Frequently Asked Questions: Students

Please note that the following FAQs are not intended to replace information in our guiding documents but to assist you in understanding our process.

STUDENT FAQs

Background Questions

Process Questions

Sanction Questions

 

Background Questions

1. What is the University Code of Student Conduct?  Code of Student Conduct 2020-2021 – George Mason University’s statement of community values. The Code fosters a safe, secure, and fair learning environment by establishing expectations for behavior, identifying a process for resolving incidents outside the stated expectations and the results of such processes.

2. What is the purpose of the student conduct system? The purpose of the University Student Conduct System is to foster a supportive climate by protecting the community from conduct that is disruptive of the community and by encouraging conduct that is supportive of the teaching/learning environment.

3. Are students required to report misconduct of their peers? It is expected that members of the community will actively participate in programs and activities of the University and will support efforts to foster the identified values of the community. As such, students may be considered in violation if they fail to remove themselves from incriminating situations and/or report the incident to proper authorities. Students and student organizations can also be held responsible for the behavior of their guests.

4. What if I was unaware of the policy that I am charged with violating? As stated in the University Catalog, “each student is responsible for knowing Mason’s rules, regulations, requirements, and academic policies.” Following the expectation that all Mason students adhere to University policy and procedure, students are encouraged to seek clarification from GMU faculty or staff whenever uncertainty presents itself.

5. I received a citation, court order, or was arrested. What do I do next? If you were involved in an incident to which the George Mason University Police Department responded, you may be contacted by a hearing officer from the Office of Student Conduct once the office is in receipt of referral information from the responding officer(s). If you are concerned that you were not yet contacted, please do not hesitate to contact us.

6. If I am being criminally charged, why must I go through the University process? Isn’t this double jeopardy? The University Student Conduct System is modeled after administrative proceedings and is independent of the legal system. Students internal to Mason are expected to follow the Code of Student Conduct, whereas the legal system resolves charges for alleged violations of the law. Therefore, resolving an incident through the off campus court system and through the University’s internal process is not considered to be double jeopardy.

7. What if the incident happened off campus? Off campus behavior that adversely affects the university community and/or the pursuit of its objectives falls under the scope of the Office of Student Conduct. Accordingly, if the University has knowledge of an incident off campus, an investigation of the alleged incident will follow. Individuals are responsible for their behavior regardless of location. George Mason University reserves the right to hold students accountable for their behavior from the time of application through receipt of degree.

8. I just posted something online. Why is the university contacting me about alleged violations? The University reserves the right address alleged acts of misconduct wherever they occur. Violations of the Code of Student Conduct that occur via the Internet, telecommunication devices, mail, and other media (including social media) may be addressed through the University conduct system. Alleged violations that occur electronically frequently have an impact on individuals as well as the University community.  As such, the University may address alleged violations as they are referred to the Office of Student Conduct.

9. Will my parents find out about my involvement in an incident? The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (1974) includes a student’s conduct record within the privacy protections afforded to a college student’s educational record. Generally, the university will not disclose a student’s conduct history without written permission from the student.

We encourage students to speak with parents (or guardian) and as adults, students should take responsibility for initiating the conversation. Maintaining open lines of honest communication is important and may improve positive and healthy decision making throughout the college years.

Students are required to sign releases that allow us to speak with parents (or guardian) about a conduct matter. A copy of the release can be found here.

A student’s emergency contact may be notified without a privacy waiver if there is an imminent risk to the student’s health, safety, or welfare.

Process Questions

1. If I’m being referred to OSC, what happens? Once you have been referred to the Office of Student Conduct, you can expect to be contacted directly by the individual working with your case. If you have questions specific to your referral and are unable to locate the answer within our website, please contact us directly.

2. What are my rights and obligations as a respondent in this process? A description of respondent rights and obligations within the conduct process can be found here.

3. What is a pre-hearing meeting? The purpose of this meeting is to review the student conduct processes, communicate options for resolving the incident (i.e. Administrative Hearing, Community Adjudication Board), and discuss procedural rights and obligations.  A representative from the Office of Student Conduct will meet individually with each student and provide the opportunity to address questions and concerns in advance of the hearing. Students who wish to participate in the pre-hearing meeting must request to do so prior to any scheduled hearing date.  The pre-hearing meeting is not an opportunity to discuss the referral information, but rather to learn more about the conduct process.

4. What can be expected at an administrative hearing? An administrative hearing is a student’s opportunity to share their account of the incident. Though the order may vary, the following may be discussed at an administrative hearing:

  • The hearing officer will first begin by ensuring an understanding of the pending charges, the rights and obligations afforded to the student respondent, and the general case resolution process.
  • The student is then given the opportunity to enter a plea of “responsible” or “not responsible” for each alleged violation.
  • The student is given the opportunity to share his or her account of the incident and alleged violations.
  • Both the hearing officer and student are afforded an additional opportunity for questioning prior to concluding the hearing.
  • The hearing officer will engage the student on his or her individual experience, as well as the personal and community implications of the behavior at George Mason University.

5. How is it decided whether I have an administrative or Community Adjudication Board hearing? Students are pre-scheduled to an administrative hearing with a hearing officer in the Office of Student Conduct. Administrative hearing officers have significantly greater availability than the Community Adjudication Board. Community Adjudication Board hearings are subject to board availability and may not be an option for a student.  The Office of Student Conduct reserves the right to refer cases that may end in suspension or expulsion to the Community Adjudication Board.

It is important to note that the request to defer the pre-scheduled administrative hearing in favor of a board hearing must be made in advance of the pre-scheduled administrative hearing. Only in rare cases will exceptions be granted to requests made at the time of the scheduled administrative hearing. Students must contact their assigned hearing officer to request a Community Adjudication Board Hearing.

Please review the Code of Student Conduct on this site to learn more about the specifics of the conduct process.

6. Who can serve as my advisor? Do I need an attorney and can my attorney represent me?

Anyone can serve as an advisor, except students engaged in the student conduct process for the same incident as the respondent. The university’s resolution system is charged with addressing the alleged behavior of its students, and is designed to support the educational mission of the University.  Accordingly, dialogue must take place with the student responding to the allegation. While students are afforded the right to an advisor, students must retain the primary responsibility for engaging with the University. A student’s advisor is permitted to consult with the student and provide support. The advisor may not speak on behalf of the student or address the hearing board or officer.  Advisors may attend any portion of the conduct process.

This is an administrative process, and not a legal proceeding. However, students may have an attorney act as their advisor at their own choice and cost. The same expectations would apply to a student’s attorney as they would to any other individual serving as an advisor.

Students must submit a FERPA waiver that allows an advisor to be present. A copy of the waiver can be accessed here.

7. What happens if I don’t show up for my meeting with a conduct officer? If you have been charged with alleged violations of the Code of Student Conduct and you choose not to appear for your hearing, it is possible that the hearing officer or board will render a decision in your absence, based on the information avaiable.

Failure to appear for a scheduled meeting with the Office of Student Conduct or Office of Housing & Residence Life, or failure to respond to an established deadline, may result in charges under the University Code of Student Conduct for failure to comply. Further, a hold may be applied to your student account pending fulfillment of communicated responsibilities.

8. Can a hearing officer or board’s decision be appealed? Yes, the decision from a Community Adjudication Board or an administrative hearing officer may be subject to appeal review.  Information on the appeals process may be found here.

Any party in a sexual misconduct case may also file for an appeal.  Information on the sexual misconduct process can be reviewed here: OSC Sexual Misconduct Process 2020-2021

 

Sanction Questions

1. Will disciplinary sanctions appear on my transcript? Typically, sanctions required through the Office of Student Conduct will not appear on your academic transcript. The exception is any sanction involving a separation from the university. A sanction of suspension or dismissal will appear on your academic transcript.  The University may also apply a transcript notation if a student withdraws from the University while under investigation for a particular violation(s).

2. What if I don’t complete an assigned sanction?

Most assigned sanctions are associated with a deadline for completion. Failing to complete a sanction as may result in a charge for an alleged violation of Act of Misconduct, specifically “Failure to comply with a verbal or written directive given by a University official, including obligations associated with any disciplinary sanction(s).”  A hold may be applied to your student account pending fulfillment of communicated responsibilities.

3. I was put on disciplinary probation. What does that mean? If you are found responsible for violations of the Code of Student Conduct during the period of probation, then suspension and/or expulsion will be considered as a likely sanction. Students sanctioned with disciplinary probation may also be prohibited from participating in extracurricular university activities.

4. Which violations often result in suspension or expulsion?

Each individual incident is considered on a case-by-case basis, taking each situation’s circumstances into account. Our goal is to educate students about choices and to help them learn from past choices.  Additionally, sanctions may be imposed that separate a student from the institution for a period of time, as well as on a permanent basis.

If a student is found ‘responsible’, the following acts of misconduct include (but are not limited to) those that may result in suspension or expulsion:

  • distribution or sale (including possession with intent to distribute or sell) of drugs, narcotics, chemicals
  • acts of dishonesty included but not limited to knowingly furnishing false information, including forgery, alteration, or misuse of University documents or identification
  • physical assault (including sexual misconduct) or harassment (including sexual harassment/verbal abuse), threat of physical harm of any person or self, and/or conduct which threatens or endangers the health, safety, or welfare of any such person
  • possession or use of firearms, fireworks, or other weapons, or chemicals which are of an explosive or corrosive nature on university property or at university functions
  • theft, attempted theft, possession, sale or barter of, or damage to property of the university or of a member of the university community or campus visitor
  • the instigation of false fire/explosion, or emergency alarms, bomb threats, tampering/misusing or damaging fire extinguishers, alarms or other safety equipment
  • all forms of hazing such as any action taken or situation created, intentionally, to produce mental or physical discomfort, embarrassment, ridicule or possibly cause mental or physical harm or injury to any person on or off the university campus
  • misuse, abuse, and unauthorized use of computing resources, and/or use of computing resources for unauthorized purposes
  • interfering with the normal operation of the teaching/learning environment

Please keep in mind that as cases are approached on an individual basis, the above list is not exhaustive. It is possible that a student who is found responsible for repeat violations of the Code of Student Conduct may be sanctioned to suspension or expulsion.

5. If I’m suspended, can I come back to school? What if I was expelled? Conditions around a potential reinstatement following a separation from the university are established in the decision letter. When a student has been suspended, the student must complete all sanctions assigned and comply with the admission requirements of the University at the time of re-enrollment.  If a student has been expelled from the university, he or she is ineligible for reinstatement.

6. Can I take classes at another institution while I am suspended? Students who are suspended from George Mason University are unable to make progress towards their degree during the period of suspension. Please contact the Office of the University Registrar for additional questions.

7. What will happen to my classes and housing? Will I be refunded tuition or fees if I leave? Students who are suspended from the institution are typically dropped or withdrawn from their classes for the current semester. The registrar is notified of the suspension the date that the student’s deadline to appeal expires or, if the student has appealed the original decision, the date of the appeal decision letter. Any refunds follow the policies established by the University Registrar and Student Accounts. The Office of Student Conduct has no authority in financial matters.  In rare cases where a student is permitted to complete the current semester’s coursework before the period of suspension takes effect, the following semester’s classes are dropped. Any adjustments to a student’s account follow the guidelines established by the Student Accounts Office.

Students who are suspended from the residence halls are responsible for any fees associated with living in campus housing.  The Office of Housing & Residence Life is responsible for making any adjustments to a student’s account.

8. How do sanctions impact my ability to pursue graduate study and/or receive financial aid? The impact a conduct record has on a student’s ability to pursue graduate study depends on (a) the way in which the graduate institution phrases their question on prior disciplinary history and (b) the nature of the violations and sanctions. Most colleges and universities ask about a student’s prior conduct history on the application for admission. Understanding the question (e.g., “Have you been suspended/expelled from another college/university?” versus “Do you have a conduct history with another college/university?”) is vital to knowing whether or not your student’s record needs to be disclosed.

When receiving a request from another institution in response to a student’s application for study, the Office of Student Conduct will not release information without a student’s (or former student’s) permission.  Additional incident information may be provided on request, and students can preview their conduct record(s) by contacting our office directly.

Please contact the Student Accounts Office and/or Student Financial Aid for information on the financial implications of a student’s conduct history.

9. I think that I might be suspended if I am found responsible. Can I withdraw from the university so I don’t have a suspension on my record?  If a student is alleged to have violated policies that may result in suspension or expulsion, a hold may be placed on his or her student account, or the conduct process may continue regardless of a student withdrawing.  The University may also place a notation on a student’s academic transcript that states a student ‘withdrew while under investigation’ for a violation of the Code of Student Conduct.