The College of William & Mary recently implemented a policy requiring students to report any arrests within 72 hours of the incident — even if the arrest occurred off campus or outside Williamsburg. If a student does not submit the online disclosure form within that time frame, the result could be suspension or expulsion.

Cat Boardman, a student at the college, challenges this new requirement in The Virginia Informer:

Over the last three years, I have followed a long tradition on the Informer of criticizing the administration for its assaults on student rights. I wish to be very clear: this change represents the gravest violation of student rights I have yet encountered and its implications for privacy issues on campus are dire.

The Dean of Students Office is framing this issue as part of a larger narrative of campus safety, deliberately lumping public intoxication and other minor crimes in with crimes of a violent nature like physical or sexual assault. Inherent in the justification for arrests disclosure is the trade-off with students’ privacy rights. In effect, the Dean of Students Office argues that it is worth violating students’ privacy rights if that means campus safety can be more proactively ensured.

In the case of arrests for violent crimes, that sacrifice of privacy might well be justified, though I would hasten to add that the institution of such a policy should not be unilateral, but rather occurring after extensive community debate which would hopefully touch on how the administration might use this information to actually make campus safer; however, the idea that the disclosure of arrests for public intoxication would have equal value towards ensuring a safer campus in justifying the violation students’ privacy is absurd.

Dave Gilbert, Associate Dean of Students and Director of Student Conduct, has stated that the College has its own standards of behavior, so the outcomes and punishments associated with a specific court case may not necessarily resolve whether the College’s policies have been violated. Boardman is not buying that justification for all incidents:

As for lesser crimes, the administration needs to understand that it should not try to police its students in their personal lives outside of the College’s community. The College must reconsider this policy immediately if it is to maintain even the facade of respecting student rights.