The Student Hearing Panel is UMD's formal hearing body. The panel hears cases regarding violations of the Student Conduct Code, determines responsibility, and (when necessary) determines appropriate disciplinary action.
The hearing begins with a script read by the chairperson. The Office of Student Conduct presents the case on behalf of the University, then welcomes opening statements and presentation of witnesses by the respondent and, if applicable, the complainant. After these presentations are complete, a question and answer period allows panelists, as well as the respondent and, if applicable, the complainant to ask questions. Finally, respondent and if applicable, complainant are given a ten minute period to provide a closing or summary statement. This marks the end of the hearing. Afterwards, the panelists begin a closed deliberation session to determine responsibility and (if necessary) appropriate sanctions. Respondents, and if applicable, complainants typically receive an outcome letter within a week by official UMD e-mail.
Sample Room Layout
Both the complainant and respondent are entitled to a fundamentally fair hearing by UMD’s formal hearing body. The formal hearing body at UMD is known as the Student Hearing Panel (SHP).
Membership of the Student Hearing Panel is comprised of students, faculty, and staff of UMD. Those that wish to be a member of the panel undergo an extensive application and training process and must be in good standing with the University. OSC, with input from current Student Hearing Panel members, then appoints the respective students, faculty and staff members to the panel.
Training - hearing officers and panelist will receive annual and on-going training throughout their time with the Office of Student Conduct. Additional trainings are required to serve on Hearing Panels involving sex or gender violence. Trainings include but are not limited to understanding student rights, civil rights, cultural competencies, bias training, effective questioning, trauma informed interviewing, sanction practices, etc.
Advisor to the panel is designated by the Director of the Office of Student Conduct. The advisor is not a voting member.
Autonomy - The Student Hearing Panel has autonomy in their decisions through suspensions. Expulsions must be made as recommendations to the Vice Chancellor for Student Life.
Attendance - It is the complainant’s and respondent’s responsibility to attend the hearing. Hearings are held in the absence of the respondent, student organization, or complainant.
Quorum for the Student Hearing Panel is three (3) members. In the event that there is an even number of members serving and there is a tie in the decision of responsible/not responsible, the chair of the panel does not vote.
Notice of Formal Hearing
OSC gives notice to the complainant and respondent in advance of the hearing. The notice is sent to UMD email only. The notice includes the date, time, and location of the hearing as well as the alleged violation(s).
Hearing of Multiple Students
In the event that there are more than one respondent, OSC may allow a joint hearing provided all parties agree.
The complainant, respondent, and student organization may have witnesses in attendance to present pertinent information to the case. Witness names must be provided to OSC no later than 24 hours in advance of the hearing. OSC may invite additional witnesses in presentation of their case when needed.
The complainant, respondent, student organization and members of the SHP may ask questions of each respective side during the allotted time within the hearing. Questions are to be relevant to the case at hand. The chair will rule on the appropriateness of a question or a line of questioning.
In cases of alleged sexual misconduct or violence, questions directly to the complainant and respondent from one another are not allowed. Questions must be made to the chair of the panel who will then pose the question to the respective side.
Pertinent records, citations, written statements, and/or videos may be accepted as information for consideration by the SHP.
All procedural questions are subject to the final decision of the SHP advisor. The student conduct hearing is unique to higher education and is outside to any criminal and civil court proceedings, thus formal rules of process, procedure, and technical rules of evidence are not applicable.
Rules of Evidence
The question of whether there is sufficient evidence to substantiate a violation will be decided based on the preponderance of the evidence. This means that which is more convincing, credible, and of greater weight or probability. It is also known as 50% plus a feather.
After all information has been presented and the hearing has been adjourned, the SHP goes into a closed deliberation to determine whether the respondent is responsible or not responsible. The determination between responsible and not responsible is made by a majority vote of the SHP. If the vote results in a tie, the chair becomes a nonvoting member.
All hearings are closed to the public.
The complainant, respondent or student organization is allowed to have a support person present during the hearing. The number of support individuals is limited to one individual or organization. They may be faculty, staff, parents, or an individual outside of the University community. The support person cannot actively participate in the hearing process. Notification that an individual will be bringing a support person must be made in writing to OSC no later than 24 hours in advance.
If lawyers are present during the hearing, they may not play an active role in the process.
Personal Safety Consideration
OSC, when necessary, provides accommodations with respect to concerns for the personal safety, well-being, and/or fears of confrontation of the complainant, respondent or student organization.
There may be an audio recording of the hearing to be housed in OSC database. The recordings are the property of the University of Minnesota Duluth and no other recordings may be made of the hearings.
Notice of Formal Hearing Outcome
The Respondent will receive written notification of the outcome of a hearing no later than five business days after the hearing. The complainant will be notified of the outcome of a hearing consistent with federal law as in sexual and physical assaults. All outcomes will be sent via UMD email address only.
Preparing for a Hearing
- Witnesses will be questioned and should know that the hearing could last 2-3 hours (or more).
- Witnesses are more credible when they appear in person, as opposed to unverifiable and unchallenged written statements.
- Respondents and complainants are responsible for notifying their own witnesses and/or advisor about the hearing.
- Advisors may not speak on behalf of the respondent or complainant and may not interfere in the hearing process.
- Bring notes made prior to the hearing which cover all pertinent information. Focus on the incident at hand, and information directly applicable to the regulations in question. Organize notes chronologically for use as a presentation outline.
The Hearing Itself
- After a brief introduction of all participants, the chairperson will briefly describe the procedures.
- First, the complainant and respondent are each given up to 30 minutes to present their points of view, supporting information, and witnesses.
- Next, a time for questions and answers is provided. This process is typically the longest portion of the hearing.
- The complainant and respondent will each be given up to 10 minutes for a closing statement.
- Take notes during each other’s presentations. Put notes in question form.
- Note discrepancies in evidence, and present at the appropriate times.
- In summarizing, work from your notes – repeat the important details of the incident. Show how the behavior does or does not violate the regulation(s). Refute those point(s) made by the respondent or complainant with which you disagree. Clarify why you refute it and your own opinion about it.
- The complainant may want to establish his/her motivation for filing the report.
- The complainant and respondent may state his/her expectations for the outcome of the hearing.
Deliberations and Decisions
The Student Hearing Panel will consider the student conduct code cited: Why was the regulation made? What is the behavioral expectation it sets forth? What is its intent or “spirit?” Then the panel will review and weigh the information and decide whether an allegation has been supported by the information. Findings are based on a standard of evidence called “Preponderance of Evidence:” “evidence which is more credible and convincing to the mind…that evidence which when fairly considered produces the stronger impression…and is more convincing as to its truth when weighed against the evidence in opposition thereto.” The determination of weight in preponderance of evidence “does not necessarily mean the greater number of witnesses, but opportunity for knowledge, information possessed, and manner of testifying.”
If none of the allegations are supported by the preponderance of evidence, the respondent will be found not responsible. If any allegation is supported, the panel will decide on an appropriate educational action. Any prior record is then considered.
If the respondent admits to violations, the panel determines appropriate sanctions. If the respondent does not admit to violations, the panel determines a finding of not responsible or responsible with appropriate sanctions. The Student Hearing Panel has autonomy in their decisions, through suspension. Expulsions must be made in the form of recommendations to the Vice Chancellor for Student Life.
Student Hearing Panel Application
Hearing panelists are selected and trained by the Office of Student Conduct. A training retreat for current and new members is held annually. Additional training may be conducted on an as-needed basis.