Overview

In order to fully understand the UHAS, it is important to have an understanding of some of the foundational aspects of the system.

Office of Student Conduct

The Office of Student Conduct (OSC) is responsible for ensuring students honor and respect themselves, their peers, and the Northwestern community. The OSC does this by maintaining and enforcing the Student Code of Conduct and the student conduct process known as the University Hearing and Appeals System.

The Office of Student Conduct is responsible for resolving nonacademic student conduct matters, for ensuring student compliance with all nonacademic conduct conditions and sanctions assigned through the student conduct process, and for maintaining official nonacademic student conduct records. The Office of Student Conduct designates individuals or entities to administer the student conduct process, including the appointment of University Conduct Investigator(s), University Hearing Officers, and the University Hearing Panel.

Purview

UHAS is used to resolve alleged violations of nonacademic University policies by Northwestern students. Alleged violations of academic related policies are resolved through the faculties of the University’s individual schools, and in accordance with the procedures adopted by each school. Cases involving allegations of violations of Northwestern’s Policy on Sexual Misconduct by Northwestern students are resolved through the Sexual Misconduct Complaint Resolution Process which utilizes the UHAS panel hearing process to resolve cases that have the potential to result in separation from the University. For information on the resolution of allegations of violation of the Policy on Sexual Misconduct, please see the Sexual Misconduct Complaint Resolution Process (http://www.northwestern.edu/sexual-misconduct/).

Alleged violations of University policy or professional standards not related to academic policies or the Policy on Sexual Misconduct by students in the School of Professional Studies, Kellogg School of Management, Pritzker School of Law, and Feinberg School of Medicine may be resolved through the faculties of the school and in accordance with the procedures adopted by each school. Where cases have been formally resolved through a school, the case will not also be resolved through UHAS.

Definition of Roles

In the student conduct process, the person who reports a concern and/or who has been impacted by an alleged policy violation is known as the reporter. The term reporter is synonymous with the term complainant which is used in other areas of the University. The person who is alleged to have violated University policy is known as the respondent. Parties is a term that refers to the reporter and the respondent collectively. Witnesses are people who have direct or indirect knowledge related to specific aspects of a conduct case. An advisor is a support person who may be present to provide support to a reporter or respondent throughout an investigation and/or hearing.

Time Limitations

All reports should be made as soon as possible after the incident of alleged misconduct because the passing of time makes a review of the evidence much more difficult, and the memories of involved parties become less reliable. There is no time limit for when an incident of alleged misconduct may be reported; however, absent exceptional circumstances, the OSC typically will not investigate reports submitted over one calendar year after the occurrence of the alleged incident, over one year prior to the time the investigation was requested, or after the respondent has graduated.

Case Timelines

Though the University strives to resolve all cases in a timely manner, the typical timeline for a case varies based on the circumstances of the case. In most cases, the University investigates and resolves reports of policy violation, including initial determination of outcomes and sanctions, within 60 days of receiving a report. Extensions of time beyond this 60 day timeframe may occur for good cause including, but are not limited to, breaks in the academic calendar, the availability of the parties and witnesses (including due of leave of absence), the scope of the investigation, need for interim actions, and unforeseen or exigent circumstances. Many cases are resolved in a much shorter time.

Participation

The University invites reporters and witnesses to participate fully in the student conduct process. In order for OSC to investigate a student conduct matter and/or enable a respondent to fully respond to the allegations, most situations will require the reporter’s participation and that their identity be disclosed to the participants in the student conduct process. If a reporter decides not to participate, but wants student conduct action to be taken, the University will determine whether it is possible to move forward with a case without the participation of the reporter. In some cases, it will not be possible for student conduct action to be taken without the participation of the reporter. Should the reporter request anonymity or decide that they do not want student conduct action taken, the University will attempt to honor this request but, in some cases, the University may need to proceed with an investigation and/or hearing based on concern for the safety or well-being of the broader University community.

The University expects respondents to participate fully in all aspects of the student conduct process. If a respondent elects not to participate in any part of the process, the Office of Student Conduct may proceed without the respondent’s participation. Respondents will be held accountable for any outcomes issued, even if they fail to participate.

Privacy

The University considers all aspects of the UHAS process, including the report, to be private matters for the parties involved. All participants in a UHAS investigation or hearing will be informed that confidentiality enhances the integrity of the investigation, protects the privacy interests of the parties, and protects the participants from statements that might be interpreted to be retaliatory or defamatory. For these reasons, the reporter and respondent will be asked at the beginning of the investigation to keep the information related to the investigation private, to the extent consistent with applicable law. Witnesses and advisors will be asked to maintain complete confidentiality, to the extent consistent with applicable law.

Retaliation

Northwestern University strictly prohibits retaliation against any member of its community for reporting a violation of University policy or for participating, in any manner, in the UHAS process. The University considers such actions to be protected activities in which all members of the Northwestern community may freely engage.

Members of the community are prohibited from engaging in actions, directly or through others, that are aimed to dissuade a reasonable party or witness from reporting violations of University policy, or participating in an investigation or hearing. A detailed definition of retaliation and examples of retaliatory conduct are provided in the University's Policy on Non-Retaliation.

The Northwestern community is strongly encouraged to report any alleged incident of retaliation under this policy to the Office of Student Conduct, which shall investigate the matter and take appropriate actions to address such conduct through the UHAS process.

Participant Rights and Responsibilities in UHAS

All who participate in the UHAS will be treated with dignity and respect and have the right not to be retaliated against for their participation. Those who participate in UHAS, as either a reporter or a respondent, have the following additional rights:

  • To be given notice of the allegations before the hearing and to have the allegations explained clearly and fully
  • To a prompt, fair, and impartial investigation and resolution
  • To a hearing—defined as the opportunity to be heard and to give one’s account of the situation
  • To be knowledgeable about the information being considered by the investigator/hearing officer and to have the opportunity to respond to that information
  • To have the allegations resolved by hearing officers, panel members, and investigators who are properly trained and who are able to act impartially
  • To be accompanied by an advisor, if desired (see “Advisors,” below)
  • To be advised of the appeals process

Participants also have responsibility to be completely honest at all stages of the process and with all conduct administrators, investigators, hearing officers, and hearing panel members. Students and others involved in the student conduct process are encouraged to be forthright and as specific as possible but may choose the extent to which they share information. Any person who knowingly makes a false statement in connection with UHAS matters may be subject to disciplinary action.

Advisors

Reporters and respondents may be accompanied by one advisor throughout the student conduct process, provided that the involvement of the advisor does not result in an undue delay of the process. It is the responsibility of each party to coordinate scheduling with their advisor for any meetings or hearings. An advisor is a support person who is present to provide support to either a reporter or respondent during the student conduct process. As such, advisors may not speak, write, or otherwise communicate with an investigator, hearing officer, or panel and may not represent the reporter or respondent in the process. Advisors may not engage in behavior or advocacy that harasses, abuses, or intimidates either party, a witness, or individuals involved in resolving the complaint. It is the responsibility of the party to coordinate scheduling with their advisor for any inquiry meetings, investigation meetings, or hearings.

To enhance integrity in the student conduct process, to help ensure fairness for all parties, and to ensure that the focus of the student conduct process remains the Northwestern community and its students, advisors cannot be witnesses or a party in the matter or a related matter, must be a member of the University community (faculty, staff, or student), and cannot be a family member of the reporter or respondent, or an attorney.

Advisors who do not abide by these guideline may be excluded from the process, which will continue without the advisor present. For information on advisors permitted in panel hearings for cases related to alleged violations of the Policy on Sexual Misconduct, please see the Sexual Misconduct Complaint Resolution Process (http://www.northwestern.edu/sexual-misconduct/).