Gov. Hochul Signs New State Law Prohibiting the Withholding of Transcripts of Students who are Indebted to the Institution

May 5, 2022

By Sandra M. Casey

On May 4, 2022, Gov. Hochul signed into law A.06938B, which amends New York State Education Law by adding a new Article 13-C; §640, which prohibits degree-granting institutions and licensed private career schools from withholding transcripts of students who owe a debt to the institution. It is also unlawful under §640 for institutions to condition the release of a transcript upon the student’s payment of the debt. Finally, institutions may not charge a higher fee or provide less favorable treatment of a transcript request because a student owes a debt to the institution.

Read More >> Gov. Hochul Signs New State Law Prohibiting the Withholding of Transcripts of Students who are Indebted to the Institution

Is a Censure a Form of Censorship Under the First Amendment?

April 4, 2022

By Seth F. Gilbertson

In Houston Community College System v. Wilson, the Supreme Court of the United States recently addressed the scope of impermissible retaliation under the First Amendment in the context of a dispute between the members of the governing board of an institution of higher education. In a unanimous decision authored by Justice Gorsuch, the Court held that verbal censure by one’s fellow board members alone does not give rise to an actionable First Amendment retaliation claim. 

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So, You Want To Be a University?

March 23, 2022

By Joanna L. Silver

Colleges in New York have explored the possibility of becoming a university and often found it difficult to do so given the state’s definition of university set forth in section 50.1(l) of the Commissioner’s Regulations. Since 1969, New York’s Board of Regents has defined a university as “a higher educational institution offering a range of registered undergraduate and graduate curricula in the liberal arts and sciences, degrees in two or more professional fields, and doctoral programs in at least three academic fields.” With this definition in place, New York was the only state in the country requiring the creation and operation of doctoral programs in order for an institution to be a university. This requirement made it difficult for colleges to market themselves to prospective students around the U.S. and abroad in a way that appropriately reflected the breadth and depth of their academic programs. This changed at the Board of Regents’ January 2022 meeting when the Board adopted a new definition of “university.” Effective Jan. 26, 2022, the Commissioner’s Regulations define a university as “a higher educational institution offering a range of registered undergraduate and graduate curricula in the liberal arts and sciences, including graduate programs registered in at least three of the following discipline areas: agriculture, biological sciences, business, education, engineering, fine arts, health professions, humanities, physical sciences and social sciences.” By removing the doctoral programs and degrees in two or more special professional fields from the definition of university, the Board of Regents has created a path for more New York colleges with both undergraduate and graduate programs to become universities if they so choose. 

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The Clery Act: A Refresher

March 22, 2022

By Catherine A. Graziose

While “Clery reporting requirements” and “compliance with the Clery Act” are familiar terms to staff and faculty at colleges and universities, many are unsure exactly what the Clery Act requires and why it matters. Here, in question-and-answer format, is a refresher on the Clery Act’s history, purpose and requirements.

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Dealing with the Student Mental Health Crisis on Campus: Are Involuntary Withdrawal Policies or Mandatory Medical Leaves the Answer?

January 10, 2022

By Christa Richer Cook

There is little debate that the student mental health crisis at colleges and universities is at an all-time high. Just last month, news headlines shared the story of a university’s response to receiving an anonymous letter describing a potential suicide that was to take place on campus before the holiday break. The university immediately published a Community Notice encouraging the student at risk to seek help and advising the campus community to be vigilant in reporting and responding to mental health issues amongst their peers. While this student mental health crisis was not caused by COVID-19, it has been intensified by the pandemic and all of the changes it has caused to ‘normal’ college life. According to a survey of college presidents conducted by the American Council on Education (ACE) in September 2021, student mental health was identified as one of their most pressing concerns. 

Read More >> Dealing with the Student Mental Health Crisis on Campus: Are Involuntary Withdrawal Policies or Mandatory Medical Leaves the Answer?

COVID-19 Student Refund Lawsuits: Has the Tide Turned in New York?

December 21, 2021

By Suzanne M. Messer

The challenges confronted by higher educational institutions in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic have been unprecedented. Faced by legal mandates that limited gatherings and ultimately required campus closings during the spring 2020 semester, colleges and universities transitioned to instruction by remote means almost overnight. While it was not the semester anyone had planned for, institutions carried out their missions to educate and devoted significant efforts and resources to supporting their students.

Read More >> COVID-19 Student Refund Lawsuits: Has the Tide Turned in New York?

Implications for Colleges and Universities of Expanded Legal Protections for LGBTQ+ Students, Faculty and Staff

October 25, 2021

By Barbara A. Lee, Ph.D. and Megan L. Anderson, Lathrop GPM

In its Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia ruling in June 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the prohibition on “sex” discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 encompasses discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and/or gender identity. The Bostock ruling raised, but did not decide, the question of whether or not other federal sex discrimination laws, such as Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and the Fair Housing Act, might also inherently prohibit LGBTQ+ discrimination. While the Bostock ruling applies only to Title VII claims, the Biden administration has announced that federal agencies will apply Bostock’s definition of “sex” to other federal civil rights laws. On the day he was inaugurated, Jan. 20, 2021, President Biden issued an executive order stating that federal sex discrimination laws besides Title VII – including Title IX and the Fair Housing Act – should be interpreted as prohibiting gender identity and sexual orientation discrimination. Subsequently, in June 2021, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) issued guidance that Title IX prohibits LGBTQ+ discrimination. In addition, in February 2021, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced that it would enforce the sex discrimination provisions of the Fair Housing Act as encompassing LGBTQ+ discrimination.

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Assessing the Evolving Impact of Victim Rights Law Center et al v. Cardona on College and University Title IX Procedures

October 5, 2021

By Philip J. Zaccheo

It has been over two months since the federal District Court’s July 28, 2021 decision in Victim Rights Law Center et al v. Cardona vacating the section of the United States Department of Education’s 2020 Title IX Final Rule that precluded postsecondary institutions from considering any statement made by a party or witness who does not submit to cross examination at a live adjudicatory hearing. Since the decision, institutions have sought to assess its impact on their processes for adjudicating allegations of sexual harassment, including the possibility of changes to eliminate this preclusion requirement from their procedures.

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NLRB General Counsel Abruzzo Issues Memo on Employee Status of Players at Academic Institutions

September 29, 2021

By Peter A. Jones and Richard J. Evrard

The General Counsel for the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB or Board), who has authority for setting prosecutorial policy for the NLRB, issued a General Counsel Memorandum (GC Memo) today, reversing the prior Board General Counsel’s position and asserting the employee status of certain student athletes at private educational institutions. Board General Counsel Jennifer Abruzzo conveyed her enforcement position in a memorandum to the Board’s Regional Directors. Because non-unionized employees have rights under the federal labor law, the immediate impact will be that the NLRB’s enforcement arm will be processing complaints related to allegations of adverse treatment of certain student athletes for all variety of internal complaints against private institutions.

Read More >> NLRB General Counsel Abruzzo Issues Memo on Employee Status of Players at Academic Institutions

NCAA Student-Athlete Name, Image and Likeness

July 29, 2021

By Kyle D. Ritchie and Richard J. Evrard

One month has passed since the NCAA Board of Directors adopted emergency legislation permitting student-athletes to monetize their name, image and likeness (NIL) without violating the long-standing amateurism requirements of NCAA Bylaw 12. Specifically, the NCAA: (1) acknowledged that a state law/executive order regarding NIL supersedes NCAA rules; and (2) provided blanket NIL coverage to student-athletes located in states that do not have a state law/executive order in place. This major change in NCAA legislation is charting new pathways for how student-athletes must be monitored by their institutions to avoid ineligibility. The creation of an internal institutional policy is one way to help organize and manage this new process.

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NCAA v. Alston Case: Supreme Court Strikes Down NCAA Rules Restricting Benefits to Student-Athletes

June 30, 2021

By TaRonda Randall

On June 21, 2021, in an opinion providing a very interesting historical overview of collegiate athletics going back to the 19th century and the founding of what is now the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), the U.S. Supreme Court released its decision in the NCAA v. Alston case. The Supreme Court affirmed the lower court’s injunction of NCAA rules that restrict education-related benefits to Division I basketball and bowl subdivision football student-athletes. 

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Sharing Employees with Other Institutions of Higher Education

April 27, 2021

By Gail M. Norris

Today’s corporate workplaces include workers in nontraditional working arrangements. Companies in many industries are increasingly establishing a core group of employees in many of their business units and supplementing them with other workers under more flexible work arrangements. Higher education has not followed this business trend, but the financial pressures on our industry have invited more careful consideration of this possibility. This information memo reviews the legal issues that arise when two schools share one or more employees.

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