Breaking down Syracuse University’s student conduct process


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The conduct process at colleges and universities can sometimes be controversial. Since its procedures differ so much from the ones that play out in courtrooms, the process can often leave students and their families unsure of their rights and the basic functions of the system. 

Here’s a breakdown of who is involved in the conduct process at Syracuse University and how it works: 

Who is involved? 

At SU, the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities oversees any alleged violations of the Code of Student Conduct. 

The vice president of enrollment and the student experience is responsible for overseeing the university’s student conduct system. Amanda Nicholson, who was filling the role on an interim basis, retired in September. Three current administrators — Robert Hradsky, vice president for the student experience; Ryan Williams, vice president of enrollment services; and Brittany Zaehringer, senior associate vice president of operations and strategic initiatives — are filling the position while SU searches for a permanent replacement. 

Sheriah Dixon, the director of OSRR, is responsible for the university’s student conduct system procedures. 

Any member of the university community, including students, faculty and staff, can file a complaint against any student or student organization. 

What happens when someone files a complaint? 

After a complaint is filed, OSRR will assess whether the complaint concerns students or student organizations and whether it falls within the jurisdiction of the university conduct system. 

If a complaint is proven to have violated the Code of Student Conduct, OSRR will reach out to the student involved to offer them the opportunity to participate in an informal resolution meeting. 

According to SU’s Student Conduct System Handbook, the informal resolution meeting can result in one of three possible outcomes. 

If the university finds the student has no responsibility or there isn’t a basis to proceed against the student, the case will not go to a formal hearing. If the student accepts responsibility and sanctions for the complaint, the case would be considered informally resolved. If the student doesn’t accept responsibility and the case manager determines that the case warrants a hearing, the case will proceed to a formal hearing.

How does the formal hearing work? 

If the complaint moves to a formal hearing, the University Conduct Board — which is composed of five students, selected from a pool of at least 10 — will hear the case, unless it’s a case of academic dishonesty.

The University Conduct Board, typically a 3-5 member panel, may be composed of students, faculty, staff or external professionals as determined by OSRR. The board is advised by a trained designee of the director of student Rights and Responsibilities and external professionals as necessary.


More stories involving SU’s conduct proceedings process:


The standard of proof used in the university conduct system is a “preponderance of evidence,” which means it must be “more likely than not” that a student or student organization violated the Code of Student Conduct.

The conduct board is permitted to impose sanctions up to and including expulsion. There are also standard sanctions established for a variety of conduct violations, including substance-related violations and gender-related violence and harassment. 

Both parties have the right to appeal the conduct board’s decision by providing a written statement within three business days after the board’s written decision becomes available. 




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