The student accountability process at Seattle Pacific University is designed to help students take responsibility for their choices in a manner that is respectful, educational, and redemptive. It focuses on helping maintain community values and assisting students to learn from any issues that may arise from their choices. Students may still be subject to disciplinary sanctions, possibly up to and including dismissal, but the hope is that sanctions will help students develop individual responsibility, encourage self-discipline, and foster respect for the rights, freedoms, and safety of others. Students are expected to be active, honest participants throughout the investigation, meeting, and sanctioning stages in order to accomplish the educational and redemptive purposes of the process.
Students alleged to have violated Seattle Pacific University Student Standards of Conduct will be advised of the alleged violation or conduct concern and will be given the opportunity to provide oral and written statements and other relevant information to the dean of students for community life or designee. In certain situations the Office of Safety and Security will assist in gathering information related to specific cases. Students will receive written notice of the outcome of any accountability review proceeding, including a description of any disciplinary action or sanction. Seattle Pacific University uses preponderance of evidence (more likely than not) as its standard of proof. However, the student accountability process does not function like a court of law, and students should not expect the process to be the same as a civil or criminal legal proceeding.
The process described below applies to cases involving violations of the Student Standards of Conduct and/or University Policies. Cases involving incidents of sexual misconduct will be handled as described in the Sexual Misconduct Policy.
Safety of the Community and Interim Action
The University reserves the right to respond with whatever measures it deems necessary in order to protect the personal safety of students, employees, and visitors on the campus. The University may also take immediate action against a student if the student's behavior is otherwise incompatible with the orderly operation of the University or if it threatens damage to University property. In some cases, the University may impose interim measures while it is still investigating the facts of a possible violation of University policy and prior to scheduling an accountability hearing.
Such protective measures and interim measures may include, but are not limited to, temporary removal of the student from an on-campus living situation or from the campus as a whole, modification of living arrangements, adjustments to the format of accountability hearings, and/or interim suspension from campus pending an accountability meeting.
Accountability meetings shall be conducted by an administrative staff person designated by the dean of students for community life according to the following guidelines. Accountability meetings will provide a prompt, fair, and impartial process.
- Accountability meetings will be conducted in private.
- Students who require additional accommodations as a part of their accountability meetings should request those from the person conducting the meeting no later than 24 hours prior.
- Admission of any person to the meeting will be at the discretion of the assigned staff person.
- In meetings involving more than one respondent, the staff person may, at the staff person's discretion, permit the meeting concerning each student to be conducted together with the consent of all respondents.
- The presence of parents at a meeting is not permitted.
- The presence of an attorney at a meeting is not permitted as the accountability proceeding is not meant to function as a court of law. An exception may be made only in instances where the respondent has been charged with a crime arising out of the same operative facts as the charge under Student Standards of Conduct; however, the attorney must conform to the same requirements as applied to a support person described in the next paragraph. Even in those instances, counsel is present for a limited scope, which is to advise the student as to safeguarding the student’s rights in the criminal proceeding. Student accountability meetings do not follow the rules of process, procedure, and/or evidence that are applied in criminal or civil court.
- The complainant and the respondent each have the right to be accompanied by a support person. The support person cannot be involved in the in the incident in question, and cannot be an attorney or serving as legal counsel. The support person is not permitted to speak to the administrative staff person unless directly questioned by them and cannot participate in the meeting other than quiet communication with the student they are accompanying. This communication may not interfere with the accountability process. Failure to comply will result in the removal of the support person. One five-minute break may be requested during the course of the meeting if the complainant and/or respondent wish to consult with her/his support person. It is the student's responsibility to find a support person, if desired, and the student must send a written request to the assigned staff person identifying the proposed support person in advance (preferably at least 24 hours before the meeting). The assigned staff person will decide whether the support person may attend the meeting and will attempt to notify the student of the decision prior to the meeting.
- Any pertinent materials and written statements (12-point font, five double-spaced pages maximum) must be submitted for consideration to the hearing officer at least 24 hours prior to the meeting.
- All procedural questions are subject to the final decision of the assigned staff person.
- After the meeting, the staff person will excuse all parties, deliberate, and determine which, if any, portion of the Student Standards of Conduct the student has violated.
- The assigned staff person's determination will be made on the basis of whether it is more likely than not that the respondent violated the Student Standards of Conduct.
- Should new charges surface as a result of or during an accountability process, and no additional investigation is needed, the charges will be verbally introduced and heard during the current meeting. If additional investigation is needed, the assigned staff person will question the respondent, clarify items in the report, and send the respondent the findings following the meeting.
- Students charged with violations of the Student Standards of Conduct during Study Abroad or other travel courses, including SPRINT trips, will be notified of the charges after they are received by the staff person assigned to the matter and will have the opportunity to respond to those charges, as well as to appeal the outcome of their cases. However, the condensed duration of these courses and the limited availability of onsite administrators necessitate a modified accountability process in some situations.
- Students should be aware that failing to appear for an assigned meeting will be seen as waiving their opportunity to hear and present information related to the process, and that a decision will be made based on the information available.
- Students are expected to participate in the student accountability process actively. Students may be disciplined for the following actions committed in connection with the process:
- Failure to fully disclose to a University official all requested information or other information related to the alleged violation;
- Falsification, lying, hiding, distortion, or misrepresentation of information;
- Disruption or interference with orderly conduct; and
- Disrupting or attempting to disrupt another individual's participation.
- An individual’s (or group’s) conduct history will not be considered until the sanctioning phase of the deliberations.
The sanctions imposed depend upon the particular circumstances of each situation. Sanctions may be imposed singly or in combination, as appropriate to the circumstances of each situation. A student's conduct history will be considered in determining a sanction, as will the nature of the violation. Repeated violations of policy may result in more severe sanctions and may result in the removal of the student from the University. A student's failure to fulfill the terms of an imposed sanction may result in the imposition of more severe sanctions. Unless a written decision states otherwise, sanctions will not go into effect until after the conclusion of any appeal.
The types of action and/or sanctions that may be implemented include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Written reprimand;
- Disciplinary probation (indicating that a student's status with the University may be evaluated should other violations of University policy occur. Probation may also impact a student's ability to participate in other campus opportunities, such as student leadership, living on or off campus, campus employment, co-curricular activities, athletics, study abroad, etc.; appropriate to the violation of the Student Standards of Conduct);
- Suspension (termination of housing and/or student status for a specified period of time and with specific conditions); and/or
- Dismissal (termination of housing and/or student status).
The situation may also be reported to local law enforcement, depending on the facts. Also, in some circumstances, the student may also be required to
- Participate in an educational activity;
- Attend counseling and follow therapeutic recommendations;
- Pay restitution or fines;
- Provide community service;
- Relocate to a different residence hall or housing unit;
- Be suspended from housing or be required to return to housing;
- Lose privileges;
- Be excluded from activities;
- Be excluded from areas on campus; and/or
- Be restrained from contact with the complainant.
Any student found responsible for a violation of the drug and alcohol policy will be assessed a $100 administrative fee that goes toward covering the cost of alcohol and drug prevention programs. Persons who host or in any way assist or promote gatherings (on or off campus) that include the violations of any SPU policy relating to alcohol drugs, or tobacco will be subject to a mandatory $300 fine. A student who cannot afford to pay the fee can ask for a waiver as a part of the appeal process.
A student who participates in a student accountability meeting has the opportunity for a self-initiated appeal of a disciplinary action. To be eligible to file an appeal, a student must address a notice of intent to appeal in writing to the University official who would review the appeal (as described below) within 48 hours of the written notice of disciplinary action. The notice of intent to appeal can simply be a written statement submitted via email indicating that the student plans to appeal. If a student files a notice of intent to appeal, the student must file an appeal within four calendar days of receipt of the written notice of disciplinary action. Appeals must be written by the student making the appeal; submissions from other persons (e.g., parents, attorneys) will not be accepted or considered.
If the University official instituting the discipline is a member of the Residence Life staff, then the appeal should be directed to the director of Residence Life. If the official instituting the discipline is a member of the Office of Student Involvement and Leadership or the director of Residence Life, then the appeal should be directed to the dean of students for community life or vice president for student life designee. If the dean of students for community life instituted the discipline, then the appeal should be directed to the vice president for student life. A student may appeal a decision only once.
An appeal is not a second hearing but is a limited review of the original process and decision. Appeals are only permitted in three situations:
- New Information - There is new information that has not yet been considered and that would likely alter the outcome. Information would be considered "new" if it was discovered after the student's accountability meeting. Information available to the student but not provided during the meeting is not considered "new."
- Excessive Sanctions - Sanctions imposed are not appropriate to the violation(s). Generally sanctions will only be considered excessive if they are significantly different from sanctions imposed by the University for similar violations under similar facts and circumstances.
- Procedural Irregularity - There were procedural errors or unfairness that would likely alter the outcome (e.g., the process outlined above was not followed).
A student's written appeal must include the following information:
- Names of the parties involved
- A narrative of the incident that describes:
- What occurred
- Why it occurred
- When it occurred
- Where it occurred
- Who was present
- A clear statement of the nature of the appeal that explains why one or more of the permitted reasons for appeal applies (i.e., new information, excessive sanctions, or procedural irregularity)
- The student's desired outcome, which can include proposed alternative sanctions
The decision of the appeal may be made with or without meeting with students. The reviewer of the appeal may either affirm the decision completely, affirm a finding as to the existence of a policy violation but modify the sanctions, remand the case for additional fact-finding and consideration, require a new meeting with a different staff member, or reverse the decision. After a decision has been reached, the student will be notified in writing by the reviewer. Decisions made in the appeal process are final.
In situations that result in University suspension or expulsion, the dean of students has the discretion (in consultation with the student) to convene additional campus community members as part of the appeal process. The dean of students or his/her designee will chair this committee to facilitate process. The committee may consist of representatives from the University faculty, staff, and student body (each selected by the chief judicial officer or designee).
This group's task is to review information and deliberate, and then to make a recommendation to the dean of students or his/her designee whose decision is final.
Appeals of disciplinary action resulting from a violation of the Sexual Misconduct Policy are not eligible for committee review and should instead follow the guidelines of that policy. Additionally, if the student behavior resulting in the disciplinary process involved violent or dangerous behavior, the committee shall be required to consider the safety of the community in its deliberations and recommendation, and any sanction imposed on the student shall not be stayed pending the appeal.
Additional information regarding the University's rationale for its behavioral standards or the accountability process is available by contacting the dean of students for community life.
Last published on 10/25/2021