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General Hearing Procedures

Before the Hearing - Decisions You Need to Make

Below are several decisions you will have to make with respect to your hearing:

Do you want to bring a representative and, if so, who will that person be?

Representatives are current members of the NU-Q community (i.e., faculty or staff) who agree to assist you through the hearing process. Representatives can: (a) accompany you to your meeting with the Executive Secretary; (b) help you prepare for the hearing; (c) help you line up your witnesses; (d) assist you with your opening or closing statement or make those statements on your behalf; (e) ask questions of the witnesses; and (f) help you present your case to the panel or even present your case on your behalf.  Remember: representatives are there to assist and advise you; you are ultimately responsible for identifying and securing a representative and for preparing and presenting your case at the hearing.

Alumni, parents, and lawyers (“members of the bar”) are not allowed to serve as representatives. If you know of someone you want to serve in this role, you should ask him/her. If you don’t know anyone to serve as a representative, notify the Executive Secretary as soon as possible; we can identify individuals who may agree to assist you as a representative (but it will be up to you to contact these individuals and make arrangements with them).

You must identify your representative at least 24 hours before the hearing.

Who will come to the hearing as witnesses on your behalf?

Factual witnesses are members of the Northwestern community who have first-hand knowledge of what happened and can tell the hearing panel about the matter at hand. They will not be in the hearing room the entire time but will be called one-by-one to the hearing room. You, your representative, the complainant, the complainant’s representative and members of the hearing panel will all have the opportunity to question each witness. 

In addition, students may call character witnesses.  Character witnesses do not have first-hand knowledge of the incident at hand but have knowledge of a person’s good qualities, general conduct, or reputation. Statements from character witnesses will only be considered in determining what sanctions to impose after the panel determines that a violation occurred.

If a witness (either factual or character) cannot attend a hearing, they may submit a written statement, but the statement must be signed by the witness.

The Executive Secretary will ask you to submit a list of your factual and character witnesses in advance of the hearing (minimum 24-hours in advance). Witnesses will be contacted by the Executive Secretary or the Director of Student Affairs, and will be asked to participate in the hearing.  Witnesses have the option to accept to attend, accept and submit a written statement to the Executive Secretary, or to decline participating.

Your list of called witnesses will be shared with the complainant. Likewise, the complainant’s list of called witnesses will be shared with you in advance of the hearing.

What exhibits, documents, or other materials would you like to submit to the hearing panel?

Many times, students have materials that they feel help support or illuminate their positions or clarify facts surrounding an incident.  These can take many different forms, such as witness statements (which must be signed), incident reports, phone records, emails, and photographs / videos.  Like all potential evidence at a hearing, materials should have a direct bearing on the incident and assist the hearing panel make its decision.  Ultimately, the hearing panel has the authority to accept or reject any materials or exhibits offered by either party and to decide how much weight they should be given.

Parties must also identify the exhibits they wish to submit at the hearing to the Executive Secretary at least 24-hours before the hearing.  The Executive Secretary will then share these lists with all parties.

Do you want the hearing to be closed or open?

The Executive Secretary will ask you whether you want a closed or an open hearing. A closed hearing means that only the hearing panel, the complainant and his/her representative, you and your representative, witnesses (one at a time), the Executive Secretary and other essential staff, will be allowed in the hearing room. This means that very few people will know about the matter. It remains more private. All participants (panel members, parties, witnesses, etc.) are required to maintain the confidentiality and privacy of the proceedings. 

An open hearing means that as many people from the Northwestern University community can come to the hearing as the room will comfortably accommodate. In an open hearing, no one can restrict who comes. Therefore, it is possible that a reporter from the Daily Q or Daily Northwestern (or other media) may be present. The matter becomes more public. In some situations where other students’ privacy is an issue, an open hearing may not be a possibility.  Sometimes, because of the privacy rights of other students involved in a matter, an open hearing will not be allowed, and this will be determined by the hearing panel. 

When will the hearing be scheduled? Is there a good reason to request a delay of the hearing?

The Executive Secretary will schedule the hearing as soon as possible after the complaint has been filed and/or the conciliation meeting if agreement is not reached in conciliation. If there is a good reason why you think the hearing should be delayed, you will need to explain that to the Executive Secretary in writing.

Do you need accommodations to participate fully in the hearing process?

Any student with a documented disability requesting accommodations to ensure their full and equal participation in any UHAS proceeding is required to speak directly with Patti Collins at Such contacts should happen as soon as far in advance as possible of any proceeding to ensure timely resolution of UHAS matters. Patti Collins will work with the Executive Secretary to implement reasonable accommodations. 

Students with disabilities are still required to comply with the Student Code of Conduct and all other University rules, regulations and policies. 

Do you want a separate sanctioning phase of the hearing?

This will be discussed in more detail in the section about hearing procedures.

At the Hearing - General Procedures

A hearing has two broad goals: first, did any violations of University rules occur; and second (if a violation did occur), what sanctions are appropriate to address the violation(s). 

Here is a general outline of a hearing:

1. Convening of the Hearing

The Chair of the hearing panel will begin the hearing through introductions, a review of certain procedures, and a review of the rights and duties of the participants.  Your rights include: (a) the right to a representative; (b) the right not to testify against yourself; (c) the right to present witnesses and exhibits; (d) the right to question all witnesses; (e) the right to confidentiality and privacy (except in open hearings); and (f) the right to appeal the decision.  Your responsibilities include: (a) the obligation to be truthful; (b) the obligation to keep the hearing and all its contents confidential and private; and (c) the obligation not to retaliate against anyone involved in the process (witnesses, hearing panel members, administrators, etc.).  The charges from the Complaint will also be read.

2. Opening Statements

The complainant and you — or your representative — will each be given 5 minutes to make an opening statement.  The complainant (usually the University) goes first; the student-respondent goes second.

3. Complainant’s Case, Including Witnesses and Exhibits

The complainant (generally the University) will be given approximately 1 hour to present his/her/its case. This includes bringing witnesses and introducing and discussing exhibits. You and/or your representative and the hearing panel will have the opportunity to question the witnesses. Witnesses come to the hearing room one at a time and are asked to leave after their remarks.

4. Your Case, Including Witnesses and Exhibits

Like the complainant, you will be given approximately 1 hour to present your case. This includes bringing witnesses. The complainant and his/her representative and the hearing panel will have the opportunity to question the witnesses. Again, witnesses come to the hearing room one at a time and are asked to leave after their remarks.

5. Reflection on Learning

Just before the closing statements, the hearing panel will provide you an opportunity to reflect on what you have learned about yourself, others, and the effect of your behavior on others. You might want to give this some thought before the hearing. (This step may also occur during the sanctioning hearing, if that option is chosen.)

6. Closing Statements

The complainant and you—or your representative—will each be given 5 minutes to make a closing statement. When the closing statements are concluded, the complainant and his/her representative, you and your representative will be asked to leave the room.  Again, the complainant (University) goes first; you will go second.

7. Hearing Panel Deliberations

The hearing panel will meet in a closed session to determine whether there is sufficient evidence that you did or did not violate the University policies outlined in the original complaint.  Decisions required the agreement of at least five of the panel members.

8. Sanctioning Phase

The UHAS procedures allow students to request a separate sanctioning phase of a hearing.  Although a separate sanctioning hearing is not necessary or required, a sanctioning hearing is helpful if you know you have a disciplinary history at Northwestern or if you feel it is particularly important to discuss sanctioning.

If you request a sanctioning hearing, the panel will give both parties the opportunity to present or address the following information: (a) your prior disciplinary history (if any); (b) specific sanctioning recommendations; (c) character witnesses; (d) mitigating or aggravating factors associated with the violations; and (e) any other circumstances the parties want the panel to consider in the sanctioning phase of the hearing.  Each party will have no more than 10-15 minutes to present information in a sanctioning hearing.

If a separate sanctioning hearing is not requested, then parties are asked to address these topics in their closing statements.

Possible sanctions include the following.

  • Suspension or Exclusion from the University
  • Disciplinary or Housing Probation
  • Removal or Relocation of University Housing
  • Fines or Restitution for Damages
  • Community or University Service
  • Educational programs, sanctions, or independent studies
  • Referrals to CAPS, alcohol/drug assessments, anger management, etc.

9. Determination Letter

Once the panel reaches its decision, the Executive Secretary will prepare a letter summarizing the findings.  Generally this is done within one or two business days, but occasionally it may take longer.

10. Appeals & Requests for Rehearings

If you are found in violation of a university policy, UHAS procedures allow students to file an appeal with the Dean & CEO of Northwestern University in Qatar within 5 business days of the hearing via email based on certain specific criteria.

Appeals must be based on the following grounds: (a) newly discovered evidence that could not have been discovered and presented at the initial hearing through the exercise of reasonable diligence; (b) procedural errors; (c) errors in how university rules or policies were interpreted; or (d) findings as to violations or sanctions that were “manifestly contrary to the record” (meaning their decision was “obviously unreasonable and unsupported by the great weight of information” presented at the hearing). 

Appeals requests are conducted in writing. No witnesses are called and no new information is presented (although alleged “newly discovered evidence” will be analyzed). 

As for outcomes, an appeal can affirm the original decision, reduce the sanction, dismiss a case or charge, or order a rehearing in a case.  Appeals can also take certain other actions if they find that an appeal was frivolous, malicious, or retaliatory or if the outcome of the hearing constituted a gross miscarriage of justice.

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