Campus judiciaries and campus codes of conduct intervene as never before in the private life of students. Therefore, parents should take the time to review how a school’s policies dictate the handling of misconduct cases.

Universities and colleges today operate very differently from how they were run a few decades ago. This is true even if you are an alum of the same school your son or daughter will attend. Most schools have developed their own quasi-judiciaries that sit in judgment over complaints submitted about students’ sexual behavior and other issues, and they impose sanctions against students they find responsible for misbehavior. 

Title IX is a federal law that forbids discrimination in education on the basis of sex. In response to this law, college and university judiciaries now enforce codes to ensure that sexual harassment and sexual misconduct do not create a hostile environment on campus or interfere with any student’s educational experience.

When most people think of sexual harassment, they think of what are called quid-pro-quo situations: where, say, a professor demands sexual favors in return for a good grade. But sexual harassment is much broader. Non-consensual sex of any kind is sanctioned as sexual misconduct. Demeaning or derogatory expressions may also be sanctioned.

Current definitions of sexual misconduct on campus, or what consensual sex means, may strike some parents as unfamiliar and unintuitive. These concepts will almost certainly be unfamiliar to your son or daughter.

There is no uniform policy for implementing Title IX, and each college or university is free to develop its own policies independently. For this reason, it is helpful to review and understand what the school’s policy defines as consent, sexual harassment, intimate partner violence, stalking, and other codes of conduct that come under the umbrella of Title IX.

Make your student aware of campus resources for sexual assault or other forms of misconduct, such as cyberbullying. Also make them aware of the consequences of a disciplinary hearing, including sanctions like suspension or expulsion. There are financial consequences as well, such as forfeited tuition and fees.

Discuss how to assert student rights, how to file a complaint if an incident occurs, as well as the rights your student has if he or she is accused.

Above all, make sure they understand that they should let their parents know of any situation that involves misconduct charges. Whether your student needs to report misconduct or whether they are accused, you will want to know, and you will need to know as soon as possible. Your best source of information about a brewing misconduct case will always be the student.