College students aren’t always presumed innocent

College is often a young adult’s first time out from under their parents’ roof for an extended period of time. While moving into the dorms is a great learning experience, it can also be hard on both the students and their parents, as mistakes are made that may have long-ranging consequences. 

College students are expected to abide by the rules and their school’s code of conduct. While the codes vary from school to school, generally speaking, facing criminal charges may be a cause for suspension or expulsion — often without due legal process for the student. Conduct that is not criminal or that would not be illegal off-campus can also result in harsh disciplinary measures. 

Student misconduct

Student misconduct is a very vague term. There are plenty of issues that can be considered misconduct. Some types of misconduct are punishable by probation, while other types can result in expulsion and even criminal charges. When students begin college, they will receive information regarding what is considered misconduct. This can vary from school to school, but there are a few common examples that are universal in all schools.

  • Any behavior that is considered disruptive or abusive, such as constant use of vulgarity, profanity, and verbal harassment
  • Physically abusing another person, such as assault, battery, and rape
  • Stalking, intimidating, or hazing a student or any other person on campus
  • Underage drinking and drug use
  • Defacing personal or school property, including vandalism and graffiti
  • Possession of any type of weapon on campus


Dishonesty is another vague term. While a white lie won’t get you kicked out of school, dishonesty can break the code of conduct. A few examples include:

  • Lying to college officials and professors
  • Cheating on assignments or tests and plagiarizing papers
  • Providing false information on any documents, including applications, financial aid forms, and any other essential paperwork
  • Forgery or misrepresenting yourself
  • Falsifying data for research or experiments. Also inventing data and results for work that was never completed, and claiming false resources
  • Reporting a fake emergency to campus police and other officials

Disciplinary action for breaking the code of conduct

The punishment for breaking the school’s code of conduct would depend on the offense. If the student committed a felony, they would be automatically expelled from many colleges.

For less severe issues, the issue might be handled internally via student government or a committee designed to handle disciplinary matters. 

The key here is whether the student will be treated by the school as guilty, just based on accusations, without proof or due process. Schools may try to expel students as soon as the offense is charged, ignoring the student’s presumption of innocence until proven guilty. These is especially true for allegations of sex offenses.

Academic issues

Students are held to a high standard regarding their performance and their grades. Failing grades or a poor GPA can result in the student losing their federal financial aid or their private scholarship. 

  • Academic probation: When a student is put on academic probation, they are given a certain amount of time to improve their performance and their grades
  • Academic dismissal: Students who fail to make satisfactory progress while on academic probation can be dismissed from college. When this happens, it can be difficult getting into another school. When the student applies, they will need to provide their transcripts and the reason that they were discharged from their former college. Some schools will accept students who have been dismissed from their previous school for academic reasons; however, there are others who have strict policies against this.

If a student wants to appeal their academic dismissal, or if they have broken the college code of conduct and are facing repercussions, it is best to have legal representation. Protecting the promising futures of college students and young adults is a primary focus of our practice. Because the student’s education and future are at stake, it is a good idea to have a lawyer there to offer guidance, so that the student can make the best decisions possible.