Free Speech Due Process

What do you research when choosing a college or making that list of colleges to
which you will apply? Do you look at the size, the location, the sports teams,
the food, the dorms, the majors, or the reputation? Do you consider the cost,
the amount of scholarship opportunities, or the ease of application? What about
free-speech rights and due-process rights offered students?

On some campuses students are being forced to go through bias-reporting
procedures, hearings and discipline because of things they say or write. Given the
requirements for trigger warnings and safe spaces, it is possible a point of view
not popular with many students could be considered a threat, the student accused
and processed through disciplinary action.

Students accused of infractions such as sexual assaults or honor code violations
are considered guilty until overwhelming proof of innocence is provided. Remember
the lacrosse players at Duke? These students were considered guilty, were suspended
from Duke, and the lacrosse team as a whole was disciplined, even those not facing
the court room. Ten months later, the judge dismissed all charges as unfounded.
Duke invited the underclassmen to return and complete their education but what
social cloud would follow these young men to college? Imagine the trust destroyed.

FIRE.org rates each college’s policies on these issues as red-light, yellow-light,
or green –light. Campusreform.org and thecollegefix.com report abuses on specific
college campuses. As you research how your favorite colleges value free-speech and
due-process rights, read what the college writes about themselves. Is their diversity
limited to race, gender, and sexual orientation or does it also include diversity of speech
and respectful discussion of diverse ideas?

Finally if you find your student facing disciplinary action, do not allow the student
to go through the process without legal representation. Your child may admit things
that should not be admitted or might not realize the accusation is being adjudicated
at that hearing. Tell your child to call you immediately at the first sign of an infraction
or accusation. Then hire an experienced lawyer. Otherwise you could lose not just the
cost of college up to that point, but you could lose your child’s sanity.

Susan Teerlink is the accountability and admissions coach for College Funding Advisors, LLC,
located in Harrisonburg, VA. She was also a co-author on the book Secrets Of How To Avoid
Overpaying For College  and is involved with GRASP, the Great Aspirations Scholarship
Program, a non-profit based in Richmond, Virginia.  You can read her other articles at

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