Complainants, victims, witnesses, and respondents play specific roles within the student conduct process at the University of South Alabama. The complainant is any individual who brings forth information indicating that a USA student may have violated the Code of Student Conduct contained in the student handbook, The Lowdown, and who wishes to have charges filed against that student. The complainant may also be a victim. A victim is any individual who may have suffered any harm, loss, or threat at the hands of a currently enrolled USA student due to a violation of the Code. A victim does not have to serve as the complainant. A witness is any individual who has information regarding an incident that is an alleged violation of the Code. A respondent is any student that has been alleged to be in violation of the Code.
Respondents, complainants, witnesses, or victims who are unable to meet in person (e.g., online students) for meetings, hearings, or appeals may arrange a web-conference, telephone conference, or another form of synchronous communication approved by the Dean of Students.
Any member of the University community may initiate a complaint against a student or student organization for an alleged violation of the Code of Student Conduct. The decision to pursue is made by the Student Conduct Administrator, who is appointed by the Dean of Students.
A decision not to pursue may be appealed to an ad hoc committee (appointed by the Dean of Students) of the University Disciplinary Committee (UDC).
The UDC, appointed annually by the University President or his/her designee, is the body that hears and makes recommendations regarding charges of violation of the Code of Student Conduct when the charges are not resolved in the informal process discussed below. This committee of two to five students and a faculty or staff/administrators (except in charges of sexual violence where the UDC will have two to four faculty or staff/administrators ) and is chaired by the non-voting Student Conduct Administrator or a designee of the Dean of Students.
Members of the UDC receive annual training on issues related to dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking; and how to conduct an investigation and hearing process that protects the safety of victims and promotes accountability.
No individual can force charges to be filed, and while participation by complainants, witnesses, or victims is encouraged, their participation is not necessary for charges to be filed and an action pursued.
Student conduct proceedings and actions are not subject to challenge or postponement on the grounds that criminal or civil charges involving the same incident have been dismissed, reduced, or are pending. No individual can force student conduct charges to be dropped.
Prior to any disposition of charges, either through the informal or formal processes discussed below, separate meetings will be scheduled with the Student Conduct Administrator for any responding student/student organization and the complainant or victim to review key facts and issues that will be presented at the hearing, to exchange information as to witnesses likely to be called, and to answer questions. These meetings will not be used to resolve the alleged Code violation.
Option 1 is an informal proceeding and includes a discussion between the responding and the Student Conduct Administrator, after the Student Conduct Administrator has met with the complainant. Witnesses are not called, however, the complainant may be asked to be present at the meeting. The Student Conduct Administrator, at his/her sole discretion, may obtain information from other sources prior to this proceeding. Cases will be investigated and may be determined in absentia based on information gathered and/or submitted when a student and/or organization does not respond to a notification letter.
Option 2 is a formal hearing before the UDC and is chaired by a non-voting, non-deliberating Student Conduct Administrator. A formal hearing may involve the presentation of witness testimony by both the complainant/victim and the respondent. Both the complainant/victim and the respondent may question all witnesses presented. If the UDC, after deliberations, finds that the responding student is responsible for violating the Code of Student Conduct, the UDC will make recommendations to the Student Conduct Administrator regarding the sanctions to be imposed.
Whenever a formal hearing is to be held regarding an alleged incident of non-academic prohibited conduct, the respondent and the complainant shall be given two (2) working days written notice of the charges alleged against the respondent and of the date, time, and place of the hearing. The terms notify in writing “transmit in writing” mean to email written notice to the student’s jagmail account. Every effort shall be made to set a hearing date that is convenient to all parties concerned. Once the date is set, the Student Conduct Administrator, the respondent or the complainant/victim may request either a new time or date due to changing circumstances, however, the decision to approve any requested change is solely the prerogative of the Student Conduct Administrator. The hearing shall be conducted by the Student Conduct Administrator, be informal in nature, and legal rules of evidence shall not apply. The hearing shall be closed to everyone except the Student Conduct Administrator, members of the UDC, the respondent, and the complainant and/or victim and advisors to the respondent and the complainant and/or victim. Witnesses will be present only during their own testimony. The complainant/victim and the respondent, have the right to:
- Be present at the hearing. However, if either or both the complainant/victim and the respondent fail to appear at the hearing, the hearing may be held in the absence of either or both of those individuals.
- Present evidence by witness or by affidavit if a witness is unable to attend the hearing. It is the responsibility of the respondent and the complainant/victim to notify their witnesses of the date, time and place of the hearing. If witnesses fail to appear, the hearing shall be held in their absence.
- Be assisted by an advisor of their choice, at their own expense. The advisor must be a member of the University community. “Member of the community” is defined as any student, faculty, or staff member who is currently attending or working at the University and who is able to abide by the confidentiality requirements of the hearing process.
- The complainant/victim, and respondent are responsible for presenting their own information; therefore, advisors are not permitted to speak or to participate directly in the hearing. Advisors may speak quietly to the individual they have accompanied if it does not impede the flow of the hearing, as determined by the Student Conduct Administrator. Delays in hearing dates will not be allowed due to the scheduling conflicts of an advisor. If the complainant/victim or the respondent is a party to criminal indictment arising out of the same circumstances, each is allowed to have an attorney serve as his/her advisor, at his/her own expense. As with any other advisor, attorneys may not address the UDC unless invited by the Student Conduct Administrator, nor may attorneys participate in the examination of witnesses or presentation of materials or information.
- Question all witnesses. In the case of multiple participants in code violations, the Student Conduct Administrator may decide to hear the cases separately or collectively.
- Offer pertinent records, exhibits, and written statements for consideration by the Student Conduct Administrator at his/her discretion. After the hearing, the UDC shall meet in private to determine whether the evidence/information presented or received by the UDC during the hearing proved that it is more likely than not that the respondent violated one or more sections of the Code.
- There shall be a single verbatim record, such as a tape recording, of all formal hearings. This record does not include deliberations of the UDC. This record, along with any evidence or transcripts, is the property of the University. A complainant/victim or respondent may review the contents of their file through the Dean of Students Office.
A student charged with violating the Code of Student Conduct has two hearing options. In most instances of minor violations where the responding student agrees that the complainant’s charges are basically correct and both parties agree, Option 1 may be utilized. In more serious incidents or when facts are disputed, Option 2 may be utilized. Option 2 is the only option in cases alleging sexual violence.
Witnesses to alleged violations of the Code of Student Conduct are contacted by one of four parties: the respondent, the complainant, the victim, or the Student Conduct Administrator. When contacted, witnesses will be given a time, date, and location of the hearing. A witness may refuse to participate or may participate in the following manner:
- In writing, by providing a statement of fact before the hearing.
- In writing, by answering written questions posed during the hearing.
- In person, by attending the hearing and answering questions during the proceeding.
Complainants of alleged violations of policy have specific rights. They may choose to participate –or not- as a complainant and/or witness. They also ha ve the option of scheduling a pre-hearing conference prior to either the informal or formal hearing. In this conference, the Student Conduct Administrator will fully explain the judicial process, answer questions the complainant may have, discuss options for participating in the hearing, and help coordinate possible hearing dates and times. The complainant is also given an opportunity to provide an impact statement to be placed in the respondent’s disciplinary file, should the respondent be found responsible, with the understanding that the respondent has the right to review such information. The complainant shall have the right to be visually screened from the respondent.
Victims of alleged violations of the Code of Student Conduct have the following rights with respect to either hearing option 1 or option 2.
- The right to a prompt, fair and impartial process from the initial investigation to the final result.
- The right not to attend a formal hearing.
- The right to have an advisor, as defined in 8.A.3, accompany him or her during any conduct proceeding.
- Prior to the student conduct hearing, the right to request immediate on-campus housing relocation (based on availability), transfer of classes or other steps to prevent unnecessary or unwanted contact or proximity to the accused, and enforcement of orders of protection such as“no contact” orders when such contact is likely to place the victim in danger of bodily injury and/or cause the victim severe emotional distress. The University will maintain as confidential any accommodations or protective measures provided to a victim, to the extent that maintaining such confidentiality would not impair the ability of the institution to provide the accommodations or enforcement of protective measures.
In determining whether or not a violation of the Code of Student Conduct has been committed, the UDC or Student Conduct Administrator will base its determinations on the standard of preponderance of evidence. The respondent will receive a written statement of finding with sanctions, if applicable, within five (5) working days.