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Conduct Processes: Procedures Following Reports of Organization Concerns

Complete Conduct Procedures are available in the Student Handbook in Part 1, Section D. Conduct Procedures.

Phase 1: Intake

This phase may include the following activities:

  • Remedies & Resources to Reporting Parties/Complainants -- Assistance and resources are provided to the reporting party in order to help them understand the options available to them when making a report, to determine what resolution the reporting party is seeking, to identify university and community resources to support the reporting party, and to stop any current inappropriate behavior. This is often handled by the staff member in the Center for Campus Life, Student Resolution Center, Office of Student Conduct or Dean of Students taking the initial report. This staff member may or may not be the person to investigate the complaint.
     
  • Initial Inquiry -- An initial inquiry would occur to review information about the alleged misconduct and to evaluate the accuracy, credibility, and sufficiency of the information. Is the complaint being submitted anonymously or by a third party, or is the complaint being submitted by a TTU student directly impacted by the behavior? When an initial report does not identify victims of misconduct or victims are not available, it can limit the ability to investigate the incident. When the reporting party or complainant is identified but is reluctant to participate in the investigation process or student conduct process, the University will make every attempt to follow the wishes of the complainant while weighing the interests of the campus community and the possibility of continuing inappropriate behavior and threat to the community. If the complainant does not want to participate in the investigative process but has no aversion to the university pursuing the conduct process, the University will proceed to the extent of the information available. If the complainant does not want the University to pursue the report in any respect, the University will investigate further only if there is a reason to believe that a significant continuing threat to the campus community exists.
     
  • Initial Contact to the Student Organization Leadership and Advisor - In most cases, the appropriate Student Organization or Fraternity/Sorority Life staff will ask the student organization President and Faculty/Staff Advisor or Alumni Advisor for an initial response to the information received within a prompt timeframe. At this time, student organization officers and members accused of conduct violations will also receive information about resources that can assist them during the conduct proceedings. When organization leaders are prompt, cooperative and forthcoming with information to assist in the inquiry, it can reduce conduct findings and sanctions. Organizations should be aware that information gathered during this initial contact is documented for use during conduct proceedings. Organizations that ignore requests for information, misrepresent information, or conceal information can face additional allegations of misconduct and increased sanctions.
    • Typical questions include:
      • Were the officers and advisors of the student organization aware of the behavior that occurred or related behaviors? When did you become aware? How did you become aware?
      • Has the organization addressed the behavior? Specifically, how and when was it addressed? What actions were taken?
      • Has your inter/national or regional organization (if appropriate) been notified? Did they take any action?
      • Did the organization investigate the concern in some way prior to notice from the University about the behavior? If so, did a self-report occur to the University? Is the organization willing to share information obtained during the course of the investigation?
      • Were specific members identified as being responsible? Did the organization take action or are they taking action against those members? Is the organization willing to provide the names of the members responsible as referrals to the Office of Student Conduct for individual student violations of the Code of Student Conduct?
      • What students and advisors are the primary points of contact for addressing this concern?
      • Provide an updated membership roster including officers and new members.
      • Is the organization aware of any related criminal investigations or pending charges related to the behaviors?
      • Is the organization aware of any media coverage of the behaviors or have they been contacted by media about the concern?

        In some cases, the University may first contact the inter/national or regional organization or local advisors prior to discussing concerns with student organization officers. This may occur when information indicates that the student organization officers are directly involved in the behavior and may not respond appropriately to concerns.
  • Notification of the Inter/National or Regional Headquarters (if relevant) – in most cases (with the exception of low-level concerns), Campus Life staff will notify representatives of the inter/national or regional headquarters of the complaint received and process for reviewing the complaint. TTU believes in an active partnership with inter/national and regional organization staff to resolve concerns. These inter/national and regional staff and volunteers are often better able to identify opportunities to address concerns and may be conducting their own investigation and conduct process. TTU staff will specifically contact inter/national and regional organizations when a reoccurring concern indicates a climate issue for the organization, when the response of the organization is not compliant or timely, when there is an immediate threat to member or others safety, or when the organization has already participated in conduct processes for concerns.
     
  • Interim Actions – In some cases, the registration of a student organization may be temporarily suspended while an investigation is pending involving an alleged violation of registered student organization policies and procedures. If this occurs, the student organization is not able to access the benefits of being a registered student organization during this time period and organization activities should cease in order to prevent additional misconduct. Examples of conduct or incidents that may result in interim suspension are violent/harassment-type hazing, organization events and activities resulting in allegations of sexual misconduct, criminal felony charges, severe disruption, retaliatory harassment; alcohol/drug policy violations occurring during recruitment or social events; and cease and desist directives from inter/national or regional organizations.
     
  • Decision to Document the Incident without Further Investigation – If it is determined that the information reported and available does not warrant an allegation of a conduct violation, a policy warning letter may be issued to clarify the policy that was in question. This may happen in situations where reports received are from anonymous sources with no ability to validate the credibility of the concern and the initial inquiry identifies little to no other information to support the report. An example of a policy warning letter is available here.
     
  • Suggestions for Communicating to an Organization’s Members During a Conduct Process
    • Discuss how and what to communicate to membership with local advisory boards, inter/national or regional headquarters, and TTU staff.
    • Discuss who is most appropriate to communicate to the membership.
    • If interim action has occurred and the organization’s activities are limited or should cease completely, communicate this to members with clear instructions about what activities may or may not occur.
    • Help members to understand that their response and cooperation during conduct processes can impact the overall outcomes for the organization as well as for individual students.
    • Remind members that their behaviors during a conduct process are subject to the Code of Student Conduct.
    • Encourage members not to discuss the ongoing processes. When investigations occur, members should share their perspectives and accounts, not those of other members.
    • Remind members not to seek information about where the complaint or report came from – any communication to reporting parties or changes in behavior toward reporting parties can appear retaliatory in nature.
    • Retaliation is strictly prohibited and is cause for severe conduct sanctions. Describe retaliation to your members and remind them not to participate in behaviors that can be considered retaliation.
    • If members have been removed via internal organization processes, help remaining members to understand what the expectations are in regard to organization activities with non-members or alumni members.
    • Share information related to the conduct process with members and give them resources such as the Student Resolution Center if they have questions about what may occur. Help members to understand their individual rights and responsibilities.
    • A Campus Life staff member or investigator can address you membership and answer questions about processes if this is helpful.
    • Consider if communications will be sent to alumni or parents related to processes.

 

Phase 2: Investigation

This phase may include the following activities:

  • Appointment of Investigator(s) – At this point, a determination will be made regarding the appointment of a primary staff member in the Office of Student Conduct or Student Resolution Center to conduct a thorough, reliable, and impartial investigation of the reported concern. This may or may not be the same staff who were involved in the intake phase of the process.
     
  • Coordination of Investigation(s) -- In student organization incidents there is the potential for three or more separate investigations to be occurring in a similar time frame.
    • TTU Student Organization Conduct Investigation
    • Criminal Investigation by Texas Tech, Lubbock or Other Police Departments Investigation
    • Inter/National or Regional Headquarter Investigation
    • Local Student Organization Advisory Board Investigation

      When initial inquiry indicates that another concurrent investigation is occurring alongside the TTU student conduct investigation, the appointed investigator(s) will, where possible, collaborate with the other entities conducting investigations. Elements of a collaborative investigation may include coordinated or joint interviews, evidence sharing, and investigation report sharing within the limits of student records policies.

      Investigations of student organization conduct may include the requirement for student organization members to attend an investigation meeting as a group or as individuals. Students may be asked to complete written questionnaires related to the investigation. Regardless of the nature of the investigation, students and student organizations should be aware of their rights and responsibilities in the conduct process and recognize that any information shared during the course of the student conduct investigation may be used in formal conduct processes against the student organization or the individual student. Students can always decline to participate in a collaborative investigation meeting and meet only with the student conduct investigator instead of meeting together with other investigators.
  • Student Organization Rights & Responsibilities – Students and student organizations will be provided a Student Rights & Responsibilities document to review and sign prior to an interview with the appointed student conduct investigator. The Rights & Responsibilities document informs the student of his or her rights to be exercised during the conduct process. Those rights include:
    • Refrain from making any statement relevant to the investigation.
      • Students and student organizations have the right to refuse to participate in the investigation process, either in part or entirely. However, refusal to participate in the investigation, in whole or in part, lasts for the duration of the conduct process. Expressly, if a student or student organization does not provide information during the investigation, he or she will not be allowed to present new information during the hearing; similarly, if a student or student organization provides only limited information during the investigation (i.e., answering some of the investigator’s questions but not others), then during the hearing the student will only be permitted to speak to the information he or she provided, with no additional commentary. The rationale for this policy is to prevent the responding or complaining party from presenting new evidence at the hearing that was available during the investigative process for the purpose of disadvantaging the other party.
      • Any information provided by a student during an investigation may be used in formal conduct processes related to allegations against the student organization, the student or other students.
    • Notification of the alleged misconduct.
    • Know the source of the allegation(s).
    • Know the specific alleged violation(s) prior to the Formal Hearing.
      • Allegations are assigned at the completion of the investigation and are communicated during the Pre-Hearing.
    • Know the sanctions, conditions, and/or restrictions that may be imposed because of the alleged violation(s).
      • Information about student conduct outcomes/findings (sanctions, conditions, restrictions) is available in the Student Handbook Part 1, D10 Conduct Outcomes/Findings.
    • Be accompanied by an advisor at any conduct or related proceeding.
      • An “advisor” can be any one of the following: a member of the Texas Tech community (faculty, staff, or student), a victim’s advocate, a parent or legal guardian, a relative, or in situations involving criminal legal proceedings, an attorney.
      • An advisor’s role is that of support – he or she may not speak on behalf of the student and does not have an active, participatory role in the conduct process. If an advisor for the student is an attorney, an attorney from TTU Office of General Counsel may attend on behalf of the University.
      • In the case of student organization conduct procedings, the President of the student organization is asked to make a response on behalf of the organization. During these processes, the President is also encouraged to include the faculty/staff advisor for the student organization. In many cases, the President may not be able to speak on behalf of the local advisory board to the student organization, so the inclusion of a local alumni advisor is also allowed.
      • Please note students, and in the case of student organizations – the current President of the organization, is responsible for presenting information during the formal hearing. The roles of the advisors during formal hearings should be for support and guidance, not to speak or participate directly in the formal hearing unless authorized.
      • Students should select an advisor whose schedule allows attendance at the meeting, as delays will not be allowed due to the scheduling conflicts of an advisor, except at the discretion of the investigator and with advanced notice.
    • To have the opportunity to respond to the allegation(s) and/or present information related to the allegations.
      • This information should be submitted during the investigation meetings. Please note the Pre-Hearing section for details on inclusion of new, previously unavailable information after conclusion of the investigation phase).
      • If a student or student organization needs additional time to gather information, please inform your investigator/conduct officer.
    • Know that the standard of proof is a preponderance of the evidence.
      • This differs from the standard of proof in a criminal legal proceeding – beyond a reasonable doubt. To make a finding under a preponderance of the evidence, it must be “more likely than not” that a certain behavior occurred. In other words, if the evidence indicates that ther is a 51% likelihood that a student or student organization violated the Code of Student Conduct, then that student or student organization should be found responsible for a policy violation at TTU.
    • Know that the proceedings are not restricted by the Rules of Evidence that govern criminal and civil trials.
      • This means that all evidence and information can be taken into consideration in evaluating a situation, regardless of the source or means used to acquire that evidence or information.
    • Know that any statements made by parties during initial inquiry, investigation, or other aspects of the conduct process can be used in the investigation report and in formal hearings.
      • Student and student organization records are subject to the Federal Education Rights & Privacy Act (FERPA). Information collected during an investigation will be compiled into an investigation report and is considered student or student organization records. The investigation report may be shared with the assigned student conduct hearing board members or administrative officers assigned to adjudicate concerns as officials with legitimate educational interest and without written consent for release. Student and student organization records can be subpoenaed in accordance with criminal processes which could include the release of the investigation report to law enforcement officials.
      • The investigation report may also be shared with the inter/national or regional organization headquarters staff to assist with collaborative investigations.
    • Know that if it is discovered that students made any false or misleading statement(s) during the student conduct process, that student will be subject to further disciplinary action under the Code of Student Conduct.
      • Student organization members who conceal information or collude to provide false information may be subject to individual conduct allegations, and/or this may indicate that the student organization may be responsible for a policy violation behavior because their response allowed the behavior to continue or worsen.
  • Investigation Report is Completed by Investigator and Pre-Hearing Scheduled
    • Once the investigation report is completed, the President and his/her advisors for the student organization will be given notice of a Pre-Hearing Meeting. During this meeting, the representatives will be given an opportunity to review the Investigation Report and other documents or evidence that would be used in a formal hearing. If new or previously unavailable information is now available, the investigator will make a determination about the inclusion of the information in the report.
    • If there is not sufficient evidence to proceed to a hearing, a policy warning letter would be issued to the organization and the incident would be closed.
    • If there is sufficient evident to proceed to a hearing, the investigation report will outline the formal allegations against the student organization.
    • A discussion would occur around the opportunity for an informal resolution or a formal hearing.
    • In cases proceeding to a formal hearing, the student organization representative(s) would review the formal hearing script and the pool of faculty, staff, and students trained for the University Discipline Committee.
    • Discussion of Self-Sanctioning and Other Actions Being Taken By Organization, Inter/National or Regional Headquarters, or Local Alumni Boards
    • Student organizations will be asked to provide information about any actions occurring voluntarily by the organization to address concerns or actions occurring related to other conduct processes (intern/national or regional actions, local alumni board actions).
    • This information is used to inform the opportunity for an organization to be eligible for informal resolution processes or the information would be used in the sanctioning portion of a formal hearing if an organization is found responsible for a policy violation.
    • Questions to answer might include:
      • Describe any education or training that has been held for the organization related to these behaviors
      • Describe any restrictions (social, new member, intramurals) that have occurred since notification of the alleged behaviors
      • Consider how the organization’s self-sanctions compare to those outlined in the student organization sanction grid at (link to pdf of sanction grid)
      • Describe any membership interviews or reviews that occurred (locally, nationally)
      • Provide an updated membership roster indicating membership status changes resulting from incidents related to these behaviors
      • Indicate why the organization feels these steps taken have adequately remedied the situation? How do they prevent the behavior from occurring in the future? How do they assist members or others who were impacted by the organization’s behaviors.
      • What information will be released publicly (if relevant and appropriate) related to the organization’s response to these behaviors?

 

Phase 3: Resolution – This phase may include the following

This phase may include the following activities:

  • Informal Resolution – upon review of the investigation report and the investigation process, the organization may have the opportunity to resolve the issue informally. The investigator would provide an informal resolution in writing to the organization representatives for their consideration. The organization would agree to the outlined findings of responsibility for misconduct and the outlined sanctions, conditions, and restrictions. If there is a complainant, the complainant must also agree to the informal resolution. There is no appeal of signed informal resolutions. Once completed, the informal resolution completes the conduct process.
     
  • Formal Hearings – Student organization conduct processes are typically adjudicated by a University Discipline Committee (a panel of five trained, committee members including faculty, students, and staff—in some types of cases students do not sit on the committee). An administrative hearing officer option may be available for some student organization conduct processes. Following the pre-hearing where the student organization representative views the script for the hearing, the investigation report that will be presented at the hearing, and the pool of committee members, the date for a formal hearing is assigned.
    • Hearings are closed to the public. Complainants and respondents have the right to be present at the formal hearing; however, they do not have the right to be present during deliberations. Student organizations are typically represented by the current President and an advisor. Arrangements will be made so that complaining and responding students are not present in the hearing room at the same time.
    • The investigator will present the investigation report, evidence, witnesses, allegations, and questions for deliberation. The University Discipline Committee may ask clarifying questions of the investigator, complainant, respondent or witnesses. The complainant and the responding student organization do have the right to make comments or statements about the allegations. The complainant and respondent do not have the right to question each other or witnesses directly, but they can ask questions through the investigator. For the most part, these questions and this information should already be included in the investigation report and should be discussed no later than the pre-hearing. Should new evidence be presented that is not in the investigation report, the hearing may be halted for the investigator to consider the inclusion of the information.
    • Impact statements are not to be including during the initial portion of the hearing and are to be halted until the sanctioning phase of the hearing. An impact statement is where the student or student organization representative describes the impact of the behaviors that occurred or of the potential sanctions that may occur.
    • Following the hearing, the committee or administrative hearing officer will deliberate and render a decision of responsibility related to the misconduct.
    • If the student organization is responsible for misconduct, the hearing will begin a sanctioning phase and deliberation. The complainant and the student organization representative have the opportunity to make a verbal or provide a written impact statement.
    • The investigator would provide information during sanctioning related to any previous conduct history, self-sanctioning occurring with the organization, and general information about the organization’s activities and participation at TTU to help inform sanctioning.
    • Following the hearing, the committee or administrative hearing officer will render a decision in writing that outlines any sanctions, conditions, and/or restrictions for the student organization.
  • Conduct Outcomes/Findings Determined (Sanctions, Conditions, Restrictions) – An informal resolution or a formal hearing may result in sanctions, conditions, and/or restrictions for the student organization.
    • A student organization sanction grid is available here as a guideline for administering sanctions, conditions, and/or restrictions.  (link to PDF)
    • The cooperation of an organization during the investigation and conduct process as well as any self-sanctioning or other required sanctioning will be considered in the determination of outcomes.
  • Sanctions – the primary outcome of the conduct process and the assigned status of the student organization found responsible for a conduct violation. Options are listed below:
    • Disciplinary Reprimand – An official written notification that the action in question was misconduct. The disciplinary status of the organization is still good-standing.
    • Disciplinary Probation – a period of time during which the organization’s conduct will be observed and reviewed. The organization must demonstrate the ability to comply with University policies and any other conditions / requirements stipulated for the period of probation. Further instance of misconduct during this time period may result in additional sanctions, conditions, and/or restrictions.
    • Deferred Disciplinary Suspension – the conduct that occurred could have resulted in suspension, but the suspension is deferred for a period of observation and review. Deferred suspensions are assigned for no less than one semester. Further instances of misconduct during this time period may result in immediate temporary suspension of organization activities and often result in suspension or expulsion. Deferred suspension often includes multiple conditions and restrictions for the organization to continue recognition with the university.
    • Time-Limited Disciplinary Suspension – a specific period of time in which a student organization’s registration with the university is suspended as well as privileges and benefits of registration. Suspended student organizations may not hold events or activities on campus, may not solicit or utilize University grounds or services to promote organizations or events or to recruit members, and may not utilize any other benefits or services provided to registered student organizations. If an inter/national or regional organization suspends the charter of an organization, this results in a sanction no less than time-limited suspension for the time period of the suspended charter.
    • Disciplinary Expulsion – the student organization is permanently withdrawn and separated from the University with no opportunity for future recognition as a student organization.
  • Conditions – an additional component of a disciplinary sanction, usually an educational element assigned to occur in conjunction with a period of probation or deferred suspension or assigned to occur prior to returning from time-limited suspension. Examples include,
    • Hosting educational programs or initiatives for the organization or community related to the misconduct
    • Requirements for additional training or advisement from TTU staff, advisory boards, or other appropriate parties
    • Requirements for membership to complete online education programs or other activities
    • Requirements for community service or other activities benefitial to the membership and associated with remedying the impact of behavior on the community
    • Restitution or compensation for loss, damage or injury, which may take the form of appropriate service and/or monetary or material replacement
    • Requirements for completion of membership reviews and providing updated rosters
    • Requirements to submit information about updated and improved organizational processes such as new member education plans, social event, plans
  • Restrictions – an additional component of a disciplinary sanction, usually an educational restriction on organization activities that occurs during a time period of probations or deferred suspension or upon return from time-limited suspension. Examples include,
    • Revocation of organization benefits such as eligibility for SGA funding, eligibility to reserve rooms, eligibility to solicit or hold events on campus
    • Denial of participation or restrictions associated with participation in university activities as a student organization such as homecoming, intramurals, recruitment activities
  • Required Notifications – Some organization misconduct requires additional notifications. Texas Education Code, Chapter 51.936 indicates that institutions of higher education shall distribute to each student during the first three weeks of each semester a list of organizations that have been disciplined for hazing or convicted for hazing on or off the campus of the institution during the preceding three years.
     
  • Conduct Appeal Procedures – a student organization may appeal the decision of a formal hearing or the sanction(s), condition(s), and restriction(s) imposed following a formal hearing by submitting a written petition for appeal to the designated appeal officers with five (5) University working days of receiving the written decision.
    • Petitions for appeal must clearly identify the grounds for the appeal, together with the evidence upon which the appeal is based. A disagreement with the decision alone shall not constitute grounds for appeal.
    • The only proper grounds for appeal are a) procedural or substantive error that significantly impacted the outcome of the hearing; b) discovery of new evidence, unavailable during the original hearing, which could substantially impact the original finding or sanction; c) the sanctions imposed substantially vary from the range of sanctions normally imposed for similar infractions.
    • The designated appeal officers will review the appeal to determine if the appeal is timely and sets forth appropriate grounds and accompanying evidence. If the appeal does have grounds, the designated appeal officer may affirm the original hearing body decision, may remand it back to the original hearing body to review new evidence or fix procedural errors, modify the original hearing body decision, or assign for a new hearing to a new hearing body. There is not appeal of the designated appeal officers decision.
  • Student Organization Records
    • All records concerning a student organization related to conduct processes will remain on file with the University for a minimum of seven (7) years form the date of the completion of the case via informal resolution, formal hearing, and/or conduct appeal processes.
    • Student organization records do not impact the content of individual student records for student organization members. Findings of responsibility of misconduct for student organizations does not indicate a finding of responsibility for individual students. Individual students are subject to their own conduct processes separate from the student organization process.
    • Student organization conduct decisions and finding are shared with the inter/national or regional headquarters of organizations as appropriate.
  • General Participation in Conduct Processes by Student Organizations
    • Student organizations can choose not to participate in any aspect of the conduct process, but the process will continue with or without participation.
    • In situations where the organization no longer has a current student representing the organization, the conduct process will continue with the information available at the time. Organizations with inter/national, regional, or local advisory staff or volunteers with a long-term interest in the organization’s recognition at the University may be allowed to participate in the resolution of conduct processes when a current student is no longer able to represent the organization.