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Explain The Asterisk

How do colleges and universities proceed when a student is suspended or dismissed due to being found responsible for committing sexual or domestic violence or stalking?


The Problem

When a student is convicted of sexual misconduct and dismissed from their college or university, there is little to no indication on their transcript as to why they were dismissed. At some institutions, a small asterisk is placed at the bottom of the transcript indicating that the student had been dismissed. This symbol is used to indicate a dismissal for poor grades as well as the commitment and conviction of sexual misconduct. It then falls upon the college or university viewing this person’s transcript to not only notice the small asterisk, but then to contact this person’s former institution and inquire about their dismissal. This is a rare occurrence.
When a student is convicted of sexual misconduct, many college and universities are mainly concerned about getting this person off their campus, which is understandable and something that needs to happen. However, what happens when the student transfers schools and arrives on a new campus? This person’s new school is most likely not fully aware of the reasoning behind their dismissal.
Even when a student is found responsible through the criminal court system there is no way for institutions to know, as most do not perform background checks and relied on the self-reporting system of the Common App. There was a question that asks something along the lines of "Have you ever been dismissed from a college or university?" which led to a drop down yes or no option where students could easily lie, because, as stated before, most schools don't perform background checks. The Common App no longer asks any questions pertaining to previous dismissals as of 2019.


The mission

  • Explain The Asterisk is legislative campaign that would require colleges and universities to explicitly indicate when a student has been dismissed on the grounds of sexual misconduct, domestic/dating violence, stalking, etc. 

  • Both New York and Virginia have passed legislation on the state level requiring their institutions to note a "red flag" when a student was dismissed on dangerous grounds. 

  • In 2016, Jackie Speier, a congresswoman from California, introduced the Safe Transfer Act. This bill would require all institutions in the United States to Explain the Asterisk​. ​

  • We are working on both federal and state level bills regarding disciplinary notations

  • The mission does not end there, as we continue to work to advocate for policies on all levels to prevent sexual violence on college campuses and to educate students around the issue.

The Petition

In April 2018, we created a petition to call attention to this issue and to gain support across the U.S. This petition has gathered over 50,000 signatures, will you join us?

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"Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not."

Dr. Seuss



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