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August 21, 2018

SUNY student entititle to administrative due process in a disciplinary hearing involving allegations of violations of the student code of conduct


SUNY students entitled to administrative due process in a disciplinary hearing involving allegations of violations of a student code of conduct
Matter of Agudio v State Univ. of N.Y., 2018 NY Slip Op 05647, Appellate Division, Third Department

In this appeal to review a determination of the State University of New York at Albany [SUNY] that, following a Student Conduct Board [SCB] hearing, found the student petitioner [Petitioner] guilty of violating SUNY Albany's student code of conduct and expelled the student, the Appellate Division sustained the disciplinary action taken SUNY and the penalty imposed on the Petitioner.

The SCB found that Petitioner had found Petitioner guilty of three of the charges filed against her and imposed the sanction of dismissal from SUNY Albany. Petitioner appealed the SCB determination to an Appeal Board. Ultimately the SCB's determination and penalty was sustained by SUNY Albany's assistant vice-president for student affairs, based on a written recommendation from the Appeal Board.

The court  noted that a "college's determination that a student violated its code of conduct will be upheld if supported by substantial evidence in the record." Further, the decision notes that administrative determinations may be based entirely on hearsay evidence as long as "such evidence is sufficiently relevant and probative or sufficiently reliable and is not otherwise seriously controverted." Here, said the Appellate Division, "the record contains direct evidence against [Petitioner], as well as hearsay."

Although the disciplinary action before the SCB was held "in absentia" as the result of Petitioners failure to appear at the hearing,* the court ruled that Petitioner's due process rights were not violated by SUNY Albany's student disciplinary procedures as Petitioner was given written notice of the charges prior to a hearing, the names of the witnesses against her, an opportunity to hear and confront evidence against her and to present a defense and to be advised in writing of the factual findings and discipline imposed.

Additionally, citing Matter of Miller v Schwartz, 72 NY2d 869 and other decision, the Appellate Division noted that "there is no general constitutional right to discovery in . . . administrative proceedings."

Finally, under the circumstances of this case, the Appellate Division concluded that the penalty of dismissal from SUNY Albany imposed on Petitioner was not disproportionate to the offense, citing Lampert v State Univ. of N.Y. at Albany, 116 AD3d 1292, leave to appeal denied, 23 NY3d 908.

*The decision notes that Petitioner [1] had an attorney who communicated with SUNY Albany's Community Standards Office prior to the hearing raising certain complaints regarding the procedure and stated that Petitioner would not attend if those complaints were not remedied and [2] that Petitioner could have attended the hearing with her attorney, who could have advised her, but she did not do so.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

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