SSU Student Rights and ResponsibilitiesStudent Rights | Student Responsibilities
Students are citizens, as well as members of the academic community. As citizens, students enjoy the same freedom of speech, peaceful assembly, and right of petition that other citizens enjoy; as members of the academic community, they incur both the rights and responsibilities deriving from the standards of that community.
The primary right and responsibility of students is to exercise and to cherish the freedom to learn. The freedom to learn depends upon appropriate opportunities and conditions in the classroom, on campus, and in the larger community. While the responsibility to secure and to respect general conditions conducive to the freedom to learn is shared by all members of the academic community, the University has a duty to prescribe reasonable limits and policies for safeguarding this freedom.
Corollary to any statement of student rights and responsibilities are adequate procedures for hearing charges that student rights have been denied by other students, the faculty, the administration, or staff of the University. The University is not a sanctuary immune from civil law and authority, and students may be prosecuted for violation of the law, whether such action occurs on or off campus. University sanctions, however, will be imposed only for those violations that interfere with the University's responsibilities for ensuring the opportunities of all members of the academic community to pursue learning. If the same action violates general law and also interferes with the University's responsibilities, students may be subject to independent action by both the court and the University. It is a clearly established principle of law that no double jeopardy is involved in such instances.
This document provides a brief description of University policies relevant to student rights and responsibilities. It is the student's responsibility to seek out the complete policies, procedures, standards, or regulations which affect their rights; these complete documents are referenced below. Ignorance of such information shall not be cause to waive policies, procedures, standards, or regulations.
I. Student Rights
A. Access to the University - The University is open to all persons who are qualified according to its admission standards unless resource limitations result in the closure of academic programs in which applicants have expressed interest.
B. Instructional Practice - Students have the right to substantial instruction in the course content at the time scheduled for class meetings except in mitigating circumstances. All enrolled students are to be provided with a course syllabus which should include at least the instructor's grading policies, examination dates, test format, and course requirements (e.g., attendance, course books, reading assignments, etc.), office number, office hours, and office phone number. Students should be advised of faculty expectation for the course no later than the end of the second class, with timely notification of changes and additions to the course requirements. Faculty are also expected to meet their scheduled class assignments and office hours which are posted at the beginning of every semester.
C. Academic Advising - Students have the right to reasonable access to professional advisement relative to all segments of their academic programs and to their career goals related to those academic programs. As a result, faculty members and professional advisors maintain office hours each semester in order to meet with and advise students. From advisors of record, students should expect advisement relative to the appropriate selection of major and support courses and of general education courses related to their goals and interests and on matters relating to most University, and all school and department regulations and procedures. From other appropriate University offices such as Admissions and Records, Financial Aid, and Student Academic Services, students should expect advice on matters relating to State and University regulations and procedures. Students have the responsibility to consult the requisite catalogues, schedules, and handbooks for rules and regulations concerning their major and support courses. (The SSU Advising Policy dated August 15, 1995 is available in all School Dean and Department Chair offices.)
D. FERPA - The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, as amended (also sometimes referred to as the Buckley Amendment), is a federal law regarding the privacy of student records and the obligations of the institution, primarily in the areas of release of the records and the access provided to these records. Any educational institution that receives funds under any program administered by the U.S. Secretary of Education is bound by FERPA requirements. Institutions that fail to comply with FERPA may have funds administered by the Secretary of Education withheld. To read more, click here.
E. Freedom of Inquiry, Expression, and Information - Students are permitted the fullest expression of beliefs through any means that are orderly and do not violate the rights of others. The University will not condone acts of violence, vandalism, coercion, or other illegal interference with its legitimate functions under the guise of freedom of expression.
Students and student organizations are free to invite and to hear any person of their choosing. However, speakers or programs funded from mandatory student body fees are subject to review to assure conformance to Trustee and campus policy. If campus facilities are needed and available, the scheduling procedure will ensure order and adequate preparation for the event, but in no instance will these procedures be used as a device for censorship or restraint beyond valid Trustee regulations, University policy, or law.
Students shall have the right to access all documents containing University, school, and departmental policies, procedures, standards, and regulations. Students may distribute non-commercial literature in the designated area, provided they obtain a permit from the Office of Campus Life.
F. Rights Regarding Publication - Student-operated media benefit the campus community by stimulating intellectual exploration and keeping open channels for free and responsible communication. Whether supported by student funds or institutionally sponsored, student-operated media shall provide students reasonable opportunity for expressing views which differ from editorial staff's viewpoints.
The Associated Students Inc. of Sonoma State University, other student organizations, and individual students may publish and otherwise communicate information and opinion. These groups and individuals are not subject to sanctions and restraints beyond those imposed by provisions set forth by Trustees' regulations or other state or federal laws.
Student publications and other communications media are guaranteed the editorial freedom necessary to engage in free inquiry and expression without advance approval of content. The agency responsible for the appointment of editors and managers is the agency responsible for dismissal of editors and managers.
G. Freedom of Association - Students are free to organize, join associations, and promote their common interests. Students shall be free to discuss openly all questions of interest to them and express their opinions publicly and privately. The membership policies and actions of SSU student organizations will be determined by those students registered in the University, as long as they are non-discriminatory and in accordance with law and Trustee and University policy:
No student, shall, on the basis of gender, race, religion, national origin, creed, ethnic background, political affiliation, economic status, disability, sexual orientation, or age, be denied the benefits of participation in student organizations at SSU. Student organizations may be affiliated with off-campus, non-University organizations. Any organization whose purposes are not prohibited by law or regulations of the Trustees shall be entitled to petition for recognition by the University and the Associated Students. Student organizations and interest groups are required to submit a current list of officers, a statement of non-discrimination, and the name of their advisor to the Office of Campus Life.
California State Educational Codes 32050 and 32051 prohibit hazing. Hazing includes any method of initiation or pre-initiation into a student organization or any pastime or amusement engaged in which is likely to cause physical harm, personal degradation, or disgrace resulting in physical or mental harm to any fellow student or person attending the institution. No student or other person attending Sonoma State University shall conspire to engage in or engage in hazing. Students found engaging in hazing could jeopardize their student status with the University and are subject to the full penalties of state law.
H. Contributions to University Governance and Curriculum - As constituents of the academic community, students should be free, individually and collectively, to express their views and to participate in the development of institutional policy and in matters of general interest to the student body. The Associated Students provides the mechanism by which student representatives are placed on University and Associated Students committees, and on the governing boards of campus auxiliaries. All regularly enrolled students are members of the Associated Students. [For more information contact the Associated Students Office.]
I. Nondiscrimination Policy - Sonoma State University does not discriminate on the basis of sex, disability, race, color, or national origin in admissions, access, and/or employment in its programs and activities. No person shall, on the basis of sex, disability, race, color, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be otherwise subjected to discrimination or be subjected to sexual harassment in any of Sonoma State University's programs or activities.
The Managing Director of Employee Relations and Compliance Services is the campus officer assigned responsibility for ensuring compliance with federal, state, and The California State University systemwide regulations prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex, disability, race, color, national origin, sexual preference, or Vietnam era veteran's status, and for ensuring a working and learning environment which is free from sexual harassment and racial discrimination. [For more information, contact the Human Services Office.]
J. Student Employment - Any undergraduate student enrolled for six or more resident units, or graduate student enrolled in three or more resident units, is eligible to apply for a student assistant position. Eligibility for work study positions is determined by the Financial Aid Office. The Student Employee Guide outlines campus policy regarding orientation to the job, how wages are set, pay increases, and hours of work. [The Student Employee Guide to employment rights and responsibilities is available at the University Human Services Office.]
K. Grievance/Appeal - As stated in the preamble to this document, corollary to any statement of student rights and responsibilities are adequate procedures for hearing charges that student rights have been denied by other students, or members of the faculty, staff, or administration. Procedures have been developed to handle particular types of grievances/appeals as outlined below. Prior to the initiation of a formal process, it is the responsibility of the student to pursue all possible informal means with which to resolve the dispute, including contacting the individual's supervisor. The Student Grievance Coordinator is available to assist students in resolving disputes informally and initiating formal grievance procedures.
1. Student Grievance Procedures—Students are given the opportunity to appeal a decision or action reached or taken in the course of official duty by a member of the faculty, staff, or administration of Sonoma State University. The grievance procedure provides a process for an impartial review and to ensure that the rights of students are properly recognized and protected.
The Student Grievance Coordinator shall act as the campus officer to be contacted by a student who wishes to initiate a grievance procedure. [Details of the policy are documented in the University Policy, dated August 25, 2001 and available at the Office of the Student Grievance Coordinator.]
2. Grade Appeal Procedures—In order to protect
the rights of students and faculty, the following principles of due process
are incorporated into the grade appeal procedures: the right to an open
hearing, the right to reasonable time limits throughout the process, the
right to impartial review, the right of assistance, the right of discovery
of relevant documentation, the right to call witnesses, the right to cross-examine
witnesses, the right to have a decision based on the record of the hearing,
and the right to have a statement of the grounds for the decision and
the evidence relied upon. The hearing will be conducted by a three-member
Grade Appeal/Hearing Jury, consisting of two faculty members and one student.
The Grade Appeal Coordinator shall act as the campus officer to be contacted by a student who wishes to initiate a grade appeal procedure. [Details of the policy are documented in the University Policy, dated June 15, 1999, and available at the Office of the Grade Appeal Coordinator.]
3. Financial Aid Appeal—Students have the right to appeal their financial aid award or any other financial aid decision which they feel affects them adversely and which falls outside of the jurisdiction of federal, state, or Chancellor's Office regulations. This right includes answers to questions, explanations of Financial Aid policies and Procedures, and a request for reconsideration. The initial appeal is made to the student's Financial Aid representative. [For more information about the appeals process, contact the Financial Aid Office.]
L. Due Process in Disciplinary Matters - Whenever a student is alleged to have violated the Student Code of Conduct (refer to Section A under Student Responsibilities; Standards of Conduct Expected of Students), he/she is entitled to a fair and just process of review. The Student Disciplinary Procedures for the California State University provides procedures to determine whether violations of conduct have occurred. The process mandates an explanation of the procedures; the right to be informed of the charges and evidence to support those charges; the opportunity for a hearing, at which time the student can present evidence and witnesses to support his/her case; and the right to have an advisor present at the hearing. After completing a preliminary investigation, the Coordinator of University Student Discipline may offer a disciplinary sanction, which the student can accept, without necessarily admitting guilt, in lieu of a hearing. [Copies of the procedures are available in the Office of the Coordinator of University Student Discipline.][Top of page]
A. Standards of Conduct Expected of Students - Whenever the activity of individual students or groups infringes on the rights of others or interferes with, obstructs, or disrupts the operation of the University, it is violating the provisions of Section 41301 of Title 5 of the California Administrative Code, which reads as follows, any student of a campus may be expelled, suspended, placed on probation, or given a lesser sanction for one or more of the following causes which must be campus related:
a) Cheating or plagiarism in connection with an academic program.
b) Forgery, alteration, or misuse of campus documents, records, or identification, or knowingly furnishing false information to the campus.
c) Misrepresentation of oneself, or of an organization, to be an agent of the campus.
d) Obstruction or disruption, on or off campus property, of the campus educational process, administrative process, or other campus function.
e) Physical abuse on or off campus property of the person or property of any member of the campus community or of members of his family or the threat of such physical abuse.
f) Theft of, or non-accidental damage to, campus property, or property in the possession of, or owned by, a member of the campus community.
g) Unauthorized entry into, unauthorized use of, or misuse of, campus property.
h) On campus property, the sale or knowing possession of dangerous drugs, or narcotics as those terms are used in California statutes, except when lawfully permitted for the purpose of research, instruction, or analysis.
i) Knowing possession or use of explosives, dangerous chemicals, or deadly weapons on campus property or at a University function without prior authorization of the campus president.
j) Engaging in lewd, indecent, or obscene behavior on campus property or at a campus function.
k) Abusive behavior directed toward, or hazing of, a member of the campus community.
l) Violation of any order of a campus president, notice of which had been given prior to such violation and during the academic term in which the violation occurs, either by publication in the campus newspaper, or by posting on an official bulletin board designated for this purpose, and which order is not inconsistent with any of the other provisions of this Section.
m) Soliciting or assisting another to do any act which would be subject to expulsion, suspension, or probation pursuant to this Section. [Details of the Section can be found in the University Catalog.]
B. In the Classroom - Students are responsible for learning thoroughly the content of any course of study, but they are free to take reasoned exception to the interpretation of data or opinions offered. It is the responsibility of the student to read the course statement and to request any clarification of course policies. If the student adds the course after the first week of class, it is the student's responsibility to seek course information in a timely manner.
Students should not miss classes except for valid reasons, such as illness, accidents, and participation in officially approved University activities. When students are absent from classes, it is their responsibility to inform the instructor of the reasons for absence and to arrange to make up missed assignments and class work insofar as this is possible. Students should be cautioned that even though absences may be for valid reasons, such absences can impair performance and result in a lower grade.
It is recognized that styles of teaching vary considerably; however, the professor in the classroom and in conference should encourage free discussion, inquiry, and expression. Students should be evaluated solely on the basis of their academic performance and should not be penalized for their opinions or conduct in matters unrelated to academic performance.
While students are free to take exception to material presented in the classroom, their dissent should not take such form as to disrupt the normal activity of the course presentation. Students, individually or collectively, who express dissent in such manner as to disrupt the normal activity of university courses will be subject to appropriate sanction. In such a case the professor will usually ask the students involved to cease the disruptive behavior or leave the classroom. If they refuse, he/she may call upon administrative officials to assist him/her with the problem.
C. Cheating and Plagiarism - The policy of Sonoma State University is to discipline students who cheat or plagiarize. Students are expected to be honest in meeting the requirements of courses in which they are enrolled. Cheating or plagiarism is dishonest, undermines the necessary trust upon which relations between students and faculty are based, and constitutes unacceptable conduct. Students who engage in either cheating or plagiarism will be subject to academic sanctions, including a lowered or failing grade in a course, and the possibility of an additional administrative sanction (probation, suspension, or expulsion) as provided in Section 41301 through 41304 of Title 5, California Administrative Code. [The Sonoma State University Policy and Procedures on Cheating and Plagiarism dated August 15, 2000 is available in all School Dean and Department Chair offices.]
D. Academic Advising - The advising process depends on the thoughtful participation of the student. Students must assume the following responsibilities:
- Know and meet requirements contained in the appropriate catalog, class schedules, and other University publications.
- Maintain their own personal academic records and take them to every advising appointment.
- Seek academic advising from their advisor of record and other appropriate sources when first enrolling, when changing majors, when not in good academic standing, or when applying for graduation.
- Accept ultimate responsibility for their selection of classes which incorporates their decisions as well as the academic advice which has been given.
E. Student Employee Guide - The Student Employee Guide provides information on student employment responsibilities. It serves as a guide and does not include details which may be pertinent to exceptional cases. The guide applies to both student assistants and College Work-Study student employees. [Guides are available at the University Human Services Office.]
F. Financial Aid Standards of Satisfactory Academic Progress - Federal and state regulations require that students receiving financial aid have a responsibility to make satisfactory academic progress toward a degree objective in order to remain eligible for financial assistance. This means that students must satisfactorily complete the minimum number of units based upon their enrollment status each semester. In addition, undergraduate students who have completed more than 150 units or six academic years of full-time enrollment, or graduate students who have completed more than 50 units (Counseling MA, 72 units) toward a post-baccalaureate degree or the equivalent of two years of full-time enrollment, are not eligible for financial aid. [Specific and written details of the Standards of Satisfactory Academic Progress to Maintain Financial Aid Eligibility are available from the Financial Aid Office.]
G. Use of University Facilities - Use of University facilities by University offices and organizations (including student clubs) and non-University organizations is guided by the University Policy on Special Events and Related Use of Campus Facilities (June 15, 1995). Requests for use of facilities shall be made through the University Special Events Office. Student clubs and organizations should consult with Office of Campus Life staff and must obtain appropriate approvals when planning events and activities requiring the use of University facilities and equipment. The use of University equipment and facilities involves the responsibility of adhering to established procedures for the use and safety of the equipment, facilities, and those in attendance.
H. Debts Owed to the University - Services may be withheld from students for non-payment of debts owed to the University. The President or his designee is authorized to withhold permission to register; to use facilities for which a fee is authorized; to receive services, materials, food, or merchandise; or any combination of the above, from any person owing a debt to the University.
For purposes of this document, “debt” is defined as an unpaid obligation of a student or former student, however incurred, arising while the debtor was a student, for loans, services, use of facilities and equipment, materials, food or merchandise furnished to the student by the University.
I. Philosophy Statement on Alcohol and Other Drugs - Sonoma State University has the responsibility to provide a healthy environment where the use of alcohol and other drugs does not interfere with learning. To that end, the University is committed to maintaining a campus environment that makes abuse of alcohol and the use of illegal, controlled, and harmful drugs an unacceptable behavior. University policies and procedures, including the Alcoholic Beverage Policy (October 25, 1999) and the Drug-Free Workplace Policy (May 30, 1989), serve as guidelines to help reduce the incidence and the prevalence of alcohol and other drug-related incidents that adversely affect the quality of a person's experiences at Sonoma State University.
Beer and wine are available on campus to people 21 years old and over; this alcohol poses a situation different from that of other drugs. The Alcoholic Beverage Policy establishes reasonable guidelines and procedures for the use of alcohol within the academic community. Alcohol can pose risks to the health and safety of individuals, communities, and society. University policies regarding alcohol consumption, availability, and problems are therefore designed to minimize these risks. The following principles guide Sonoma State University's alcohol policy:
- Abstinence is accepted and provided for in all circumstances.
- Any alcohol consumption in high-risk settings, such as active sports and driving, is actively discouraged.
- Heavy consumption is discouraged in all situations.
- Moderate consumption in low-risk situations is accepted.
- The University upholds those laws that cover possession, use, sale, or distribution of prescribed drugs; underage drinking and possession of alcohol; and driving under the influence. Furthermore, the University supports efforts in the campus community to confront these offenses. A fee schedule has been developed for participation in the Alcohol and Other Drug Intervention Program.
J. Residential Community - The Residential Community has special rules designed to ensure the rights of all student residents and their guests. These rules are contained in the Housing License Agreement. Access to the Residential Community may be revoked for residents or guests who violate these rules. [Refer to the Housing License Agreement and the annual Student Residence Handbook.]