Skip to main content
  Cornell University

The University Faculty

Office of the Dean

Title One – Article II

Title One. Statement of Principles and Policies
Article I. Fundamental Principles
Article II. Supporting Policies
Article III. Responsible Speech and Expression
Article IV. Amendment of Code
Title Two. Constitutive Provisions on Judicial System
Title Three. Regulations for Maintenance of Educational Environment
Title Four. Regulations for Maintenance of Public Order

A. Relation of University Regulations to Public Law Enforcement

The following basic policies will apply in situations where misconduct violates both a University conduct regulation and the public law:

1.   The following kinds of offenses are adjudicated in the public courts: all felonies, controlled substance offenses, motor vehicle moving violations, assaults upon a peace officer or resisting arrest, refusals by persons to identify themselves, as well as cases in which the complainant wishes to proceed in the courts and cases involving accused persons who are not members of the University community. Still, the Judicial Administrator has discretion to pursue even serious breaches of the law under the Campus Code of Conduct. Timely dealing with alleged misconduct is vital. Nevertheless, the Judicial Administrator should consider whether justice counsels withholding the exercise of University jurisdiction until public officials have disposed of the case by conviction or otherwise.

2.   When the Judicial Administrator determines that misconduct does not constitute a serious breach of the law and that the interests of justice would be served by handling such misconduct within the University jurisdiction, he or she shall:

a.   attempt to exercise jurisdiction in a manner to avoid dual punishment for the same act;

b.   cooperate with public officials so that the exercise of University jurisdiction ordinarily will not be followed by public prosecution of the individual’s misconduct; and

c.   withhold the exercise of University jurisdiction, when prompt public prosecution is anticipated or is under way, until public officials have disposed of the case by conviction or otherwise.

3.   Policies covering conduct that violates both a University conduct regulation and the public law, where feasible, should be based on jurisdictional understandings and procedures jointly developed and periodically reviewed by University and local officials. To the maximum extent feasible, jurisdictional understandings shall be made known to the University community.

B. Other Policies on the University’s Role in Public Law Enforcement

1. When public officials apprehend an individual for a violation of the public law, whether or not the misconduct is also a violation of a University conduct regulation, the University shall neither request nor agree to specially advantageous disposition of an individual’s case by police, prosecutors, or judges solely because of that individual’s status as a member of the University community. Nonetheless, the University stands ready to assist student defendants and to cooperate with public officials to promote equitable application of the law. Should a student charged with law violation request assistance from the University, a representative of the Office of the Dean of Students or Office of the University Ombudsman will meet with such student and may advise him or her and, if requested, may facilitate the student’s retention of suitable counsel. If the law violation does not also constitute a violation of a University conduct regulation, and if the student defendant consents, the University ordinarily will cooperate with the request of appropriate law enforcement officials for programs of probation or rehabilitation. Notwithstanding the above provisions, if the prosecution, the complainant, and the accused all consent, minor breaches of the law may be handled exclusively within the University jurisdiction, except in case of repeat offenses.

2. The University’s cooperation with law enforcement, at the request of public officials, shall be exercised in each particular case with a view to safeguarding the interests of the educational community, especially that community’s confidence in the University.

C. Limitations and Exceptions

1. Overriding Laws

a.  It is understood that the Board of Trustees, under sections 5708 and 5709 of the New York Education Law, is responsible for the protection of the grounds, buildings, and property of Cornell University, including state property under its supervision and control, and for the prevention of crime and the enforcement of law and order. These and other statutory provisions regarding law enforcement led to the creation of the Cornell Police, staffed by peace officers who are deputy sheriffs of the county. Under section 6430 of the New York Education Law, adopted in 1969, the Board must also adopt regulations for the maintenance of public order and provide penalties in addition to those for the same misconduct under the New York Penal Law. State law makes the trustees responsible for the enforcement of such rules and regulations as the Board makes from time to time. These state laws cannot be superseded by actions of the Board, nor may the Board evade its legal responsibilities by delegation.

b.  Under state law, public servants who knowingly refrain from performing a duty imposed upon them by law, or a duty clearly inherent in the nature of their office, may be guilty of a criminal offense. Accordingly, any inflexible internal rule that precludes a peace officer from making an arrest when a crime has occurred would be contrary to law. It is understood, however, that as to minor offenses, law enforcement authorities are permitted a degree of discretion in determining whether to prosecute an offender or to pursue some other appropriate remedy when an alternative disposition would further the interests of justice. Accordingly, the policies enumerated above are understood to constitute policy guidelines to be applied in good faith, and not prohibitions upon the exercise of the law enforcement responsibilities vested in the Board of Trustees and exercised by its authorized peace officers. That is, such peace officers must retain the sole discretion to determine the circumstances in which the public laws must be enforced.

2. Presidential Overrides

a. Public Disorder

The President may alter or suspend the implementation of the policies enumerated above when the President finds that the Regulations for Maintenance of Public Order, constituting Title Four hereof, are insufficient to maintain public order and when there is an imminent and sufficient threat to the University community’s pursuit of its educational goals to warrant such action. Any such action of the President shall be subject to and consistent with the applicable laws of the state and nation.

(1)  Should the President exercise such authority, such action shall be made known to the University community immediately, together with a statement explaining the basis of such action. Such deviation from the implementation of said policies should last no longer than necessary to alleviate any pending threat.

(2)  It is not intended that the President will seek to suspend the general application of said policies except in cases in which the President finds a threatened imminent and general breakdown in the University’s capacity to enforce law and order. It is not intended, therefore, that the President will exercise such authority in cases involving individual misconduct.

b. Grave Misconduct

An individual’s exceptionally grave misconduct, particularly misconduct that threatens or attempts to cause physical or mental harassment, may demonstrate such flagrant disrespect for the basic integrity and rights of others as to call into question continuance of the individual’s membership in the University community, because (1) his or her presence would adversely affect the ability of others to pursue their educational goals or (2) his or her misconduct grossly violated standards of behavior requisite to the maintenance of an educational community. In the event of such conduct, if the conduct is not covered by any specific provision of a University regulation or statement regulating conduct or if the relevant regulation does not provide a sanction adequate to protect the safety of the University community, nothing in this Code shall preclude the President or his or her designee, under the authority of the Board of Trustees as expressed in the University Bylaws, from taking appropriate and lawful action. But such authorization constitutes a procedure parallel to this Code, not an authority to review or revise a decision made under this Code.

Last Updated: October 19, 2017 at 3:48 pm


  1. The term ‘University officials’ is used in Article I to describe those who enforce the code, but the term is not defined. In context here I think it would be ‘the Board of Trustees and … its authorized peace officers.” Perhaps this should be more clearly stated at the outset.

Leave a Comment

Neither your name nor your email address will be published. However, we do encourage you to include your name at the end of your comment.