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Home > Inside PASSHE > Chief Counsel > Legal Topics > Student Affairs > Student Discipline > Due Process

Due Process - A Brief Overview

What constitutes a guarantee of due process? Theoretically, due process equates to fundamental fairness.

In the seminal case of Dixon v. Alabama Board of Education, 294 F.2d 150 (5th Cir. 1961), the court concluded that students have a right to timely notice of any charges and an opportunity for a disciplinary hearing before a university is able to suspend or expel a student for misconduct. In Pennsylvania, the Student Disciplinary Regulations do permit a University to interim suspend a student pending a hearing if circumstances warrant it.

More specifically, due process is a flexible concept where courts have applied a balancing test of three factors as outlined in the Unites States Supreme Court decision of  Mathews v. Eldridge, 242 US 319 (1976):
  • the student’s interest
  • the school’s interest, including the burden of additional procedural requirements and
  • the risk of erroneous deprivation balanced against the value of additional procedural requirements
In order to ensure that any decision would withstand constitutional scrutiny by the courts, it is recommended that  student of conduct provide the following due process mechanisms:
  • notice of specific charges to the accused
  • reasonable amount of time to prepare a defense
  • an opportunity for the accused to confront witnesses
  • an  opportunity for the accused to be heard by an impartial body
  • the providing of a record of the proceedings
  • the right of appeal
Remember that the concept of due process is flexible and that in the realm of higher education courts will usually defer to the university’s judgment in judicial affairs matters so long as you do not act arbitrarily or capriciously.