University System of Georgia

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USG to Provide More Consistent and Clearer System-wide Practices Regarding Student Conduct

Atlanta — March 9, 2016

Today, the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia (USG) implemented two new, System-wide policies to provide more consistent and clearer practices regarding student conduct. The board action builds on the USG Campus Safety Initiative launched May 2015 to identify and to apply best practices across the System at each of the USG campuses.

“We are committed to providing safe and welcoming campuses for all of our students,” said Chancellor Hank Huckaby. “Our goal is simple, yet critically important to our campus communities – to provide more consistent and clearer System-wide practices to ensure fairness for all of our students.”

In August 2014, Chancellor Hank Huckaby called for the USG to take a serious and thorough look at what the System is doing across campuses regarding safety. At the May 2015 board meeting, the USG Campus Safety Committee presented its report. With the report’s recommendations, the board and Chancellor Huckaby launched the campus safety initiative that called for System-led training and centralized oversight of campus safety policies, procedures and requirements.

One specific recommendation from the board was for the University System to establish a System-wide Title IX policy that would cover all institutions. With the review process, the USG’s assessment expanded to include campuses’ handling of student misconduct.

As a result, the board has implemented two new, System-wide policies: (1) a System-level sexual misconduct policy that will replace each institution’s local policy, and (2) a policy setting forth consistent processes and procedures to be incorporated into each institution’s existing student conduct policy.

Key provisions of the new policies that go into effect at USG institutions on July 1, 2016:

Required Training Plays a Critical Role:
Each institution, with the support and assistance of University System staff, is required to provide training of all individuals involved in investigations, hearings, and appeals.
• Institutions will ensure that investigators and decision makers receive individualized training.
• Institutions may not allow their investigators to train student conduct panels.
• Institutions will continue to provide web-based education related to alcohol and sexual assault awareness for faculty and staff.

Opportunity to Be Heard:
• Each party has the right to be heard fully at every stage of the investigation, including: (1) the accused must receive a written notice of possible charges; (2) each party must be provided the opportunity to notify the investigator of relevant witnesses and evidence at the outset of the matter; and (3) each party has the right to respond to the investigator’s final report in writing.

Role of Counsel:
• All parties (both the accused and the accuser) have the right to have an advisor or attorney present at each stage of the investigation, hearing and appeal. The advisor or attorney may actively advise and assist his or her client, including providing guidance on responses during the investigation and assisting in drafting questions to be asked at hearings. However, advisors and attorneys will not be permitted to question witnesses or parties directly during a hearing.

Standard of Review:
• Any finding that a student has violated policy must be based upon a preponderance of the evidence standard, which means it is more likely than not that the alleged misconduct occurred. No student may be suspended or expelled, however, unless substantial evidence is identified to support the finding.

Protections Against Bias:
• Any party has the right to challenge the involvement of an investigator or decision-maker based on concerns of bias, and the institution must provide a neutral party to review the challenge.

In addition to these key provisions, the Chancellor and the Board recognize that prevention is one of the primary mechanisms to reduce incidents of sexual violence on campuses. To that end, institutions will continue to provide and to participate in programming designed to stop sexual violence through the promotion of positive and healthy behaviors.

The two new policies can be found here: USG Sexual Misconduct and Student Conduct Policies

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