Code of Conduct

 

Philosophy and Purpose of Discipline

Philosophy of Discipline
Abilene Christian University maintains a Christian discipline, promoting a way of life that is intended to uphold the teachings of Jesus Christ, calling all people to God’s truth. Therefore, community life at ACU is a disciplined life. Community standards reflect biblical principles and traditional Christian teaching and encourage students, staff and faculty to live lives of holiness, honesty, decency and civility. The intent of all discipline is to enhance growth and maturity, especially responsibility for one’s own behavior and accountability for one’s own actions. 

ACU’s philosophy of discipline is neither legalistic nor permissive. Instead, members of our community are called to a high standard of behavior in order to establish and maintain an environment conducive to learning and personal growth. Our desire is that all people reach their greatest potential in Jesus Christ.
 
Standards of Conduct
Within the context of ACU’s mission and its determination to be Christ-centered, students are expected to develop and maintain a high standard of personal and behavioral values. At its core, this expectations is based on loving God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and loving your neighbor as yourself.   More specifically, it include, but are not limited to, the following:

  1. Respect for ACU’s longstanding tradition of honesty, moral and ethical integrity, and open inquiry.
  2. Respect for the right and necessity of ACU to develop and maintain a Christian atmosphere conducive to academic study and personal growth.
  3. Respect for the personal worth, dignity and rights of others.
  4. Respect for the diverse backgrounds, personalities, convictions and spiritual traditions of students, staff and faculty who comprise the ACU community.
  5. Respect for local, state and federal laws and ordinances.
  6. Respect for the discipline, policy, procedures and authority established by ACU for the systematic management of university activities, the well-being of the members of the university community, and the integrity of the institution.
  7. Regard for the nature of a moral community by embracing the need to lovingly confront and hold accountable members of the ACU community whose conduct falls outside the boundaries of Christian behavior, university policy, state and federal laws.


Purpose of Disciplinary Responses
In order to preserve moral community, it sometimes becomes necessary to confront and hold accountable members of the ACU family. Procedures have been designed to provide a loving disciplinary response, balanced by justice and mercy. Justice requires that those who violate community standards are held accountable, and those who are innocent are protected. Mercy requires an understanding that all people are fallen sinners in need of God’s grace and a mandate to encourage hope rather than condemnation. Therefore, discipline must be both corrective and restorative. The goal must be to redeem individuals and to restore relationships so that people can grow and develop in knowledge and grace. The purpose of the disciplinary response is:

  • to redirect behavior,
  • to protect the rights of others in the community,
  • to encourage and teach responsibility, and
  • to maintain a Christian environment compatible with the educational
    mission of the university.


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Conduct Subject to Sanction

The violations listed below are not construed as all encompassing. The Dean of Students and other university officials are given discretion in addressing incidents of violation not listed here. All policies and regulations of the Student Handbook may apply to all students on or off campus regardless of whether school is in session. 

Category One violations. Category One violations may include, but are not limited to

  • Violation of general residence life policies. (Refer to the Residence Life Section of the Student Handbook for specific policies.)
  • Minor disturbances of the peace.
  • Violation of curfew policies for freshmen and for sophomores pledging a social club.
  • Engaging or threatening to engage in behavior that would cause minor damage to university property or to the personal property of others.
  • Violation of dress code principles.
  • Violation of parking/safety regulations.
  •  Illegal gambling.
  • Use of tobacco in any form or any type of smoking on campus or at any university-sponsored event.
  • Use of profanity, vulgarity or obscenity in any form.
  • Failure to present official ACU ID card upon request of university authorities.
  • Failure to accurately list with the university a current place of residence and to promptly inform the university of any subsequent changes in the listing.
  • Knowledge of a violation of certain university policies or of students who are in violation of certain university policies without notifying proper university officials.
  • Photographs or comments on social networking sites that document or publicize suspected violations of the Student Handbook. (Refer to the Internet Information section of the General Policy Guide.)


Sanctions assigned as disciplinary responses to Category One violations may include, but are not limited to written warning; minimum fine of $25 and/or restitution; accountability agreement with university staff or faculty; discretionary assignments; and/or participation in educational programming

Category Two violations. Category Two violations may include, but are not limited to:

  • Repeated or severe Category One violations.
  • Violation of the visitation policies of residence halls and University Park apartments.
  • Violation of the university Chapel attendance policy.
  • Violation of the university Chapel integrity policy.
  • Repeated violations of the university academic integrity policy.
  • Certain violations of the university alcohol policy.
  • Failure to comply with a directive of a university official acting in the performance of his or her duties.
  • Disrespectful behavior toward a university staff or faculty member.
  • Knowingly providing false or misleading information to a university authority, including all staff and faculty.
  • Engaging or threatening to engage in behavior that would cause significant damage to university property or to the personal property of others.
  • Minor instances of disruptive behavior. Disruptive behavior includes conduct that distracts or intimidates others in a manner that interferes with instructional activities, fails to adhere to an instructor’s appropriate classroom rules or instructions, or interferes with the normal operation of the University.
  • Minor disturbances of the peace. A disturbance will be defined as an event in which failure to maintain control of the event occurs and/or complaints are reported and/or police respond to the scene.
  • Unauthorized possession or use of university keys.
  • Unauthorized entry or use of university buildings, facilities, equipment, supplies or resources.
  • Possession or use of fireworks or chemicals that are of an explosive or corrosive nature.
  • Possession of stolen property.
  • Possession and/or use of pornography of any kind.
  • Violation of law or university policy related to computer use or copyright infringement.
  • Theft of services, including failure to meet financial obligations for professional and/or rental agreements.
  • Sexual immorality, including pre-marital sex (heterosexual and homosexual activity). (For clarification, review the philosophy of discipline above and Sexual Stewardship Policy.)
  • Forgery, alteration or misuse of university documents, forms, records, or identification cards.
  • Any activity that qualifies under applicable criminal law as a misdemeanor, regardless if charges are filed.


Sanctions assigned as disciplinary responses to Category Two violations may include, but are not limited to: conduct Probation for either a definite or indefinite period; accountability agreement with university staff or faculty; loss of privilege; in cases of Chapel violations, loss of Chapel credits; minimum fine of $50 and/or restitution; discretionary assignments; loss or reduction of scholarships; participation in educational programming; and/or suspension or dismissal.

Category Three violations. Category Three violations include, but are not limited to:

  • Repeated or severe Category Two violations.
  • Failure to comply with disciplinary decisions, including conditions of probation.
  • Failure to report to the university any past criminal history, charges or convictions, including any arrests or pending misdemeanor or felony charges or indictments.
  • Repeated or severe violations of the University Alcohol Policy.
  • Violation of university drug policy.
  • Violation of the university weapons policy.
  • Misuse of fire or safety equipment.
  • Causing or reporting a false warning of a campus emergency.
  • ACU strives to provide a safe and orderly environment for its students. In keeping with that goal, students whose behavior is disruptive to the community may be subject to corrective or administrative action including dismissal. “Disruptive” is here defined to include behavior that causes emotional/psychological or physical distress to self, fellow students, faculty or staff that is significantly above what is normally experienced in daily life, as determined by the university. Such disruption may be in the form of a single behavioral incident or a somewhat less severe but persistent disruption over a more extended period of time.
  • Major disturbances of the peace. A disturbance will be defined as an event in which failure to maintain control of the event occurs and/or complaints are reported and/or police respond to the scene.
  • Knowingly accessing a computer, computer network, or computer system beyond the standard assigned and/or accepted permissions.
  • Causing physical or emotional harm to another person. Emotional harm includes but is not limited to, intimidation, stalking, cyber-bullying, and/or threats by text messaging or other electronic media.
  • Creating a hostile environment, including but not limited to hate speech, harassment, or sexual harassment. Refer to the definitions in the linked policy.
  • Participation in hazing. (Refer to the section on hazing in the General Policy section of this handbook for further information.)
  • Arson or attempted arson.
  • Assault, physical or sexual in nature.
  • Any activity that qualifies under applicable criminal law as a felony, regardless if charges are filed.


Sanctions assigned as disciplinary responses to Category Three violations may include, but are not limited to: suspension or dismissal from the university; accountability agreement; loss of privilege; minimum fine of $100 and/or restitution; discretionary assignments; loss or reduction of scholarships; participation in educational programming; eviction from university housing (residence halls or University Park Apartments); delay in or prohibition of registering for classes; and/or denial of readmission without approval of Dean of Students or his or her designee.

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Explanation of Sanctions

The sanctions listed below are not construed as all encompassing. The Dean of Students and/or other designee are given discretion to assign sanctions not listed here.

Formal Warning: A student served with a formal warning is given an official written notice. The formal warning may include other sanctions, and carries the message that continued or repeated violations may result in more severe sanctions.

Fine: A financial penalty assessed at the discretion of the Dean of Students or designee and recorded in an official written notice. A charge will be made to the student’s account in the amount of the fine.

Loss of Privilege: A student may be restricted from participating in university-sponsored activities, including but not limited to social clubs, other student organizations, student productions, Spring Break Campaigns, intramurals, leadership positions, and/or award nominations. A student involved in a social club or other organization may be restricted from participating in club or organization meetings, running for office, voting within a club or organization, socials and formals, and any other club or organization sponsored events. For detailed information, refer to the Student Organization Handbook as well as the specific policies related to university-sponsored activities. 

Conduct Probation: A student placed on conduct probation is given an official written notice that defines the terms of the probation period. The terms of conduct probation may include other sanctions, including, but not limited to loss of privilege to participate in university programs, organizations, or activities for a specified period of time. Conduct probation carries the message that continued or repeated violations, during or after the probation period, may result in additional discipline, including but not limited to, suspension or dismissal from the university. As allowed by privacy laws, parents/guardians may be notified of this decision, for example when students under the age of 21 violate the university alcohol policy.

Deferred Suspension: A student placed on Deferred Suspension is given an official written notice informing them their action(s) warrant suspension from the university, but circumstances allow for a mitigated response. Deferred Suspension provides opportunity for the student to demonstrate a commitment to abide by the ACU community’s expectations of behavior as described in the Code of Conduct. If while on Deferred Suspension a student has any additional conduct violations, they will be immediately suspended for at least one full semester. As allowed by privacy laws, parents/guardians may be notified of this decision (Example: when students under the age of 21 violate the university alcohol policy).

Suspension: A student placed on suspension is given an official written notice of termination of their status as a student. Suspensions may be for a specified period of time (usually one semester or for the balance of the current semester), or for an indefinite period. Notification of suspensions may be sent to parents or guardians (as allowed by privacy laws) and to appropriate university officials. A student who has been suspended will be informed by written notice of the time within which the student is expected to leave the campus.

Conduct suspensions are not documented on a student’s transcript. The Office of Student Life initiates the withdrawal process for suspended students. However, once a student is informed that the withdrawal process has been initiated, it is the student’s responsibility to complete the formal withdrawal process including but not limited to, completion of the exit process for financial aid/loans. In conduct suspension cases, tuition and fee waiver requests within the university’s refund policy schedule may not be approved.

If the student chooses to appeal a suspension (see the Appeal Process section of the Student Conduct section of this Handbook or refer to Appeal Process online), and the appeal is denied, the official date of suspension may be changed to the date the student receives notification of the denial for financial aid and university withdrawal purposes only.

Students seeking readmission following a suspension should consult instructions on the formal readmission process and appropriate deadlines. In addition, the following items should be included in the readmission paperwork submitted to the Registrar’s office: a written discussion of action steps completed to comply with specific requirements of the suspension and a statement of intent to comply with the attitudes and behaviors expected of ACU students, three letters of reference (usually from a parent; a minister, pastor, elder or church leader; a counselor/therapist; or a personal friend). These letters should indicate the relationship with the student and an assessment of the student’s progress toward change and completion of readmission requirements.

Summary Suspension: A suspension may be enforced before the appeal process is completed. This sanction may be enforced if the Dean of Students determines that the student’s continued presence on campus presents unreasonable risk of danger to members of the campus community. In these cases, a student must leave the campus immediately and remain off campus while the appeal is pending. The student may be permitted to return to campus in order to participate in the university’s appeal process by special arrangement with the Dean of Students or designee.

Dismissal: Dismissal from the university is a permanent termination of student status. Notification of dismissals may be sent to parents or guardians (as allowed by privacy laws) and to appropriate university officials. A student who has been dismissed will be informed by written notice of the time within which the student is expected to leave the campus.

Additional Requirements and Conditions: The University reserves the right to impose additional requirements and conditions in the disciplinary process as determined by the Dean of Students or, upon appeal, by the Disciplinary Review Board. Medical or psychological counseling/treatment and/or assessment by ACU or off-campus professionals, including drug and alcohol testing and/or assessment may be required.

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Disciplinary Process

Reporting a Violation
Incident reports alleging violations of the Student Conduct Policy will be forwarded to the Office of Student Life from university officials and other members of the university community (including students, staff and faculty). If the university receives reports, complaints or other information possibly involving violations of the Student Conduct Policy from local, state and federal agencies, they will be forwarded to the Office of Student Life for investigation. Most reports are initially referred to the Dean of Students for further investigation.

Conducting a Student Conduct Investigation and Summoning a Student
A preliminary review of the facts of the case will be conducted to determine whether sufficient evidence exists to warrant a meeting with the student(s) involved. If it is determined that further explanation is warranted, students will be summoned by email to a meeting where allegations will be reviewed. 

It is the student’s responsibility to open, read and act on all emails related to an investigation. 

Failure to comply with an email summons and other attempts to contact the student may result in the student forfeiting his/her right to the disciplinary process outlined in the Student Handbook. In most cases, failure to comply will result in the student being found in violation of the original student conduct violation as well as an additional violation of ‘Failure to Comply with a Directive of a University Official acting in the performance of his or her duties,’ which also results in further disciplinary action. A registration hold may also be placed on the students account.

During the meeting with the appropriate Student Life representative(s), students will be given an opportunity to provide their account of the events. The Student Life representative(s) will meet with only the student. No one else may represent the student during the investigation process. Further investigation may be conducted, if necessary, and a disciplinary response may be determined.

Deliberation/Standard of Proof
In deliberating disciplinary responses, the appropriate Student Life representative will make a decision based on what he or she considers reasonable evidence, including, but not limited to, testimony from witnesses, written statements and other relevant information. In evaluating conflicting testimony or statements, the appropriate Student Life representative will determine in good faith which version of events is more credible.

Sanctioning a Student
Authority for determining disciplinary responses, requirements or conditions typically rests with the Dean of Students, although the Vice President of Student Life, as outlined above, may make decisions in particular cases. Repeated or aggravated violations of student conduct may result in additional disciplinary responses, especially in cases where the infractions occur during conduct probation. Any disciplinary response will become part of the student’s official disciplinary file. A student’s entire disciplinary record will be considered when decisions related to disciplinary responses are made.

Procedures for Violations by Student Groups
Student groups may be found in violation of university policies, and the group may be held responsible, either individually or collectively, for violations by those associated with the group. Alleged violations will be referred to the Dean of Students or designee for investigation and processing under the provisions of the Student Organizations Handbook. Disciplinary responses for a student group may include revocation of the group’s right to exist at the university, as well as other appropriate measures. Student groups will be afforded the same hearing and appeal procedures provided for individual students.

Graduation Eligibility
Students are not eligible for graduation or release of transcripts until the completion of disciplinary proceedings and the performance of all disciplinary requirements. Graduation, release of transcripts, and/or participation in commencement activities may be impacted until all requirements are fulfilled.

Disciplinary Records Retention and Requests
The Dean of Students retains responsibility for the maintenance, storage and release of student records related to disciplinary proceedings in keeping with FERPA. Students may request copies of their discipline files by completing a Disciplinary Records Request form available in the Office of the Dean of Students.Disciplinary records for Suspension and Dismissal cases are maintained indefinitely. All other disciplinary records may be kept for a period of seven years, at which time minimal statistics may be retained, and the full document may be destroyed.

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Appeal Process

Under normal circumstances, enforcement of disciplinary responses will be deferred pending the review of the appeal. Disciplinary decisions will be made at the lowest level possible. Following formal discipline for conduct subject to sanction, students are guaranteed the right to a single appeal to the next highest level. However, if a student refuses to sign the written notice within 2 business days of notification, he/she has forfeited the possibility of appealing the decision. Decisions made by a Residence Life Area Coordinator may be appealed to the Director of Residence Life Education. Decisions made by the Director of Residence Life Education may be appealed to the Dean of Students. Disciplinary decisions made by the Dean of Students may be appealed to the Vice President for Student Life. Disciplinary decisions made by the Vice President of Student Life may be appealed to the Office of General Counsel. The appropriate appeal process is indicated on the formal written notice of conduct probation or suspension the student signed. There is no appeal process for written warnings or administrative agreements.

Appeals will only be granted on the following grounds:

  1. The disciplinary response is unreasonably disproportionate to the misconduct (including consideration of the student’s prior offenses or willingness to cooperate in the disciplinary process).
  2. The disciplinary process as outlined in the Student Handbook was not followed, and this failure significantly affected the student’s opportunity to receive a fair hearing.
  3. The disciplinary decision was not supported by reasonable evidence.
  4. New evidence has become available since the initial hearing that would have significantly altered its results.


Appeal to the Dean of Students
The procedure for an appeal to the Dean of Students on a decision from a Student Life representative is as follows:

Within two working days from the date of the decision, the student will file a written notice of appeal with the Dean. Appropriate paperwork is available upon request from the Dean of Students. A student involved in a disciplinary process will be notified of his or her right to appeal by Student Life at the time the disciplinary decision is conveyed to the student. A deadline to appeal will also be assigned at that time.

  1. Within two working days from the date the notice is received, the Dean of Students or designee will review the appeal notice and may decide to meet with the student to further discuss his or her grounds for appeal.
  2. The Dean will meet with only the student. No one else may represent the student during the appeal process.
  3. If based on the written notice of appeal, the Dean of Students determines there is not substantial cause for appeal, he or she may choose to provide a written summary of the decision to the student. A copy will be kept for Student Life documentation purposes.
  4. If the Dean of Students decides to meet with the student, the Dean will consider the appeal and uphold, reverse or otherwise modify the previous decision. The appeal decision of the Dean of Students may not be appealed as students are provided one single appeal. The Dean of Students will communicate the decision to the student in writing.


Appeal to the Vice President of Student Life
The procedure for an appeal to the Vice President of Student Life on a decision from the Dean of Students is as follows:

Within two working days from the date of the decision, the student will file a written notice of appeal with the Vice President of Student Life. Appropriate paperwork is available upon request from the Dean of Students. A student involved in a disciplinary process will be notified of his or her right to appeal by Student Life at the time the disciplinary decision is conveyed to the student. A deadline to appeal will also be assigned at that time.

  1. Within two working days from the date the notice is received, the Vice President of Student Life or designee will review the appeal notice and may decide to meet with the student to further discuss his or her grounds for appeal.
  2. The Vice President of Student Life will meet with only the student. No one else may represent the student during the appeal process.
  3. If based on the written notice of appeal, the Vice President of Student Life determines there is not substantial cause for appeal, he or she may choose to provide a written summary of the decision to the student. A copy will be kept for Student Life documentation purposes.
  4. If the Vice President of Student Life decides to meet with the student, the Vice President will consider the appeal and uphold, reverse or otherwise modify the previous decision. The appeal decision of the Vice President of Student Life may not be appealed as students are provided one single appeal. The Vice President will communicate the decision to the student in writing.


Appeal to the Office of General Counsel
The procedure for appealing a decision of the Vice President of Student Life / Dean of Students is as follows:

  1. Within two working days from the date of the decision, the student will submit a written notice of appeal to the Office of General Counsel (OGC). A student involved in a disciplinary process will be notified of his or her right to appeal by Student Life at the time the disciplinary decision is conveyed to the student. The student will be provided with a link to the online appeal form. A deadline to appeal will also be assigned at that time.
  2. The Student Life Office will be promptly provided with a copy of the notice. Within two working days after receiving the notice of appeal from the OGC, the Vice President of Student Life or designee will file with the OGC a written statement of the facts and summary of the appealed decision and applicable policy. A copy will be provided to the student by the OGC.
  3. Within two working days of receiving a copy of Student Life’s statement, the student may choose to file with OGC a response, including his or her statement of the facts, reasons for the appeal and such other statements and documents he or she believes relevant to the appeal. A copy will be provided to the Student Life Office.
  4. OGC will provide all of the appeal documents to the President of the University, who will decide within two working days whether to review the appeal personally or to submit the appeal to the chair* of the Disciplinary Review Board for consideration.
  5. If the President decides to review the appeal, the President will schedule a meeting with the student if he or she determines from the record that the appeal involves a substantial dispute of material facts and/or a substantial issue with the existence, publication and/or implementation of applicable policy. If the President does not find substantial cause for appeal, he or she shall issue a final written decision to the student and Vice President of Student Life or designee. The decision of the President may not be appealed.
  6. If the President submits the appeal to the chair of the Disciplinary Review Board for consideration, the chair may request or obtain from any party or source further information and statements he or she deems appropriate to the reasonable completion of the record. The chair will schedule a hearing before the Disciplinary Review Board if he or she determines from the record that the appeal involves a substantial dispute of material facts and/or a substantial issue with the existence, publication and/or implementation of applicable policy. If the chair does not find substantial cause for appeal, he or she shall issue a final written decision to the student and Vice President of Student Life or designee. The decision of the chair may not be appealed.
  7. If a hearing of the Disciplinary Review Board is convened, it will undertake such inquiry as the chair may direct and after considering the appeal, will uphold, reverse or otherwise modify the previous decision. The chair of the Disciplinary Review Board will then issue a final written decision to the student and the Vice President of Student Life or designee. The decision of the Disciplinary Review Board may not be appealed.

    *The role of the chair of the Disciplinary Review Board may be filled by more than one person appointed as co-chairs, and all references to the chair will include any one or more persons then serving as co-chair.
     

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Non-disciplinary Process/Administrative Agreements

In keeping with the redemptive nature of ACU’s disciplinary philosophy, students who come forward voluntarily confessing a violation of the university policies or an addictive lifestyle associated with a violation (such as illegal drugs and controlled substances, alcohol, sexual immorality, pornography, Internet abuse or eating disorders) to the Dean of Students, or other Student Life staff may be afforded an opportunity to submit to a range of possibilities outside the disciplinary process. The university maintains the right to require the student to enter into professional counseling and/or medical treatment as a condition of continued enrollment if, in the judgment of the Dean of Students, the behavior in question warrants such a response. The following conditions must be met in order for students to take advantage of this non-disciplinary policy:

  • The student must take the first step by discussing his or her situation with the Dean of Students or other Student Life staff in order to develop an appropriate response. If a violation is identified or reported before the student voluntarily comes forward, the normal disciplinary process will ensue, and the student will no longer have the option of a non-disciplinary response.
  • The student must be willing to submit to any intervention deemed appropriate.
  • The student must understand that in cases where the behavior is repetitive, self-destructive or endangering to others or involves legal issues, the university has the responsibility to take appropriate action, including suspension or dismissal from the university.


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