Guidelines for COS Hearings
Committee on Standards (COS) proceedings are administrative in nature and are not governed by the rights and rules that apply in a court of law. However, if a student is alleged to have violated the Academic Honor Principle or Standards of Conduct and must appear before the COS for a hearing, the disciplinary system does provide that student with certain rights and obligations. These, as well as the rules and responsibilities that govern COS hearing procedures, are described in this section.
All students who appear before the COS are expected to be familiar with the rules and procedures of the COS. New rules may take effect upon appropriate notice to the Dartmouth community by the Vice Provost for Student Affairs. In addition, the COS may enact, by simple majority vote, operating rules and procedures necessary to conduct its business so long as such rules and procedures are not inconsistent with the rules and procedures of the COS as set forth herein.
Students alleged to have violated the Academic Honor Principle or one or more Standards of Conduct are expected to become familiar with the rules and regulations governing COS hearings and to keep themselves informed of developments in their case through frequent contact with the JAO and a trained advisor. Students are strongly encouraged to take advantage of the support and guidance the JAO and a trained COS advisor can provide.
Students admitting to disciplinary allegations may request a hearing with a COS Chair individually, without an advisor or observer present. Students responding to disciplinary allegations heard by the COS are entitled to have a single advisor present at their hearing. Students who report sexual misconduct or physical violence have the same right to an advisor. Students must identify their advisor to the JAO in writing. Only currently enrolled Dartmouth students, members of the Dartmouth faculty, and members of the Dartmouth administration may serve as advisors.* Advisors are not permitted to address the COS. The Chair may remove any advisor who distracts or disrupts the process. While students are free to confer with parents, friends and others, they should understand that they themselves are responsible for responding to allegations and questions at the hearing.
The advisor's most important role is to assist the student in reviewing and understanding the procedures related to a hearing and to assist the student in obtaining answers to questions about the hearing. For this reason, many students request that an undergraduate dean or other staff familiar with the disciplinary system serve as their advisor. The unavailability or unwillingness of any specific individual to serve as an advisor is not normally grounds for postponing a hearing. Students who identify as an advisor someone unfamiliar with the process would be wise to schedule time to meet with an undergraduate dean or staff from the Judicial Affairs Office to discuss procedural issues. Because students are responsible for their conduct, for responding truthfully to allegations, and for participating truthfully at a hearing, students should not expect advisors to write statements and/or otherwise prepare a case for them. While an advisor might appropriately help a student anticipate questions and issues likely to arise at a hearing, and while an advisor might provide feedback about the effectiveness of a student's written or oral presentation of the facts, the advisor does not function in the way an attorney would in a criminal or civil proceeding.
* Eligibility to serve as an observer is expanded for proceedings to investigate sexual misconduct, sexual harassment, domestic or relationship violence, and/or stalking. See those specific policies for details.
- Students are entitled to reasonable written notice of the substance of the allegation(s) against them. Students are also entitled to a reasonable period of time in which to prepare for a hearing. A reasonable period of time is, at a minimum, as five calendar days from the date of delivery of the allegation letter. Hearings will be scheduled as soon as possible after an incident. A student who needs additional time to prepare for a hearing may request, in writing, an extension of time from the Chair. A student's D-plan or the availability of an advisor are not normally grounds for postponing a hearing.
- Delivery of any notice with respect to a disciplinary matter is considered effective as of the date of delivery to the Hinman Post Office, posting to a student's Dartmouth e-mail account, upon delivery or mailing to the student's last known address (according to the records available to the Office of the Vice Provost for Student Affairs), or upon delivery to the student in person.
- The Chair is responsible for scheduling (e.g., location, time, etc.) all hearings before a COS panel and making all decisions with respect to any request for a delay or rescheduling of a COS hearing. The COS normally hears cases twice a week during the ten weeks of an academic term and does not meet during exam or break periods. Cases will be scheduled for a hearing as soon as possible after the information gathering process is complete, unless the Chair grants a student's reasonable request for a delay. In cases where two or more students have been charged for the same or related incidents, the Chair shall have the authority to direct that the students be heard individually, as a group, or in sub-groups. All decisions of the Chair regarding scheduling shall be final.
- In some situations, conduct that may violate one of the Standards of Conduct may also be a violation of law. The possibility that a student may face criminal charges does not limit the JAO's ability to proceed with the disciplinary procedures set forth herein. The College will take independent action based on misconduct that violates College Standards of Conduct, regardless of the status or outcome of any criminal proceedings.
- When a COS hearing cannot be scheduled during the term of the incident, a temporary hold will be placed on the student's registration and tuition bill until the case can be heard or by the deadline for administrative withdrawals (whichever comes first) is reached. Where possible, the JAO will identify additional hearing times during the first few weeks of each term to resolve cases that could not be scheduled for hearing before the last day of classes of the previous term. Students are responsible for housing, meals and other fees while they are on campus during this period as per the fees schedule. Students with disciplinary cases pending at the beginning of a term should consult their undergraduate dean.
- Students may review the relevant information and list of witnesses gathered by the JAO for their hearing. The JAO will inform the student as additional information or witnesses become available. During a hearing, the COS may request additional information or additional witnesses as needed.
- Subject to the powers of the Chair as set forth in the following paragraph, the student is entitled to request witnesses, to present information and argument, and to hear and question the information presented during a hearing. The College expects students to cooperate fully in the course of the investigation or disposition of possible violations of the Standards of Conduct, and may take disciplinary action against students who refuse to respond and participate when called to do so. The failure of a witness or an accused student to attend or the unavailability of information shall not prevent a hearing from going forward or a decision from being rendered. The student is permitted to make opening and closing statements; the Chair has discretion over their length and relevance. Students are permitted to suggest questions for witnesses, subject to the rulings of the Chair as described below. All questions are posed by the Chair and members of the committee.
- The Chair is empowered to make all procedural rulings, including rulings on relevance and admissibility of material.
Disqualification of Members
- Members of the COS (including the Chair) who believe they may be unable to render an impartial decision in any case shall excuse themselves; alternatively, COS Chairs may remove any COS member from a case if they believe that member may be unable to render an impartial decision in the case. Because Dartmouth is a small community, knowledge of or acquaintance with the student(s) and/or witnesses in a hearing, awareness of a case, participation in campus issues related to the subject matter of a case, participation as a consequence of one's official role in events surrounding a case and/or participation in the disciplinary process prior to the hearing of the case shall not automatically be grounds for disqualification.
- Responding students may request a list of COS members scheduled to serve on their COS panel. Any concerns students may have about the ability of any COS member to render an impartial decision in their case must be submitted in writing to the Chair, at least 48 hours in advance of the hearing, and must include any supporting materials.
- COS hearings will normally be open to current Dartmouth students, faculty, and staff (with exceptions only at the Chair's discretion) unless the student requests a closed hearing, in which case the hearing shall be closed. In a hearing of two or more students, any one student's request for a closed hearing shall take precedence over the request of one or more other students for an open hearing. In cases where the need to protect privacy is, in the judgment of the Chair, important, the Chair may close the hearing over the objection of the charged student(s). Any student may request that the Chair exercise such judgment and close a hearing. Such a request must be made to the Chair in writing and must be submitted at least 48 hours in advance of the hearing. At an open hearing the Chair has the discretion to limit the number of persons in attendance in order to ensure an orderly proceeding. In such instances, where a limit is placed on the number of people allowed to observe, the Chair's decision with respect to who may attend such hearing is final. In a closed hearing, only the Committee, the witnesses, the charged student, the adviser, and such other persons as are specifically authorized to attend by the Chair, may be present.
- If a hearing will be closed, the Chair may, on request, permit one current student, faculty member or administrator to observe the hearing as a non-participating source of support for the responding student.*
- Students who report physical violence (including domestic or relationship violence), sexual misconduct, sexual harassment, and/or stalking have the same right to an observer.
- Observers may not confer with the student or the student's advisor while the hearing is in session, and will be subject to the same confidentiality expectations applicable to others in attendance. The Chair may remove any observer who distracts or disrupts the process.
*Eligibility to serve as an observer is expanded for proceedings to investigate sexual misconduct, sexual harassment, domestic or relationship violence, and/or stalking. See those specific policies for details.
- All students, witnesses and advisors are obligated to be completely honest in a COS hearing. Any student who knowingly makes a false statement to the Committee may be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including separation from the College.
- The COS may record by electronic, stenographic, or other means, any COS proceeding. The College will not prepare or provide transcripts of COS proceedings for students. When a recording of a COS proceeding has been made, the responding student may request permission to listen to the recording. Students who report sexual misconduct or physical violence may also request permission to listen to the recording. The Director of Judicial Affairs will determine the conditions under which the student will have access to the recording in order to preserve confidentiality. Students who fail to abide by the Director's restrictions may be subject to further disciplinary action. Except as provided above, no photographs, tape recordings, videotapes, stenographic records, or other recordings of a COS proceeding may be made.
- Responding students are expected to attend their own COS hearing; failure to attend will not prevent a hearing from going forward or a decision from being made, but failure to attend may subject the student to disciplinary action. Students facing formal allegations before the COS are expected to respond.
- At the beginning of the student's hearing, the Chair shall determine that students have received a copy of the allegation(s) against them and notification of their rights in the COS proceeding.
- The COS hearing procedure is informal. The purpose is to provide the student an opportunity to be heard and to provide the COS relevant information on which to base a decision.
- Formal rules of evidence and courtroom procedures are inapplicable. The COS may hear and consider any information it considers to be trustworthy and to have probative value. As set forth above, the Chair is empowered to make all procedural rulings, including rulings on relevance and admissibility of information.
- COS Chairs may, at their discretion, order that witnesses be sequestered.
- At the request of the Chair, an attorney for the College may be available during any COS hearing for purposes of advising the Committee. This advice will be restricted solely to procedural or legal matters necessary to ensure a fair proceeding.
Students who may be subject to pending or possible criminal allegations may request that the Chair permit their attorney to attend the hearing as a non-participating observer. Students who report physical violence may also request that the Chair permit their attorney to attend the hearing as a non-participating observer. If approved to observe, attorneys may advise their student privately, but may not confer with the student or the student's advisor while the hearing is in session, and will be subject to the same confidentiality expectations applicable to others in attendance. The Chair may remove any observer who distracts or disrupts the process.
Students who are responding to or reporting allegations of Sexual Assault, Sexual Misconduct or Harassment, Stalking, Domestic Violence, or Relationship Violence may, upon written notice to Judicial Affairs, have an attorney accompany them to any conduct proceeding as an observer or as an advisor. The limits of those roles are described under points 2, 16, 24, and in the applicable policies.
- In order for the COS to conclude that a student has violated a College rule, the COS must be persuaded that a preponderance of the evidence supports such a finding. To find a violation under this standard, the COS must conclude that it is more likely than not that the student committed the alleged violation.
- Except as otherwise specified, all COS decisions shall be made by majority vote.
Sharing of Information
Information from individual hearings that pertain to allegations regarding organizational misconduct may be shared with the hearing officer or the OAC conducting the hearings. Information from organizational hearings may be shared with the COS or hearing officer conducting individual hearings. The Office of Judicial Affairs may designate an appropriate College official(s) to attend any hearing as an observer for the purpose of collecting relevant information for a different hearing. In appropriate cases, the COS may hold a joint hearing, or partial hearing, with the OAC. Information from a hearing may be shared with a College approved health provider for the purposes of assessment or treatment; providers will be subject to the same confidentiality expectations applicable to hearing participants.
Disclosure of Decisions
The Office of Judicial Affairs will promptly notify students of outcomes of individual hearings. Decisions of the COS and the hearing officers may be revealed to authorized College faculty and staff, to the responding student, and, in appropriate circumstances authorized by law, to the responding student's parents or guardian and the reporting student. The COS or the hearing officer may choose to comment publicly, in writing or otherwise, regarding the decision reached if, in the judgment of the COS or that hearing officer, the best interest of the community would be served by such a disclosure. If possible and appropriate, the anonymity of the student(s) involved will be protected.
Requests for Review
Requests for review may be made only on the basis of either or both of the following grounds:
- Procedural error which has materially prejudiced the student's case;
- Newly discovered information which, had it been available at the time of the hearing, would likely have affected the outcome either with regard to a finding of responsibility or with regard to the sanction imposed (if the information was not reasonably available to the student at the time of the proceeding).
The reviewing officer has the sole discretion to determine whether these grounds for review have been met. A request for review must be in writing, must set forth in reasonable detail the grounds for review, and must have attached to it any materials students wish to have considered in their request. The request, with all accompanying materials, must be submitted by the student to the Judicial Affairs Office within seven (7) days of the date the decision is written. In cases of sexual misconduct and physical violence, the request for review will also be shared with the other party.
Following review, the original decision may be upheld, the imposed sanction adjusted as the reviewing officer deems appropriate, or referred back to the hearing officer or the COS panel that originally heard the case for further consideration.
The Review Officers are as follows:
- The Director of Judicial Affairs (or a designee) will consider reviews from students found responsible following an administrative hearing.
- The Dean of the College (or a designee) will consider reviews from students found responsible for a violation of Dartmouth's Academic Honor Principle.
- The Vice Provost for Student Affairs (or a designee) will consider reviews in all other cases heard by the COS.
- If the allegation described sexual misconduct or physical violence, both the reporting and responding parties have a right to request review. That right includes review of findings of not responsible/insufficient evidence.
Reporting and responding parties in sexual misconduct cases referred to an Investigator should consult the Unified Disciplinary Procedures for information about that review process.