Formal Hearings


There are two types of Formal Hearings: Peer Review Board Hearings and Administrative Hearings.

The information below serves to provide an overview of the Formal Hearing process.  To view detailed information about Formal Hearings, please refer to the Residential Life Conduct Process Guide.

The Peer Review Board

The Peer Review Board (PRB) consists of student representatives pooled from the residence hall and apartment communities and a student Chairperson. Five PRB members present at a hearing meet the established quorum. PRB Hearings are closed to the public. The Accused Student represents himself or herself during a hearing. A staff member represents Residential Life. The purpose of a hearing is to determine, based on a preponderance of the evidence, whether violation of the Agreement has occurred. The PRB Chairperson shall have the discretion to regulate all aspects of the hearing. He or she shall take whatever steps are necessary to ensure that hearings are conducted in a safe and orderly manner. The Chairperson may admit evidence that reasonably prudent members of the University community would rely upon in the conduct of their affairs, and may exclude irrelevant, immaterial, and unduly repetitious evidence. Evidence not directly related to the alleged violation including, but not limited to, personal character references, is not admissible. The PRB and Chairperson receive advisement from professional staff within Residential Life.

Administrative Hearings

Administrative Hearings are closed to the public. Staff members serve as hearing officers. The Accused Student represents himself or herself during the hearing. A staff member represents Residential Life. The purpose of a hearing is to determine, based on a preponderance of the evidence, whether violation of the Agreement has occurred.  Hearing officers shall have the discretion to regulate all aspects of the hearing. They shall take whatever steps are necessary to ensure that hearings are conducted in a safe and orderly manner. Hearing officers may admit evidence that reasonably prudent members of the University community would rely upon in the conduct of their affairs, and may exclude irrelevant, immaterial, and unduly repetitious evidence. Evidence not directly related to the alleged violation including, but not limited to, personal character references, is not admissible.

 Appeal Process

Decisions resulting from a PRB or an Administrative Hearing may be appealed by the accused resident or the complainant for one or more of the following purposes or grounds:

  1. To determine whether the Hearing was conducted fairly in light of the charges and information presented, and in reasonable conformity with the prescribed procedures outlined within this Guide. Deviations from designated procedures will not be a basis for sustaining an appeal unless significant prejudice results.
  2. To consider new information, likely to make a substantive difference in the outcome of the Hearing, or other relevant facts not brought out in the original hearing, because such information and/or facts were not known to the person appealing at the time of the original Hearing.
  3. The sanction(s) imposed is/are substantially disproportionate to the offense (including consideration of the student's prior offenses, if any).

For a full description of the appeal process, please refer to the Residential Life Conduct Process Guide.

Download the Residential Life Hearing Appeals Form (PDF).

 Formal Hearing Process Overview

PurposeThe following procedural guidelines are offered as an example of a case heard in an orderly yet informal manner in observance of the principles of fairness to all persons involved in an educational hearing.

DefinitionsThroughout this text, the following terms will be defined as follows:

  •  Housing—A group or individual taking formal action in order to seek reparation for an alleged wrong.
  •  The Accused Student—A student who has been charged with a violation of the Agreement.
  •  ComplainantA person who, directly or indirectly, submits a report alleging that he or she has been a victim of another resident's misconduct that includes violence, sexual harassment or other sexual offense.

Process: The hearing process has four distinct components. The Chairperson or Hearing Officer guides the hearing, keeping order throughout the process.

I.  Opening Remarks
II. Charge and Process Review
III. Case Presentation
IV. Deliberation

Each component includes several different parts as well. The entire format, outlined below, should be conducted in a manner that reflects the seriousness of the matter while also considering the educational purposes of the proceedings.

I. Opening Remarks

A. Pre-Hearing Comments—Made by the Chairperson or Hearing Officer, the pre-hearing comments serve to introduce the setting and assure that all individuals are gathered for the correct hearing.

B. Introductions—The purpose of introducing everyone is to personalize the hearing and to clearly state the relationship of each person present as they relate to the case being heard.

C. Honor Statement—The purpose of the honor statement is to stress the importance of integrity in the proceedings and to remind everyone involved they are expected to tell the truth throughout the hearing.

D. Establishing Quorum (PRB hearings)—After establishing which members of the PRB will hear the case, a quorum is called. The quorum consists of four PRB members and a PRB chairperson, for a total of five members. If a quorum cannot be established, the resident is given the opportunity to reschedule the hearing for a later date when a quorum is present. If the resident wishes to waive that right, the hearing continues.

II. Charge and Process Review

A. Statement of Violation(s)—In stating the charges, the issues being heard are isolated and the hearing process is officially begun.

B. Process Review—The purpose of reviewing the hearing process is to remind everyone about the structure of a hearing and to establish the appropriate manner and order for the activity.

C. Dismiss all WitnessesWitnesses are excused from the immediate room and will be called back in at the appropriate time to speak.

III. Case Presentation

The Chair or Administrative Hearing Officer(s) now assumes responsibility for guiding the presentation of information and questioning in an orderly progression.

A. Housing’s Case Presentation—Housing presents its case and witnesses. The PRB/Officer(s) may pose questions to the Housing official and witnesses.  (In cases involving a Complainant and a formal preliminary investigation, Housing's investigator will present the results of the investigation at this time.)

B. Complainant's Case PresentationIn cases involving a Complainant, the Complainant is given the opportunity to present his/her case.  After this opportunity, questions may be asked of the Complainant by the PRB/Hearing Officer(s) and the accused student (through the Chairperson or Hearing Officer).  The Complainant may call witnesses; an additional opportunity is then given for questions to be asked by the PRB/Hearing officer(s) and the accused student (through the Chairperson or Hearing Officer).

C. Accused Student’s Case PresentationThe Accused Student is given an opportunity to present his/her case. After this opportunity, questions may be asked of the Accused Student by the PRB/Hearing officer(s) and the Complainant (through the Chairperson or Hearing Officer).  The Accused Student may call witnesses; an additional opportunity is then given for questions to be asked by the PRB/Hearing officer(s) and the Complainant (through the Chairperson or Hearing Officer).

D. Closing Statements—Closing statements are offered as a brief synopsis of the facts and issues of the case and should be limited to three minutes in length by each individual.  Both the Accused Student and the Complainant may make a closing statement.  In applicable hearings, Housing may make a closing statement as well.  It is to be remembered that the ultimate goal of the process is to provide an educational resolution to a problem. 

IV. Deliberation

A. Deliberation to Determine Responsibility—In PRB Hearings, the board, in a closed session, initially deliberates in order to determine if the Accused Student is responsible or not responsible. After determining this, the PRB can take two forms of action. If the Accused Student is found not responsible, the decision is read and the hearing is adjourned. However, if the PRB returns a decision of responsible, the PRB goes back into deliberation to determine sanctions. The student may stand by to hear the PRB's decision regarding responsibility.  In Administrative Hearings, the Hearing Officer(s) will adjourn the hearing to begin the process of deliberation. In either format, the resident is notified of the hearing decision within five business days of the hearing.

B. Deliberation to Determine Sanctions—Based on the outcome of the hearing and the Accused Student’s previous conduct record, if any, deliberation takes place in closed session in order to recommended an appropriate UW response. The student will be notified of the hearing decision as well as sanctions within five business days of the hearing. 

C. Statement of Confidentiality—The Chair reminds everyone that the facts heard in the hearing are confidential. This is done in order to protect the rights and privacy of the those participating in the hearing.

D. Adjournment—The hearing is officially called to an end.

 Formal Hearing Frequently Asked Questions

When and how will I find out about the hearing? 

You will receive a summons letter outlining the date, time and location of the hearing.  This letter will be sent to you via email and/or mailed to your campus mailing address. 

What if I have other plans that prevent me from attending the hearing? 

Hearings are scheduled around the academic schedules of the Accused Student, Complainant (if any), and student witnesses.  A hearing may only be rescheduled due to academic course conflicts or unforeseen major emergencies (such as documented major illness). Careful consideration is given so that the hearing does not conflict with your academic class schedule. If you find yourself in a situation that may necessitate rescheduling the hearing, please contact the Residential Life Conduct Office at 206-221-7712, at least 24 hours in advance for consideration.

Please note that should you fail to appear to a scheduled hearing, the hearing may be conducted without the benefit of your participation.  Decisions will be made based on the information that is available at the time of the hearing. 

What can I expect during the hearing? 

During the first portion of the hearing, introductions are made, the honor statement is read, and for PRB hearings there is a discussion regarding establishment of quorum. All witnesses are then excused. Each party (Housing, Accused Student, and Complainant) is invited to present their case to the PRB/Hearing Officer(s).  Between each person's remarks and following witness testimony, the PRB/Hearing Officer(s) may ask questions. All questions asked between hearing participants must be posed through the PRB Chairperson or Hearing Officer.  After all parties have had a chance to make their remarks and all questions have been answered, the PRB/Hearing Officer(s) will close the hearing in order to begin deliberations.  The decision regarding responsibility will be provided to the Accused Student (and Complainant, if any) within five business days of the hearing. 

What should I be prepared to say when I'm given the opportunity to present my case during the hearing?

The hearing is an opportunity for all relevant information regarding an incident to be presented to the decision making bodyeither the PRB or the Administrative Hearing Officer(s).  Some information is contained within the Incident Report and some collected during the initial investigation by Housing.  You, as either the Accused Student or Complainant, will be given an opportunity to speak about the incident based on your experience.  Some students opt to write out their statement to read during the hearing.  This practice helps to ensure that you have organized and covered all of the information you feel that is important for the PRB/Hearing Officer(s) to consider.  There is no formal time restriction on your case presentation, however for most students their presentation ranges between 3 and 10 minutes.  Toward the end of hearing, you will be given an opportunity to make a closing statement.  This statement should be limited to 3 minutes and should be used to make a final statement that summarizes your position in the case. 

I admit that I committed the violation(s) for which my initial conduct officer found me responsible, however, I don’t agree with the sanction(s). How do I bring this up? 

The purpose of the formal hearing is to determine whether or not an Accused Student is responsible for the alleged violation(s); based on those findings, the PRB/Hearing Officer(s) will recommend appropriate sanctioning in accordance with the Residential Life sanctioning guidelines.  Only information relevant to the situation may be discussed during the hearing although an Accused Student's conduct history may be deemed relevant to the hearing when a pattern of similar specific behavior has been established. The PRB /Hearing Officer(s) neither considers nor discusses sanctioning until after responsibility for alleged violations has been determined during deliberation and based on the information presented during the hearing. More significant and/or additional sanctions may apply given an Accused Student’s prior offenses and sanction history, if any. Sanctioning is not discussed prior to deliberations.  An appeal process exists within which you may request an appeal on the basis that the assigned sanction(s) are disproportionate to the offense. 

Can I bring witnesses? 

You may bring any witness(es) who was (were) present at the time of the incident to the hearing. Witnesses must present information specifically related to the case. Evidence not directly related to the alleged violation including, but not limited to, personal character references, is not admissible. 

Can I have an adviser?

You have the right to bring an adviser of your choice to the hearing.  Your adviser may be there to support you during the hearing but may not speak to the PRB/Hearing Officer(s) on your behalf. 

Can I appeal the decision? 

You have the right to file an appeal with the Conduct Office at the Residential Life Administration Office (HFS Central Office, Terry Hall). Appeals must meet the criteria outlined in the Residential Life Conduct Process Guide and be submitted within three working days from the date of the hearing decision letter. 

What should I bring/wear to the hearing? 

You are encouraged to bring notes, documents or information that would support your position in the hearing.  Formal hearings are more structured than other conduct meetings and participants typically dress in business-casual attire.