Questions to Ask

The Nine Questions Every Parent Should Ask Before Sending their Child to College

Ask your guidance counselor, your admissions officer, alumni, and other parents.
Post the questions on the discussion board devoted to your school or in its social media stream.

— Questions To Ask —

1.  Does the school have written procedures for handling complaints of sexual misconduct? Is a copy available?

Why: although most schools have a student handbook, some lack written procedures for handling complaints.

2. Has the school ever been sued by or settled with a student accused of sexual misconduct. If yes, how can we learn more?

  • — Yes
  • — No
  • — Will Not Say

Why: suits or settlements may be a sign of problems with the school’s prior handling of sexual misconduct complaints.

3. What is the standard of proof used in disciplinary procedures?

  • — Preponderance of evidence
  • — Clear and convincing evidence
  • — Beyond a reasonable doubt

Why: the preponderance of evidence standard allows administrators to find against respondents even if the evidence is not convincing. Schools should rely on clear and convincing evidence.

4. What percentage of all findings about sexual misconduct had findings of responsibility?

Why: at many schools, respondents are presumed guilty and have little chance for a fair hearing.

5. Does the school use or is it considering using Callisto, the online registry of accusations?

  • — Yes, we use it
  • — Yes, it is under consideration
  • — No

Why: colleges should not be collaborating with an organization creating a registry of accusations that will stay with students for the rest of their lives.

6. Are students permitted to make public accusations outside the campus disciplinary process?

  • — Never
  • — Yes, but only after the finding
  • — No restrictions

Why: in the age of #metoo, social media campaigns targeting innocent students are a serious problem on many campuses.  Complainants increasingly exert political pressure to get the outcomes they want. Schools should not permit students to make accusations outside of the disciplinary process.

7. In the past, have students done any of the following?

  • — Organized protests or meetings targeting an individual, such as a respondent to a complaint
  • — Organized to bar a respondent from aspects of his college experience
  • — Petitioned or protested in order to influence an investigation or finding?

Why: respondents are sometimes stigmatized and denied due protest by thinly disguised political activity targeting them.

8. Does the respondent have the right to be advised and accompanied by legal counsel at all stages of the process?

  • — No
  • — Yes, but counsel may not speak
  • — Yes, and counsel may speak

Why: accusations of sexual misconduct are serious and can be elevated to criminal complaints. School officials are often biased against respondents and are reluctant to look at all the evidence fairly. Schools sometimes deceive students into attending an “educational” meeting when they are in fact engaged in a criminal investigation.

9. Does the school currently have a plan to help the respondent recover if a report turns out to be unfounded or in bad faith (i.e., not just unproven but proven false)? If so, can we see it?

  • — Yes
  • — No

Why: when a complaint turns out to be in bad faith, the damage to the respondent is already done. Schools should have a plan to address the damage.