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5 Rights Every College Student Should Know They Have

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This article was updated on Feb 1st, 2024

As you make the transition from high school to college, you are also transitioning into becoming an independent young adult. Many college students are living on their own for the first time during college.

There are many responsibilities that come with this transition. One of the most important responsibilities you have as a young adult is educating yourself about your rights on a college campus.

Many students are not told or do not fully understand the extent of their rights. These are 5 rights every college student should know they have before stepping onto their college campus.

Title IX: 

The first time you learn about Title IX it is usually in context to sexual harassment and sexual assault. At freshman-year orientation, colleges hold some form of seminar or assembly to educate their students on campus sexual assault and rape culture.

Although this is an extremely important aspect of the Title IX Act, which everyone should be educated on, it is only a single part of the many rights given to college students under this Act.

The Title IX Act states: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”

This applies to a wide range of areas, and it is important that as a college student you know all the rights given to you under this Act.

  1. Transgender rights under Title IX

The Title IX Act is generally thought of in the context of women’s equality on campus, but it is also extremely relevant to the transgender and gender fluid community.

Under the Title IX Act, colleges may not discriminate against any sex. Students must be treated according to the gender in which they identify, which is not always the sex they were born with; this applies to housing, restrooms, and locker rooms on campus.

Transgender students must be permitted to use these facilities in accordance with the gender in which they chose to identify. Transgender students also may not be discriminated against or harassed for their gender by the institution or other students.

As a transgender student, you should be provided with the same rights, respect, and opportunities as every other student on campus.

  1. Rights in athletics under Title IX 

Since college athletics fall under the category of educational programs and extracurricular activity, they must also abide by Title IX guidelines.

This means that there must be equal opportunity for participation in an athletic team regardless of gender. Men and Women’s athletics must have equal access to coaching, equipment, funds, and scholarship opportunities.

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  1. Areas of application

There is a wide range of rights that are covered by the Title IX Act, including recruitment, admissions, housing, fields of study, and more. But the main takeaway is that no college may discriminate on the biases of sex within any on-campus activity or extracurricular [or “regulation”].

If you feel as though you are not receiving the same treatment or opportunity as other students because of your sex, it is likely that the college is violating the rights given to you under the Title IX Act. 

First Amendment Rights:

As a college student, it is extremely important to understand your First Amendment Rights, as a large proponent to college education is having open discussions and debates. The First Amendment covers rights related to freedom of speech, religion, press, assembly, and the redress of grievances.

FIRE’s Guide to Free Speech on Campus is a great resource if you want to dive more in-depth on the topic. These are rights covered by the First Amendment that pertain to the classroom setting: 

  1. Prohibition of Viewpoint discrimination

As stated in the First Amendment, a professor may not discriminate against a student for having a different opinion or stance on a topic. Assignments must be graded on the quality of the work and not on the stance that the student has taken.

If a professor grades your work differently, simply because you have a different viewpoint or belief, they would be violating your First Amendment Rights. They also may not prevent you from speaking your opinion or participating in class discussions because of your stance.

However, it is important to know that viewpoint discrimination is different than content discrimination. If what you are saying is not relevant to the topic at hand, a professor may disregard your comment to keep the discussion relevant to the lecture.

Denying funding to a group because of their viewpoint also violates the prohibition on viewpoint discrimination. This is just another way of silencing a student for not having the same opinion as the professor.

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There are some specific forms of speech that a professor has the right to silence; these forms of speech include “Fighting Words”, “Obscenity”, and “Indecent Speech.” If you feel like you are having your First Amendment Rights violated by your professor or anyone at the college, these are some important steps you could take:

  • Look at the college’s or university’s promotional materials, brochures, and websites.
  • Collect and save any specific conversations, exchanges, or materials with university officials regarding free speech and expression that can prove that you were being discriminated against.
  • Publicize the university’s oppressive actions in productive and constructive ways in order to stop the progression of discrimination.
  1. Privacy Rights

College students are entitled to some amount of privacy when it comes to housing, academic records, and health information. When it comes to on-campus living, your rights are slightly more limited.

Colleges do have the right to conduct room searches with or without cause. Every college is different when it comes to guidelines for on-campus living, so make sure you read your college’s handbook of rules and regulations.

Students also have the right to privacy when it comes to their academic records and medical information. The college may not share this information without the student’s permission. Make sure your privacy is being protected by your institution. 

Navigating a college campus and transitioning into becoming an independent adult is not always an easy thing to do. It is important to know what rights you do and do not have as a college student to help you better make this transition.

These are just a few of the many rights you have as a student on a college campus. However, not every college is the same when it comes to specific rights, so make sure you closely read your college’s student handbook so that you are educated on all of the rights you have on your campus.

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