FAQs for Students

The Charter of the University of Pennsylvania Student Disciplinary System (hereinafter “Charter”) contains answers to just about any question you might have about the disciplinary system. It is, however, very detailed. These FAQs are designed to provide you with a quick way to find answers to frequently asked questions. A “condensed” version of the Charter is also available on our website here.

What does it mean that a “complaint” has been filed against me?

A complaint is a request that the Office of Student Conduct (hereinafter OSC) investigate whether or not there has been a violation of University rules. When OSC receives a complaint, we notify the student involved and begin an investigation to determine whether or not the complaint is valid. When we finish the investigation, if there is clear and convincing evidence that you are responsible for violating a University rule, you are charged and presented with a voluntary resolution agreement. If it is found that there is insufficient evidence to charge you, the case is closed with no further action taken.

Who may file a complaint?

A complaint may be filed by anyone within the University community as well as by someone outside the University community who has been aggrieved by your conduct, e.g., a neighbor, a landlord, a business owner, etc.

Does the University have jurisdiction over things that occur off-campus?

Yes. The Code of Student Conduct and the Charter set forth the expectation that students must “exhibit responsible behavior regardless of time or place.” Code of Student Conduct, § III.

Am I required to cooperate with the Office of Student Conduct?

Yes, you are. Section III (g) of the Code of Student Conduct requires students to “cooperate fully and honestly in the Student Judicial System of the University...” Section I.B.5 of the Charter also requires students “...to cooperate... [and] to provide honest and complete statements to the OSC...”

Once a complaint has been filed, what procedures are followed by the OSC?

The Charter sets forth in detail the process the OSC must follow. Briefly:

  • you are notified that a complaint has been filed;
  • OSC investigates to determine the validity of the complaint by interviewing you, the complainant and others who may have relevant information. When appropriate, we review and compare documents, look at computer records, and do whatever else might help us determine what, if anything, occurred;
  • if there is not sufficient information to support the complaint, no further action is taken. The complaint is dismissed and the file is closed;
  • if there is clear and convincing evidence that you are responsible for violating a University rule(s), you are “charged” and presented with a voluntary resolution agreement. If you think sanctions other than those proposed by the OSC in the voluntary resolution agreement are more appropriate to your case, you may ask OSC to consider alternate sanctions;
  • if your request for alternate sanctions is not accepted and you and the OSC are unable to resolve your case by voluntary agreement, your case will be presented to a disciplinary hearing panel which will determine the most appropriate sanctions;
  • if the hearing panel finds you not responsible for the charges, the case is dismissed;
  • if you are found responsible, the hearing panel imposes sanctions;
  • you may appeal the hearing panel’s findings. Appellate review is limited to allegations of procedural error in the conduct of the hearing, error in interpretation or application of University regulations, consideration of new evidence, or severity of the recommended sanctions. If you prevail, the sanctions are modified or you are found not responsible. If the appeal is not decided in your favor, the hearing panel’s sanctions are imposed.

Do most cases go to a hearing?

No. Very few cases proceed to a hearing. Most cases are resolved by voluntary agreement.

Who sits on a hearing panel?

In academic integrity cases, the hearing panel consists of three members of the standing faculty and two student members of the Honor Council or GAPSA; in conduct cases, there are two faculty members and three students. If you are an undergraduate student, all of the student members of the panel are undergraduates. Likewise, if you are a graduate student, they are all graduate students.

What sanctions may be imposed?

OSC and/or the hearing panel may impose the following formal sanctions:

  • Letter of warning
  • Letter of reprimand
  • Probation (for a definite or indefinite period, e.g., until graduation)
  • Suspension not imposed
  • Suspension (for a definite or indefinite period)
  • Disciplinary withdrawal
  • Expulsion
  • Delayed diploma
  • Transcript notation

In addition to these formal disciplinary sanctions, OSC and the hearing panel may also recommend one or more of the following educational sanctions:

  • Community service
  • Counseling evaluation
  • Essay related to charge
  • Letter of apology
  • Academic support counseling
  • Drug and alcohol education
  • Fine
  • Restitution

Is there a typical sanction for a particular type of case?

No. Every student and each case is different.

If an international student receives a sanction which separates him or her from the University for a period of time, what are the immigration implications?

Immigration issues should be discussed with an advisor at International Scholar and Student Services (ISSS), 3701 Chestnut Street, Suite 1W, 215-898-4661.

How long does it generally take for a disciplinary case to be resolved?

It is impossible to say at the onset how long it will be before a case is resolved. It depends on many factors: your cooperation and availability; the availability of your advisor; the availability and cooperation of witnesses; your willingness to accept the proposed agreement; your desire to go to a hearing; etc.

Will the Office of Student Conduct contact my parents?

Confidentiality rules apply to our interactions with your parents as they do to our interactions with anyone else. We will not contact your parents unless you either agree in writing or ask us to do so. If your parents contact us, we will discuss your matter with them only with your permission. Otherwise, we will give them only general information about disciplinary procedures.

Why should I have an advisor?

Although you are not required to have an advisor, we strongly recommend that you do. An advisor will help you understand the process, give you practical and informed advice about the best way to proceed, attend OSC meetings with you, and, if your case proceeds to a hearing, be present at the hearing. At a hearing, an advisor may quietly advise you and, if you wish, may also make a brief statement at the conclusion of the hearing, before the panel begins its deliberations.

How do I select an advisor?

We will include with your notice letter a list of University staff, students and faculty who have been trained to act as advisors. You may choose someone from the list or you may choose someone else in the University community. You can simply email or call someone from the list; you do not have to know the person. We can assist you in choosing an advisor but it is best if you make the selection on your own.

Does my advisor represent me?

No. You are expected to speak for yourself, with your advisor’s advice and support.

May my parent be my advisor?

If your parent is a member of the Penn community (faculty, staff or student), he or she may act as your advisor during the disciplinary process. However, we do not recommend this. Faculty and staff advisors are trained in the process and are better able to be objective and dispassionate. Thus, they are often more effective. Your parent may be able to provide you with better support if he or she does not take on the additional role of advisor.

May my parent attend OSC meetings with me?

If you would like your parent(s) to attend a meeting with you and OSC thinks it would be appropriate, your parents may attend. In general, though, we caution against it. The disciplinary process can and should be a learning experience for you to explain and/or accept responsibility for your actions.

May I have an attorney represent me throughout the disciplinary process?

According to the Charter, an attorney who is not a member of the University community may not act as an advisor for you unless “criminal charges are pending..., or, in the judgment of the Office of the University’s General Counsel, are reasonably in prospect...” § I.D.7.b.

If you are permitted to have an attorney, the attorney’s role is that of an advisor, and is not your advocate. You are expected to speak for yourself.

If I am found responsible, will my disciplinary sanction appear on my transcript?

Generally, no. Only in the most egregious cases is a disciplinary sanction noted on your transcript. If there will be a transcript notation, it will be stated in the agreement or hearing panel decision.

Are disciplinary proceedings confidential?

Yes. The proceedings, the identity of those involved, all files, testimony and findings are confidential and will generally be disclosed only with your permission. However, University officials, such as the Dean of your school, will be given information on a “need-to-know” basis.

Will my disciplinary record be reported to graduate schools to which I may apply or to prospective employers?

According to University policy and federal privacy laws, disciplinary records may be disclosed by the Dean of your school to an outside agency or institution only with your consent. This generally occurs with applications to graduate school or for jobs requiring security clearances.

Are all disciplinary sanctions reportable?

All academic integrity sanctions are reportable. However, only conduct cases resulting in sanctions of probation, suspension (whether imposed or not), expulsion, disciplinary withdrawal and delayed diploma are reportable; those resulting in a warning or reprimand are not. In accordance with University policy, sanctions which are reportable remain reportable permanently.

If I am found responsible, will there be an actual, physical disciplinary file? Where is it kept? Is it kept permanently?

The physical file is housed in perpetuity in the OSC. A notation of your charges and the sanctions is kept in your permanent academic file in your Dean’s office.