Must-Know Essentials For Filing A College Punishment Appeal


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Last Updated on April 21, 2021 by Michelle Ball

By Michelle Ball, California Education Attorney for Students since 1995

College punishment can come swiftly and harshly, ending with a suspension or even an expulsion for minor student activities.  Even in the University of California (UC) and California State University (CSU) college systems, the discipline can be unfair and result in an unjust outcome.  As such, a prompt internal (within the college itself) discipline appeal may be warranted, IF the college provides an appeal process.

Avoid Appeal By Winning First Discipline Hearing

In all cases, it is extremely critical that the college student prepare well for and try to get the best outcome prior to or at their first discipline hearing, so they can potentially avoid any university appeal.  

Discipline Appeals Depend on College Policies

If a college appeal must be pursued, it will all depend on the exact college policy.

In the UC and CSU college systems, overseen by the UC Board of Regents and the California State University system, respectively, one would think that school discipline policies would be uniform across all UCs or all CSUs.  Not exactly.

college discipline appeal college punishment
Colleges make their own discipline appeal rules

UC Discipline Policies

The UC system has a statewide policy, called PACAOS (Policies Applying to Campus Activities Organizations and Students). PACOS confirms there must be a discipline appeal process in place on all UC college campuses, but what that discipline appeal process must include, is not defined.  As such, bases for the school appeal of a student’s punishment are set campus to campus, and can vary greatly.

CSU Discipline Policies

For CSU, there is Executive Order 1098 (EO 1098) which covers student discipline statewide, but which does not discuss a clear punishment appeal right.  Each CSU campus and their policies have to be consulted to determine what student rights exist.

CSUS Punishment Appeal Policy

CSUS (California State University Sacramento), policy, for example, mentions that:

The student shall have the right of due process and appeal in matters of student discipline…

But, the appeal rights and bases are not delineated. 

CSUS also has an internal grievance process which allows CSUS students to appeal many things if they feel their rights were violated.

college student appeals can be lonely
It can be lonely fighting college punishment on appeal

UC Punishment Appeal Policies Vary By Campus

UC policies offer an internal appeal, but can vary on the bases to attack a punishment, so it may be easiest to look at a few for comparison.  

UCD Policies on Discipline Appeals

At University of California, Davis (UCD), the policy regarding the bases for filing a legitimate student punishment appeal, states as follows:

A student… [may] file a written appeal of the decision, on one or more of the following grounds: 

  1. there is no substantial basis in fact to support the findings;
  2. the sanction is inconsistent with the findings;
  3. there was unfairness in the proceedings;
  4. or there is newly discovered important evidence that was not available at the time of the hearing. 

… An appeal may be denied, granted in whole or part, or other relief may be directed where appropriate. 

The great thing about this policy, is that there are 4 potential areas for a UCD discipline appeals to be attacked by a student, including unfairness in the proceedings, a punishment that was way too harsh, and otherwise. 

Students may be able to overturn or reduce punishments via lodging a persuasive discipline appeal.  Nothing is mentioned in the UCD policies about increasing the punishment if a student appeals.

UCLA punishment may increase on appeal
UCLA punishment may increase if a student files an appeal

UCLA Discipline Appeal Policies

With UCLA, there is a different, much more restrictive college policy for UCLA punishment appeals:

If the Dean imposes a sanction of Deferred Suspension, Deferred Dismissal, Suspension, or Dismissal, the Student may appeal the sanction, to the Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs, on the grounds that the sanction assigned is substantially disproportionate to the severity of the violation.

The UCLA policy limits students to appealing only for disproportionate punishment.  It also includes this little gem, that the Vice Chancellor who receives the student’s appeal:

may impose any one or more [additional] sanctions, even though such decision may result in the imposition of more severe disciplinary action.

This means that the appeal is not only a chance for justice and reduced punishment, but also for the school to issue a harsher punishment.  This is disturbing and likely stops many UCLA students from lodging an appeal of their punishment.

student appeal of college discipline
Appealing a college punishment is important

UCB Policies for Punishment Appeals

UC Berkeley (UCB) has a different appeal policy:

An appeal must be based on newly discovered evidence that was not available at the time of the hearing, significant procedural error, or upon other evidence or arguments which, for good cause, should be considered.

This is a much broader discipline appeal right as it covers “other evidence and arguments” without restriction.  This means a wide swath of student punishment appeal arguments may be considered.  UCB has a provision that the student’s discipline can not only be lessened or reversed, but that the matter can also be sent back for a rehearing.

University Punishment Appeal Timelines Can Be Short

College campuses also vary largely in timelines for internal appeals and some windows are VERY short.  Students need to pay close attention and act fast to file a well-written appeal of their punishment.

College Discipline Appeal Rights Vary

Which public 4 year college a student attends in California will determine if there may be a school appeal right. It will also limit the appeal bases which the college will consider when a student tries to overturn a wrongful college punishment, including suspension or expulsion. 

student punishment needs to be fought
College students must vigorously attack discipline allegations to avoid an appeal

Students Must Prepare and Attack College Allegations At Every Stage

Students should study the college discipline and other policies and get their appeals timely submitted. Proper documents and evidence supporting all potential appeal bases needs to be gathered and included. 

If a student fails to file an appeal of punishment per the university policies, their discipline may become final.  As such, knowing the policies of the school a student is attending is key.  

Handle the University Discipline Situation Well From Start

Ultimately, however, remember this: solving the punishment matter at the first discipline hearing (prior to ANY punishment being imposed on the student) or in negotiations, will avoid any appeals altogether.

As such, attacking the initial allegations well, with proper evidence, witnesses and documents proving the student is innocent, can be the most important thing to do.