Nonacademic Code of Conduct

Preamble
Thomas Edison State University provides flexible, high quality, collegiate learning opportunities for self-directed adults. The University is dedicated to maintaining a scholarly community in which the freedom of expression both written and oral is greatly valued. Members of the University community are expected to interact with each other with respect, consideration and in a civil manner. Civility requires cooperation, tolerance, acceptance, inclusiveness, courtesy, and patience. It is expressed not only in the words that are chosen, but in tone, demeanor, and actions.

Purpose
The purpose of this policy is to advise the students of Thomas Edison State University of their responsibilities and expected conduct when interacting with other students, mentors or staff of the University in nonacademic situations or activities. Furthermore, it provides procedures for filing complaints, investigations, hearings, the range of possible sanctions and appeals under this policy.

Statement of Responsibilities and Conduct
Students at Thomas Edison State University are expected to be mature, self-directed and responsible for their progress and the achievement of their personal academic goals. They are expected to know and comply with the policies, rules and procedures of the University; satisfy their financial obligations; respect University resources; and comply with requests of academic and administrative personnel in the conduct of their professional duties.

Interaction between students and the University is expected to be thoughtful, professional, respectful and civil. Accordingly, any behavior that threatens or endangers the safety or welfare of members of the University community, or substantially disrupts or threatens to substantially disrupt the operation of the University, is prohibited and shall be grounds for disciplinary action, including dismissal from the University. Such prohibited behaviors include, but are not limited to, harassment, abusive actions, physical threats and disruptive conduct.

Violations
Behavior by students that violates the Nonacademic Code of Conduct and that takes place on Thomas Edison State University premises, during University-related activities, or which adversely affects the University community, shall be grounds for disciplinary action by the University. The University reserves the right, notwithstanding anything contained herein, to refer any nonacademic offense to the appropriate civil or criminal authority, as it may deem appropriate. Violations of the Nonacademic Code of Conduct may include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Disruption of University activities - exam administration, online courses, assessment activities, studying, research, administration and meetings. These activities may also be considered a violation of the Academic Code of Conduct. When there are academic elements involved the case will also be referred to the appropriate dean for review.
  • Unauthorized Entry and Use - unauthorized entry and/or use of any University network, building, facility, room or office. Facilities include, but are not limited to, the Trenton offices, off-site centers and special event venues.
  • Misappropriation/Misuse of or Damage to University property, including misappropriation of or possession of misappropriated University property; intentional or negligent damage of University property; intentionally misplacing resources or in any way intentionally depriving other members of the University of the property or having access to the resources; infecting networks, programs, or other electronic media or systems with viruses or otherwise causing systems to malfunction or disruptions to University technology.
  • Physical Abuse and Dangerous Activity, including actual physical abuse or threat of physical abuse to another person; damage to another person’s property; causes another person to fear physical abuse or fear damage to his/her property; creating a condition which endangers or threatens the health, safety or well-being of other persons, or which could cause damage to property; possession, use or distribution of firearms, ammunition, explosives or other weapons on University property.
  • Written or Oral Harassment - written or oral harassment includes the use of threatening or obscene language, or language which is otherwise abusive or discriminatory in the circumstances, by a student, directed to another student, a mentor, trustee or employee of the University.
  • Sexual Harassment – sexual harassment represents a form of abuse and/or intimidation and involves actions such as unwelcome sexual conduct; requests for sexual favors and other physical and expressive behavior of a sexual nature; written or oral abuse or threats of a sexual nature; displaying or distributing pornographic or derogatory pictures or materials; unwelcome physical contact such as touching, patting, pinching or punching; continuing to engage in certain behaviors of a sexual nature after an objection has been raised  by the target of such inappropriate behavior; conduct that has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s education or work performance or creating an intimidating or hostile environment. [Sexual harassment is a violation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and other laws.  See Policy Against Discrimination and Harassment for additional information.]
  • Submission of Fraudulent Documents - such as transcripts, diplomas, test scores, references or applications that are forged, fraudulent, altered from the original, materially incomplete, obtained under false pretenses or otherwise deceptive (collectively referred to as fraudulent documents).
  • Refusal to Provide Identification - refusal to provide identification upon request by an officer, employee or agent of the University acting on behalf of the University  in the course of his/her duties.
  • Disorderly, lewd or obscene conduct on University property or at a University activity.
  • Cyber-bullying, or any electronic communication that contains threatening or abusive language, to another student, mentor or staff member. 
  • Invading another person’s privacy by intruding upon private communications or property.
  • Unauthorized appropriation and/or use of another person’s personal data or identity.
  • Misrepresentation – materially misrepresenting information to an official University body or officer.
  • Provide false or misleading information in the course of a nonacademic disciplinary investigation or hearing.
  • Failing to appear as a witness during a nonacademic disciplinary hearing, when directed to appear by the University.
  • Other acts or activities that violate nonacademic University policies.

Disciplinary Process
The Office of the Vice President for Enrollment Management and Learner Services (EMLS) is responsible for:

  • Investigating allegations of misconduct
  • Administering the disciplinary process
  • Maintaining a written record of all actions regarding student conduct violations.

A complaint involving a violation of the Nonacademic Code of Conduct must be submitted in writing to the Office of the Vice President for Enrollment Management and Learner Services.  The Associate Vice President and Dean of Learner Services will review the matter to determine whether the allegations merit proceeding with formal charges, or should be addressed informally.

If, in the opinion of the Associate Vice President, the complaint should be pursued formally, the student will receive written notice of the charges and specifications, as well as information about a scheduled hearing.  The Vice President for Enrollment Management and Learner Services may withdraw the charges any time prior to the hearing, if good cause exists to do so.

Student rights and responsibilities

The student:

  • Must notify the associate vice president and dean of Learner Services of the names of the student's advisor and any witnesses who will attend the hearing, at least three days before the hearing.
  • Must submit a copy of any document that the student wishes to present into evidence, to the Associate Vice President and Dean of Learner Services, at least three days before the hearing.
  • Will be notified of the charges against him/her, in writing, prior to the hearing.
  • Will be informed of the evidence upon which a charge is based.
  • Will have a reasonable length of time to prepare a response to any charges.
  • Will receive a copy of an investigation report prior to any hearing.
  • Will be given the opportunity to present his/her defense and offer evidence at the hearing.
  • Will receive a written determination of the charges and notifications of any sanctions imposed, in a timely manner.
  • Will be afforded confidentiality throughout the process.
  • Will have the right to waive any of these rights.

Student Conduct Committee Hearing
All committee hearings will be convened in Trenton, N.J. Students unable to travel to Trenton may attend the hearing telephonically via conference call or video interface. A single audio recording of the hearing will be made by the University. Deliberations will not be recorded.

  • The student may have an advisor present at the hearing, however, the student is responsible for presenting his/her information and, therefore, the advisor is not permitted to speak or participate directly in the hearing.
  • The student will be allowed to review the investigating officer’s report (a copy to be provided prior to the hearing), listen to the investigating officer deliver the report and suggest questions for the Committee Chair to ask.
  • The student shall have the opportunity to present his/her version of what happened, submit supporting documentation and present witnesses.
  • All records of the hearing will be kept in the custody of the University. Records or recordings are the property of the University and may not be reproduced without the specific authorization of the President of Thomas Edison State University.
  • Hearings are closed to the public and limited to the complainant, accused and advisor. Presentation of witnesses shall be subject to the Committee's approval.
  • The Committee's determination shall be made on the preponderance of evidence standard (i.e., whether it is more likely than not that the accused student violated the code of conduct.)
  • All expenses incurred by the student will be borne by the student.

The Student Conduct Committee will review the report, listen to evidence and decide if a violation did or did not occur. If a violation is determined to have taken place, the committee will determine what disciplinary action, if any, to impose on the student. A written decision will be issued by the chairman, Student Conduct Committee, to the vice president of Enrollment Management and Learner Services. A copy of the decision will be sent to the student by certified and regular mail and serves as notice of the committee decision and any sanctions to be imposed. With the exception of dismissal and expulsion the Student Conduct Committee may impose, on its own authority, all sanctions listed in this policy.

One or more of the following sanctions may be imposed:

  • Written Warning – A written reprimand for violation of a specific nature, including a warning that continuation or repetition of prohibited conduct may be cause for additional disciplinary action.
  • Exclusion/Removal from University Activity/Event – A student given this sanction may be barred from attending University sponsored activity and events for a specified period of time, not to exceed 180 days. These restrictions may be extended to participation in online events sponsored by the University.
  • Suspension – A student may be suspended from the University for a specified period of time, not to exceed one year. The student while suspended shall not participate in any University sponsored activity and will be barred from University premises. At the discretion of the Provost, a permanent transcript notation of the suspension may be made. Students suspended from the University are not entitled to refunds for tuition or fees associated with their interrupted enrollment.
  • Dismissal from the University – Permanent separation of the student from the University. A permanent transcript notation is mandatory. Students dismissed from the University are not entitled to refunds for tuition or fees associated with their interrupted enrollment. As the most severe action of the institution, the Committee may recommend dismissal to Vice President/Provost. Dismissal may only be imposed by the Vice President/Provost either pursuant to the Committee's recommendation or upon the authority of the Vice President/Provost. The Vice President/Provost will notify the student by certified and regular mail if dismissal is imposed. 
  • Postponing or Withholding of a Degree – The University may withhold the award of a degree, otherwise earned, until completion of a disciplinary process set forth in any of its Codes of Conduct.
  • Revocation of a Degree - An awarded degree may be revoked for fraud, misrepresentation or other violation of University standards.
  • Interim Suspension - In extreme or emergency circumstances, any vice president of the University may immediately suspend a student from access to University premises, activities or electronic sites pending a conduct hearing or disciplinary action. Such interim suspensions will be reported as soon as possible to all the members of the President’s Council.

Appeal Process
The student shall have the opportunity to appeal any decision involving disciplinary action. Appeals of dismissals and expulsions will be submitted directly to the Office of the President. All other appeals must be submitted in writing to the Vice President for Enrollment Management and Learner Services, within fifteen (15) business days after receipt of the disciplinary action. The appeal must specify the grounds on which it is being made. Allowable grounds for appeals are limited to the following:

  • Evidence of procedural irregularity that affected the fairness of the hearing
  • Evidence of significant mitigating circumstances or facts that could not have been presented to the investigating staff member or at the hearing 
  • Evidence of undue severity of sanction
  • Evidence of bias on the part of the investigating staff member
  • Evidence that the decision of the Student Conduct Committee is arbitrary, capricious or unreasonable and that the charges are not supported by the evidence

A written decision will be issued and the student will receive a copy of the appeal decision by certified and regular mail. The appeal decision may require that the previously imposed sanctions be:

  • Affirmed 
  • Suspended, set-aside or rejected
  • Modified or adjusted as warranted by circumstance
  • Remand for a new hearing

Upon notification, administrative offices throughout the University will take all requisite actions to record and implement the final decision of the University.