is more likely than not that a policy violation occurred.  This is called a preponderance of the evidence.  Sanctions will be fundamentally proportional to the severity of the violation, the student’s willingness to comply with disciplinary rules in the future, and the cumulative conduct history of the student.
  3. Disciplinary Referral. Reports of behaviors and incidents involving students may be referred for evaluation and possible disciplinary action by the University Police, residence hall staff members, faculty, staff, students, and other members of the University and city community. Referrals should be in writing and should be directed to the Assistant Dean for Student Conduct at stconduct@mtsu.edu. A hard copy of a written referral may also be dropped off at the Office of Student Conduct, Keathley University Center, Room 208.
  4. Preliminary Review. All disciplinary referrals will undergo a preliminary review.  The appropriate staff member will review the referral to determine if the possibility exists that a student disciplinary rule was violated, if additional information is needed prompting an investigation, if immediate action is warranted, and if there are other University entities that need to be put on notice that the behavior has occurred.  If the staff member determines that there is a possibility that a student disciplinary rules violation has occurred and additional information is not needed, he/she will issue a disciplinary charge(s) against the student.  If the staff member determines that additional information is needed, he/she will conduct an investigation.  If immediate action is needed, the staff member will consult with the appropriate university officials to determine the best course of action.  If other entities need to be informed of the matter, the staff member will consult with the appropriate University officials to determine the specific information that will be shared about the behavior or incident.
  5. Disciplinary Charges and Disciplinary Conference. Disciplinary charge means an allegation of a potential violation of the Student Disciplinary Rules.  The purpose of a disciplinary conference is to determine whether there is a preponderance of the evidence to support the charges, and if so, to determine responsibility and appropriate sanctions.  When disciplinary charges are issued to a student, the Student Conduct office will issue a written notice of the alleged violation(s) and the student’s rights, and establish a disciplinary conference meeting date and time for the student and assigned staff member.  This notice will be sent via the student’s official MTSU email as well as a hard copy letter to their local address as indicated in the student information system. During this disciplinary conference, the student will be reminded which University policy/policies have allegedly been violated, and the student will be given an opportunity to explain his/her version of the behavior or incident, or to otherwise refute the allegations. Students are afforded the following rights in the disciplinary conference:
    1. The right to know what disciplinary violation(s) they have been charged with;
    2. The right to tell their side of the story, present evidence, and request that fact witnesses be permitted to share information on their behalf;
    3. The right to be accompanied by an advisor of their choosing whose participation is limited to advising the student. The advisor cannot speak on behalf of the student or represent the student.  The advisor cannot be a student who has been charged with a violation of the Student Disciplinary Rules related to the same incident for which the meeting has been called;
    4. The right to receive the decision and their imposed sanctions in writing.

    The staff member will review the incident taking into account the information provided by the student. A determination will be made as to whether or not the student is in violation and, if so, what the appropriate sanction(s) will be. If the recommended sanction is not a sanction that separates the student from the institution, the staff member will explain the sanctions and needed follow-up to the student.  If the recommended sanction is suspension or expulsion, the staff member will explain the student’s options for case resolution.  The staff member may also determine that additional information or follow-up is needed prior to being able to make a determination regarding the student’s responsibility for a student disciplinary rules violation and may delay a decision until such a time that the needed information is acquired.  The staff member can also refer the matter to the University Discipline Committee, if the case is particularly complex or the student would be best served by having a committee review the case (see the University Discipline Committee option below).
  6. Hearing Options. The majority of student disciplinary cases are resolved at the Disciplinary Conference level.  However, there are instances when it becomes necessary for a discipline hearing to occur.  If the recommended sanction for a student in a disciplinary conference is suspension or expulsion, the student has three choices regarding resolution of the disciplinary case.  The first choice is to accept responsibility for the violation and the recommended sanction(s).  The second choice is to request a hearing before the University Discipline Committee.  The third choice is to request a hearing pursuant to the Uniform Administrative Procedures Act (UAPA).  The staff member will explain the three choices to the student, and the student will indicate his/her selection in writing.  Once the selection is made, a student cannot elect another option or revert back to the original decision rendered by the staff member.  In addition, the Office of Student Conduct can refer a matter to a formal hearing when the case is unduly complex and/or problematic.  

    University Discipline Committee.  The committee’s purpose is to hear student disciplinary cases referred by the Office of Student Conduct.  The University Discipline Committee (UDC) makes its recommendation(s) to the Vice President for Student Affairs and Vice Provost for Enrollment and Academic Services.  The Vice President can uphold the recommendation(s), reverse the recommendation(s), or send the recommendation(s) back to the UDC for reconsideration of the sanctions only. 

    The Office of Student Conduct has the responsibility for scheduling UDC hearings, including the selection of date, time, and location as well as providing information to the student about the committee format and process.  The student will be notified of the hearing schedule a minimum of four (4) business days in advance of the actual hearing date.  University Discipline Committee hearings are closed to the public unless all parties agree, in writing, to an open hearing.

    Students are afforded the rights guaranteed in the Disciplinary Conference as well as the following additional rights:
      1. The right to be advised in writing of the date, time, and place of the hearing at least four (4) business days in advance of the hearing;
      2. The right to be accompanied by more than one advisor at the discretion of the adjudicating body and the Office of Student Conduct. The advisor(s) cannot be another student who has been charged with a violation of the Student Disciplinary Rules related to the same incident as the student. The student may choose to be advised by legal counsel; however, counsel’s participation shall be limited to directly advising the student.  Legal counsel cannot engage in direct or cross-examination, make opening or closing statements, or engage in argument. 
      3. The right to call witnesses on his/her behalf. It is the student’s responsibility to contact his/her witnesses and inform them of the hearing unless the witness is also a University witness. University witnesses are contacted by the Office of Student Conduct;
      4. The right to question witnesses;
      5. The right to be informed of an appeal option, if applicable.

        Uniform Administrative Procedures Act.  All cases which may result in: (a) suspension or expulsion of a student from the Institution for disciplinary reasons; or, (2) revocation of the registration of a student organization, are subject to the contested case provisions of the Uniform Administrative Procedures Act (UAPA), T.C.A. § 4-5-301, et. seq., and shall be processed in accordance with the Uniform Contested Case procedures unless the student or student organization waives those procedures and chooses to have the case disposed of administratively in a disciplinary conference or by going before the University Discipline Committee.   If the student wishes to pursue the case administratively or through the UDC, he/she must waive the right to a UAPA hearing in writing.

        In all cases involving a hearing under the UAPA contested case provisions, the President or designee shall determine, based upon the nature of the case, whether the hearing shall be before a hearing officer alone or a Hearing Committee presided over by a hearing officer.  The President is responsible for appointing a hearing officer and/or hearing committee at the request of the Office of Student Conduct.  The Office of Student Conduct has the responsibility for working with the Office of the University Counsel to schedule UAPA hearings including the selection of date, time, and location as well as assisting in the scheduling of any necessary preliminary meetings. 

        The case will proceed pursuant to Policy 110 Cases Heard Pursuant to the Uniform Administrative Procedures Act.  The student’s rights are outlined in that process.

        Interim Involuntary Withdrawal or Suspension Hearings. Hearings conducted with regard to interim involuntary withdrawals or suspensions imposed prior to or pending the outcome of a disciplinary investigation or proceeding shall be conducted consistent with the minimum requirements of due process applicable to a UDC hearing, taking into account the need for a timely hearing.  The evidence presented at the hearing shall be limited to that which is relevant to the basis asserted for imposition of the interim involuntary withdrawal or suspension.  The following special conditions apply to involuntary withdrawal/suspension hearings:
          1. The Institution shall conduct an assessment to consider the nature, duration, severity, and probability of the threat posed and/or disruption caused by the student or student organization, relying on the best available objective evidence and, if applicable and obtainable, the most current medical evidence;
          2. Failure of the student or representative of a student organization to appear for or cooperate with a mandated assessment will result in an involuntary withdrawal without further process;
          3. The Institution shall also determine whether reasonable modifications of its policies, practices, or procedures could sufficiently mitigate the identified risk;
          4. Absent exigent circumstances creating an imminent risk of harm, the Institution will make the decision to involuntary withdraw or suspend based on the threat the student or student organization poses to others;

            If exigent circumstances warrant the immediate removal of a student or student organization from the institution, the student or student organization will receive, at a minimum, notice and an initial opportunity to present evidence immediately after being placed on the interim involuntary withdrawal or suspension, and the opportunity to initiate full due process within 30 days of the removal.
  7. Appeals
    Eligibility:  A student or student organization who has been suspended or expelled from the University as the result of disciplinary action has the right to file an appeal.  Students or student organizations subject to disciplinary action that does not include suspension or expulsion from the Institution, do not have an appeals option.  It is the responsibility of the body of original jurisdiction to inform the student or student organization of the right to appeal and to whom the appeal should be presented. It is not the function of the appeals process to permit a rehearing of the factual issues presented to the adjudicating body, but rather it is to ensure that the disciplinary procedure has been implemented fairly and consistently with these policies.

    Time Limitations:  An appeal must be submitted in writing to the Dean of Students within forty-eight (48) hours of notice to the student or student organization that the approving authority has affirmed the suspension or expulsion. The student or student organization will be directed to pick up the decision letter from the Dean of Students office.  If the student or student organization is unable or unwilling to pick up the decision letter, an official email will also be sent to the student’s or student organization advisor’s MTSU email account which shall serve as notice.  A student or student organization cannot extend the 48-hour time limitation by refusing to acknowledge the notice, ignoring the notice, and/or because he/she does not agree with the decision.

    Grounds for Appeal: The appeal must specify grounds which would justify consideration. The written appeal must contain the substantive proof on which the student or student organization is basing the appeal.  Appeals that do not include the specific information that substantiates the appeal will be immediately denied.   General dissatisfaction with the outcome of the decision shall not be accorded as a basis for consideration of an appeal.  An appeal may be filed based on one or both of the following conditions:
      1. an error in procedural due process by the body of original jurisdiction which prejudiced the disciplined student or student organization to the extent that he/she was denied a fundamentally fair hearing as a result of the error;
      2. the emergence of new evidence which could not have been previously discovered by the exercise of due diligence and which, had it been presented at the initial hearing, would have substantially affected the original decision of the adjudicating body.

        Appellate procedure: For UDC decisions, the Dean of Students will review the written appeal to determine if the appellant has met the requirements for filing an appeal. Appeals which do not allege sufficient grounds shall be denied consideration and dismissed. Appeals which do allege sufficient grounds will be accepted for consideration and forwarded to the appellate body. The appellate body shall not conduct a re-hearing, but will consider only the record made by the adjudicating body. The appellate body may, at its own discretion, permit written or oral statements from the concerned parties in interest at the time the appeal is considered.  The alternatives available to the appellate body are affirmation of the recommended sanction, reversal of the decision, and return to the original adjudicating body for reconsideration of sanctions only.

        For UAPA decisions, the appeal procedures are set forth in Policy 110 Cases Heard Pursuant to the Uniform Administrative Procedures Act.
  8. Effect of Noncooperation. A student who fails to respond to a notice of allegations within the specified time frame will have a hold placed on his/her records. The hold will be removed at such time as the student has appropriately responded to a notice of an alleged violation(s). In the event a student fails to cooperate, ignores, or otherwise does not respond after a reasonable amount of time, he/she may be referred for a hearing before the appropriate University adjudicating body and shall be deemed to have waived the election of a hearing pursuant to the UAPA. Decisions may be made in the student’s absence.
  9. Retention of Records. Disciplinary records are maintained by the Office of Student Conduct. A permanent disciplinary file will be maintained if a student is suspended or expelled from the Institution. Files developed in cases in which a lesser sanction has been imposed will be retained for a period of five (5) years after date of action unless sanctions specify that they should be retained for a longer period. Files developed in cases that are covered under the Clery Act will be retained for a period of seven (7) years after the date of action per federal requirements. Files developed in cases where a student is found not responsible for student disciplinary rules violations will be maintained for statistical purposes; however, the record will not be reportable as an official disciplinary record in that student’s name.