Journal of College and University Law
Recently, courts have decided that private and public colleges and universities can revoke degrees due to academic dishonesty. A university's authority to revoke degrees is supported by a logical extension of its conferral power, "black letter" contract law, and the precedential authority of Crook v. Baker, Waliga v. Board of Trustees of Kent State University, and Abalkhail v. Claremont University Center.
Although colleges enjoy great discretion in deciding whether to confer degrees, once the college grants a degree, its discretion to revoke that degree is governed by due process guidelines. In Crook, the university involved was public, triggering the applicability of due process procedural safeguards.
The question remains--are private colleges and universities required to provide procedural safeguards to students faced with degree revocation? The receipt of state and federal financial assistance does not constitute state action. Although private universities are not required to afford the complete package of constitutional due process protections, courts expect them to provide minimal procedural protection to ensure fundamental fairness. Clearly, both public and private universities possess the authority to revoke degrees already conferred.
Bernard D. Reams, Jr., Revocation of Academic Degrees by Colleges and Universities, 14 J.C. & U.L. 283 (1987).