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New Cases and Developments

NACUA's Legal Resources staff summarizes current higher education cases and developments and provides the full text of selected cases to members. New cases and developments are archived here for up to 12 months.  Cases provided by Fastcase, Inc.

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Student Organizations; Due Process

Collegians for a Constructive Tomorrow v. University of Minnesota (Minn. App. Apr. 24, 2017)

Opinion and Order affirming the lower court’s ruling in favor of the University of Minnesota. A Right-leaning student group known as Collegians for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT) submitted a funding request to the University’s Student Services Fee Committee (SSFC) for $174,370 for the 2016-2017 academic year. The SSFC issued an initial allocation to CFACT of $86,875 from student-services fees but, after a public hearing in which student groups were allowed to discuss the initial allocations, reduced the allocation to $71,818, ostensibly because the initial allocation was calculated incorrectly. After an appeals committee denied CFACT’s request for a formal appeal, CFACT sued, claiming that the University violated the group’s due process rights by failing to give CFACT notice and an opportunity to be heard, and that SSFC’s decision was not viewpoint neutral because a Left-leaning student group received greater funding. The court concluded that the University followed the procedures outlined in its student handbook and provided CFACT with the opportunity to be heard prior to the initial allocation, after the initial allocation had been made, and twice after the final allocation. Additionally, CFACT failed to show that the University’s budgetary decision was arbitrary and capricious, given that SSFC provided CFACT with the grounds for its decision and CFACT could not point to any authority indicating that it should be funded at the same level as the other student group.

4/26/2017
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Student Organizations; Title IX; Students; Sexual Misconduct & Other Campus Violence

Farmer v. Kansas State University (D. Kan. Mar. 13, 2017)

Memorandum and Order granting in part and denying in part Kansas State University’s (KSU) Motion to Dismiss. Plaintiff alleged she was sexually assaulted by KSU students during a party at a private fraternity house and that KSU was deliberately indifferent to her claims in violation of Title IX. The Court confined its deliberate indifference analysis to two elements:  (1)  whether a sexual assault at an off-campus fraternity house occurred within one of the institutions “programs or activities” and (2) whether KSU’s purported indifference to Plaintiff’s report caused her to suffer further harassment.  The Court concluded that Plaintiff’s complaint raised a plausible argument that KSU had sufficient control over both the assailant and the fraternity to trigger the institution’s duties under Title IX.  Also, by pleading that KSU’s purported indifference made her “liable or vulnerable to further harassment or assault,” the Court allowed Plaintiff’s deliberate indifference claim to proceed, and in so doing, rejected Defendant’s argument that actual continued harassment was necessary to plead deliberate indifference.   Notably, the Court declined to consider the Department of Education’s sub-regulatory guidance on Title IX, holding that the guidance neither carried the force of law nor was it entitled to Chevron deference, in part because the Department promulgated the guidance without a notice-and-comment period.

3/16/2017
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Student Organizations; Students; Title IX; Sexual Misconduct & Other Campus Violence

Weckhorst v. Kansas State University (D. Kan. Mar. 13, 2017)

Memorandum and Order granting in part and denying in part Kansas State University’s (KSU) Motion to Dismiss. This is a companion case to Farmer v. Kansas State University (D. Kan. Mar. 13, 2017)Applying identical rationale to facts about purported deliberate indifference in the aftermath of a sexual assault at an off-campus fraternity party, the Court concluded that the Plaintiff’s complaint raised a plausible argument that KSU had sufficient control over both the assailants and the fraternity to trigger institutional Title IX obligations, and that KSU's alleged indifference to Plaintiff’s report arguably made Plaintiff “liable or vulnerable to further harassment or assault.” Like in Farmer, the Court declined to consider the Department of Education’s sub-regulatory guidance on sexual violence because the guidance was promulgated without a notice-and-comment period.

3/16/2017
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Student Organizations; First Amendment & Free Speech

Gerlich and Furleigh v. Leath, et al. (S.D. Ia. Jan. 22, 2016)

Order by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa Central Division granting in part and denying in part Plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment, granting in part and denying in part Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment, and permanently enjoining Iowa State University from enforcing its Trademark Licensing Policy in a viewpoint discriminatory manner. Plaintiffs, members of a student advocacy group supporting the legalization of marijuana, alleged that the named Defendants, employees at Iowa State University, violated their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights by denying their application to use the university's trademark on pro-marijuana t-shirts. Citing political motivation, as well as the Defendants' selective application of the policy, the Court found that the Defendants applied the institution's Trademark Policy in a constitutionally-impermissible, viewpoint discriminatory manner, and further that the Defendants were not entitled to qualified immunity. The Court denied Plaintiffs' claims that the trademark policy was over broad or unconstitutionally vague.
2/3/2016
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