Parent and Family FAQs

Dear Parent,

If you’ve come to this page, you must have some questions or concerns about how NAU handles incidents that involve behaviors in the Residence Halls that are of a concerning nature. When you sent your student off to college, you likely never imagined that you or your student would be interacting with our office, and you may have questions about their rights and responsibilities, the conduct process, and the consequences of these charges. Many questions will be answered in the Frequently Asked Questions for Students section, which we encourage you to review. But other questions are more unique to your role as a parent and this page is designed to help.

We want to assure you that our office understands that college students (like all of us) make mistakes. Our goal is to educate students about appropriate behavior and decision-making while maintaining a safe and healthy community, where academic success can occur for everyone. Through the conduct process, we want to help students see where they could have made different choices and offer them strategies for making better choices in the future.

You, the parent, are key in encouraging this educational process. NAU hopes that students will keep their parents informed of their lives here, and keeping the lines of honest communication open with your student may help them make better decisions during their time at NAU.

We understand that the conduct process can be confusing for students and families; we hope this guide will help address some of your questions.  If you or your student has additional questions, please contact our office at (928) 523-7616 or NAUconduct@nau.edu.

Sincerely,

Reese Havlatka
Residential Student Conduct and Development Coordinator 

How can I help my student avoid misconduct while at NAU?
We encourage you to engage your student in an open dialogue about his or her life at NAU, including their classes, friends, behaviors, actions and choices. Talk with your student about their values and how actions taken while at NAU can impact your student’s future. While your child is now technically an adult, college is a time of growth, change, and challenge. As a parent, you can be a valuable ally and support for your student, while at the same time encouraging your student to think about the consequences of their actions and holding them accountable for upholding the expectations that both you and the University have for your student.
My student received a letter informing them that they are being charged under the Code of Conduct/Standards of Residence. What does this mean and how can I help my student?

First, please know that NAU strives to have a fair and unbiased process. Your student has been charged because our office received a report suggesting that they were involved in a situation which may have violated the Code of Conduct and/or the Standards of Residence. We recognize that the reports we receive reflect only part of the story. Being called to a meeting allows your student to have an opportunity to share their side of the story before any decisions are made. It should be noted that some students waive their right to a hearing by choosing not to attend, or by not opening our emails to see that they have a meeting scheduled. Encourage your student to regularly check their NAU e-mail.

Second, ask your student about the incident and listen to your student’s response. You can help your student by being supportive while holding them accountable for their behavior.

Third, take some time to familiarize yourself with the conduct process. We encourage you to review our website, which provides detailed information about the process . We also encourage you to discuss this process with your student. 

Fourth, ask your student if they have prepared for their conduct hearing. During the hearing, a Housing and Residence Life staff member will review the conduct process, your student’s rights, and the incident that took place. The best way for your student to prepare for this meeting is to reflect on the event and be ready to describe their perspective on what happened. Encourage your student to reply honestly and ask any questions they may have during the meeting.

I know my student could not have done this – I didn’t raise my child that way. Why are they in trouble?

College students face challenges, freedoms, and choices that they may not have experienced before. Developmentally, these students may be in a period of experimentation and exploration. Students are transitioning from adolescence to adulthood and adjusting to an independent lifestyle in an unstructured environment, often without parents being physically present. 

Sometimes, college-aged students engage in behaviors or make choices that are surprising to their parents or that are inconsistent with the expectations that you and the university have for them. These choices and behaviors may be a part of growing up for some students, and NAU’s student conduct system recognizes and reflects this reality.  At the same time, the conduct process seeks to inform students that their actions carry consequences and that not all choices are healthy or productive. 

When are parents notified about our students' misconduct?

The university hopes that students will keep their parents informed of their lives at NAU. Pursuant to the Federal Educational Right to Privacy Act (known as FERPA), which protects against the disclosure of a student's educational record without written permission, our office does not routinely contact parents when their student has violated University policy.

However, NAU will, in its continuing commitment to educate students, notify parents when their student is involved in the conduct process in the following cases:

  1. If a student is under the age of 21 and has been found responsible for an alcohol policy violation
  2. If a student under the age of 21 has been found responsible for a drug policy violation

In cases where the student’s health or safety is at risk, the Office of Student Life or another NAU staff member generally will notify the student’s emergency contact by telephone.

What is FERPA and how does it affect my getting information about a conduct situation?

The Federal Educational Right to Privacy Act (FERPA) protects against the disclosure of a student's educational record without the written consent of the student. When a student, regardless of age, enters the university, all rights to inspect and review the education record transfer from the parent to the student. Under FERPA, the parent has no right to review the record unless granted permission, in writing, by the student. 

There are two ways you may legally receive access to your student's education records from Northern Arizona University:

  • Your student signs a FERPA release form granting you permission
  • Through a lawfully-issued subpoena or court order

There are several situations in which NAU will contact parents regarding a student’s behavior. Please see the question above (“When are parents notified about our students’ misconduct?”) for more information.

NAU views parents as important partners in the education of students, and we are more than happy to speak with you regarding your student’s conduct history.  Before doing so, however, we will have to verify that your student has signed the FERPA waiver

Why does my student have to sign a FERPA waiver? I pay all their expenses at NAU.

For students over the age of eighteen, their student conduct (and academic) record ultimately belongs to the student, regardless of who may be paying for a student’s education. The University adheres to the strict policies regarding the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), which governs the rights of students and institutional responsibilities with respect to student records.  

You may find a copy of NAU’s FERPA waiver on our website. We also encourage you to speak with your student concerning the incident before reaching out to our office.

How can I learn how my student is doing?
The best approach is to ask your student directly. Communicating with young adults isn't always easy. Sometimes they are not as forthcoming as we would like. The college years, however, are a period of remarkable growth and maturation. The ability and willingness of students to share information and insights usually grows, especially as they acquire the confidence that comes with assuming greater responsibility for their own lives.
What does the conduct process look like?
The conduct process begins with a report of an incident in the residence halls or apartments that may have violated our Standards of Residence and/or the Student Code of Conduct. Once the report has been received, generally all of the students that may have been involved in the incident will receive letters via email, asking them to come to a meeting to discuss the situation and the policies that may have been violated.

In incidents of a less severe nature, however, a conversation may occur followed by an email, with no further action taken instead of a more formal meeting. After all the information available has been collected, the staff will review the charges, determine actual violations, and assign sanctions as necessary. The staff will be in frequent contact with the student and can answer any questions a student may have.
What is a conduct hearing? Can I attend?

When a student is involved in an incident that allegedly violates NAU policy, they may be brought into a conduct hearing to discuss the events that occurred. The student will meet with a Housing and Residence Life staff member who will share what information they have about the incident, as well as the policies that were potentially violated. The student is given the opportunity to discuss, refute, or add to the report in a conversational manner. Our hearings are designed to give students the opportunity to reflect on their choices and behavior, and to discuss alternative behaviors, if necessary. 

If your student requests your presence at a conduct hearing, you may attend that meeting.  Students have the right to bring an advisor (friend, parent, student, etc.) to a hearing. However, advisors may only participate in the hearing by privately advising the student and providing personal support. Advisors may not, for example, answer questions or speak for the student.

We recognize that some parents may want to intervene on behalf of their student. Often, the best role you can provide—and the most growth-enabling for your child—is to support them while they work with university processes to resolve the matter. Of course, we are happy to address questions or concerns you may have, but we encourage you to allow your student to take the lead in working with our office.  By taking a principal role in representing themselves in the conduct process, your student may learn to take responsibility for their actions while developing self-confidence and self-reliance that will serve your student well in life beyond NAU.

What does a “preponderance of evidence” mean?
Preponderance of evidence is the burden of proof that NAU uses to make a decision of responsibility in a conduct case. It means that, if a staff member determines it is more likely than not that a student violated the Standards of Residence or the Student Code of Conduct, the staff member will find the student responsible for the violation and possibly issue sanctions. The “preponderance of evidence” standard is very common at colleges and universities across the country and is not unique to NAU.  
My student says they were not even in the room when the incident occurred. Why are they being called in?
In our efforts to get the “big picture” of an incident, there are times when we bring in students who do not feel they should be included in the conduct process. These students may not have been present at the time, or were there but not involved in what occurred. This process of bringing everyone in ensures that we get as much information as we can, and also educates students about being aware of their surroundings and taking responsibility for what happens in their personal space. The fact that your student was invited to a conduct hearing does not necessarily mean that they violated a University policy or that they will be asked to do anything after the meeting.
What happens if my student is found responsible for this policy violation?
If a student is found to have violated NAU’s Standards of Residence or Code of Conduct, they will receive a letter detailing the specific standards that were violated, as well as sanctions that are being assigned as a result of the violation(s). These sanctions typically range from a letter of warning for the mildest incident, to University probation or eviction. We encourage them to contact the hearing officer they met with if they have questions.
What is a student conduct sanction?

The Housing and Residence Life conduct process is educational in nature. Its primary purpose is to help students learn from choices they make and to become a positive contributor to their residential community. Consequences, or sanctions, are assigned when a student is found responsible for violating the Standards of Residence and/or the Student Code of Conduct. Sanctions are intended to help students learn from their mistakes.

Sanctions will be based on your student's involvement in the incident, their previous student conduct record, the severity of the incident, and the effect the incident had on the community. Examples of possible sanctions can be found on the Student Conduct Sanctions page

Sanctions are not consequences that we take lightly. We recognize that any sanction assigned to a student may have a big impact on them. We also believe that the conduct process and sanctions can play an important role in a student’s education at NAU and their development as an adult.

How does this incident and any sanctions affect my student’s academic or permanent record?
A student’s conduct record is independent from their academic record, unless a finding of responsibility results in suspension or expulsion from the University. If your student is involved in case that could result in suspension or expulsion, your student will meet with staff from the Office of Student Life rather than Housing and Residence Life.

Does my student need a lawyer? Is there someplace they can receive free legal advice?

The conduct process is designed to ensure that the student has an opportunity to share their side of the story and is an educational rather than adversarial system. For this reason, students do not usually require the assistance of an attorney. If a student chooses to retain an attorney and have them present at their conduct hearing, the attorney will not be able to speak on behalf of the student.

If the incident involved both a violation of NAU policy and a violation of law, the student may be held accountable under both the student conduct and legal systems; even in these cases, there is no requirement for an attorney in the student conduct hearing.

The Associated Students of NAU (ASNAU) offers free counsel for students dealing with issues of a legal nature. Students will be able to speak with an attorney who can advise them on most legal questions and offer referrals to outside attorneys. However, ASNAU counsel may not represent a student in a court of law and this assistance does not extend to matters that are being heard by the university.  To schedule an appointment, the student can call (928) 523-4971 or stop by their office in the University Union. Students can also find a great deal of legal information on the ASNAU website

My student has told me they may be evicted from NAU housing. What does this mean?

The Office of Housing and Residence Life may terminate a resident’s housing contract (i.e., evict a student) if they do not abide by the Standards of Residence and the Student Code of Conduct.  Incidents that can result in eviction from NAU housing may include, but are not limited to:

  • A history of recurring behavioral issues involving drugs or alcohol
  • Acts of interpersonal violence, sexual assault/misconduct, fighting
  • Threats to self or others
  • High-level conduct issues, such as arson or theft
  • Suspension or expulsion from NAU

If a student is evicted, they are usually required to move out of their assigned space within 48 hours after the conduct process is complete.  Should they be involved in any other policy violations or be disruptive in any way prior to leaving the building, they may be required to leave immediately. 

Students who are sanctioned to eviction for conduct reasons have the right to appeal this decision. Information about the appeals process is included in the email students receive about their conduct decision; please refer to the appeals section in the Student Rights and Responsibilities page  for more information.

My student received a letter informing them that they have been scheduled for a meeting and could face suspension. What does this mean?

If your student has received this emailed letter, it has been determined that they could be suspended or expelled if found responsible for the policy violations listed in the email. This is typically because of the severity of the alleged conduct or because of your student’s previous conduct record.

We recognize that the possibility of being suspended or expelled is concerning, both for our students and their families. All suspension and expulsion-level cases are handled by the Office of Student Life, and we recommend you contact them directly.