Formal Resolution

The University Hearing and Appeals System is not a court, legal, or trial system, and the resolution options, including formal resolution, available through UHAS are not constrained by the rules of procedure or evidence typically used in a court of law. UHAS operates under a standard of fairness, which includes an opportunity for the student/group to be notified of the alleged misconduct and the policy violations under consideration and an opportunity to be heard. As such, if a case is referred for formal resolution, the respondent will be notified of the alleged misconduct and will be given an opportunity to respond.

Depending on the circumstance and in its discretion, the Office of Student Conduct may consolidate for investigation and resolution multiple incidents involving the same respondent, and/or cases in which parties have made allegations against each other.

Please note, allegations of policy violation related to the Policy on Sexual Misconduct are resolved through the Sexual Misconduct Complaint Resolution Process (http://www.northwestern.edu/sexual-misconduct/).

Standard of Evidence

The Office of Student Conduct uses the preponderance of the evidence standard in investigations and hearings. This means that the investigator, conduct administrator(s), or panel must determine more likely than not what occurred.

Notification

When a case will be resolved through formal resolution, a conduct administrator will send notification of the allegation of misconduct to the respondent. The notification will typically include a brief description of the alleged misconduct, including the time, date, and place the incident allegedly occurred, a list of any University policies allegedly violated, and a description of the steps toward resolution. The University may modify the list of policies allegedly violated based on additional information revealed during investigation.

Acceptance of Responsibility

Occasionally the conduct administrator may send students an acceptance of responsibility letter in lieu of notification. An acceptance of responsibility letter contains the same information as a notification, except it provides the respondent the option to forego a hearing and accept responsibility for an alleged violation. Acceptance of responsibility letters are only used for relatively minor incidents at the discretion of the conduct administrator assigned to the case. Respondents may always decline to accept responsibility and request a hearing instead. Failure by a student to request a hearing within a reasonable time as designated by the conduct administrator in writing to the student (typically, within 72 hours of receiving the Acceptance of Responsibility) will result in the decision of responsibility being finalized, and any proposed sanctions will be applied. Decisions rendered by either acceptance of responsibility or failure to respond pursuant to an acceptance of responsibility letter are not eligible for administrative review or appeal, except on the grounds that the student did not have a reasonable opportunity to receive and respond to the letter. Acceptance of responsibility is not utilized in cases involving alleged sexual misconduct.

Types of Hearings

There are two types of hearings offered through UHAS: Administrative Hearings and Panel Hearings. An Administrative Hearing or Panel Hearing is used to resolve a case as follows:

  • All cases that do not have the potential to result in separation from the University (i.e., suspension, exclusion, degree revocation, expulsion, or group dissolution) are resolved through Administrative Hearings.
  • In cases that do have the potential to result in separation from the University the respondent may choose whether to have the allegations resolved through an Administrative or a Panel Hearing.

The potential of an alleged violation (not including alleged violations of the Policy on Sexual Misconduct) to result in separation from the University will be determined by the Director of the Office of Student Conduct or designee.

Cases that involve allegations of violation of the Policy on Sexual Misconduct are resolved through the Sexual Misconduct Complaint Resolution Process (http://www.northwestern.edu/sexual-misconduct/). When a case of this nature does not have the potential to result in separation from the University (as determined by the Deputy Title IX Coordinator for Students, or designee), it is resolved through Administrative Resolution which is conducted by the Office of Equity. When a case of this nature does have the potential to result in separation from the University, the Office of Equity will manage all aspects of the case through the investigation as is outlined in the Sexual Misconduct Complaint Resolution Process. Once the investigation is complete, the case will be resolved through the UHAS Panel process, including the UHAS appeal process. When a case involves alleged violations of the Policy on Sexual Misconduct as well as alleged violations of other University policies, all allegations of policy violation will be resolved together through the Sexual Misconduct Complaint Resolution Process. Staff resolving these cases will be trained as UHAS hearing officers for purposes of adjudicating non-sexual misconduct violations of the student code of conduct arising out of a sexual misconduct complaint.

For more information on types of hearings visit the links below: