A disturbingly low percentage of students at Ivy League schools say they are confident that they understand their school's definition of sexual misconduct. The lack of understanding means that lots of students go through their college lives without knowing what they can and can't do. This makes Title IX allegations even more problematic, as students can break their school's code of conduct without knowing it.
Surveys Suggest Most Students Don't Understand What Sexual Misconduct Is
According to a report by the student newspaper at Harvard University, The Harvard Crimson, a recent student survey conducted by the American Association of Universities (AAU) found that fewer than half of students could be counted on to know their school's definition of sexual misconduct.
The survey asked students across the country about their level of confidence in their understanding of their college's definition of sexual misconduct. The survey found that only around 1 in 3 students claimed they were “very knowledgeable” or “extremely knowledgeable” about their campus' definition. The newspaper article focused on how well Ivy League schools scored on the responses, with the following results:
- Yale University: 40 percent
- Harvard University: 34 percent
- Brown University: 29 percent
Numbers are Higher, But Still Very Low
Title IX experts are patting themselves on the back for raising the awareness of many students about their college's definition of sexual misconduct. When the survey was first run by the AAU, colleges were scoring in the teens, with Harvard at 14.5 percent and Brown at 18.4 percent.
While there are gains, though, the current numbers are disturbingly low. When two-thirds of the students on campus don't know the rules, enforcing them with harsh penalties can become unfair.
The Problems With Punishing Ignorance
There is a common saying in criminal law: “Ignorance of the law is no excuse.”
It should, however, be a mitigating factor when handing down a sentence. Someone who breaks the law in the knowledge that there is a law and that it prohibits exactly what they are doing is more culpable than someone who was unaware of what was legal and illegal.
But like a lot of common sense elements that are present in criminal law, this idea is nowhere to be found in Title IX cases. Students who were unaware that their actions would break their school's code of conduct are penalized with the same high sanctions as students who know full well that what they are doing is prohibited.
This is extremely unfair to students who don't know where the line is drawn. Had they known what was allowed and what was not, they could have made a different decision.
Title IX Defense Lawyer Joseph D. Lento
Joseph D. Lento is a Title IX defense lawyer who represents students and faculty members who have been accused of sexual misconduct on campus. With his help, you can raise the defenses you need to protect your future from a potentially damning allegation of misconduct.
Contact him online or call his law office at (888) 535-3686 for the guidance you need.