“This really happens and social media and smartphones play a role,” says Kimberly C. Lau, an attorney, and Chair of the College Discipline Practice, at the New York City law firm, Warshaw Burstein LLP., who has represented both male and female students in over 100 Title IX cases across the country.
As thousands of students nationwide prepare to start their first semester in college, or return to campus, many are unaware of the dangers lurking in their smartphone apps that could get their scholarships forfeited, or could even get them expelled from school. For example, students who use Instagram risk being found guilty and suspended from school for sending too many “unwanted” Instagram follow requests. Universities now consider this situation to be “stalking” another student.

Through her extensive Title IX experience, Ms. Lau has seen students removed from school for accusations ranging from alleged unwelcome pats on the shoulder to late-night college hookups, where alcohol clouded the memories of all involved.

To start this semester on campus as safely as possibly, here are five tips from Ms. Lau, which will help protect the future of any campus student.

  • Read Your Student Handbook

Know exactly what constitutes a “violation” as documented in the student handbook. Obtain a clear understanding of consent as defined by the school . Students should consider asking the Title IX office for examples of what “stalking” and “consent” mean according to the school’s policy.

  • Avoid Hookup Hazards

Be careful when assuming that you know what the “normal” level of intoxication is for someone whom you have just met, especially when engaging in acts of intimacy. This situation makes it difficult to know whether someone is too drunk to say “yes.” If in doubt, don’t risk your future educational and career opportunities by being found in violation by a university disciplinary board.

  • Get Verbal Consent at Every Stage

Even though some schools define consent to include both actions and words, it’s wise to get verbal consent at each stage of sexual activity — from kissing to disrobing to actual intercourse. A verbal “yes” is safer than relying on body language or non-verbal cues. Men and women also perceive consent differently. Women often wait to be asked for verbal consent while men rely on non-verbal clues.

  • Drink with a Designated Friend

If you are thinking of drinking while partying, have someone in your group serve as a sober, “designated friend” who can step in when you may be too intoxicated to make reasonable choices.

  • Understand Your School’s Conduct Process

Many people are surprised to find out that the school, not the complainant, controls the process and may continue the process even if the complainant wants to drop the charges.  Without fully understanding the disciplinary process, students on either side of the conduct process may also unknowingly waive crucial rights to challenge information or opportunities to fully tell their side.

For more information on how to protect a student’s college future, visit the College Disciplinary Practice at Warshaw Burstein, LLP at http://www.collegedisciplinelaw.com/.

Media Contact:  Jill Cohen – 212-721-4720 or jill@callprinc.com

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