Freedom to teach and freedom to learn are inseparable facets of academic freedom. The freedom to learn depends upon appropriate opportunities and conditions in the classroom, on the campus, and in the community. Students should exercise their freedom with responsibility. As members of the academic community, students are held responsible for actions that support the educational process. As members of the larger community, students are entitled to all rights and protection accorded them by federal, state and local laws. Students are also subject to the enforcement of these laws which is the responsibility of duly constituted authorities. When students violate laws, they may incur penalties prescribed by legal authorities. When students violate College regulations, they are subject to disciplinary action by the College whether or not their conduct violates the law. If a student’s behavior simultaneously violates both College regulations and the law, the College may take disciplinary action independent of that taken by legal authorities.
- Students shall enjoy all the rights and privileges guaranteed to every citizen by the Constitution of the United States and by the State of North Carolina.
- Students are free to pursue their educational goals through appropriate opportunities for learning in the classroom and on the campus. Student performance will be evaluated on an academic basis, not on opinions or conduct in matters unrelated to academic standards.
- Students have the right to freedom of expression, inquiry, and assembly without restraint or censorship subject to reasonable and non-discriminatory rules and regulations regarding time, place, and manner.
- Students have the right to inquire about and to propose improvements in policies, regulations and procedures affecting their welfare through established student government procedures, campus committees, and College officials.
Annual Notice to Students of their Rights under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA)
Gaston College has a long-standing commitment to the protection of students’ rights and privacy of information. Gaston College complies with the provisions of the Federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA), state of North Carolina Law, and the State Department of Education Division of Community College rules. These federal and state requirements relate to accessibility and confidentiality of student records.
Gaston College policies and procedures manual, section 4-31, Confidentiality and Access of Student Records, provides pertinent and detailed information concerning classification of student records.
Students’ Rights to Question of Their Official Student Record
Students have the right to inspect their educational records and correct such records, if warranted. Students are protected from release of information without written consent (excluding directory information). All student records are open for inspection and review by the student unless he or she waives this right. The parent(s) of a dependent student as defined in Title 26 U.S.C.S.S. 152 Internal Revenue Code, also has the right to inspect records that are maintained by the College on behalf of the student. Proof of dependency must be on record with the College or provided to the Office of Records and Registration prior to reviewing the records.
Definition and Release of Educational Records
There are three categories of records: 1) Directory Information Records, 2) Limited Access Records, and 3) Sole Possession Records.
- Directory Information Records includes the student’s name, address, telephone number, major field of study or program, dates of attendance, enrollment status, and degrees and awards received. Gaston College may disclose directory information about a student without the consent of the student unless the student has properly objected to the release. Any student not wishing the release of directory information must file a written request with the Records and Registration Office no later than the last day of Late Registration. This information will only be released by the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management or a designee after the requestor has demonstrated a legitimate need to have such information. Otherwise, the College may disclose directory information for legitimate purposes.
- Limited Access Records pertain to the permanent academic records of the student, disciplinary records, financial information, and testing data. The College will not release information in Limited Access Records without the written permission of the student.
- Sole Possession Records pertain to records of instructional, supervisory, and administrative personnel that remain in the sole possession of the maker and are not accessible or revealed to any other person.
In addition, Gaston College may, without the consent of the student or eligible parents, disclose information kept in the student’s permanent record to the following:
- Gaston College officials with a legitimate educational interest. College officials include faculty, administrators, staff, student employees, third parties or agents authorized to act on behalf of the College. A legitimate educational interest is presumed to exist if the information is necessary for the official to perform tasks that are specified in the position description or contract agreement; to perform a task related to the student’s education, discipline, service or benefit such as, counseling, job placement, financial aid, health insurance, community resources, etc.
- Authorized representatives of the Comptroller General’s Office, the Secretary of the Department of Education, and state educational authorities.
- Veterans Administration officials.
- Persons or organizations providing financial aid.
- Accrediting organizations carrying out their accrediting functions.
- Persons in compliance with a judicial order or a lawfully issued subpoena.
- Persons who seek information in connection with an emergency, if in the view of a reasonable person, the knowledge of such information by appropriate persons is necessary to protect the health or safety of the student or other persons.
- Organizations or individuals conducting studies on behalf of the College or for other educational agencies or institutions for the purposes of developing, validating, or administering predictive test, improving and understanding student services, student aid programs, improving instruction, etc. These studies must be conducted in a way that will not permit the personal identification of students and their families by persons other than the authorized representative of such organizations and the information must be destroyed when the studies have concluded.
- Military recruiters requesting recruitment information in accordance with the United States Code Title 10 and other pertinent laws.
- To institutions, authorities, and/or agencies in accordance with federal, state, and local laws, policies, and procedures.
Individuals or agencies not outlined above may obtain student record information only with written authorization from the student. The authorization for release of information must include:
- date of request
- student’s Social Security number
- student’s signature
- specific contact name or agency
- summary of information which may be released
Student Code of Conduct
All students have the right to a safe, peaceful, quality and honest educational environment. Therefore, when in the judgment of College officials a student’s conduct disrupts or threatens to disrupt the College community, appropriate disciplinary action will be taken to restore and protect the mission, safety, peace, and integrity of the College.
Students are expected to conduct themselves in accordance with generally accepted standards of scholarship and conduct. The purpose of the Student Code of Conduct is not to restrict student freedoms but to protect the rights of individuals in their academic pursuits.
Implementation of Disciplinary Procedures
The Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs is designated by the Vice President for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management to implement Student Code of Conduct disciplinary procedures. The Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs serves as the Student Conduct Officer in disciplinary investigations. Other administrators may be designated to serve as the Student Conduct Officer in the absence of the Assistant Vice President. Annual training will be provided for Student Conduct Officers and Judiciary Committee members on issues related to sexual misconduct and how to conduct an investigation and hearing process to protect the safety of victims and promote accountability.
The actions identified below are specifically prohibited at Gaston College. Students are responsible for having read and abiding by the provisions of the Student Code of Conduct.
- Dishonesty - Students may not cheat, fabricate and falsify information, submit the same assignment multiple times, plagiarize, or be a part of academic dishonesty. Students cannot knowingly provide false information to the College, forge and alter or misuse College documents, accounts, records or instruments of identification. Dishonesty will not be tolerated in any transactions or interactions including the Student Code of Conduct process and other College proceedings. (Please see the Academic Dishonesty Policy, Appendix C of the Student Handbook.)
- Theft and Damage to Property - Students may not steal, damage or misuse College property or the property of anyone on College premises or during any College-sponsored activity off campus.
- Trespassing - Students may not enter or be present on College property or in a College facility or any portion thereof where entry or presence has been restricted, denied, or is unauthorized.
- Indecent Behavior - Students may not exhibit lewd or indecent behavior on College property or at College-sponsored or College-supervised functions.
- Inappropriate Behavior - Students may not engage in behavior or any form of expression which interferes with the learning process, peace, and order of the College. Not following an instructor’s classroom policies, being disruptive in or outside the classroom, and using threatening language are some examples of inappropriate behavior.
- Mental or Physical Abuse - Students may not strike or threaten to strike a person or engage in verbal or physical actions that threaten or endanger the health, safety or welfare of a person or persons.
- Sexual and Other Harassment or Misconduct - Students may not engage in verbal or physical acts of a sexually suggestive or harassing nature that create an intimidating, offensive or hostile environment with any student, employee or member of the College community. (Please see Sexual and Other Unlawful Harassment or Misconduct Policy, Appendix F of the Student Handbook.)
- Disruption - Students may not participate in or conduct an assembly in a manner which threatens or causes injury to persons or property; which interferes with free access to College facilities; which is harmful, obstructive or disruptive to the learning environment and the overall mission and functions of the College.
- Unattended Children - Students are not allowed to bring children to class or computer labs; only registered adults are authorized to be in a classroom while class is in progress. Minor children should not be unattended, and students are strongly discouraged from bringing them to Gaston College. The College does not assume responsibility for unattended children.
- Misuse of Communication Technologies - Students may not use communication technologies (e-mail, telephones, social media, voice mail, fax machines, etc.) to communicate threatening, indecent, abusive, sexually harassing or otherwise disruptive communication to College employees or students.
- Weapon Possession - Students may not possess or carry any weapon on College property including firearms, explosives, BB guns, stun guns, air rifles or pistols, sling shots, and knives or other sharp instruments. The only exceptions are for law enforcement and military personnel in the discharge of their official duties or as otherwise permitted by law, for ceremonial or educational purposes, or when tools such as knives are used for construction, maintenance, or food preparation.
- Setting False Alarms - Students may not set off a fire alarm or tamper with any fire safety equipment except with reasonable belief that there is an emergency.
- Classroom Misuse of Electronic Communication Devices - Students may not use devices in the classroom, such as telephones and other communication devices during labs and test-taking situations unless otherwise instructed. (The only exception will be for on-call emergency personnel i.e., EMS, police, fire, who are required to notify their classroom instructor of their need for such devices at the beginning of the term and provide documentation verifying their occupation.)
- Misuse of Computers - Students may not damage College computer hardware and software, gain unauthorized access to remote sites, and/or view sexually explicit, pornographic or other inappropriate material. (Please see the Electronic Resources Acceptable Use Policy, Appendix G of the Student Handbook.)
- Gambling - Students may not gamble on College premises or at College-sponsored or College-supervised functions.
- Use of Tobacco Products - Students may not smoke or use other forms of tobacco products on College property and at College events. (Please see the Tobacco-Free Campus Policy, Appendix L of the Student Handbook.)
- Use or Possession of Drugs and Alcohol - Students may not manufacture, distribute, dispense, possess, use, or be under the influence of a controlled substance or alcohol on College premises or as a part of any College-sponsored activity. (Please see the Drug and Alcohol Policy, Appendix D of the Student Handbook.)
- Failure to Comply - Students may not fail to comply with the directives of College officials or law enforcement officers during the performance of their duties and/or fail to identify themselves to these persons when requested to do so. Failing to respond to a notice of conduct charges is also prohibited.
- Fiscal Irresponsibility - Students may not fail to pay College-levied fines or pass worthless checks to College officials.
- Improper Use of a Vehicle - Students may not violate College regulations regarding the operation and parking of motor vehicles. (Please refer to Traffic and Parking Regulations in the Campus Police Section of the Student Handbook.)
- Violation of College Policies or Regulations - Students may not violate any College policy, College regulation, or the terms of disciplinary probation.
- Legal Violations - Students may not violate a local, state, or federal law.
Discretion to Warn or Temporarily Remove
If a student’s conduct significantly disrupts the learning environment, poses an immediate or continuing threat to the health or well-being of any member of the academic community, or interferes with the activities of the College, an instructor or administrative officer has the discretion to warn the student against violating the Student Code of Conduct or remove the student from one class period or activity for the duration of that specific class or activity. No disciplinary sanctions other than such a warning or temporary removal may be imposed upon any student except in accordance with this policy.
The instructor or administrative officer invoking such temporary removal shall file a charge in accordance with the Disciplinary Procedures section below with the Student Conduct Officer within one working day following the incident. The Student Conduct Officer shall resolve the matter in a timely fashion utilizing the steps outlined below in the Disciplinary Procedures section.
The Student Conduct Officer may impose restrictions and/or interim suspend a student from the campus community pending the scheduling of a meeting on an alleged violation(s) of the Student Code of Conduct. This may occur when a student represents a threat of serious harm to others, is facing allegations of serious criminal activity, to preserve the integrity of an investigation, to preserve College property and/or to prevent disruption of, or interference with, the normal operations of the College. The College reserves the right to take any interim action needed to protect the rights of students and to maintain a safe campus. Such actions may include, but are not limited to, modification of academic schedules, no contact orders, and interim suspension.
During an interim suspension, a student may be denied access to the College campus, facilities, and events. As determined appropriate by the Student Conduct Officer this restriction may include classes and/or all other College activities or privileges for which the student might otherwise be eligible. At the discretion of the Student Conduct Officer and with the approval of, and collaboration with, the appropriate Academic Administrators, alternative coursework options may be pursued to ensure as minimal impact as possible on the accused student.
In order to provide an orderly procedure for handling student disciplinary cases and prompt, fair, and impartial investigations and resolutions, the following procedures shall be followed:
- Charges: Any administrative official, faculty, staff, or student may file charges with the Student Conduct Officer (Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs, or another designee) against any student or student organization for violations of College regulations. The individual(s) filing the charges is expected to provide complete and truthful information throughout the disciplinary process and should submit a Conduct Violation Form or a written statement which includes:
- name of the student(s) involved;
- name(s) of other person(s) directly involved or witnesses to the incident(s);
- a description of the incident(s), including the time, place, and date of the incident(s);
- the specific code(s) of conduct violated; and
- any action taken that is related to the matter.
Preliminary Investigation and Decision: Within ten (10) working days after the charge is filed, the Student Conduct Officer shall conduct a preliminary investigation of the charge(s) which shall include a meeting with the accused student and other witnesses. In domestic violence, dating violence, stalking, and sexual harassment or misconduct cases, both the complainant and the accused may have one support person present during these proceedings. Both parties must provide the name of the support person at least three days prior to the meeting. A support person may only serve as an observer and may not participate unless requested to do so by the person(s) designated to conduct the meeting.
During the meeting with the Student Conduct Officer, the accused student shall be told the evidence against him/her and shall be given the opportunity to respond. In instances where the accused student cannot be reached to schedule an appointment with the Student Conduct Officer or where the accused student refuses to cooperate, the Student Conduct Officer shall send a certified letter to the student’s last known address which shall inform the student of the charges, the results of the preliminary investigation, the decision, and the appeals process. The Student Conduct Officer’s decision is based upon a preponderance of evidence.
- Generally, the Student Conduct Officer shall send the accused student a decision by certified mail, return receipt requested, within fifteen (15) working days after the charge is filed. Decisions in sexual harassment or misconduct cases will be made within 60 days.
- If the Student Conduct Officer determines that the student has violated the Student Code, the decision shall include:
- a statement of the specific provision(s) of the Student Code that the student violated;
- a statement of sanctions imposed;
- a statement of the student’s right to appeal the decision; and
- instructions governing the appeals process (Appeals Procedure).
- If the Student Conduct Officer determines that the student did not violate a provision of the Student Code of Conduct, then the decision shall state the charge has been dismissed.
- In domestic violence, dating violence, stalking, and sexual harassment or misconduct cases, both the accused student and the complainant will receive simultaneous written notice of the outcome of the complaint. Both parties have the right to appeal the outcome. If neither party appeals, the outcome becomes final.
- The Student Conduct Officer shall send a copy of the statement of the charge and the decision to the College President/College President designee and other College officials on a need-to-know basis.
- Reprimand: A written communication which gives official notice to the student that he/she has violated the Student Code of Conduct and any subsequent violation may carry heavier penalties. Other sanctions may also be imposed (see below).
- Restitution: Paying for the damage, misuse, destruction or loss of property belonging to the College, College personnel, or students.
- Loss of Academic Credit or Grade: May be imposed as a result of academic dishonesty.
- Withholding of transcript, grades, diploma or right to register: Imposed when financial or other (e.g. disciplinary sanctions) obligations are not met.
- Other Sanctions: Students may be required to complete other sanctions aimed at learning the consequences of one’s actions. Examples of such sanctions may include but are not limited to attending workshops, writing essays, cleaning defaced property, and other educational assignments.
- General Probation: A student may be placed on General Probation when involved in a minor disciplinary offense. General Probation has two (2) important implications: the individual is given a chance to show his/her capability and willingness to observe the Student Code of Conduct without further penalty; secondly, if he/she violates the Code again, additional sanctions will be imposed for this violation. This probation will be in effect for no more than two (2) semesters.
- Restrictive Probation: Restrictive Probation results in the loss of good standing and notation of such is made in the student’s record. Restrictive conditions may limit activity in the College community. Generally the student will not be eligible for initiation into any local or national organization and may not receive any College award or other honorary recognition. The student may not occupy a position of leadership or responsibility with any Gaston College or student organization, publication, or activity. This probation will be in effect for no less than two (2) semesters. Any violation of Restrictive Probation may result in immediate suspension.
- Emergency or Interim Suspension: Exclusion from class and/ or other privileges or activities as set forth in the notice until a final decision has been made concerning the alleged violation. (See Interim Actions/Restrictions section).
- Suspension: Exclusion from class and/or all other privileges or activities of the College for a specified period of time. This sanction is reserved for those offenses warranting discipline more severe than probation, or for repeated misconduct. A student who receives this sanction must meet with the Student Conduct Officer to request re-enrollment at the end of the sanction period and get specific written permission before returning to campus. The student must be able to demonstrate that he/she has resolved the issues that led to the suspension, he/she is ready to be a productive member of the College community, and can refrain from violating the Student Code of Conduct. If the request to re-enroll is approved, the student will be placed on probation for a specified time period upon his/her return to the College.
- Expulsion: Permanent severance of the student from the College.
- Group Probation: Given to a College club or other organized group for a specified period of time. If group violations are repeated during the term of the sentence, the charter may be revoked or activities restricted.
- Group Restriction: Removing College recognition during the semester in which the offense occurred or for a longer period (usually not more than one other semester). While under restriction the group may not seek or add members, hold or sponsor events in the College community, or engage in other activities as specified.
- Group Charter Revocation: Removal of College recognition for a group, club, society, or other organization for a minimum of two years. Re-charter after that time must be approved by the President of Gaston College.
- Multiple Sanctions: More than one of the above sanctions may be imposed for any single violation.
- A student who disagrees with the decision of the Student Conduct Officer may request a hearing. The student must deliver a written request for a hearing to the chairperson of the Gaston College Judiciary Committee within three (3) working days of receipt of the Student Conduct Officer’s decision. The student requesting a hearing will be provided a list of people in the Gaston College Judiciary Committee pool. The student must indicate if he or she objects to any persons in the Judiciary Committee pool reviewing the charges against him or her and provide reasons for the objection within five (5) working days of submitting the appeal hearing request.
The Judiciary Committee pool is composed of eleven (11) members appointed by the President as described below. In domestic violence, dating violence, stalking, and sexual offenses and harassment cases, the Judiciary Pool will only consist of faculty and staff. Committee members serve at the pleasure of the President with replacements appointed by the President as necessary.
- Four (4) faculty members recommended by the Faculty Senate and appointed by the President of the College.
- Four (4) staff members recommended by the Staff Senate and appointed by the President of the College.
- Three (3) student members recommended by the Student Government Association (SGA) and appointed by the President of the College/President of the College designee.
- The chairperson of the Gaston College Judiciary Committee is appointed by the President of Gaston College.
2. Within ten (10) working days after receiving the request for a hearing, the chairperson of the Gaston College Judiciary Committee shall appoint the Gaston College Disciplinary Hearing Committee to hear the appeal. The Gaston College Disciplinary Hearing Committee shall be composed of a chairperson, one staff member, one student member, and one faculty member from the Gaston College Judiciary Committee. In domestic violence, dating violence, stalking, and sexual harassment or misconduct cases, the Disciplinary Hearing Committee shall be composed of a chairperson, one staff member, one faculty member, and one faculty or staff member. No person in the Judiciary Committee pool to whom the student has made a reasonable objection will be appointed.
3. Within fifteen (15) working days after the appointment of the Gaston College Disciplinary Hearing Committee, it shall conduct a hearing to which the Student Conduct Officer and the student shall be invited.
- The Student Conduct Officer shall provide the committee and the student with a written statement of charges against the student.
- The committee shall provide the student with a statement of his/her basic procedural rights.
- The right to present relevant evidence and witnesses in his/her defense.
- The right to a hearing before an impartial Gaston College Disciplinary Hearing Committee.
- The right to know the name of the person(s) bringing the charge(s) against him/her.
- The right to hear the evidence against him/her and the right to question witnesses against him/her. Per the recommendation of the Office of Civil Rights, questioning of either party is not allowed in sexual harassment or misconduct cases.
- The Student Conduct Officer and the student shall exchange any documents they expect to present to the Gaston College Disciplinary Hearing Committee.
- The Student Conduct Officer and the student shall exchange the names of their witnesses.
- Members of the committee shall inform the parties of any facts, which could reasonably affect their ability to give them a fair hearing. If either party objects to the continued service of a member and any committee member supports that objection, then the identified person shall resign from the committee. Within three (3) working days, the chairperson of the Gaston College Disciplinary Hearing Committee shall appoint a new member to the committee. The new committee member shall be subject to the same qualifications and obligations as the original committee members.
- Hearings before the committee shall be confidential and shall be closed to all persons except the following:
- The student
- Student Conduct Officer
- Witnesses who shall give testimony singularly and in the absence of other witnesses and leave the committee meeting room immediately upon completion of their testimony.
- In domestic violence, dating violence, stalking, and sexual harassment or misconduct cases, both the complainant and the accused may have one support person present during these proceedings. Both parties must provide the name of the support person at least three days prior to the hearing. A support person may only serve as an observer and may not participate unless requested to do so by the person(s) designated to conduct the hearing.
- The hearing will be tape-recorded. Tapes will become the property of the College. All tapes will be filed in the office of the Vice President for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management. The committee shall have the authority to adopt supplementary rules of procedure consistent with this policy.
- The committee shall have the authority to render written advisory opinions concerning the meaning and application of this policy.
- Upon the completion of a hearing, the committee shall meet in executive session to decide whether there has been a violation of the Student Code and, if so, to recommend sanctions.
- Decisions of the committee shall be based upon a preponderance of the evidence as determined by a majority of the committee.
- The decision of the committee shall be in writing and contain at least a statement of the specific provision of the Student Code that the student violated and a description of the facts supporting that conclusion; and a statement of recommended sanction or a statement that the charges were not proved by a preponderance of the evidence.
- Within five (5) working days of the decision of the committee, the chairperson of the committee shall send a copy of the decision by certified mail, return receipt requested, to the student’s last known address. In domestic violence, dating violence, stalking, and sexual harassment or misconduct cases, both the complainant and the accused will receive simultaneous written notice of the final outcome of the appeal.
- Student - any person who has applied to the College or is currently enrolled in credit or non-credit courses offered by the College at any location or online.
- Accused - a student who has been reported for allegedly violating the Student Code of Conduct.
Complainant - a person who has reported a concern regarding the behavior of a student in domestic violence, dating violence, stalking, and sexual harassment or misconduct cases.
- Student Group - a College group, club or organization.
- College-Sponsored Activity - any activity on or off campus that is initiated, aided, authorized, or supervised by the College.
- Student Conduct Officer - designated by the Vice President of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management, the Student Conduct Officer is the College official primarily responsible for implementation of the College’s disciplinary procedures.
- Preponderance of Evidence - the standard of proof of “more likely than not” used to determine the outcome of disciplinary proceedings.
- Sanction - penalty for violation of the Student Code of Conduct.
Note: For additional information on domestic violence, dating violence, stalking, sexual assault, and consent, please see the College’s Annual Security Report (ASR) available on the College’s website at www.gaston.edu under the About Us and Campus Police and Safety sections, or by contacting the Campus Police and Security Department located in room 122 of the Comer Engineering Technology Building (CET 122) on the Dallas Campus.
Effect of Failure to Comply with Time Requirements or Voluntary Withdrawal
- A student’s failure to comply with any of the time requirements set forth herein with respect to completing and delivering the documents required to pursue his or her appeal, to appear or be represented at any hearing, or otherwise to meet his or her other obligations under these procedures, will render the last decision made on behalf of the College as final.
- The College shall make every reasonable effort to comply with the timeliness requirements specified in the Disciplinary Procedures and the Appeals Procedure. The College’s failure to meet any deadline shall not exempt the student from any sanctions under the Student Code of Conduct or from the decision of the Gaston College Disciplinary Committee after an appeal hearing.
- A student’s decision to withdraw from school during a disciplinary proceeding shall not affect the College’s right to continue the disciplinary process or impose sanctions.
Gaston College Conduct Violation Form
Click here to view the Conduct Violation Form .