Disciplinary Hearings at USF

The University of South Florida (USF) serves more than 48,000 students. Those students at USF are subject to USF’s Student Code of Conduct, which sets forth the process for student disciplinary hearings. USF6.0021.

USF’s Student Code of Conduct explains the types of conduct for which a student may be disciplined.

The Code of Conduct explains the procedures for charging students with conduct violations and determining whether the student is responsible for the alleged violation.

Additionally, the Code of Conduct sets out the sanctions for sustained violations.

A USF official is assigned to the case when a USF student is referred for an alleged violation of the Code of Conduct. USF6.0021(3)(e), USF6.0021(5).

The initial review officer assesses the referral to determine what, if any, charges are to be filed and notify the student of the charges. If the student is charged, the student may choose between two types of formal hearings. USF6.0021(5)(c)(2).

First, the student can elect to have a formal hearing before a conduct board. USF6.0021(5)(c)(2)b.

Except in cases involving violence, the student accused of the violation can appear at the hearing, question adverse witnesses, and present evidence on their behalf. USF6.0021(6)(a)(4),(5).

If a student fails to appear at a properly scheduled hearing, the matter may be resolved in the student’s absence. USF6.0021(6)(a)(11).

The burden of proof to be applied to the proceeding is the preponderance of the evidence standard. USF6.0021(6)(a)(1).

The decision reached, and the findings that support that decision may be appealed to the Dean. USF6.0021(5)(f).

The Dean decides the appeal. The Dean may adopt, modify, or reject decisions from the formal hearing.

Final decisions resulting in suspension or expulsion are reviewable by petition for writ of certiorari filed in circuit court. USF6.0021(6).

Attorneys for USF’s Disciplinary Hearings

College students accused of a crime or misconduct should contact an experienced criminal defense attorney familiar with representing college students during disciplinary hearings.

The stakes are exceptionally high for International Students who are not citizens of the United States.

The stakes are also high for students that want to pursue a career in the military, law enforcement, or as a healthcare professional.

Some disciplinary actions are triggered by an accusation that a crime was committed on or off campus.

Whether the police issued a notice to appear in court to answer criminal charges or formally arrested you, the University of South Florida might find out about the criminal accusation and initiate a disciplinary process.

Those students must fight the criminal accusation in a courtroom and the disciplinary action at the formal hearing before the University Conduct Board or the Administrative Officer.

During the academic integrity appeal process, we also represent students accused of academic dishonesty for cheating or plagiarism.

The attorneys at the Sammis Law Firm take a full-service approach to help you in the criminal case and/or disciplinary hearing.

Call (813) 250-0500 today.

Disciplinary Action after an Arrest

Even a criminal offense that occurs off campus can lead to disciplinary action at USF.

If you have questions about the University Student Conduct Process at USF, contact the experienced criminal defense attorneys at Sammis Law Firm to discuss your case.

We can help you file a release form that allows USF’s Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities to discuss any information related to your disciplinary file with our attorneys.

The form will also allow your attorney to obtain a copy of the disciplinary record and any evidence that might be presented against you at the formal disciplinary hearing.

We represent students at every stage, including the initial review meeting and during a formal hearing before the University Conduct Board or the Administrative Officer.

We also represent students who wish to appeal the decision in writing to the Dean of Students.

In most cases, you and your attorney will meet with the Dean of Students to discuss your appeal.

If your appeal is denied, you can file a petition for a Writ of Certiorari to a Circuit Court Judge in Hillsborough County or a higher court.

Appeals are usually reserved for due process violations.

Parental Notification Policy at USF

Although the student will be notified, parents of dependent students under the age of 21, will NOT be notified of the alleged violation of the Student Code of Conduct until after a finding is entered.

Many parents don’t find out what happened under they are notified under the USF Parental Notification Policy after sanctions are imposed.

The Parental Notification Police allow the University of South Florida to inform parents or guardians when their dependent student, under the age of 21, has been found in violation of the University’s alcohol and substance abuse policy.

The notification is usually sent by mail. In some emergencies, the parents may be notified by an immediate telephone call from the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities or the Dean of Students.

Parents can also be notified of other policy violations that may endanger the health, safety, and well-being of a student or other individuals in the USF community.

In addition, parental notification may occur in health and safety emergencies regardless of the student’s age or dependent status.

Since the parent will likely be notified later in the process, it is usually in the student’s best interest to tell their parents as soon as possible so that their parents can help them understand the process and determine if they need a criminal defense attorney to represent them.

Double Jeopardy Doesn’t Apply to the Student Conduct Hearing

One of the most frequent questions students ask is whether the disciplinary hearing constitutes double jeopardy if they face criminal charges in court.

The Code of Conduct states:

“Students accused of a crime may be prosecuted under the appropriate jurisdiction and also disciplined under the Student Code of Conduct.”

The University may pursue disciplinary action even if criminal justice authorities choose not to prosecute, and it may also act independently of the criminal justice process.

Therefore, the concept of double jeopardy does not apply to allegations in the criminal courts and the college’s disciplinary hearing.

Disciplinary Actions for Off-Campus Conduct

At the University of South Florida, the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities has jurisdiction over conduct that occurs on the University Campus or at any USF-sponsored event, including sporting events.

The University also has jurisdiction to deal with conduct that adversely impacts the University community.

Therefore, the officials at USF can initiate disciplinary charges for conduct off campus when the behavior impacts:

  • the good name of the University;
  • the integrity of the educational process; or
  • the safety and welfare of the University community.

Steps in the Student Conduct Process

At the University of South Florida in Tampa, the steps in the student conduct process can include:

  1. A complaint is filed that alleges a student conduct code violation (in some cases, law enforcement will forward a police report, citation, or notice to appear to the University).
  2. Notice of the violation is sent to the student.
  3. The student and the student’s attorney will attend the Initial Review meeting.
  4. If, after receiving notice that a referral was made, the student fails to respond or appear for a meeting with the Conduct Officer, an “In Absentia Review” will be conducted by the Conduct Officer, who will decide and levy the appropriate sanctions.
  5. If you attend the Initial Review, you can accept responsibility or demand a formal hearing.
  6. If the student accepts responsibility, then the sanctions will be provided in the Determination Letter.
  7. The student must complete the conditions imposed in the disposition letter or face additional sanctions.
  8. If the student does not wish to accept responsibility, the student can demand a Formal Hearing before the University Conduct Board of the Administrative Officer;
  9. If you fail to complete the sanctions imposed, you will have a hold placed on your records, preventing you from obtaining transcripts, registering, or withdrawing from classes.
  10. After any decision, you have the right to appeal to the Dean of Students and thereafter, to a Circuit Court Judge during Writ of Certiorari.

Accepting Responsibility for a Violation of the Student Code of Conduct

If the student accepts responsibility for an alleged violation of the student code of conduct, USF issues a Disposition Letter.

The student must then complete any sanctions required and explained in the Disposition Letter.

The letter contains a description of assignments that must be completed, the names of the individuals you must contact, and the deadlines for completing the sanctions.

Selecting a Formal Hearing

We can help you decide whether you should “accept responsibility” for the alleged violation of the student code of conduct or demand a formal hearing.

At the formal hearing, it will be determined whether the student is “responsible” or “not responsible” for violating the Student Code of Conduct.

The USF University Conduct Board or the Administrative Officer makes the determination.

If the student is found to be “responsible” at the formal hearing, sanctions can be imposed. The sanctions imposed might be identical to those in the original Disposition letter. In some cases, the sanctions might be increased or decreased.

The sanctions are determined by the conduct officer based on the following:

  • the report of the alleged violation;
  • the information presented by the student about what occurred;
  • evidence from the reports of witnesses or others involved in the case; and
  • whether the student has any prior disciplinary history.

You are entitled to have an attorney present if you choose for the attorney to act as your “advisor.”

Your attorney can speak with you, help you prepare a statement, and help you present evidence in your defense.

The attorney is not allowed to speak for the student. Still, the attorney can sit next to the student during the hearing to help the student make a statement, answer questions, present evidence, or prepare questions for the witnesses supporting the complaint.

You can present witnesses who can offer relevant information. Your witnesses can also provide a written statement or be present to testify at the hearing.

Your attorney can help you determine which witnesses should appear on your behalf and what questions they can be asked.

What Happens at the Formal Hearing?

At the Formal Hearing, evidence will be presented on whether you violated the USF Student Code of Conduct.

The burden of proof is on the complainant to prove the allegations with “substantial evidence.”

The term “substantial evidence” is defined as “whether it is reasonable to conclude from the information submitted that the student did commit the violation(s) for which he or she has been referred.”

The “substantial evidence” standard is lower than the criminal law standard of “proof beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Appealing Decisions of the University Conduct Board or Administrative Officer

Within five days of the decision, you have the right to appeal the decision in writing to the Dean for Students.

In most cases, you and your attorney will meet with the Dean for Students to discuss your appeal.

Although the decision of the Dean for Students is the final decision of the University of South Florida, you can appeal that decision through a Writ of Certiorari to a higher court.

What Records Are Created During the Student Conduct Process? 

The disciplinary actions do not appear on academic transcripts. If you are suspended for some time, however, during that period, a notation will appear on the academic transcript noting that the student is suspended due to conduct issues.

The notation on the academic transcript is often removed once the suspension is over.

The Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities maintains all campus conduct records under the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).

The Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities will not comment on whether a student is involved in the student conduct process.

In some cases, the Student Rights and Responsibilities staff, including the University Conduct Board, will inform the complainant about the outcome of the conduct proceeding when appropriate.

Additional Resources

Student Code of Conduct – Find out more about a student’s rights as explained in the USF Student Code of Conduct and on the USF website under the link for “Rights and Responsibilities.” The USF Student Code of Conduct applies to any student, registered organization, or the person who has applied for admission, housing, or any other service provided by the University which requires student status will be subject to the Student Code of Conduct for any action found in violation of the Code which occurs on University property, at University-sponsored events, or off-campus if the action adversely affects the University community and/or the pursuit of the University’s mission.

Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities
John and Grace Allen Administration Building
Room 109
University of South Florida
4202 E. Fowler Avenue
Tampa, FL 33620
(813) 974-9443


Finding a Lawyer for College Students at the University of South Florida

The attorneys at the Sammis Law Firm are experienced in representing students at USF after a criminal accusation or violating the student code of conduct.

We are experienced in representing students after both misdemeanor and felony accusations.

We also represent students during the academic integrity appeal process.

Don’t make a statement to the police or take responsibility for the violation until you have spoken to an attorney.

We have been through this many times, and we can help you at every stage of the process.

We have represented clients in a wide range of student code violations, including a violation of 4.17 for Misuse of Alcohol to more serious charges of sexual battery on campus.

If you received a Notification of Initial Review Letter for Code of Conduct Violations, contact us to discuss the case as soon as possible.

Call our criminal defense attorneys for USF students at (813) 250-0500 today.

This article was last updated on Thursday, April 27, 2023.