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Revised: 10-23-2020

COVID-19 PANEL PROCEDURAL RULES

 

Colby College has established a panel to hear claims of serious violations by students or organizations of the COVID-19 policy (the “C-19 Policy”) on an expedited basis. Serious violations are those which, if true, can lead to temporary or permanent separation (e.g. – suspension, or expulsion) from the College. The panel will be appointed by the Dean of the College and consist of five voting members: Two faculty, one staff, and two student members. A pool of qualified individuals to serve on panels will be developed by the Office of the Dean of the College. The panel will hear the claims and determine both responsibility and sanction(s).

 

  1. Initiation of Claim:
    1. Upon receipt of a claim and any investigation the Assistant Dean of Students for Conduct and Accountability (the “Conduct Dean”) deems appropriate, the Conduct Dean will determine whether the claim, if true, would constitute a serious violation. If so, the matter is referred to the panel. If not, then the matter is governed by the Student Code of Conduct.
    2. The Conduct Dean will immediately appoint a 5-member panel from a panel pool, appointed by the Dean of the College, as described above. The Conduct dean in collaboration with the Dean of the College will designate which member will serve as chair of the panel. Student members must be in good academic and conduct standing as determined by the Dean of the College.
    3. The Conduct Dean is responsible for scheduling the hearing. If a hearing is necessary at or after the end of a semester and the regular hearing panel cannot be convened, the Conduct Dean may convene a special hearing panel. The membership will consist of five panel members available at the time of the hearing, including at least one student, one faculty member and one staff member.
    4. If the Conduct Dean reasonably believes that the conduct giving rise to a claim created an unreasonable risk of harm, the Conduct Dean may temporarily remove the student from campus or establish restrictions on access to campus venues or limitations on social privileges pending the outcome of the hearing. In reaching such a decision, the Conduct Dean will consider the community exposed by the possible violation, the flagrant or reckless nature of the violation, the potential for serious and imminent harm resulting from the violation, and other health and safety factors.

 

  1. Notice of Allegations and Process
    1. At least 3 days prior to the hearing, or as far in advance as reasonably possible if, in the determination of the Conduct Dean, an accelerated hearing is required due to the circumstances, the Conduct Dean shall send a letter to the student charged with a serious violation (the “Respondent”) stating the following:
      1. A summary of the alleged violation(s), including where possible, date, location, time, the applicable portion of the C-19 Policy, and the identity of the panel members. Evidence in the possession of the Conduct Dean which may be presented at the hearing will also be supplied or made available for the Respondent to review at any time prior to the hearing.
      2. The time and place of the hearing. Attendance by the Respondent is mandatory, superseding all other campus activities. If the Respondent does not appear at the hearing, the hearing may proceed without the Respondent present. If the Panel Chair determines that there is good cause, the hearing may be rescheduled. Except in extraordinary circumstances, a Respondent must agree to the scheduling of an accelerated hearing.
      3. Within 1 day of the notice of alleged violations, the Respondent must identify any concerns about a bona fide conflict of interest or bias on the part of any panel member assigned to the matter. If a panel member does have a bona fide conflict or bias, the Dean of the College will select another member to serve.
      4. The Respondent may bring an advisor to the hearing. An advisor may be a current Colby student, faculty, staff, administrators, parent/legal guardian/family member or attorney. An advisor may not be a witness in the case. The Respondent must notify the Conduct Dean of the identity of the advisor at least 1 day before the hearing. The Respondent must speak and respond to questions on the Respondent’s own behalf. The advisor may consult with the Respondent, but may not answer, make statements, pose objections or questions unless permitted by the Panel Chair.
      5. If the hearing is being held as a result of a complaint by a specific Complainant, the Complainant also has the right to attend the hearing and will receive the same notice of the hearing time and place as the Respondent. The Complainant also has the right to bring an advisor to the hearing, who may assist the Complainant in the same manner as the Respondent’s advisor.
      6. Communications between a Respondent and their advisor are not admissible at the hearing, nor may a Respondent be required to disclose these communications as part of an investigation of a violation of this policy. (In addition to this rule, if the advisor is an attorney, communications between the attorney-advisor and the client-Respondent are confidential by virtue of the attorney-client privilege.) There are limited exceptions to this confidentiality rule: (i) a Respondent may waive the privilege; and (ii) an advisor, including an attorney-advisor, must disclose communications if the advisor reasonably believes disclosure is necessary to prevent substantial bodily harm or death to another person, including the Respondent, or to prevent the Respondent from committing a crime.
    2. The Conduct Dean provides information to the Respondent, the Complainant (if any), and any witnesses regarding the hearing process, and is responsible for scheduling the hearing, assembling materials and evidence presented to the panel.
    3. All information, documents, statements and materials which make up the record to be considered by the panel (the “records”) are the property of the College. Except as provided below, those involved in the hearing are prohibited from duplicating, disclosing, or distributing the records to anyone. The records will not be shared with anyone except the panel, the Conduct Dean and other appropriate Colby employees, and with the written permission of the Respondent, with their parent/legal guardian, advisor or attorney. Dissemination of the records or information contained in the records by the Respondent or Complainant to any person, including witnesses, other than their parent/legal guardian or advisor, or any publication of the records, including publication through social media, is expressly prohibited. The Complainant and Respondent are responsible for ensuring that their parents, legal guardians and advisors adhere to this prohibition. Any such dissemination or publication constitutes a violation which may result in suspension or expulsion from Colby.
    4. The hearing shall be recorded by current means of technology (digital audio, etc.).
    5. The hearing is closed. Only the Respondent and Complainant (if any) and their advisors are permitted to attend the entire hearing; there are no observers. The Panel Chair may allow witnesses who have relevant information to appear at a portion of the hearing in order to respond to specific questions from the hearing panel. The College’s Office of General Counsel may attend any hearings and assist the Chair or panel in the administration of the hearing process.
    6. The Conduct Dean may address the panel and present information, evidence and other materials relevant to the matter to the hearing panel.
    7. The Complainant (if any) and the Respondent may elect to make opening and closing statements, if desired.
    8. The Respondent has the right and responsibility to respond to allegations of C-19 Policy violations. However, by choosing to remain silent or not appear, the Respondent may, nevertheless, be found responsible and face sanctions if the hearing panel determines they are warranted.
    9. Formal rules of process, procedure, and/or technical rules of evidence, such as are applied in criminal or civil court, are not used in panel hearings.
    10. Only information pertinent to the possible violation, and information which is common knowledge to people in the conduct of their ordinary daily affairs (e.g. – snow is cold, ice can be slippery) will be considered by the panel. The Panel Chair shall have discretion to determine whether the panel will receive and consider particular information, including information about any other disciplinary or Policy violations or claims involving the Respondent, and to resolve any procedural questions or disputes that arise in the course of a hearing.
    11. Participation in a hearing by telephone, closed circuit television, video conferences, video or audio recording, written statement, or other means may be permitted by the Panel Chair to the extent deemed appropriate in the Chair’s sole discretion. Any request to appear other than in person must be approved in advance of the hearing date.
    12. Proceedings are strictly confidential. All persons present during the hearing are expected to maintain confidentiality. Any documents distributed to hearing panel members shall be collected at the end of the hearing.
    13. Once the hearing is concluded, the panel will deliberate in a private session. The panel reaches its decisions by majority vote. The panel shall base its determinations on the preponderance of the evidence standard. If a Respondent is found responsible for a Policy violation, the panel will then be informed of any relevant information about the Respondent’s disciplinary history (if not shared during the hearing) and will assess appropriate sanctions. The Conduct Dean may assist the panel by advising it of the types of sanctions applied in similar cases. The deliberations of the panel shall be kept in strict confidence.

 

  1. Notice of Decision and Sanctions (if any):

The Conduct Dean shall prepare a written decision letter to the Respondent within 3 days of the hearing panel’s decision. To the extent permitted by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and other applicable law, the decision letter or portions of that letter will be shared with the Complainant, if any.

 

  1. Organization Conduct Process:

The Conduct Dean is responsible for bringing serious C-19 Policy violations against organizations to the panel. In determining whether an organization may be held collectively responsible for the individual actions of its members, all of the factors and circumstances surrounding the specific incident will be reviewed and evaluated. An organization will typically be held collectively responsible when:

  • It collectively undertakes actions that lead to a threat of serious or imminent harm to the health and safety of members of the Colby community.
  • In the course of its activities, an incident is the result of the failure of the organization or its officers to take reasonable precautions against violations of the C-19 Policy, or the failure to take action during the course of the activity to prevent or mitigate harm.
  • A policy or practice of an organization is directly responsible for such harm or C-19 Policy violation.
  • The violation involves hazing activity.

Whether or not alleged violations are pursued as organization misconduct, individual members of the organization may still face discipline under this process or the Student Code of Conduct process, in addition to any organization sanctions imposed.

The hearing process shall be identical to the process employed for individual students, except that all notices, decisions and other communications will be provided to the organization’s leader. It shall then be the responsibility of the organization’s leader to notify the rest of the members of the organization and its advisor, if any.

 

  1. Sanctions:

In determining sanctions, the College will consider the importance of educating students about the responsibility every member of the community bears in ensuring the health and safety of one another and the need to protect the community from conduct that jeopardizes Colby’s commitment to deliver the highest quality education aligned with co-curricular opportunities that define the Colby experience.

The following sanctions described below may generally be applied to address violations of the C-19 Policy. In determining the appropriate sanction, a number of factors may be considered, including but not necessarily limited to the following:

  1. The nature, severity of, and circumstances surrounding the violation, especially the unreasonable risk of harm created by the violation to those in the Colby and Waterville community;
  2. The degree of flagrant or reckless conduct in committing the violation;
  3. The student’s disciplinary history, both generally and under the C-19 Policy;
  4. The impact of sanctions on the student and other members of the Colby community;
  5. Any resulting harm or injury, such as the spread of the virus to others or exposure of community members to the virus;
  6. Other aggravating or mitigating circumstances;
  7. Consistency with cases involving similar conduct; and
  8. Any other information deemed relevant by the Conduct Dean or the panel.

Although the COVID-19 Panel is set up to hear claims of serious violations, it may determine that a violation does not rise to the level justifying a sanction such as suspension or expulsion. As a result, the panel may impose sanctions ranging from:

Verbal warning: Meeting with the student to discuss the violation and warning. A verbal warning does not constitute formal discipline, but it is documented. In the event of future violations of College policy, a verbal warning may be taken into consideration in determining a sanction.

Formal warning: A formal statement that the student’s behavior was unacceptable and warning that future violations of College policies and rules, including the C-19 Policy, will result in more severe sanctions.

Probation: A formal statement that future violations of College policies and rules, including the C-19 Policy, may result in suspension or expulsion. Terms of the probation will be specified, and may be for a fixed term for the remainder of a student’s enrollment at Colby.

Suspension: Termination of student status for a definite or indefinite period with the right to re-apply after a specific length of time. This may include specific conditions for return to be approved. A student returning from suspension remains on disciplinary probation for the remainder of the student’s enrollment at Colby, and other restrictions may be imposed as deemed appropriate.

Expulsion: Permanent separation from the College.

Other Actions: Such other action as the Conduct Dean or panel may reasonably deem appropriate, such as:

Mandated education or counseling so the student has the opportunity to gain more insight into the student’s behavior and the impact on the student and the community.

Apology: Requiring the student to write a letter of apology to affected parties or the Colby community.

Facilitated meeting with affected parties/people (by agreement of all parties) and/or use of other restorative justice practices.

Campus or community service: Requiring unpaid service to the College or the Waterville community with specified hours, time frame, and type of service.

Housing related sanctions, including but not limited to loss, revocation or restriction of privileges to live in College housing (e.g. exclusion from specified locations or types of residence halls; alteration of status in housing lottery), revocation of the privilege to live in off-campus housing, and other housing- related restrictions.

Loss of social privileges such as attendance at or participation in campus or organization social or extracurricular events and activities, membership in an organization, etc.

Loss of opportunity for leadership positions, awards, campus employment, extracurricular activities, and/or off-campus study.

Sanctions in Organization Conduct Cases: Changes to an organization’s recognition generally form the basis of sanctions that may be imposed on an organization for a C-19 Policy violation. Recognition by the College grants to any organization the right to function on campus, to receive College privileges and funding, to enroll Colby students as members, to participate in College activities, and to be associated with the College. An organization’s prior disciplinary record, if any, shall be considered in the sanction phase. Sanctions may include, but are not limited to the following:

Full recognition with warning: The organization maintains full recognition, but is warned that further failure to meet the criteria for recognition or additional conduct violations will result in a more serious sanction.

Probation recognition: The organization is recognized by the College, but is placed on probation for a specified period of time, during which specified privileges and activities may be curtailed or revoked. Probation recognition ordinarily will be in effect for a minimum of one semester but can be longer.

Suspended recognition: The organization’s recognition is suspended for a specified period of time, during which all privileges are revoked, the organization’s activities are discontinued, and funding by the Student Government Association may be withdrawn.

Permanent withdrawal of recognition: Recognition by the College is withdrawn on a permanent basis.

Additionally, an organization may receive sanctions which apply to students (e.g. - apologies, community service, etc.)

 

  1. Reconsideration:

A student or organization found responsible for a violation of the C-19 Policy may seek reconsideration by filing a written request with the Dean of the College within 3 days of receiving the panel decision. The request should contain all information, evidence and explanations to support the grounds for reconsideration. Decisions will not be reconsidered solely on the basis of dissatisfaction with the decision or sanctions imposed. The Dean of the College will review the request, and generally within 7 days will determine whether to: (1) deny the request; (2) request that the panel review particular issues identified in the request and determine whether, in the course of the review, the finding of responsibility or sanction would or would not change and why; (3) make changes to the sanctions assigned by the panel; or (4) in rare cases, order a new panel hearing consisting of entirely different members from the panel pool. During the reconsideration process, the sanctions imposed remain in effect unless the Dean of the College decides otherwise. The Dean of the College may consult with other Colby staff as appropriate to determine the merit of the request.