Parents: Frequently Asked Questions

My child has been notified that a disciplinary complaint has been filed against her/him. What should I do?

You should provide emotional support and a willing ear. It is likely to be a very stressful time for your child. Encourage your child to contact an advisor to help walk your child through our process.  Encourage your child to be honest with us about what happened and to share with us any extenuating circumstances surrounding the incident. Our goal is to conduct a complete and thorough investigation as expeditiously as possible.  As an educational institution, our focus is on helping students take ownership of their mistakes and learn from them.

What does it mean that a “complaint” has been filed against my child?

A complaint is a request that OSC investigate whether or not there has been a violation of the Code of Student Conduct or the Code of Academic Integrity. When OSC receives a complaint, we notify the student involved and begin an investigation to determine whether or not the complaint is valid. Upon conclusion of the investigation, if there is clear and convincing evidence* that your child is responsible, he or she is charged and asked to agree to sanctions appropriate to the conduct. If it is found that there is insufficient evidence to charge your child, the case is closed with no further action taken. For a step by step guide to our process, click here.

*In cases of Sexual Harassment, the threshold of evidence is a Preponderance of the Evidence.

May I attend OSC meetings with my child?

Typically, the OSC recommends that parents not attend meetings with the student. However, If your child agrees and if OSC thinks it would be appropriate, you may attend meetings with your child. A better alternative may be to set up a separate time for the OSC to meet with both you and your child after the initial meeting.

Will the Office of Student Conduct give me information about the case?

Under the University’s privacy rules, we are only able to communicate with you if we have received written permission from your child.  Once we have written permission on file, we are happy to speak with you about the case.

May I be an advisor to my child?

If you are a member of the Penn community (faculty, staff or student) you may act as an advisor to your child during the disciplinary process. We would like to caution you that this may not be the best option for your child. Faculty and staff advisors are trained in the process and may be better able to be objective and dispassionate. Thus, they are often more effective. Having a supportive parent AND an advisor will give your child an extra layer of help and guidance that many students find invaluable as they navigate our process.

May I speak on behalf of my child?

The University views students as adults and, therefore, students are expected to speak for themselves throughout the process.

Should I engage an attorney to represent my child?

According to the Charter of the Student Disciplinary System, an attorney who is not a member of the University community may not act as an advisor for a student unless “criminal charges are pending against a respondent, or, in the judgment of the Office of the University’s General Counsel, are reasonably in prospect...” § I.D.7.b. See more here.

Are disciplinary matters confidential?

Yes. The proceedings, the identity of those involved, all files, testimony and findings are confidential. University officials, such as the Dean of the student’s school, are advised on a “need-to-know” basis.

According to University policy and federal confidentiality laws, disciplinary records may be disclosed by the Dean of the student’s school to an outside agency or institution only with the student’s written consent. Students will likely be asked for access to these records by graduate schools when they apply or by employers for jobs requiring security clearances. Only cases resulting in sanctions of probation, suspension-not-imposed, suspension, expulsion, withdrawal and delayed diploma are reportable. The records for “non-reportable” sanctions remain in our office, but are not shared with your child’s school. Therefore the schools do not have any information to report.

Are disciplinary records permanent?

Yes. The University maintains disciplinary records in perpetuity.

Are disciplinary sanctions placed on the student’s transcript?

In cases of expulsion or disciplinary withdrawal, a notation will automatically be placed on the student's transcript. In all other circumstances, a transcript notation is rare and discretionary.