If you ever attended a college or university, you may have heard of student conduct or an office at the college that regulates conduct and conflict resolution. These organizations became a part of the school to mainly deal with arguments in housing, cheating in the classroom and to help reduce underage binge drinking. Over time student conduct offices have morphed into a significant oversight from criminal charges to mental health regulatory affairs. This is where I think there should be a line drawn for such organizations like campus student conduct.
The first problem is Title IX. Title IX is a comprehensive federal law that prohibits discrimination by sex in any federally funded education program or activity. But like any good law, there is flaws and room for critical error. Title IX allows any student to bypass law enforcement authorities to bring a claim of sexual assault to student conduct. This means that law enforcement is completely out of the picture with no investigation either in process and evidence is not professionally captured or preserved. Instead the Respondent or accused must appear before a student conduct committee, usually run by students, with no lawyers present to defend his/her accusations. This is like somewhat like calling you boss at work to claim that you were sexually assaulted at your desk. The boss will immediately inform the police, human resources, corporate security and other agencies to secure a potential crime scene. Most disturbing about campus student conduct boards is that due process is completely thrown out the window. If the board “believes” the story of the accuser then that’s all it takes to expel a student. That’s right folks, you will have an expelled labeled “sex offender” on campus that is not a sex offender because police were never called or informed about the situation. Another disturbing fact is that if the accuser loses his/her case before student conduct, then they under Title IX be charged with filing a false report. There is a small clause in the title that prohibits this because there no police report was filed. It is an internal matter controlled by inexperienced faculty with no training in law or law certified to practice in a capacity of an administrative judge.
All I can think about is the Rolling Stone article about Virginia Tech or the Duke Lacross scandal. In each of these scenarios, lives were destroyed because student conduct initially took the lead and police were either not called, or police botched the crime scene because the campus stood in the way of a proper criminal investigation. While Title IX is essential to the protections of fairness, it lacks balance when it comes to sexual violence claims. Instead, universities should immediately engage professional law enforcement authorities at the first indication of sexual assault. A band of self-appointed academics that label themselves as the morality police of student conduct should not be engaged in any serious criminal allegations.
I have no problems with student conduct providing life examples of proper social conduct on campus. But student conduct should not be involved in slapping wrists over illegal drug activity on campus while people not enrolled or living on campus experience the heavy hand of the law and police. It is nothing more than a double standard of protections and provides a level of inequality and prejudice. Student conduct should only be involved in conflict negotiations, academic cheating, and concern notifications. Student conduct should not be in the business of determining what is criminal versus its ability to pick and choose what it deems it can handle. This opens up universities to massive liabilities and loses the credibility of overall safety and the spirit of the effective due process. A campus cannot be judge, jury, and executioner. But as long as student conduct remains, then that is what it will continue to be.