As provided by the Instrument, accused students have the right to an assigned student counsel or to a student counsel of their own choosing, with the requirement that only currently enrolled undergraduate students at UNC-Chapel Hill may serve as the Investigator or Defense Counsel in cases involving undergraduate students and only currently enrolled students, preferably from within the pertinent academic program, may serve as Investigator or Defense Counsel in cases involving graduate or professional students. Additionally, no person who is either a licensed attorney or who has passed a state bar examination may serve as the Investigator or as Defense Counsel or be present during Honor Court proceedings. However, in the event the offense charged is also the subject of criminal charges, the accused student may be accompanied to the hearing by a licensed attorney who may confer with the student during the hearing so long as the attorney does not address the hearing panel, those hearing the appeal, or other parties or witnesses, and so long as the attorney does not delay or disrupt the proceeding.
Additionally, in accordance with N.C.G.S. 116-40.11, for allegations of misconduct received by the University on or after August 23, 2013, any student or student organization accused of violations outlined in section II.C. of the Instrument may be represented, at their own expense, by a licensed attorney or non-attorney advocate of their own choosing. This provision shall not apply to cases heard by a student Honor Court (i.e., a board or panel that is composed entirely of students). Students or student organizations that choose to have a licensed attorney or non-attorney advocate represent them must notify Student Conduct, in writing, of the attorney’s or non-attorney advocate’s participation in the Honor System process at least five business days prior to any hearing. The notice must specify (a) the identity of the licensed attorney or non-attorney advocate; (b) whether the individual is a licensed attorney or a non-attorney advocate; and (c) current contact information (e.g., address, email, and phone) for the attorney or non-attorney advocate. In addition, the student or student organization must complete and submit a written authorization that meets the requirements of a valid consent as specified by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) of 1974. Additionally, at least five business days prior to any hearing, the attorney or non-attorney advocate shall provide a signed certification affirming that they have read and understood (1) The Instrument of Student Judicial Governance, (2) Section 700.4.1 of the UNC Policy Manual, and (3) Information for Attorneys and Non-Attorney Advocates Participating in the Honor System.
A student or student organization that chooses to be represented at any hearing by a licensed attorney or non-attorney advocate may also be assigned a trained student counsel to serve in an advisory capacity. However, unless otherwise provided in the Instrument, the student or student organization may be accompanied to the hearing and represented by only one individual (licensed attorney, non-attorney advocate, or student counsel).
Attorney/Non-Attorney Advocate FAQs
Who is the Student Attorney General, and what is their role in the Honor System process?
The Undergraduate Student Attorney General is an undergraduate student appointed by the Undergraduate Student Body President. The Graduate & Professional School Student Attorney General is a student enrolled in one of UNC-CH’s Graduate or Professional Schools and is appointed by the Graduate & Professional Student Federation President. The Student Attorneys General (or their designees) receive complaints of all alleged violations by students; investigate such complaints to determine whether there is a reasonable basis to refer the incident to the appropriate Honor Court; formulate and bring charges; advise accused students concerning their rights and procedures to be employed; represent the University's interests in cases before the Honor Court, and respond to accused students' appeals as necessary.
I have been asked to represent a student in the Honor System process. How do I establish this with the University?
The student must notify Student Conduct in writing of their decision to have an advocate other than one assigned by the appropriate Student Attorney General. This notice must be on file no later than five (5) business days prior to any hearing. All correspondence related to matters of student discipline will be sent directly to the student using their official UNC email account. It will be the student’s responsibility to provide copies of that correspondence to their chosen advocate.
At what point can the advocate begin to participate in the student conduct process?
The advocate can begin participating in the Honor System process once the accused student or accused student organization has received official notice of charges for alleged Honor Code violations from the appropriate Student Attorney General or their designee.
Can anyone serve as the advocate for an accused student or student group?
It depends on the circumstances of the case, as described in the summary contained at the top of this page. Please refer to the Instrument, Section IV.A.3 and applicable footnotes, and the aforementioned UNC System policies for a complete description.
Who can be present with the accused student at the hearing?
Only the accused student's advocate can accompany the accused student in any hearing.
How is a hearing conducted?
All hearings pursuant to the Instrument are closed hearings, unless the accused student requests, in writing, that the hearing be open. Each hearing is conducted by a presiding officer who directs and controls the hearing proceedings, and who is responsible for maintaining proper decorum, including the conduct of parties and advocates/counsels toward witnesses. Both the Investigative and Defense Counsels present their respective versions of the case, including all supporting evidence, and the Court has the opportunity to ask any clarifying questions it may have. Ultimately, at the conclusion of the case and under the leadership of the presiding officer, the Court deliberates and announces the judgment and, as applicable, appropriate sanctions.
What is the standard of proof for finding an accused student guilty in the Honor System process?
The standard of proof that must be met for an accused student to be found guilty of an Honor Code violation is that of "clear and convincing evidence", where “clear and convincing” means the evidence is substantially more likely to be true than not and that the hearing panel has a firm belief or conviction in it.
Can Honor System hearings be rescheduled?
The Honor System will attempt to schedule all proceedings that are convenient for all the parties involved. Requests for rescheduling and postponements must be made in writing.
Why isn't the student afforded the same due process protections that would be provided in a criminal proceeding?
The Honor System process does not determine criminal guilt; rather, it determines whether a student has violated the University's Honor Code, which is a University policy. The courts have long recognized that the interests of the University community differ from those of the criminal justice system. Although there are basic concepts of fairness that apply to student disciplinary proceedings and which are delineated in University policy, the Honor System process serves administrative and educational functions relating to the mission of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Therefore, many of the intricate rules and processes that apply to the criminal and civil court system are not applicable to university student conduct processes and are therefore not required.
What happens if an accused student refuses to participate in the Honor System process?
If an accused student or accused student organization decides not to participate in the Honor System process, or decides to attend the hearing but refuses to speak, the Honor System hearing will take place as scheduled. The accused student or accused student organization may not later use their refusal to participate in the Honor System process as grounds for appealing the hearing court or hearing panel's decision.
Is the hearing recorded? Can I get a transcript?
All hearings before the Honor Court are recorded. The accused student or accused student organization can request to review the recording. At the accused student or accused student organization's request and expense, a redacted copy of the recording can be requested from Student Conduct. Under FERPA, if the recording contains other student's information, the University may be limited in what it can disclose as not to violate other students' privacy. Student Conduct does not provide transcripts for the recordings.
Isn't the Honor System process double jeopardy for those accused students also who are also facing criminal charges?
No. "Double jeopardy" is a legal concept that applies solely to criminal proceedings. The University's process is educational and administrative in nature, and therefore double jeopardy does not apply to it.