- University of Missouri associate law professor Ben Trachtenburg writes in The Washington Post about the need for colleges and universities to analyze their student judicial affairs records to look for potential racial bias in sanctioning. Citing recent data on implicit racial bias in K-12 disciplinary trends, Trachtenburg said that college campuses may not be immune from similar views of minority students and perceived behavioral issues.
- Trachtenburg cited other research which shows that professors in online classes were much more likely to respond to students with names closely resembling those of white students than questions posed by students with names associated with minorities.
- He raised the University of Virginia as an example of an institution that tracks potential disparities in student adjudications, which revealed that black and international students in its honors college were disparately accused of academic dishonesty. These kinds of trends have prompted lawsuits at Amherst College and the University of Pennsylvania in recent years.
There are many reasons why an analysis of disciplinary trends on college campuses would be necessary, but two of the reasons that are most important orbit hot topics in higher education today: racial bias and sexual assault and harassment.
Many campuses struggle with how to deal with both of these subjects. Recent student survey data suggests that students are willing to sacrifice some elements of free speech in order to promote interpersonal tolerance, and campuses are still working to find ways to adjudicate sexual harassment and assault violations while navigating potential lawsuits from the accused.
An in-depth analysis would provide the specific areas of focus for which students are most likely to be sanctioned for specific kinds of campus student conduct violations. This would potentially enable student affairs offices to recalibrate messaging and training for students on which areas they should be most sensitive about in on-campus and off-campus settings, and would give students greater insight about the ramifications of code violations, or false or exaggerated reporting of the same.