XII. Administrative Board


By vote of the faculty, the Administrative Board has responsibility for matters involving student discipline and exceptions to faculty and administrative rules. The Board’s membership consists of three faculty, three students, and three administrators. Students wishing to petition the Board should consult the Dean of Students.

A. Disciplinary Actions

The Administrative Board at Harvard Law School has four categories of discipline that may be imposed for student infractions of Law School rules: reprimand, suspension, dismission, or expulsion. These sanctions are imposed only after the Board has voted to institute formal disciplinary charges against a student. Students have the right to a full disciplinary hearing conducted by the Administrative Board and a right to be represented by counsel.

Reprimand, suspension, dismission, or expulsion becomes part of the student’s Law School file and will be placed on the student’s transcript, as well as reported, on appropriate inquiry, to state Board of Bar Examiners. Suspension may be for a term, a year, or any other length of time the Board deems appropriate. Dismission and expulsion are forms of permanent separation from the Law School and must be approved by the faculty. A summary of procedures followed in disciplinary cases is available from the office of the Dean of Students or the Registrar.

In cases in which an infraction by a student is not sufficiently serious to warrant the imposition of formal discipline, the Administrative Board may issue a warning. Such a warning is placed in the student’s file but is not reported outside of the Law School as long as the student engages in no additional violations of University or Law School rules. If a student who has previously received a warning again violates University or Law School rules, the Law School may disclose the initial warning outside the Law School and/or may impose more serious discipline for the subsequent violation than might otherwise have been imposed.

In past years, there have been a number of occasions when students “sat in” or obstructed access to administrative offices, faculty offices, and other school facilities as a form of protest. The Administrative Board imposed the sanction of a “reprimand” for such conduct in the spring of 2001. Students are on notice that such conduct may result in a significant disciplinary sanction.

B. Procedures for Disciplinary Cases

The Administrative Board is the Law School committee responsible for the administration of discipline. Cases requiring discipline typically involve cheating, false statements on financial aid applications, and similar departures from generally accepted standards of integrity. In such cases the Board may impose sanctions including reprimand and suspension. In the most severe cases, the Board may recommend to the faculty sanctions of expulsion or dismission, imposition of which requires the vote of two-thirds of the faculty.

The Board does not consider itself to be an adversarial or prosecutorial body. Its disposition is to handle matters that come before it as favorably to students as possible consistent with the maintenance of the high academic and ethical standards of Harvard Law School. In many instances matters that come to the Board’s attention can be dealt with informally, without ever initiating disciplinary process. To this end, the Chairperson or Secretary or such other Board member as the Chairperson designates may investigate a matter for purposes of determining whether it should be treated as disciplinary.

In those cases in which disciplinary proceedings are required, the Board will proceed in accordance with the following rules:

  1. The Board shall initiate formal proceedings by a written charge which explains the nature of the disciplinary infraction. Such charge shall issue only if the Board believes it is reasonably likely that the charged infraction can be established by clear and convincing evidence.
  2. In any disciplinary matter, the student has a right to a hearing before the Board. Disciplinary hearings will normally be private, but at the student’s option, the hearing shall be public and shall be held in a room sufficiently large, in the judgment of the Board’s Chairperson, to accommodate an audience of reasonable size.
  3. Disciplinary cases are normally heard by the full Administrative Board. The student may ask any individual member of the Board to recuse himself or herself for cause. Any member who recuses himself or herself shall be replaced by an alternate member.
  4. All students in disciplinary cases may appear with legal counsel or lay advisor. The Board will attempt to assist a student who needs and desires but cannot afford counsel.
  5. A record of the hearing shall be kept, either by stenographic transcript or tape, and shall be made available without charge to the student or his or her representative on request.
  6. At the hearing the evidence against the student will be presented and the student shall have the right to call his or her own witnesses and to examine all witnesses.
  7. It shall be the duty of the Secretary of the Board to assist the student in preparing for the hearing by making available to the student’s counsel any public announcements or reports of the Board or faculty relating to past disciplinary cases. The Secretary shall also assist the student in obtaining witnesses. This assistance may include a letter to the witness requesting his or her cooperation with the Administrative Board or such other efforts to secure the participation as may be appropriate to the circumstances.
  8. The Administrative Board, at a disciplinary hearing, may consider any evidence that it deems to be relevant and trustworthy. Formal rules of evidence do not apply.
  9. The Board does not recognize a privilege of noncooperation and may, therefore, draw such reasonable inferences from noncooperation as it deems appropriate. Statements made to members of the Board and others are admissible at the hearing regardless of when made.
  10. Information obtained in confidence by the Health Service, whether medical or psychiatric, shall not be sought by the Administrative Board nor disclosed to the Board without the student’s consent. No weight is to be given to a student’s refusal to consult the Health Service or to the student’s refusal to authorize disclosure of information obtained by the Health Service. The absence of such information may, however, properly preclude the Board from considering a medical excuse, explanation, or justification in a particular case.
  11. Disciplinary sanctions shall not be imposed unless conduct warranting sanction is established by clear and convincing evidence. Decisions of the Administrative Board shall be by majority vote of the sitting members. In case of a tie vote of all the members of the Board present and voting, the vote of the majority of faculty members and administrative officers shall determine the outcome.
  12. All decisions of the Board to impose sanctions shall be supported by specific findings of fact and conclusions, including, wherever appropriate, a statement or the reasons for the specific sanction imposed and the principles or policies on which the Board relies.
  13. In all cases in which the sanction voted by the Board is other than dismission or expulsion, the decision of the Board shall normally be final, and, if any such matter is presented to the faculty for consideration, the faculty shall first vote on whether the Board’s decision raises such important and novel issues of policy or is made under such other extraordinary circumstances that the faculty must consider the matter.
  14. In all cases in which the sanction voted by the Administrative Board is dismission or expulsion, the student shall be afforded the right to a supplementary hearing on the facts before a hearing officer appointed from the faculty by the Dean. The student shall submit to the hearing officer in writing a statement indicating which of the factual findings of the Board the student disputes, and why. At the hearing, the student may call and examine witnesses and be represented in the same manner as before the Board. The position of the Administrative Board shall be presented to the hearing officer by a person chosen by the Chairperson of the Administrative Board in consultation with the Dean. The hearing officer shall make a written statement of findings of fact which shall be returned to the Administrative Board. The Board may modify its findings of fact in light of the findings of the hearing officer, and may modify the sanction previously voted.
  15. In all cases in which the sanction voted by the Administrative Board is dismission or expulsion, the faculty shall review the findings and conclusions of the Board. No student shall be expelled or dismissed except by the vote of at least two-thirds of the members of the faculty present and voting at the faculty meeting at which the recommendation of the Administrative Board is considered.
  16. Where the faculty reviews action of the Administrative Board it may substitute its judgment for the Board’s on matters of policy including the severity and nature of the sanction imposed. The sanction may be increased in severity as well as decreased. (The Board’s findings of fact shall not be modified unless, on the basis of the whole record, including the findings, if any, of the hearing officer, the Board’s findings are not supported by substantial evidence.)
  17. Should situations arise which are not covered by these rules or in which the application of these rules, in the judgment of the Administrative Board is inappropriate, the Administrative Board may formulate and follow an appropriate ad hoc procedure. In any event, departures from the rules of procedure shall not, ipso facto, constitute a defense to the imposition of a disciplinary sanction.
  18. Copies of these procedures shall be published and made generally available. The procedures shall also be given to any student involved in an Administrative Board matter as soon as it appears that the matter may be treated as disciplinary.        
Last modified: August 13, 2013

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