My student has received a letter from SCO. What does it mean?
The letter that your student has received states that he/she has been alleged to have violated one or more of Texas A&M University’s Student Rules. The letter states which rule may have been violated and a brief description of how the rule may have been violated. The letter also indicates the time, date, and location of your student’s conduct conference. It is imperative that your student attend his/her student conduct conference.
If your student has an administrative conduct conference scheduled, the letter also states that your student can contact SCO to set up a student conduct conference information session with a staff member to discuss the SCO process and student conduct conference. The SCO staff highly encourages students to attend a student conduct conference information session. Students who have a student conduct conference panel are required to attend an information session. The time, date and location of the information session is included in your student's letter.
How can I help my student?
You are the only person that can answer that question. We encourage parents to allow their children to take responsibility for their actions, as they are adults. Often a student just needs to know that their parent(s) will support them regardless of the behavior they have engaged in. We also encourage parents to instruct their student to become educated about the student conduct process. Encourage them to review their case file, schedule a student conduct conference information session, and ask questions about aspects of the process that they are unclear about.
A student conduct conference information session, while not mandatory for all students, is encouraged by the SCO staff. This meeting will give your student an opportunity to review his/her conduct file, meet with a staff member to discuss their rights, to talk about the student conduct conference process, to discuss the range of sanctions that may be imposed, and to have their questions answered. Students who have been scheduled for a student conduct conference panel are required to attend an information session. The time, date and location of the information session is included in your student's letter.
A student conduct conference information session is not the time for your student to explain their involvement in the situation, nor will a determination be made of whether or not they are responsible for violating one of the Student Rules.
The student conduct conference is a time for your student to tell their side of the story. In order for the student conduct administrators to make the best decision possible, they need a full picture of what happened. This is their time to officially respond to the charges and the information in their case file.
When your student arrives for their student conduct conference, they will have the opportunity to review their conduct file if they have not viewed it prior to the student conduct conference. If your student did not have a student conduct conference information session, the staff member(s) who are adjudicating their case will meet with them to review the charge(s) against them, briefly review the student conduct procedures, the range of sanctions that could be imposed, and to answer any questions that they may have.
Your student will then have an opportunity to explain their perspective on the incident that has been documented. They will have a chance to explain what they agree with, what they disagree with, and to explain their involvement with the documented incident. The student conduct administrator will then have some questions for your student about the incident documented.
Your student will also have the opportunity to present any witnesses or additional supporting information that they have pertaining to the incident. (See witness FAQ for additional information).
Your student may accept responsibility or deny responsibility for the charges that have been assigned to their incident. The student conduct administrator will determine whether your student is responsible or not responsible for each charge.
If the student conduct administrator agrees with your student accepting responsibility or your student is found responsible for the charges assigned to them, then they will be issued an appropriate sanction for their involvement. If your student is found not responsible for their charges, they will be notified at the conference.
Your student’s student conduct administrator will then conclude the student conduct conference by explaining that they will receive an outcome letter from the SCO that includes, the finding(s) of the student conduct conference, their sanction(s) (if any), and information about the appeals process.
The student conduct administrator will then answer any last questions that your student may have before concluding the student conduct conference.
Texas A&M University uses a standard of proof called Preponderance of Information to determine if a violation of the Student Rules has occurred.
Preponderance of Information means more likely than not. This is a different, and less strict, standard of information that is used in the criminal court system. Our student conduct conferences at Texas A&M University are not criminal proceedings, nor do they follow the same guidelines as a criminal proceeding.
Another way to think about Preponderance of Information is to ask yourself the question: Is it more than 50% likely that a Student Rule violation occurred?
If my student did violate one or more of the Student Rules, how will they be held accountable?
There are several factors that are taken into consideration by the student conduct conference administrator when determining an appropriate sanction. The student conduct administrator will examine the following:
- Nature of the violation
- Previous conduct history
- Aggravating or mitigating circumstances surrounding the violation
- Motivation for the behavior
- Developmental and educational impact of the sanction
Please refer to the Student Rules, Section 27 for a complete list of sanctions that may be imposed for a violation of the Student Rules.
Is my student going to be kicked out of school?
In some instances, students are separated from the University. These sanctions are suspension and expulsion. Examples of behaviors that may warrant separation are sexual misconduct, physical abuse, hazing, harassment, drug use and sales, repeat violators, and possession and use of weapons. Students are made aware of the range of sanctions that are possible when they receive their charge letter from SCO.
How long will my student have a disciplinary record with the University?
If your student is found not responsible for all of the charges, he/she will not have a disciplinary file. If your student is found responsible for any of the charges, the University will maintain their disciplinary file for five years post-graduation or separation from the institution. The University maintains the right to keep disciplinary files involving separation from the institution and sexual misconduct indefinitely.
Can the University tell me the specifics of the incident my student was involved with?
Your student is protected by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) (20 U.S.C. 1232g; 34 CFR Part 99)
FERPA is a federal law that protects the privacy of student education records. Your student may discuss his/her case with anyone of their choosing. The university is restricted to discussing the case with your student, those your student designates that we can communicate with, and those with an educational need to know such as University administrators. If you want to speak with us concerning specifics of your student’s case, please have a conversation with your student. He/she may sign a FERPA waiver that will allow us to speak with you.
Where do they get this FERPA waiver?
Your student must visit our office to obtain this form and sign it in the presence of one of our staff members. Your student must specify who they would like to release their records to and what type of information they would like to release.
Students are permitted to have one advisor present with them during their student conduct conference. This advisor may be anyone of the students choosing (friend, faculty member, parent, attorney, clergy). However, this advisor is not permitted to represent or speak for the student during the student conduct conference. They may provide advice to the student, but under no circumstances will they be permitted to speak for the student during the student conduct conference.
Students are also required to sign a release form that permits another individual to be present during their student conduct conference.
Attorneys may serve as advisors in our process if an accused student is also the subject of a pending subsequent criminal matter arising out of the same circumstances or their case involves sexual misconduct, stalking, dating violence, domestic violence or related retaliation. However, they CANNOT REPRESENT YOUR STUDENT. Your student is responsible for presenting their own information, answering questions from the student conduct administrator, chairperson, and/or panel members. The student conduct administrators will not speak with the attorney or allow any representation. Ultimately it is your student’s decision about whether or not they need an attorney.
What happens if my student has a pending Student Conduct Office student conduct conference and a pending criminal citation?
Your student will need to resolve both issues separately. Students have a separate relationship to the University that is different from their responsibilities as citizens in the larger community. The student conduct conference at SCO will only resolve conflicts with the Student Rules. For more information on various legal proceedings, please visit our Student Legal Services area.
Unless a student allows their records to be released to a specific individual(s), then the specific details of their student conduct proceedings are typically not released. If you would like to speak with a student conduct office staff member about your student's incident, please have them complete a FERPA release form and submit it to SCO.
There are, however, some exceptions to this rule:
In the fall of 1999, Texas A&M University began notifying the parents/guardians of students under the age of 21 that were involved in a violation of Texas A&M University's Student Rules on alcohol. At the same time, parents/guardians of students of all ages were notified of violations of Texas A&M University's Student Rules on illegal and/or controlled substances.
Parental notification letters are typically sent from the Dean of Student Life approximately two weeks after the conclusion of the student conduct proceedings. The specifics of the incident that your student has been involved with are not included with the letter, but the letter does alert you that your student has been involved in a violation of the alcohol and/or illegal/controlled substances policy for Texas A&M University and encourages you to contact your student to discuss the specifics of their incident.
Please visit our section on statistics to see an overview of the number, type, and typical sanctions that are assigned to violations of the Student Rules.
Students often display different behaviors when they are away from home, especially for the first time. Your student is experiencing many changes including independence and exploration of identity. We encourage you to have a candid conversation with your child about their behavior. We view your student as an adult and hold them to that standard.