Responding to misconduct allegations
Many students confuse academic honesty allegations with misconduct allegations. If your allegation letter is from your faculty and says you have potentially breached the Academic Honesty in Coursework Policy, it is not a misconduct allegation, and you should read our guide to academic honesty and integrity. If your letter is from the Registrar or the Student Affairs Unit, and says you have potentially breached the Student Discipline Rule, continue reading this information.
Misconduct relates to academic and non-academic conduct. Part 2 of the Student Discipline Rule outlines the actions that may constitute misconduct, the rules, and the potential penalties. The Student Affairs Unit (SAU) are responsible for the process, while the Registrar makes all the decisions. Other information on the misconduct process can be found here.
If you are accused of misconduct, you will receive a formal letter in your university email outlining the details of the allegation and inviting you to arrange a time with the SAU for the preliminary meeting. Seek advice from an SRC Caseworker as soon as possible.
The SAU will conduct the preliminary meeting, explaining the misconduct process, the allegations, and the potential range of penalties; then ask if you admit, partially admit, or deny the allegation(s). You will also have the opportunity to explain the context or mitigating circumstances. No decisions are made at this meeting.
Admitting the allegation
If you admit to the allegation, your case will not go to investigation. You can provide supporting documentation relevant to your case, e.g., medical documentation, character references, or a written apology. The SAU will send a report to the Registrar, and a few weeks later you will receive the outcome.
Denying the allegation
If you deny some or all of the allegation(s) your case will be referred to investigation. You do not need to provide a full response at the preliminary meeting, as you will have the opportunity to do this during the investigation, but anything you say is likely to be passed on to the investigators. A few weeks after the preliminary meeting the investigator will email you about the alleged misconduct, the investigation process, and the evidence they have. An investigation does not necessarily mean you will have a worse outcome.
The investigation is your opportunity to respond to the allegation(s) and provide evidence to support your side of the story. Before your meeting the investigator should provide you with their evidence, so you can address this in your response. The University often has extensive evidence from a variety of sources, including document authenticity checks, computer metadata, and information from external tutoring companies or document sharing websites. The investigator may record the meeting to ensure the accuracy of their notes. They will read each part of the allegation(s), seek your response, and ask further questions. Usually there is only one meeting, but they might email you further questions or talk to other parties involved. After concluding the investigation, the investigator will prepare a report for the Registrar who will decide an outcome and penalty. This process will take a few weeks.
Expulsions occur rarely in the most serious of situations. Penalties often include one or two semesters where you are not able to study. If misconduct is proven to have occurred in a specific unit of study, a fail grade is also likely. Part 3 of the Student Discipline Rule outlines the range of penalties that can be given for misconduct. The Registrar can also suspend a penalty, meaning it is not enforced unless you have a further case of misconduct in the future. When considering whether to suspend your penalty, the Registrar considers the seriousness of your misconduct, your past conduct, your cooperation with the investigation, your remorse, and any compelling mitigating circumstances.
You have 20 working days to appeal the Registrar’s finding or penalty to the Student Discipline Appeals Committee (SDAC). In your appeal, outline why the finding is incorrect or the penalty too harsh, and include any new evidence or explanations. If your submission meets the criteria for an appeal you will be invited to a hearing. Appeals are rarely successful, so talk to a SRC Caseworker before lodging your appeal.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
An online message board gave me some advice that is different to yours. Who should I believe?
A lot of information on messageboards and social media is inaccurate and unhelpful. Many people who comment on these threads are well meaning but not familiar with this uni’s current processes, or the nuances of your case.
Will they agree that being very stressed is a good reason?
We recommend being honest about what’s occurred. The uni understands that sometimes people make bad decisions when they’re under pressure. If you have any evidence that shows you were stressed, unwell, or impacted by personal events at the time the misconduct occurred, then you should provide this when you respond to the allegation. Talk to a SRC Caseworker about what kind of documentation to provide.
How can I prove that I didn’t do the wrong thing?
If you deny the allegation it will go to investigation giving you the opportunity to explain your story, and provide your evidence. Decisions are made on the ‘balance of probabilities’, i.e., considering the evidence and your response, would a reasonable person believe your explanation, or think it is more likely that you engaged in the alleged misconduct.
Is it better if I get a lawyer?
This process does not require a lawyer. Lawyers aren’t familiar with the uni’s rules and may take a more adversarial approach, so engaging a lawyer will not necessarily give a better outcome. SRC Caseworkers are familiar with the university’s policies and procedures and very experienced in supporting students through the misconduct process. We are independent of the uni and our service is free and confidential.
Can I bring my parents to the meeting?
Yes, you can bring a support person of your choosing. Talk to your caseworker to see if this is the best choice for you.
Do I have to attend the meeting, or can I give a written response?
It is possible to provide a written response, however the SAU prefers students attend the meeting so they can explain the allegations and process to you. If you are unable to attend the meeting in person, ask them to arrange a video call. If you would prefer to provide a written response, ask a Caseworker for feedback on your draft. The tone and content of a written response is important.
How can I get the best outcome?
When making a decision the Registrar may take into account a range of factors, as outlined in the Student Discipline Rule. This includes:
(a) the nature, frequency and seriousness of the misconduct;
(b) any previous record of misconduct by the student or former student;
(c) previous penalties imposed on a student or former student for misconduct, including any penalty suspended;
(d) the timing of any admission by the student or former student of the misconduct; and
(e) any relevant mitigating circumstances.
Where you have done the wrong thing, admitting this as early as possible, apologising and demonstrating remorse will show the university you understand the seriousness of your conduct and are unlikely to engage in further misconduct in the future.
How can I avoid getting kicked out of uni?
Expulsion from the university as a result of misconduct is not very common. It has happened, but only in the most serious of cases. The university accepts student’s make mistakes and sometimes make bad decisions when under pressure. This is all considered when the Registrar makes a final decision.
What happens if I just ignore the allegation?
This is not a good idea. Ignoring it will not make it go away. If you ignore the allegation the Registrar is likely to make a decision without your input, based on the evidence they have. Responding to the allegation gives you an opportunity to present your side of the story to be considered. An SRC Caseworker can help you with your response.
Will this be on my permanent record?
No. A finding of misconduct is not permanently recorded on your transcript or disclosed to future employers, and should not affect future study opportunities. The uni will keep an internal record on your student file, and it will only be recorded on your internal and external transcript for the period your penalty is in effect. At the end of your penalty the misconduct record is removed from your transcript. Some professional registration bodies, such as nursing, pharmacy, and law, may require you to disclose past misconduct matters.
What if I appeal and it’s unsuccessful?
If your SDAC appeal is unsuccessful there are no further appeal routes within the university. You have the right to make a complaint to the NSW Ombudsman, but they will only consider if the university correctly followed its own processes.