Frequently Asked Questions
FAQs about the Student Conduct Process & the Office of Student Conduct & Conflict Resolution
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What does the Office of Student Conduct & Conflict Resolution do?
Our Office coordinates the resolution of non-academic student conduct issues at Northwestern (with a particular focus on off-campus conduct, student organizational misconduct, and filesharing), manages the University's formal disciplinary processes (UHAS - University Hearing & Appeals System, and SAHAS - Sexual Assault Hearing & Appeals System), and helps support the development of community, learning, and integrity on campus and beyond. The Office stores and maintains non-academic student disciplinary records, coordinates the Dean Certification process, and – beginning soon – will provide a variety of conflict resolution services and resources for the Northwestern community.
Where does Student Conduct get reports or complaints about students?
Most of the reports regarding students come from three sources: University Residential Life incident reports, Northwestern University police reports and Evanston police reports. In addition, we also receive reports from other University staff and faculty members, Evanston residents and neighbors, and other concerned parties.
If a student receives a notice about a possible violation of campus rules, what does the student need to do?
Students should follow the directions in the notice. Generally, this means that the student will need to schedule and attend a meeting with a University official to discuss the incident. Although students have the right not to make any self-incriminating statements to University officials during the student conduct process, they do have the responsibility to meet with an official about the matter and to be truthful and honest in all statements to the University.
For more information, please see our Rights & Responsibilities page.
How does the University decide if a violation occurred?
Cases of alleged violations of University rules are resolved through several different procedures. Most are handled through the administrative resolution process, in which a University official (generally) reviews reports of the incident, discusses the matter with the student involved, gathers additional information from witnesses or other knowledgeable individuals, and otherwise investigates the circumstances of the event. Once completed, the University official determines whether any violations of University rules occurred and, if so, what sanctions or outcomes are appropriate under the circumstances. Students are then provided with written notification of the administrative findings.
In addition, other modes of resolution include referral to a dispute resolution process, such as mediation or conciliation; or resolution through one of the formal conduct procedures, the University Hearing and Appeals System (UHAS) or Sexual Assault Hearing and Appeals System (SAHAS).
What are the possible outcomes if a student is found in violation of a University rule?
Students, groups of students, or student organizations found to have violated University rules, regulations, or policies may be subject to a variety of sanctions and outcomes. These include disciplinary sanctions (exclusion, suspension, probation, fines, warnings), housing sanctions (relocation or removal), educational and developmental requirements, corrective and restorative outcomes, and other interventions and referrals.
Sanctions and outcomes are determined by taking all relevant factors into consideration, including: (1) the nature and severity of the incident, (2) the student's needs, disciplinary history, level of accountability and cooperation, (3) the interests of the community and those impacted by the conduct, and (4) other aggravating, mitigating or relevant factors
Can the University take action against a student if the incident occurred off campus?
Yes. The University has jurisdiction over conduct that occurs: (1) on University premises; (2) at a University activity, program, function, or sponsored event; (3) in the off-campus residence of any University student or on any street or area contiguous thereto; (4) on premises subject to the jurisdiction of University Police, whether on or off University property; or (5) when the conduct has a real and substantial connection to the legitimate interests of the University or members of the University community.
What happens if a student received a police citation or was arrested and charged with a crime?
The student will have to participate and resolve the issue both through the University conduct process and through the legal system.
The University’s conduct system is completely independent of legal or criminal proceedings, and incidents may proceed under both systems concurrently. The University’s rules and procedures are unique to Northwestern, are designed to be learning- and community-centered, and are not to be considered analogous to court or legal proceedings. Our procedures, therefore, only include the degree of formality or specificity that is necessary to ensure a well-functioning and equitable system and use a separate a distinct standard of proof (“sufficient evidence” – i.e., preponderance of the information presented). Because of the differences between the systems, the University is not bound by decisions or outcomes made in a legal venue when determining whether a violation of University policy occurred.
What are UHAS and SAHAS?
UHAS (University Hearing & Appeals System) and SAHAS (Sexual Assault Hearing & Appeals System) are the formal disciplinary processes at Northwestern. Generally, these systems are used to address and resolve serious or repeated incidents of misconduct by students, groups of students, or student organizations at Northwestern.
UHAS is the formal disciplinary process for most alleged cases of non-academic misconduct on campus, and SAHAS is the formal process that addresses claims of student-on-student sexual assault at Northwestern.
UHAS and SAHAS cases can both be resolved either through a hearing before a panel of students, faculty and staff or through an appropriate dispute resolution process (Conciliation or Mediation). Both systems also include an appeals process.
Will a disciplinary record affect a student’s future plans?
In most cases it should not, but some incidents may have longer-term effects.
Under our Retention and Reporting of Disciplinary Records policy, a student’s disciplinary record will not be reported to external third-parties (graduate schools, employers, licensing agencies, etc.) unless the incident resulted in suspension or exclusion from the University or we are legally required to do so. (Keep in mind, however, that many applications ask students to self-disclose all their disciplinary incidents while at Northwestern.)
Additionally, other campus offices and departments (Study Abroad, Residential Life, Orientation, Norris, etc.) occasionally request information regarding the disciplinary history of students applying for their programs or positions. For these (and other) internal Northwestern offices, we will report all infractions of University rules for their consideration.
Non-academic disciplinary action is not included on a student’s transcript, even if the incident results in suspension or exclusion.
Will a student’s parents or guardians find out about a disciplinary matter?
Possibly. Contact with a student’s parents or legal guardians may occur or be required in certain circumstances in connection with a matter involving alleged student misconduct, including when (a) there has been a determination that the student’s use or possession of alcohol or a controlled substance constitutes a violation of University policy or any federal, state, or local law and the student is under the age of 21 at the time of disclosure; (b) knowledge of such information is necessary to protect the health or safety of a student in connection with an emergency, or (c) the disclosure is otherwise authorized by law and University policy.
It is our general practice to require parental contact for most alcohol and drug violations when the student is under the age of 21. When this is required, we typically ask that a student make contact with their parents, notify them of the details of the incident, and then have their parents or guardians call our office within a few days of the incident.
We will also communicate with parents or family members (or any other individual) fully about their students if the students sign a Consent for Release of Information form authorizing the Division of Student Affairs/Office of Student Conduct & Conflict Resolution to release their Disciplinary Records to their Parents/Family for purposes of Communicating with their Parents/Family.
What if a student does not like the outcome of a conduct matter?
All of our conduct procedures have a review or appeal procedure. Details about how to invoke these processes will be included in any outcome letter sent to a student, along with the deadline. Students should be particularly mindful of deadlines since failure to comply with them could forfeit a student’s right to an appeal.
How can someone report or express concerns about the conduct of a student or student group?
The easiest way is to e-mail to our office (firstname.lastname@example.org) with as much detail as you can. We also prefer that individuals provide their name and contact information; anonymous reports can sometimes be difficult to investigate (since additional information may be necessary) and, as a result, may impact or limit University action. Please know that we treat the identity of anyone making a report with as much confidentiality and discretion as our processes allow.
Additionally, a student, group of students, or student organization can file a complaint against other students or student organizations through the university’s formal conduct procedures (UHAS). If a UHAS complaint (.doc format) is filed, it would be resolved either through Conciliation or through a Hearing. Students may also file a SAHAS complaint (.doc format) alleging violations of the University’s sexual assault policy through our SAHAS process.
If a student calls for help because a friend is really drunk and the student calling for help has also been drinking, will that student get into trouble?
No. As long as a student follows our Responsible Action Protocol (1. Call 911; 2. Stay with the person needing assistance; and 3.Cooperate with emergency and university officials), they will generally face no disciplinary action but may be asked to meet with a university official and possibly complete educational interventions. For more information, see the specific FAQ on the Responsible Action Protocol (.pdf format).
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