AACRAO workgroup develops recommendations for disciplinary notations on transcripts

Outside of the registrar’s office, people may think that the question of what goes on an academic transcript is, well, elementary. But AACRAOans know  that at times, decisions about what to include in a student’s official record can be complicated and political.  What to post may even force considerations of thorny issues of social justice, as well as personal and professional responsibility.

That’s the case regarding the debate around whether and how to include disciplinary notations on a student’s official transcript.

“There’s more awareness and accountability on campuses about creating a safe learning environment,” said Kristi Wold-McCormick, Registrar at the University of Colorado Boulder. “We need to make sure we’re not passing problem students on to other campuses, but how do we do that?”

AACRAO’s shift to “Optional”

In 2013, the Association for Student Conduct Administration brought together a task force to address this topic and invited AACRAO to participate in that dialogue. Brad Myers, University Registrar at The Ohio State University and then-AACRAO-president-elect, worked as a liaison to that group.

“They came up with strong recommendations and a set of guidelines saying that disciplinary information should appear on the transcript,” Myers said.

Growing awareness of these issues led AACRAO to change its stance on whether to disclose disciplinary action from "Not recommended" to "Optional for each institution to decide" in the updated edition of the AACRAO 2016 Academic Record and Transcript Guide, released last December.

Myers noted that “when this discussion bubbled up at the national level, we realized there was less consensus around how to handle it, and the update to the 2016 Guide reflects that.  It’s an area where there’s still a lot of discussion.”

A hot topic

In order to spread word of the update and how campuses were responding, Wold-McCormick brought together a diverse panel -- including voices from public, private, two- and four-year institutions; and admissions, registrar, enrollment management  and student life professions -- for discussion at the 2016 AACRAO Annual Meeting in Phoenix.

“We wanted people to know about the change, because some registrars were using the Guide as justification for not including the notation -- noting that their professional association recommended against it,” Wold-McCormick said. “We wanted them to be armed with more updated and current knowledge, and to join the conversation and take it back to their campus.”

Over 100 members showed up at that session, demonstrating the significance of the issue -- and spurring AACRAO to form a ten-member workgroup, now meeting monthly, to develop more comprehensive guidelines and recommendations, if a consensus emerges.

“Some states, notably New York and Virginia, have already passed legislation mandating inclusion, and some campuses already have policies in place. But some institutions don’t have mandates or policies, and that’s where we can help,” Wold-McCormick said. “Schools that don’t have the resources to sort this out on their own will be looking to AACRAO for guidance.”

Social justice, fairness, and accountability questions

“This question has arisen particularly around discussions about sexual violence,” Myers said. “That’s one of the real drivers--that people are moving from campus to campus with a past history of any kind of violence, and especially sexual violence. What is our professional responsibility communicating with other institutions about someone with a past history like that?”

The workgroup is developing guidelines about the elements campuses should consider when deciding whether and how to include disciplinary notations, such as:

  • What, exactly should be notated? Violent behavioral misconduct only? What about academic misconduct?
  • How should it be noted? How long should the notation appear?
  • Is there an  appeals process?
  • Are there other legitimate avenues, besides the academic transcript, to pass along this information?
  • How will your campus consider such a notation on an application? How will it be handled on the admissions side?
  • If disclosure is potentially mandated at a federal level, what should AACRAO’s input be?

Workgroup at SEM

Wold-McCormick and Myers will hold the session “Disciplinary Notations and the Academic Transcript” at the 2016 AACRAO SEM Conference to further discuss and explore these issues.

“We’ll be discussing our work so far and getting feedback from members,” Wold-McCormick said. “Our goal is to have draft guidelines to share at the 2017 Annual Meeting in Minneapolis, and final recommendations in the months after that.”

Join Wold-McCormick, Myers, and other colleagues in San Antonio Hill Country for the AACRAO SEM Conference, November 6-9, 2016.