Vermont State University is an academic community in which all students, faculty, administrators, and staff have a shared responsibility for the community’s growth and well-being. Students may exercise their rights, as determined by state and federal law, without interference by the University. As members of the community, students can reasonably expect that the University and its associated offices, programs, employees, and organizations will respect their rights. Through these Rights and Responsibilities, University and System Policies, and the Code of Conduct we seek to consider the balance between personal freedom and respect for the rights and needs of others in the University community.
In return, the University reasonably expects students to know and comply with all University policies, including any modifications to such policies. Vermont State may amend its policies at any time and for any reason without notice. Reasonable efforts will be made to post amended policies promptly on university websites. Students are expected to be familiar with applicable policies and any modifications. Vermont State University is a member of the Vermont State Colleges system and all members of the Vermont State Colleges community must comply with VSCS policies.
1. Freedom of Expression
The University considers freedom of inquiry and discussion to be part of a student’s educational development. The University recognizes the right of its students to engage in discussions, to exchange thoughts and opinions, and to speak, write, or publish on any subject, in accordance with the guarantees of the United States and Vermont Constitutions, as well as applicable state and federal law.
However, there are recognized constitutional limits on freedom of expression, including, but not limited to: defamation (libel and slander), hate crimes, fighting words, true threats, inciting an imminent lawless action, and certain forms of obscenity. Furthermore, material disruption to the University’s operations and educational mission is not acceptable. The University may place reasonable limits on the time, place, and manner in which expressive conduct may occur.
2. Assembly and Protest
Students have the right to assemble in an orderly manner and engage in peaceful protest, demonstration, or picketing that does not disrupt the normal operations of the University, threaten the health or safety of any person, damage or destroy property, interfere with traffic on public streets, or otherwise violate VTSU’s policies and procedures. The University also has a right to redirect where students can peacefully assemble.
3. Religion and Association
Students have the right to observe their religious beliefs and to associate with religious, political, or other organizations of their choice in University facilities, provided they do so in a way that respects the rights of other members of the community and complies with the Code of Conduct and VTSU’s policies and procedures.
4. Privacy, Search, and Seizure
Students have a right to privacy and to be free from unreasonable searches or unlawful arrest on campus property, including in the residence halls on the VTSU campuses. Students also have a responsibility to respect the privacy of other members of the University community in their persons and in their places of residence.
However, University property is not a safe haven for unlawful activity. The University housing contract contains a provision whereby students provide consent to having their rooms searched. If University authorities have reason to suspect a violation of University policy or state or federal law, they have the right to investigate, including entry into rooms in the residence halls, without prior notice or specific consent, and to search for and confiscate evidence of any violation. This includes searching in closed spaces, such as wardrobes, closets, desks, drawers, refrigerators, bags, boxes, knapsacks, etc. Items that may be confiscated include, but are not limited to, alcoholic beverages and empty containers, controlled substances without a prescription, drug paraphernalia, weapons, stolen property, or other items the possession of which violates University policies, state, or federal law.
Entry into a room may be prompted by suspicious odors or disruptive behavior. In addition, room entry may occur for the purposes of responding to housekeeping or maintenance requests or to concerns for the health, welfare, or safety of any occupant or University property.
The University may also conduct periodic health and safety inspections of all residential rooms, for which advance notice will be given. The purpose of these inspections is to maintain a safe living environment for all residents. If violations of any University policies or state or federal laws are discovered during such inspections, those found responsible may be sanctioned.
5. Information Technology
Students have no reasonable expectation of privacy when using the University computer network. The network is the property of the Vermont State Colleges system and any violation of VSCS Policy 502: Computing and Telecommunications Technology Conditions of Use Policy is prohibited. University officials will not access student email accounts or other network locations without probable cause but, if it is brought to the University’s attention that the network is being used in violation of the acceptable use policy or in violation of other University policies, state, or federal law, appropriate action will be taken. The University does not monitor social media postings but if it is brought to the University’s attention that inappropriate or illegal activity is taking place online or as part of a Policy 311/311A process, such activity may be investigated.
As part of our commitment to offer a safe educational environment, the University prohibits cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is defined as bullying that takes place using electronic technology. The term “electronic technology” includes devices and equipment such as mobile phones, computers, and tablets, as well as electronic communications, such as social media sites, text messages, chat rooms, and websites. Cyberbullying is considered a form of harassment and will be treated as such under the Code of Conduct and related University policies.
In situations where an incident of behavior poses an imminent and/or serious threat to the safety and well-being of others, student(s) may, at the discretion of the faculty and/or staff member in charge at the time of the incident, be excluded immediately and temporarily from the class, building, or University activity. A student who has been asked to leave class will be given due process under the code of conduct before any final determination is made regarding academic status.