University of Southern California

SCampus Student Guidebook

University Governance

B. University Student Conduct Code

10.00 General Disciplinary Principles

Students are expected to make themselves aware of and abide by the university community’s standards of behavior as articulated in the Student Conduct Code and in related policy statements. Students accept the rights and responsibilities of membership in the USC community when they are admitted to the university. In the university, as elsewhere, ignorance is not an acceptable justification for violating community standards. Lack of intent or awareness of university standards normally will not be accepted as excuses for violations and will normally receive the same consequences as deliberate violations.

Because the functions of a university depend on honesty and integrity among its members, the university expects from its students a higher standard of conduct than the minimum required to avoid disciplinary action. Likewise, while many of the university’s standards of conduct parallel the laws of society in general, university standards also may be set higher and more stringently than those found elsewhere in society.

10.05 Disciplinary Authority

The powers of the university are exercised, its property controlled and its affairs conducted by the Board of Trustees. Responsibility for the administration of these affairs is delegated by the board to various officers of the university, as stipulated in the corporate bylaws; the enforcement of all rules and regulations is the specific duty of the university president. The President, in turn, delegates the authority to the Vice Provost for Student Affairs to establish and hold student conduct review proceedings that will ensure the proper administration of the university’s rules and regulations. The Vice Provost for Student Affairs has delegated this responsibility to the Office of Student Judicial Affairs and Community Standards. In exceptional circumstances, where imminent harm may result to persons or property within the university community, the Vice Provost for Student Affairs may modify procedures outlined under the Conduct Review System (see Section 12).

Student procedural rights and review procedures are articulated in later sections of the Student Conduct Code.

10.10 Basic Principles

I. The Relationship of Discipline to the Purpose of the University

The University of Southern California is primarily an academic community. As such, the university seeks to maintain an optimal learning environment. To achieve this objective, the university exercises certain disciplinary and discretionary powers. It protects its educational environment by establishing and maintaining standards of conduct for its students as individuals and as groups. These standards reflect the very nature of an academic community and the need to preserve an effective educational environment.

Activities of students may result in violation of law, and students who violate the law may incur penalties prescribed by civil authorities. However, the university reserves the right to review such incidents independent of action by civil or criminal authorities, recognizing that the university’s authority and its disciplinary process serve its educational mission and interest, a function separate from action by civil or criminal authorities.

The university’s function with reference to student conduct differs from the community’s function in method as well as scope. Recognizing its role in developing a sense of responsibility in students, the university uses admonition, example, counseling and guidance in addition to formal disciplinary proceedings. Every USC student is presumed to have sufficient maturity, intelligence and concern for the rights of others to help maintain the standards of the academic community. When a student’s behavior demonstrates otherwise, the university will consider disciplinary action as appropriate.

II. Conditions for Review

  1. Definition of a Student:
    For the purpose of university rules and regulations, a student is defined as one who:

    1. is currently enrolled in university classes or in one of the university’s degree or non-degree programs,
    2. has completed the immediately preceding semester and/or is enrolled for the next scheduled semester,
    3. is officially representing the university during a period between regular academic semesters, or
    4. is not officially enrolled for a particular semester, but who has a continuing academic relationship with the university.
      An individual may be reviewed under this code if an allegation of academic integrity violation is made after the student has left the university and a degree has been granted.
  2. Definition of a Student Organization:
    A student organization is defined as one which has satisfied the administrative procedures for recognition as prescribed in this guidebook (see G.1) or which is functioning within the university community in the capacity of a student organization.
  3. Timeliness:
    Generally, a matter will be reviewed only when a report has been filed with the Office of Student Judicial Affairs and Community Standards within one year of discovery of the alleged violation. Cases involving academic or sexual misconduct or discrimination may be reported at any time. Cases involving sexual misconduct or discrimination should be filed with the Title IX Coordinator, Office of Equity and Diversity. Any action pending within the Student Conduct process does not relieve the student from any financial obligations to the university.
  4. Jurisdiction:
    University jurisdiction and discipline shall be limited to conduct which occurs on university premises or within the university community, is associated with university sponsored or related activities, or which adversely affects the university community and/or the pursuit of its objectives, including student-to-student sexual misconduct.
  5. Standard of Proof:
    The burden of proof shall at all times rest upon the complainant. The standards of proof for deciding against the accused student shall be such evidence that, when weighed against that opposed to it, has the more convincing force and the greater probability of truth, also referred to as the preponderance of the evidence.
  6. Status of Students Pending Final Student Conduct Adjudication:
    The status of a student in most cases will not be altered and disciplinary sanctions are not initiated until completion of an initial review (in cases alleging sexual harassment, until completion of the investigation and decision) or an appeal, if any. Interim action may be initiated by the President of the university, by the Vice Provost for Student Affairs, or the designee of either, whenever there is evidence that a student or organization poses a substantial threat to the safety or well-being of members of the university community, to property within the university community or poses a continuing threat of disruption or interference to normal university life or functions.

Administrative holds affecting registration transactions, posting of degree and a student’s ability to acquire copies of his/her transcript may be placed when students fail to fulfill terms of their disciplinary obligations. Such situations may include failure to respond to a written notice indicating a required appointment with a designated university disciplinary official and failure to complete disciplinary sanctions by an established deadline.

This restriction normally will remain in effect until disciplinary obligations are met or adjudication of the matter is complete. Students placed on disciplinary probation or deferred suspension may continue to participate in university activities unless specific sanctions or other campus and organizational rules or regulations restrict such participation.

When the outcome of a disciplinary action is suspension from the university, a restriction will be placed prohibiting the student from performing any registration transactions during the period of suspension. The restriction will not be removed, and the student will not be allowed to perform registration transactions, until the stated period of suspension has expired and all disciplinary obligations are met.

Revised July 2013.

III. Expectations for Students’ Conduct

The general principles set forth here and behaviors, which are described in Section 11.00 and Section E are intended to provide clear guidelines for students as to what is expected of them as members of the university community, and as to the kind of unacceptable behavior that may result in university disciplinary action.

10.20 Summary of Student Conduct Code Review Process

10.21 Summary of Nonacademic Review Process

This is a summary; for details see the sections starting with 12.00. These procedures do not apply to complaints of sexual misconduct or discrimination; there is a different section for review of such matters, see Section 17.

  1. A written report regarding an alleged violation of the Student Conduct Code is received by the Office of Student Judicial Affairs and Community Standards from the USC Department of Public Safety, a student or a faculty member or a staff member of the university community. (See 12.01-12.04).
  2. The director will evaluate reports to determine whether to proceed with the student conduct process or dismiss the case. (See 12.06).
  3. The Office of Student Judicial Affairs and Community Standards sends written notification of the complaint to the accused student.
  4. The accused student must meet with a designated review officer from the Office of Student Judicial Affairs and Community Standards to review the complaint and allegation. Certain cases are dealt with by a Residential Education Review (see 12.13).
    1. The student may accept a Voluntary Administrative Review by not disputing the allegation, waiving the right to a further review and accepting the findings of the hearing officer or body. The Administrative Review is completed through a written form signed by both the student and an Office of Student Judicial Affairs and Community Standards staff member.
    2. The student may deny the allegation. If so, a Summary Administrative Review may be conducted by a designated review officer. (See 12.10). Alternatively the review officer may refer the matter to a Peer Review panel (see 12.11) or a University Review panel (see 12.12), as the review officer deems appropriate. If the student is referred to a review panel, a review officer will arrange the date, time and place for the review, send a letter of notice to the student and convene a panel review according to the written notice provided to the student.
    3. The case may be dismissed by the review officer.
  5. Sanctions which may be assessed include but are not limited to: warning, disciplinary probation, service, educational classes, restitution, removal from university housing, loss of specific privileges, suspension and/or expulsion. (See 11.80).
  6. The decision may be appealed within 10 business days of receipt of the written decision. (See Section 15.)
  7. For certain cases or when it is determined that a student is responsible for a violation of university standards by any of the above processes, a conduct record of the matter will be maintained in a confidential student file by the Office of Student Judicial Affairs and Community Standards for up to seven years. Expulsion, suspension, revocation of admission or degree will result in permanent student conduct files.*

10.22 Summary of Academic Integrity Review Process

  1. The instructor believes that an academic integrity violation has occurred.
    1. The instructor or university official makes a reasonable attempt to meet with the student and discuss the incident.
    2. The instructor or university official forwards a report of the alleged violation to the Office of Student Judicial Affairs and Community Standards.
  2. The Office of Student Judicial Affairs and Community Standards sends written notification of the complaint to the student with a copy to the reporting party and the academic unit.
    1. If further review is not required, the student will be notified of the opportunity to meet with a review officer from the Office of Student Judicial Affairs and Community Standards. Further review of the matter may be requested by the student. If the student does not request further review, then the proposed sanctions will be applied.
    2. If further review is necessary (e.g., because additional sanctions are recommended or because further review is requested), the student must meet with a review officer from the Office of Student Judicial Affairs and Community Standards. The student then may:
      1. accept a Voluntary Administrative Review by not disputing the allegation, waiving the right for further review and accepting the findings of the hearing officer or body. The Administrative Review is completed through a written form signed by both the student and review officer.
      2. deny the allegation and request further review of the matter. A Summary Administrative Review may be conducted by a designated review officer or the matter may be referred to a review panel, as appropriate. If the student is referred to a review panel, a review officer will arrange a date, time and place for the review, send a letter of notice to the student and convene a panel for review according to the written notice provided to the student.
  3. Sanctions that may be assessed include but are not limited to: grade sanctions (e.g., “F” in course) and dismissal from the academic department. In addition, sanctions of suspension or expulsion from the university may be assessed through a review process when requested by the instructor, requested by the academic or administrative unit in which the violation occurred or when indicated by university standards (such as the seriousness of the misconduct or the existence of previous academic violations by the student). (See Appendix A).
  4. The decision from the review may be appealed within 10 business days of receipt of the written decision.
  5. When it is determined that the student is responsible for a violation of university standards by any of the above processes, a disciplinary record of the matter will be maintained in a confidential student file by the Office of Student Judicial Affairs and Community Standards for up to seven years. Expulsion, suspension, revocation of admission or degree will result in permanent student conduct files.

* This information summarizes extensive materials from the Student Conduct Code. Readers should note that this summary is not authoritative in speaking to issues of review process. Sections 12, 13, 14 and 15 of the code should be consulted.

The Student Conduct Code articulates violations that are most common and readily identifiable. Conduct violating university community standards that is not specifically mentioned may still be subject to disciplinary action.

Revised July 2013.


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