Thanks to Hollywood, most Americans have heard the police say the phrase “you have a right to an attorney…” as a suspect is being arrested on-screen. That referenced right to counsel in a criminal proceeding is a constitutionally guaranteed right under the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution.
While the right to have an attorney present in court is fairly well known, what most Miami University students aren’t aware of is that they are also entitled to have counsel present at university disciplinary hearings. It’s not a “right to counsel” in the same way that the Constitution provides for accused citizens; but, it is an important that Miami students, and their families, understand that an accused student is entitled to have counsel present at a disciplinary hearing.
Miami University’s Code of Student Conduct (“the Code’) states that “parties are entitled to bring an advisor of their choice…for support to the hearing.” However, bringing in an attorney solely to be present at a hearing places the accused student at a disadvantage. Unlike in a criminal court, an attorney’s role as an advisor during the disciplinary hearing substantially limits his or her ability to speak at the hearing. The accused student is expected to present his or her own case at the hearing. In other words, at the hearing the attorney is in a “support role” and not the proactive advocate that she would be in criminal court.
Whether the accused student has been accused of academic dishonesty by a professor or is accused of a violent or sexual assault under Title IX, it is important that the accused student understands the disciplinary process and is prepared to be an advocate for herself or himself at the disciplinary hearing. Miami disciplinary hearings and the criminal court process have very little overlap, for example, they are completely different procedural frameworks. It is essential that an accused student, and his or her family/support system, understand and appreciate the unique procedures and penalties at play in a university disciplinary hearing.
Speaking with an attorney that regularly handles university disciplinary hearings could be the difference between staying on campus and being suspended.