Responding to allegations
Information for Respondents in the Discipline Process
Regardless of the circumstances, being accused of violating MIT policy can be a stressful experience. While some of that stress may be inevitable, this page has been designed to answer questions and clarify processes. Every case is unique, however, and for that reason students who are subject to disciplinary complaints receive an offer to meet with our staff to discuss the case fully. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us at 617-253-3276 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q. This is very stressful for me. How can I get help managing that stress?
Feeling stress about this is not unusual. We encourage those involved in the discipline process to seek support from deans, advisors, housemasters, GRTs, friends, and MIT Mental Health. Determining how to manage the associated stress is a very helpful step for many people.
Q. The following words appear in several documents. What do they mean?
Complainant: The person submitting the complaint.
Respondent: The MIT student or student organization alleged to have violated an MIT policy.
Witness: Anyone who will be providing information about this incident. This may include people who gained information without being eyewitnesses and it can include people who will submit a written statement, rather than appearing in person.
Advisor: Any member of the MIT community (excluding families, attorneys, and media) who will be present with you throughout the process as you would like. They cannot speak for you, but they can be an available resource for advice, consultation, and support.
Q. I received a list of policies I allegedly violated. How was that list created?
The complainant generated that list of alleged violations. Student Citizenship reviewed the list to determine if information was provided that substantiated the allegations. This list is not a list of violations you have been found responsible for committing. Rather, it provides you of notice of the violations being considered in the disciplinary process. We provide this list so that you receive notice and can respond.
Q. I have received an email from Student Citizenship indicating they have a complaint about me. What should I do next?
The email you received instructs you to make an appointment with our staff to discuss this case. During that meeting, our staff will review all the information with you, discuss next steps, and answer questions you may have. Following that meeting, you will have an opportunity to respond in writing.
Before your meeting, you can consider what questions you have and who else might be able to assist you. You can have an advisor during any meetings and you can submit witnesses and witness statements. You don’t need to have decided any of this by your first meeting, but they are things to consider.
Q. How long will it take to resolve the case?
For formal complaints, you will typically have ten Institute days to respond. For informal documentation, the Director will discuss a timeline with you. Following your response, the COD Chair will review the complaint and your response and determine a method of resolving the case.
If the case is resolved administratively, you will typically receive the outcome within two weeks of your response, although that may vary depending upon if MIT is in session.
If the case is resolved in a hearing or a sanctioning panel, the hearing or panel will take place at least three days after you submit your response, but typically it takes longer to accommodate the schedules of everyone in the hearing.
Following a hearing or panel, you will typically receive the outcome in a few business days.
Q. Other MIT students were involved in this case. Can we all meet together?
Generally, it is most helpful to the people involved to meet with the Office of Student Citizenship separately. It is possible that two people who have been involved in the same incident may have different degrees of involvement, varying histories of prior violations, dissimilar personal factors and other circumstances that may impact the handling of the case. In addition, information about you is generally private, even from other people involved in the same case.
Q. How much detail do I need to provide in my response?
Provide as much detail as you can that is relevant to the alleged violations you are listing. Typically it is best to document the incident while the details are fresh in your mind.
For you to be found responsible, MIT requires that a case meet the standard of evidence known as "preponderance of the evidence." This essentially means that evidence needs to demonstrate it is "more likely than not" that a violation occurred. This presumes that you are not responsible until the evidence indicates that you are, but the complainant does not need to prove your responsibility beyond a reasonable doubt.
Q. Will I get another chance to share information about the case?
Most cases referred to Student Citizenship are resolved at an administrative level, without a hearing. In those cases, once you submit the response form, you will not have another opportunity to provide more information, unless the COD Chair specifically requests it.
Some cases are referred to a full COD hearing or a sanctioning panel. In that situation, you will have an opportunity to be present, ask and answer questions about the matter, and make additional statements, including having witnesses present.
Q. What happens if someone submits a referral form that is determined to be false?
If a person submits a complaint in good faith, they will suffer no consequences, even if the complaint does not result in a finding of responsibility against you.
The bottom of the complaint form requires the person submitting it to sign the following statement:
“I understand that the Institute has the following expectations for honesty and integrity. ‘Fundamental to the principle of Independent learning and professional growth is the requirement of honesty and integrity in conduct of one’s academic and nonacademic life.’ By signing below and submitting this form, I confirm that, to the best of my knowledge, this document adheres to those expectations of honesty and integrity fundamental to the Institute.”
If someone intentionally refers a case with false information, they could be the subject to disciplinary action.
Q. Can I submit evidence with my case?
Yes, you may submit photographs, emails, and other evidence. If evidence includes an illegal and/or dangerous item (e.g., drugs, weapon, etc.), that should be turned over to MIT Police for appropriate storage. Photos can be submitted as attachments. You can also take a "screenshot" of any computer-based evidence.
Q. What if my case is also proceeding through the court system?
MIT will generally proceed as soon as is reasonably possible, without waiting for the court case to be resolved.
Q. Should I consult an attorney?
This is a personal decision. MIT’s discipline process is very different from the courts and attorneys are not permitted to speak for their clients, to be present during actual proceedings, or to submit written materials on your behalf. Parties are expected to speak for and represent themselves.