Disciplinary Hearings

Disciplinary Hearings

Principles of fundamental fairness govern the student disciplinary system, the purpose of which is to further the educational mission of the University. The University expects all students to adhere to high standards of responsible behavior. In furtherance of this educational mission, when the Office of Student Conduct (OSC) believes that a student has violated the Code of Academic Integrity or the Code of Student Conduct, it attempts to work out a voluntary agreement whereby the student admits to wrongdoing and agrees to individualized sanctions. If OSC and the student can not reach accord, the case goes to a hearing.

Everything that occurs in a disciplinary hearing is governed by the Charter of the University of Pennsylvania Student Disciplinary System.

The Disciplinary Hearing Officer (DHO), a member of the standing faculty who is appointed by the Provost to serve a two-year term, is responsible for overseeing the procedural integrity and decorum of hearings. The DHO does not deliberate with the Panel and does not have a vote in determining whether the student violated the Code or a voice in determining what, if any, sanctions will be imposed.

Hearing Panels in Academic Integrity cases consist of up to three (3) faculty members and two (2) student members of the University Honor Council (for undergraduates) or GAPSA (for graduate students). Student Conduct Hearing Panels consist of two (2) faculty members and three (3) students. The hearing is presided over by the DHO. After hearing the evidence, the Panel is charged with determining: (1) whether there is clear and convincing evidence that  the student did in fact violate the Code of Academic Integrity or the Code of Student Conduct; and, if so, (2) what sanction(s) should be imposed.

The Panel members will select one of their own to be the chair. The chair will moderate the Panel’s deliberations and coordinate preparation of the written report of the hearing, the conclusions drawn, and, where necessary, the sanctions to be imposed.

The structure of the hearing is as follows:

  • DHO Explanation of Process and Introductions
  • Opening Statements
  • Presentation of Charge against the Respondent
  • OSC presents a summary of the investigation and evidence
    • Presentation of OSC witnesses
    • Questions from Complainant (where appropriate), Respondent and Panel
  • Presentation of Respondent’s Case
    • Statement by Respondent
    • Presentation of Respondent’s witnesses
    • Questions from OSC and Panel
  • Summary Statements
    • By OSC
    • By Complainant (where appropriate)
    • By Respondent
  • Questions from OSC, Respondent, and Complainant (where appropriate) and Panel
  • Adjournment
  • Deliberation
  • Decision
    • If the respondent is not found responsible, the hearing is adjourned.
    • If the respondent is found responsible, the Panel will be given a sealed envelope containing: (1) example of sanctions that have been imposed in similar prior cases; (2) any previous offenses by the Respondent, (3) OSC's initially recommended sanctions, and then enter into deliberations about sanctions.

Admissibility of Evidence

The rules of evidence applicable to legal proceedings do not apply in disciplinary hearings. Information is admissible if relevant, not unduly repetitious, and of the type on which responsible persons are accustomed to rely in the conduct of serious affairs.

The DHO resolves evidentiary issues.

Panel Decision

All decisions of the Panel require a majority, not a unanimous, vote.

Panel submits to DHO as soon as possible:

  • Written summary of decision
  • Basis for making the decision
  • Findings of fact
  • And if respondent is found responsible, sanction(s) to be imposed

Hearing Panel Report

Whether or not the respondent is found responsible for the charges, the Hearing Panel prepares a report of its findings. All reports must include: (1) a written summary of the decision; (2) the Panel’s basis for making the decision; and (3) findings of fact. Where a respondent is found responsible for the charges, the report must also include (4) the Panel’s recommended sanctions. To assist with this, the DHO will provide the Panel with examples of reports on similar cases prepared by previous Hearing Panels.