Top Legal Issues Facing Higher Education

The future of higher education can be decided in the courtroom. New lawsuits — some of which could reach the Supreme Court — are poised to fundamentally reshape higher education by questioning everything from how colleges investigate sexual misconduct to whether they are doing enough to protect students on campus. Together, they tackle topics related to university and sports teams. Athletics budgets have been cut in recent years, coupled with the issue of equal opportunities for all genders, making it difficult to determine exactly what equality looks like from a legal perspective. In this episode of Law, John is joined by American lawyer and academic administrator Michael K. Young and Quinn Emanuel`s Los Angeles office partner, former ambassador Crystal Nix-Hines. Together, they discuss legal issues surrounding higher education. John Wesley Lowery: So contracts are important to everybody. They are particularly important for private institutions. And I think we rightly spend a lot of time on tort issues, both tort and liability for us as individuals and our institutions. These are often the cases that make headlines when you see these massive results for institutions from the start. So I, and for us, more often than not, where we look are cases that involve allegations of negligence or defamation. And then the last area I want to highlight is the courts, and the courts in part of their role is to interpret all the things that I have justified.

And I think, especially with those who don`t have a solid background in legal matters, one of the things you have to understand is who turns their backs on this idea of control, is it a court that has rendered a judgment that really has jurisdiction over you? For higher education professionals, learning to anticipate, identify and minimize legal risks and threats is an essential skill. Jessica Salazar has worked in higher education law for 15 years in a variety of capacities. During this time, she provided legal support as in-house counsel at the University of Colorado, Colorado State University, and the Colorado School of Mines. Jessica also served as Assistant Attorney General in the Colorado Attorney General`s Office in the Education Unit and the Higher Education Unit before being promoted to the first Assistant Attorney General in the Higher Education Unit. In this role, she led a team of lawyers responsible for providing legal advice to Colorado public colleges. Jessica recently joined the Colorado School of Mines as an Assistant General Counsel. Jessica is a first-generation student with a bachelor`s degree in psychology from Colorado State University, a master`s degree in student business in higher education from Colorado State University, and her J.D. from the University of Colorado School of Law. In 2015, deaf advocates filed a federal lawsuit against a prestigious Ivy League university, claiming the institution did not provide captions in its lectures, courses, podcasts, and other online educational materials. Last year, the university reached a settlement and agreed to pay legal fees totaling more than $1.5 million and take steps to improve the accessibility of content published on its official website and related media platforms.

According to the terms and conditions, the top 10 legal issues in higher education are: John Wesley Lowery: The way I`m going to phrase it is actually a way it was formulated for me by Don Garing, which I mentioned, I won an award named after the founding president of ASCA, and I had one of my law classes with Don. And I think we need to start our discussion with questions of institutional control. It is important that you understand the institutional control of your own institution. Are you in a public or private institution? That`s really where the conversation needs to start. And I think every time you read a news article or anything else that describes a court case or a dispute in your institution or any other institution, one of the questions you have to ask yourself is: Is it a public institution or a private institution? Is it a profit-driven gain that changes regulations to some extent? And is it an institution controlled by religious organizations? John Wesley Lowery: And another consideration is due process protection and the same protection under the 14th Amendment. More recently, we`ve also paid attention to how the Supreme Court and states have investigated issues related to the Second Amendment and campus guns. This is a relatively new issue, but we must also take it into account. And in public institutions, there may also be additional provisions in your state`s constitution that are important for you to consider the next piece. And this applies not only to public institutions, but also to federal regulation of higher education. And the most important means by which the federal government regulates higher education is its ability to set the conditions for receiving federal financial aid. And in higher education, this federal financial support means not only direct funding for your institution, but also your institution`s participation in the federal financial aid system. Jessica Salazar: Yes.

I just wanted to add that. I think one of the most difficult aspects of this area is when the law does not mix or there are conflicts in this educational element. We often see it with free speech issues on public campuses, or sometimes this discourse creeps into the realm of bias, but not to the point where it`s something we can take action against under the law. But we always know that there is a huge population on campus that is affected. And how do we also create this educational piece? Knowing that students are injured, it can be difficult. Jessica Salazar: Sure. Yes, thank you for inviting Keith. It`s so nice to be here with everyone. And Ryan, you`ve described some of my favorite offices.

I love working with these people. As far as my background is concerned, I have a master`s degree in advanced administration. And then I went to law school. I have been working exclusively in higher education law for 16 years. And all this with public colleges, which are as different in size as some community college systems and some very large Division One institutions are now.

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