When Sierra Smith told Baylor University she’d been sexually assaulted by a classmate during a 2016 spring break trip to South Padre Island, she hoped administrators would move to protect her and other students.
It took several months of investigation, but the university eventually did, suspending the male student for three semesters for violating Baylor’s sexual violence and harassment policies.
But by then, the punishment had little effect. The student Smith reported had already transferred to a new school — without a blemish on his record.
“It bothers me that there could be another girl out there who could go through this, too,” she said.
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Baylor isn’t the only school that doesn’t list disciplinary violations on its students’ transcripts. Many other universities in Texas and across the nation, including the University of North Texas, have similar policies.
Schools say they are following a practice that has been standard in higher education for years. They argue that disciplinary proceedings aren’t criminal cases — and that a transcript should be viewed as an academic file, not a disciplinary record.
Several other Texas schools, including the University of Houston, Texas State University and Texas A&M University, include notations when the investigation is final, but don’t note when a case is pending. They say they are are trying not to punish students before they have even been found responsible for wrongdoing.
But some college administrators and victims’ rights advocates worry that failing to provide notice on a transcript — either of a final or pending investigation — creates an escape hatch for students transferring to avoid punishment. A student could end up at a new school, they say, without that university ever knowing the student’s past.
“That happens routinely,” said Wanda Mercer, associate vice chancellor of student affairs at the University of Texas System and an…