Last Updated on August 10, 2023 by Michelle Ball
By Michelle Ball, Sacramento California Expulsion, Special Education, sports/CIF, College, Education and School Attorney/Lawyer for Students since 1995
When college difficulties arise, from potential discipline to professor issues, handling them can be challenging. Most students have not examined the 200+ page college handbook or all relevant policies. There are also many skilled college staff lined up against one lone student. It can be… intimidating.
What is a student to do? Leverage the college’s own policies against them, of course.
College Policies Should Be Followed
University policies govern student matters with that entity. The processes and procedures to be followed in all things college are outlined in these seemingly benign words that are reflected in the college catalog and on their website.
These policies become very important when a student faces an issue they cannot quickly resolve, or which is threatening to them, such as an emergency removal or potential expulsion.
They are the place to look first when postsecondary difficulties strike.
Where University Policies Really Matter– Discipline
College policies always matter. However, they are most relevant when a student is facing suspension or expulsion from a postsecondary institution.
Upon notification of a discipline allegation, a student should learn everything they can about the relevant college policies, processes and procedures. If a college breaches its own policies, this can be leveraged against them in the discipline matter or on appeal.
A student may discover, upon review, that their actions actually did not breach any college policy. Or, perhaps a student finds that they were entitled to notice 5 days before a hearing, but got notice 1 day before. These issues can be used to fight the student discipline.
Many Students Just Take the Punishment
Sadly, it is not uncommon for busy college students to not have time to do a thorough review of relevant policies. Instead, they simply “take” the punishment issued, such as probation, suspension or expulsion, whether warranted or not.
This lack of student opposition can make colleges lazy when they impose student punishment. Discipline may be poorly supported or the process may be unfair, in breach of published college policies, but if a student does not protest, the discipline goes forward.
This college laziness can be advantageous for the student, as sometimes multiple missteps can be found which can be used immediately or in an appeal.
Postsecondary Hearing Procedures and Rules Outlined in Policy
Many college procedures have detailed rules contained in college policies. For example, most universities have published policies on:
3) Grade appeal hearings
5) Records correction hearing (usually mandated per FERPA- the Federal Education Rights and Privacy Act).
6) Appeals of dismissal from major, program, or degree
7) Title IX complaints
8) Discrimination complaints (if filing within the university rather than with an outside agency)
Don’t Be Intimidated by Universities
Students should not be intimidated by the behemoth that most colleges are, with their shiny buildings and hundreds of staff.
A university student can take them on by learning the policies and applying themselves vigorously to any tough situation. If breaches by the college staff or otherwise exist, use the college breaches against them.
Otherwise, the student’s unfair exclusion, harassment, or academic issues may never be resolved.
Student lawyer Michelle Ball can assist college and university students throughout California. As an education attorney in Sacramento, she can help students in Davis, Santa Cruz, Los Angeles, Roseville, Stockton, Irvine, San Diego, San Francisco, Berkeley, Riverside, Merced, Fresno and many other towns.
Originally published May 27, 2011