Title IX & Student Conduct Code Blog

Duffy Law

Behavioral Contracts & Responding to Campus Bans

If you are a college student returning to campus for the fall semester, or if you are a parent who has a child returning to campus, it is critical to learn more about behavioral contracts in the college and university setting. Generally speaking, many higher education institutions are relying on behavioral contracts to stop the spread of COVID-19, but these behavioral contracts could result in disciplinary measures or other actions for students who are accused of violating them. If a college or university uses behavioral contracts, how can they enforce them? And are there particular kinds of defenses or reconsideration options if a student is banned from campus?

Ultimately, if you have questions or concerns about behavioral contracts on college campuses and need assistance with a reconsideration or defense, you should seek advice from a national college code of conduct attorney who has experience handling cases concerning behavioral matters at colleges and universities across the country.

What is a Behavioral Contract?

College and university campuses across the country are attempting to develop ways of preventing the spread of the coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, on college campuses. As an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education explains, a number of institutions have already had outbreaks of COVID-19 or, at least, a spike in cases after bringing students back to campus. In large part, the rise in case rates has been attributed to “off-campus parties and fraternity houses,” and other off-campus activities. Even when students remain on campus, many have no followed social distancing guidelines, and have had larger gatherings in dorm rooms or other on-campus housing. As an article in The New York Times points out, the “task of regulating the behavior of an age group known for its risk-taking behavior” is incredibly complicated.

What have some colleges and universities decided to do? Many have determined that all education will be remote for the fall semester (and some schools have already announced that the entire 2020-21 academic year will be remote). Others, however, are committed to bringing students back to campus physically for an on-campus experience. Many of these institutions are implementing behavior codes or behavior contracts for students who want or plan to return to campus in-person. These behavioral codes or contracts vary from institution to institution, but nearly all of them require masks to be worn anytime a student is outside his or her dorm room unless they are showering or brushing their teeth, or walking outside alone. Many of them “ban partying or socializing outside ‘social pods’—the small groups of students that some colleges are assigning students to, usually based on their dorms.

Why Are Many Colleges and Universities Relying on Behavioral Contracts?

The aim of these contracts or codes largely is to regulate student behavior both on-campus and off-campus. They are designed to prevent students who are enrolled in colleges and universities from engaging in behaviors on-campus or off-campus that could result in the spread of COVID-19. Some behavioral codes and contracts are even designed, as The New York Times article intimates, to prevent students from engaging in intimate sexual acts with other people on campus.

Yet can colleges and universities really enforce these codes and contracts?

Are There Defenses or Options for Reconsideration If a Student Is Banned from Campus for Violating a Behavioral Contract?

Private colleges and universities have a greater ability to enforce behavioral contracts as explained in the article in The Chronicle of Higher Education. For example, at the University of Pennsylvania, any student who has signed a behavioral contract and violates any of the terms will go before a review panel of faculty and staff members. Depending upon the specific circumstances of the violation, the student can be “temporarily banned from campus,” and in some cases may be “referred to the student-conduct office for further discipline.” If a student is referred to the college or university’s conduct office or procedures, any options for reconsideration or defenses—typically outlined in the student Code of Conduct or handbook, will be relevant. Otherwise, a student’s temporary ban from campus may be difficult to dispute effectively.

Students at public universities, however, are entitled to additional due process when  accused of violating college rules, and public universities may have more difficulty outlining what a student can and cannot do, particularly off-campus. As a university spokesperson from UC-Berkeley explains, “the university has very limited authority to discipline students for off-campus behavior.” And if a student is already living off-campus while taking classes remotely, a temporary campus ban would not have much effect.

Seek Advice from a National University Code of Conduct Lawyer

At Duffy Law, LLC, we are highly experienced national code of conduct lawyers who regularly represent students in college and university code of conduct cases. We can speak with you about behavioral contracts and violation issues resulting in disciplinary measures or campus bans. Contact Duffy Law, LLC for assistance today.

Felice Duffy

Felice Duffy

Attorney At Duffy Law

Attorney Felice Duffy served as an Assistant United States Attorney for ten years after beginning her legal career at two prestigious firms (one in CT and one in NY) and then clerking for two federal judges. A life-long Title IX advocate, she brought a legal action under the then-new Title IX statute against UCONN while an undergraduate to compel the creation of its women’s varsity soccer program. She went on to become a first-team Division I All-American, was selected to be on the first U.S. National Women’s Team, and spent 10 years as Head Coach of the Yale women's soccer team. Attorney Duffy has Ph.D. in Education/Sports Psychology and has spoken to, and conducted trainings for, over 50 schools and organizations on a wide range of topics involving athletics, the law, and social justice. You can reach Felice at (203) 946-2000.
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