New York Wants Sexual Assaults To Appear on Students' Permanent Records

Illustration for article titled New York Wants Sexual Assaults To Appear on Students' Permanent Records

New York state is proposing new legislation that would require college transcripts to note when a student has been found responsible for sexual assault. The measure, which is currently only required in Virginia, would help put a stop to students being able to transfer schools without the new institution knowing about their past offenses.


The Huffington Post’s Tyler Kingkade reports that the proposed law is part of a package of campus sexual assault reform efforts announced earlier this week by Governor Andrew Cuomo and titled “Enough is Enough.” The bill, S5965, which you can read in full here, says that “crimes of violence,” including sexual assault, have to be noted on a transcript:

For crimes of violence, including, but not limited to sexual violence, defined as crimes that meet the reporting requirements pursuant to the federal Clery Act established in 20 U.S.C. 1092(F)(1)(F)(I)(I)-(VIII), institutions shall make a notation on the transcript of students found responsible after a conduct process that they were “suspended after a finding of responsibility for a code of conduct violation” or “expelled after a finding of responsibility for a code of conduct violation.” For the respondent who withdraws from the institution while such conduct charges are pending, and declines to complete the disciplinary process, institutions shall make a notation on transcript of such students that they “withdrew with conduct charges pending.”

Kingkade has previously reported on the practice of students transferring away when faced with sexual assault allegations, sometimes with the active help and encouragement of their university. Under the legislation, a suspension could be removed from the transcript after one year, if the student appeals, but an expulsion would remain forever.

New York has committed $10 million to address campus sexual assault: $4.5 million to rape crisis centers, $4.5 million to the State Police to create a sexual assault victims unit, and $1 million that will go to colleges and universities. They’re also going to require that “first responders” — meaning campus authorities or medical providers — have to notify rape survivors of their right to contact “outside law enforcement,” instead of or in addition to a campus disciplinary process.

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Governor Andrew Cuomo announces the “Enough is Enough” initiative in May 2015 in New York City. Photo via AP Images




Federal courts have adjudicated several cases where students accused of crimes sued their schools for essentially conducting a criminal investigation without the standards of due process. The courts’ rationale for continuing to allow it is that a person is not entitled by law to a college education, and being expelled from school does not ruin ones life to the extent of a successful criminal prosecution. Therefore, a lower standard is acceptable.

Leaving aside that there are already big problems with this rationale, a law like the one in this post makes the argument even weaker. Colleges and universities have no business conducting major criminal investigations and trials. There is a criminal justice system in place. Yes, there are many, many issues with law enforcement. I’m not saying otherwise. But there are also built-in ways in which a person who finds themselves on the wrong side of the system can protect themselves. Systems of complaint, appeals, and required transparency. Things that ad hoc, completely opaque and byzantine system of campus disciplinary hearings do not have and should not be required to have.