Records of specific cases of student discipline at any University are strictly confidential and cannot be discussed by the College or published in the newspaper or in 2014 on the Internet. This is because college student disciplinary records (unlike criminal arrest records) are strictly protected educational records under Federal Law, which I discuss in more detail here.
This may be a good thing if you are a College student and you don’t want anyone to find out that you were disciplined by your University. But it really is a double edged sword. Not being able to review, check or compare what type of discipline a student receives for a particular violation could be very dangerous. Why? Because it permits the College or University to hold secret hearings, issue secret punishment for whatever reason or for no justification at all. For example, how would you know if a student received a harsher punishment based upon race or gender? How would you know before you go into a disciplinary hearing what the likely outcome of discipline will be – a small slap on the wrist like community service, or probation or suspension from school? The United States banned secret courts way back in the Declaration of Independence. So, why do we let Colleges dole out secret discipline to their students?
I have been researching over the course of the past year a way to obtain these records or statistics of discipline in light of the Federal privacy laws protecting educational records. I have found a few ways. First, I have been advised by a state university that I could make a public records request for the college’s disciplinary records in a certain field and they would provide them with names redacted. Unfortunately, this is a very costly endeavor because you would have to pay the school’s employee to search the records, redact them and copy them. I could envision this running into the thousand of dollars and time is also a factor. I haven’t yet made such a request – but I will likely in the near future.
I also just recently came across a Department of Education website that provides raw statistics of the number of disciplinary cases (and many other things) generated by University. Its a pretty interesting site that can be searched here. Its worth a look at your College’s statistics.