College Policies Are Key When Disputes Arise


University policies matter to student disputes

Last Updated on August 17, 2021 by Michelle Ball

By Michelle Ball, Sacramento California Expulsion, Special Education, sports/CIF, College, Education and School Attorney/Lawyer for Students since 1995

If a postsecondary student has a complaint involving a college or university, or is facing a suspension, expulsion, academic, grade, or other hearing, a college’s written policies are key to successful resolution of any issues. Such policies often limit or mandate a college to act and a student can use policies to hold colleges accountable.

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College policies should be studied for breaches by the university

College Policies Bind Them

Colleges bind themselves when they publish student and school policies. They wrote them. Now they have to follow them.

Students pay their tuition in exchange for colleges following their own published rules.

Breached College Policies Help Students When Issues Come Up

University polices can be quite extensive, and may be reflected in not just the officially published rules and policies, but also in catalogs, contracts, on the school website, and in major or course-specific handbooks.

University websites are huge (see UC Davis site as an example). Because of this, not all college staff may know or apply the policies properly.

When postsecondary staff fail to follow the college policies, the student can use this in a complaint to show the college is breaking their agreements by not providing the services they promised in exchange for the student’s tuition.

A failure to follow their own policies may be used against a college to lessen a proposed punishment or even to reverse an action taken by the college.

Policies Are Largely Left To Colleges

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Colleges are bound to follow their own policies.

State and federal laws define mandatory items required of colleges, yet there are large areas which are left entirely up to a university to develop. Once created, the college staff must follow their own policies.

Students rely on college representations and it would be unfair to students for a college to create a rule, a student to rely on it, and the college to fail to implement it, wouldn’t it? Yes.

For example, there may be no law regarding the procedures of internal student discipline hearings, student appeals, or the right of an attorney to attend a student expulsion hearing.  So, these matters may be up to the college to determine.

Yet, the college must follow their own policies once written. If a policy says a hearing must be held in a certain number of days, it must be or it can be challenged as improper. If students are entitled to records, but the college does not provide them, this can be attacked.

Failure to follow hearing procedures can mean reversing or stopping a postsecondary expulsion.

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Any student advantage due to breached policies is helpful.

Advantages For Students

I have been involved in multiple matters where colleges had written policies which were not followed, and this failure gave the student the leverage to resolve a seemingly unresolvable matter.

Breaches of policy by a university can provide convincing arguments for a student, such as lack of a fair hearing, breach of due process mandates, or excessive punishment. These may be key to resolving even the most difficult matters. 

A check of the college and university policies can help a student see just what the college promised, and also what they failed to do.


College student lawyer Michelle Ball assists students throughout California with discipline, expulsion, academic dismissals, grade and other appeals. As a student university defense attorney in Sacramento, she can represent students in postsecondary institutions such as UC Davis, UC Santa Cruz, UC Los Angeles, UC Santa Barbara, CSUS, Stanford and other postsecondary institutions.

[originally published on January 13, 2011]

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