Cases and Documents
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higher education cases reported by West
Dear Colleague Letter (DCL) issued by the U.S. Department of Education reminds institutions of higher education and their third-party servicers of their obligations to protect data used in all aspects of the administration of the Title IV Federal student financial aid programs. The DCL includes recommended industry standards and best practices in managing information and information systems, and in securing personally identifiably information.
Dear Colleague Letter (DCL) issued by the U.S. Department of Education reminds Guaranty Agencies (GAs) of their obligation to submit a self-assessment as part of a recent security program initiated by Federal Student Aid (FSA), and advises GAs of the steps FSA will take to ensure appropriate management and protection of personally identifiable information (PII) under the control of GAs. The DCL also addresses specifically how FSA’s new self-assessment program will assist GAs and FSA in assessing the capabilities of GAs to secure the PII they have.
Dear Colleague Letter (DCL) issued by the U.S. Department of Education clarifies institutional and applicants' roles and responsibilities related to Title IV dependency determinations for unaccompanied homeless youth. The DCL includes three primary sections: (1) Applying for Title IV Aid; (2) Determinations by FAAs; and (3) Documentation of Homelessness or Risk of Homelessness.
Order from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, denying Plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction but (1) ordering the parties to refrain from communicating with each other regarding the operation of a faculty blog that purportedly contained content critical of the university administration and (2) prohibiting officials at Chicago State University (CSU) from imposing sanctions against professors for publication of the blog. The professors are suing CSU for their alleged attempt to shut down the blog.
Announcement from Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey that a settlement has been reached with for-profit schools Lincoln Technical Institute (Lincoln Tech) and Kaplan Career Institute (Kaplan). According to the announcement, both Lincoln Tech and Kaplan will pay former students more than $2.3 million to resolve allegations that they inflated job placement numbers and employed unfair recruiting tactics to persuade prospective students to enroll in their programs. Under the settlement with Kaplan, a total of $1.375 million will be distributed to eligible graduates of the school’s medical vocational programs. Under the settlement with Lincoln Tech., $850,000 will be used to pay down federal student loans for eligible graduates of the school’s criminal justice program at its Somerville and Lowell campuses. Lincoln Tech will also forgive an additional $165,000 in private student loans.
Order from the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirming and reversing in part the District Court’s grant of summary judgement for Moraine Valley Community College (College). The appellant, William Silk, a former adjunct-professor at the College, alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Age Discrimination in Employment Act after the College reduced his course load, reassigned his courses, and terminated his employment, following heart surgery in April 2010. The Court of Appeals reversed the District Court’s grant of summary judgment on Silk’s Fall 2010 claim because there remained a genuine dispute over whether the College stated the they reduced Silk’s courses because they didn’t think he was physically capable of handling them. The case is remanded for further proceedings on this claim, with all other claims being affirmed in favor of the College.
Report published by the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics and the Bureau of Justice Statistics examines crime occurring in schools and colleges. The report covers topics such as victimization, bullying, school conditions, fights, weapons, the presence of security staff at school, availability and student use of drugs and alcohol, student perceptions of personal safety at school, and criminal incidents at postsecondary institutions.
Notice issued by the U.S. Department of Education regarding a revision to the Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need (GAANN) Performance Report. The GAANN report is used to evaluate grantee performance, as well as the accomplishments and impact of the GAANN Program as a whole. Interested persons are invited to submit comments on or before August 27, 2015.
Announcement from the NCAA that it has adopted an experimental rule allowing medical observers to notify game officials when a player appears to have suffered a head/neck injury. Effective for the 2015 season, the rule enables a medical observer, who suspects a player has sustained a head/neck injury, to alert the instant-replay official, who then contacts the referee to stop the game so the player can receive a medical evaluation.
First Amendment and Due Process: Barnes v. Zaccari
July 27, 2015
Settlement agreement between plaintiff, Thomas Barnes, and defendants, Valdosta State University (VSU) and the Board of Regents of the University of Georgia, requiring the defendants to pay the plaintiff $900,000. The plaintiff alleged that VSU violated his free speech, contract, and due process rights, as well as his rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act, when they "administratively withdrew" (expelled) the plaintiff from campus due to safety concerns and without a hearing.
Report from the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI) to the U.S. Secretary of Education makes 16 recommendations designed to: (1) simplify the accreditation and recognition process and enhance nuance in that process; (2) reconsider the relationship between quality assurance processes and access to Title IV funds; and (3) reconsider the roles and functions of NACIQI itself. The recommendations include reconstituting NACIQI as a committee with terminal decision-making authority, which would establish it as the final decision-making authority on accrediting agency recognition.
Klinger, a tenure track professor, sued the University of Southern Mississippi (USM), alleging deprivations of due process and equal protection, as well as claims arising from Mississippi contract and tort law, when USM declined to renew his annual contract after placing him on administrative leave for allegedly making comments that raised concerns of campus safety. In affirming the trial court's decision to grant summary judgment for USM on all of Klinger's claims, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, held that USM provided Klinger with a constitutionally adequate opportunity to adjudicate his grievance by fully complying with its own comprehensive faculty-grievance procedures.
Order from the Consumer Financial Protections Bureau (CFPB) requiring Discover Bank to repay $16M to 100,000 borrowers, pay a $2.5M penalty, and improve its billing and collections practices. According to the consent order issued by the CFPB, Discover Bank: (1) failed to furnish clear information regarding the student-loan interest that consumers paid; (2) made intimidating collection calls at inconvenient times; (3) overstated the minimum amount due in student-loan billing statements; and (4) violated the Fair Debt Collection Practice Acts with regards to their collection activities.
Notice issued by the U.S. Department of Education proposes the Gainful Employment Recent Graduates Employment and Earning Survey (RGEES). The RGEES pilot study results will be used to compare median earnings collected through the survey to median earnings for graduates from comparable programs. Interested persons are invited to submit comments on or before August 24, 2015.
Newsletter from Federal Student Aid describes enhancements to the National Student Loan Data System enrollment reporting and to the gainful employment (GE) process. The newsletter also provides a reminder about important GE reporting deadlines, which begin on July 31, 2015.
Dear Colleague Letter (DCL) from the U.S. Department of Education summarizes the major changes to the Clery Act Regulations. The DCL includes specific information on the 2015 Campus Safety and Security Survey and provides a table outlining the new statistical requirements in the annual security report and online data collection.
Announcement from the U.S. Department of Justice that a settlement agreement has been reached with the University of Michigan under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The agreement, filed as a consent decree along with a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, resolves allegations that the university violated the ADA by failing to accommodate a maintenance employee with degenerative back disease; and discriminated against similarly situated employees. The consent decree requires the university to: (1) pay the employees approximately $215,000 for monetary and compensatory damages; (2) revise its their policies on reassignments and transfers; (3) provide training to university staff on Title I of the ADA; and (4) file periodic reports with the Department.
Federal legislation (H.R. 2802) introduced by Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID) proposes to prohibit the Federal Government from penalizing people and entities, including religious schools, that find same-sex unions contrary to their faith. For people and/or entities that qualify, the legislation would prohibit, among other things, the Federal Government from altering their Federal tax treatment and/or reducing or withholding their Federal grants. Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) introduced a companion bill (S. 1598) in the United States Senate.
Notice released by the U.S. Department of Education setting forth the schedule and agenda for the Quarterly Meeting of the National Assessment Governing Board (Governing Board). The Governing Board meeting will be held on August 6-8, 2015 at the Westin Arlington Gateway, 801 North Glebe Road, Arlington, VA 22203. A schedule for each day can be found in the announcement.
Decision from the United States District Court for the District Of Maryland issuing a permanent injunction barring the defendant, Towson University, from continuing to prohibit the plaintiff from returning to play in the University's football program in violation of his rights under Section 504 of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The plaintiff, Gavin Class, is a student at the university, who collapsed from a heat stroke during football practice. After receiving a liver transplant and clearances from his doctors, Class sought to return to the team, and the university prevented his return citing concerns for his safety. Class sought an injunction on the grounds that the university violated his rights under the ADA by failing to provide reasonable accommodations (i.e., monitoring his temperature every ten minutes and providing protective padding for his abdomen) that would allow Class to safely return to the team. The Court concluded that Class' requested accommodations were reasonable and did not impose an undue burden on the university. Therefore, the Court held, the university's decision to prohibit Class from returning to play was discriminatory under the ADA.
Report published by the American Council on Education (ACE) examines admis¬sions practices at four-year colleges and universities in the context of recent legal challenges to race-conscious admissions, including the pending U.S. Supreme Court case Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin. The report, which is based on responses to a national survey of undergraduate admissions and enrollment management leaders, reveals that 60 percent of the most selective institutions—those admitting 40 percent or fewer applicants—consider race in admissions.
Comment request issued by the U.S. Department of Education regarding a proposed change to the Federal Perkins Loan Program Master Promissory Note (MPN). The MPN provides the terms and conditions of the Perkins Loan program and is prepared by the participating eligible institution and signed by the borrower. Interested persons are invited to submit comments on or before August 20, 2015.
Order from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) requiring the respondent to cease and desist from all acts of retaliation, pay complainant back pay beginning in the 2003-04 academic year, and pay complainant the sum of $125,000, with interest, in emotional distress damages. The complainant, William Armstrong, a tenured chemistry professor at Boston College, alleged that the defendant, Boston College, retaliated against him when he sought to implement agreed-to accommodations after returning from campus leave for a psychiatric disability. The MCAD concluded that the actions taken against Armstrong when he returned from leave, which included prohibiting him from attending Chemistry Department faculty meetings and omitting him from Chemistry Department e-mails, were retaliatory and could not be justified as either legitimate or non-discriminatory. In reaching this decision, the MCAD noted that Armstrong's efforts to implement agreed-to accommodations were protected activities as required by the test for retaliation established in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green.
Legislation (S. 81) signed into law by Oregon Governor Kate Brown provides a tuition waiver for eligible students taking community college courses. Eligibility is based on factors including high school grade point average, completion and submission of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid for each academic year, and acceptance of all state and federal aid grants available to the student. Eligible students will receive, at minimum, a $1,000 grant.
Reminder from Federal Student Aid (FSA) that a FSA ID may only be created and used by the individual who owns the FSA ID. The FSA ID, implemented in May 2015 as a replacement to the FSA PIN, is the legal signature that can be used to electronically sign important federal student aid documents, including the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) and Direct Loan promissory notes.
Order from the Fourth Judicial Circuit of Virginia, Circuit Court of the City of Norfolk, denying in part and sustaining in part Virginia Wesleyan College's (VWC) demurrer, and ruling on several related pleadings. The case arose when Doe, a freshman student at VWC, alleged that she was raped and sexually assaulted by Roe, then also a VWC student, in a VWC dormitory. Doe sought relief from VWC on the grounds of negligence, gross negligence, and fraud. In ruling on five related pleadings, the Court focused on the relationship between Doe and VWC and concluded that Doe failed to sufficiently allege that a special relationship exists between a college and a student, and therefore, VWC did not have a duty to warn or protect students against third-party criminal acts. Doe was granted leave to file an amended complaint within twenty-one days.
Publication by the U.S. Department of Justice on the most frequently asked questions (FAQ) about Service Animals, relative to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The FAQs are organized into the six categories: (1) Definition of Service Animals; (2) General Rules; (3) Certification and Registration; (4) Breeds; (5) Exclusion of Service Animals; and (6) Miscellaneous. The ADA revised requirements on service animals can be found here.
Notice from the U.S. Department of Education regarding its request to the Office of Management and Budget for an emergency clearance to ensure that data collected and managed by Guaranty Agencies (GAs) in support of federal student financial aid programs is secure. Interested persons are invited to submit comments on or before September 14, 2015.
Missouri legislation (S.B. 93) proposes to classify the outdoor areas of public institutions of higher education as traditional public forums where people can engage in noncommercial expressive activity. Public institutions of higher education may place reasonable restrictions on the time, place, and manner of the expressive activity, but may not restrict members of the university community from spontaneously and contemporaneously assembling.
Announcement from the U.S. Department of Education (Department) regarding the availability of an updated list of institutions subject to Heightened Cash Monitoring. The first list, published in March 2015 contained 560 institutions. The most recent list, published in June 2015, contains 483 institutions. Heightened Cash Monitoring is a step that the Department's Federal Student Aid office can take with institutions to provide additional oversight on financial or federal compliance issues.
Announcement from the U.S. Department of Education with guidance for institutions on the correct reporting of gainful employment (GE) data to the Department's National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS).
Order from the Superior Court of California, County of San Diego Central granting the Petition for Writ of Mandamus and ordering Respondent, the University of California San Diego (University) to set aside its findings and sanctions against the Petitioner, a student accused of sexual misconduct, because the University's disciplinary action against the Petitioner was unfair and not supported by the evidence. More specifically, the Court held that the University's sexual misconduct proceedings were unfair because the University limited the Petitioner's right to cross-examine the primary witness against him and limited his right of confrontation by preventing the Petitioner from refuting evidence outside of the hearing that was crucial to the Hearing Panel's findings. The Court also concluded that the University abused its discretion by increasing sanctions without explanation after the student appealed the penalty.
Dear Colleague Letter issued by the U.S. Department of Education (Department) restates the requirements for guaranty agencies regarding charging collection costs to Federal Family Education Loan Program borrowers who enter into repayment agreements. The letter includes four primary sections: (1) applicable provisions of the Higher Education Act; (2) applicable provisions of Department regulations; (3) background and rationale for the requirement to provide an initial "notice and opportunity to resolve" the debt; and (4) background and rationale for the requirement to charge collection costs.
Announcement from Federal Student Aid (FSA) regarding the availability of new and revised Q&As to the high school diploma and verification portion of the U.S. Department of Education's Program Integrity Website. To view these additions and revisions, click on the applicable topics, and look for the "new" icon next to the Q&As that have been added and a bolded revised date next to those that have been modified.
Michigan legislative resolution, known as House Joint Resolution "O," proposes to amend the Michigan State Constitution by making public all governing boards meetings held by Michigan's institutions of higher education. Currently, Michigan only requires institutions' governing boards to make formal sessions public.
Order from the North Dakota Supreme Court reversing the District Court's judgment, in which it affirmed the Department of Transportation's suspension of the Appellant's driving privileges. Appellant Kroschel was arrested by a police officer from the North Dakota State University (NDSU) Police Department for driving under the influence. At no time during the incident was the officer or Kroschel on NDSU property. The issue before the court was whether the NDSU police officer had the authority to arrest Kroschel. The Appellant, the North Dakota Department of Transportation (Department), argued that the officer acted within his authority because of an existing Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Department, the local police department, and NDSU. The District Court, which affirmed the Hearing Officer's decision, found that Section 44-08-24(1) of the North Dakota Century Code (N.D.C.C.) provided support for the MOU by giving authority to North Dakota law enforcement agencies to enter into agreements with other criminal justice agencies. The North Dakota Supreme Court (Supreme Court) rejected this argument, finding that Section 44-08-24 only applies to officers in unique situations and cannot be used on an ongoing basis. Additionally, the Supreme Court further held that the N.D.C.C. did not give police officers the authority to arrest persons outside the NDSU campus. The Supreme Court noted that this case does not challenge the authority of NDSU police officers to act on the NDSU campus or the authority of local police officers to act on the NDSU campus.
Notice of proposed rulemaking issued by the U.S. Department of Education to: (1) amend the Student Assistance General Provisions regulations to expand the circumstances under which an institution may challenge or appeal the potential consequences of draft or final cohort default rates based on the institution's participation rate index; and (2) amend the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program regulations to streamline and enhance existing processes; and (3) amend the FFEL program regulations to establish new procedures for loan holders to identify servicemembers who may be eligible for benefits under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. Interested parties must submit comments on or before August 10, 2015.
Report published by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (Bureau) summarizes student loan servicing complaints sent to the Bureau from service members, veterans, and their families. Since the Bureau's last report in October 2012, they have received more than 1,300 complaints from military borrowers related to the servicing or collection of student loans. The report outlines the most commonly reported servicing problems for service members, as well as the general issues faced by military borrowers.
Comment request issued by the U.S. Department of Education regarding a proposed revision to the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program: Internship/Residency and Loan Debt Burden Forbearance forms. These forms serve as the means by which borrowers in the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan, Federal Family Education Loan, and the Federal Perkins Loan Programs may request forbearance of repayment on their loans if they meet certain conditions. Interested persons are invited to submit comments on or before August 6, 2015.
Comment request issued by the U.S. Department of Education regarding a proposed revision to the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program Deferment Request forms. These forms serve as the means by which borrowers in the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan, Federal Family Education Loan, and the Federal Perkins Loan Programs may request forbearance of repayment on their loans if they meet certain conditions. Interested persons are invited to submit comments on or before August 6, 2015.
Dear Colleague Letter from the U.S. Department of Education provides guidance to guarantors and educational institutions participating in the Federal Family Education Loan Program and Federal Perkins Loan Program. The guidance specifically focuses on the regulations that govern the actions of guarantors and educational institutions in defending bankruptcy adversary proceedings seeking discharge of student loans authorized by Title IV on the basis that excepting the loans from discharge would impose undue hardship upon the borrowers.
Comment request issued by the U.S. Department of Education (Department) regarding a proposed revision to the Child Care Access Means Parents in School Program Annual Performance Report. This report provides the Department with information needed to evaluate a grantee's performance and compliance with program requirements in accordance with the program authorizing statute. Interested persons are invited to submit comments on or before August 5, 2015.
Settlement agreement reached between plaintiff, Timothy Stoner, and defendant, Pima Community College. Plaintiff, a U.S. Army National Guardsman, alleged that the defendant discriminated against him based on his military status, in violation of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA), when it failed to place him in the position of Police Corporal in its Department of Public Safety. As part of the settlement, the defendant agreed to: (1) place the plaintiff in a newly created, regular Police Corporal position; (2) pay the plaintiff $9,000 for last wages; (3) amend its personnel policies to notify employees of their rights and obligations under USERRA; and (4) continue displaying the USERRA notification poster required by federal regulations.
Order from the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit vacating the district court's orders and remanding for further proceedings. The plaintiffs, former interns for the defendants, Fox Searchlight Pictures, Inc. and Fox Entertainment Group, Inc., contented they were employees under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), and therefore, due compensation for their work. In granting partial summary judgment, the District Court concluded that the plaintiffs were employees under the FSLA based on a six-factor test created by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) in light of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Walling v. Portland Terminal Co., 330 U.S. 148 (1947). The Circuit Court rejected the DOL test and adopted instead the "primary beneficiary" test, which focuses on: (1) what the intern received in exchange for his work; and (2) the economic reality as it exists between the intern and the employer. In conjunction with the test, the Circuit Court proposed a list of non-exhaustive factors to aid courts in identifying the primary beneficiary of the internship. On remand, the District Court must apply the primary beneficiary test, rather than the DOL test, to determine if the plaintiffs were in fact employees under the FLSA. The Circuit Court also rejected the plaintiff's motion to certify the New York class and motion to conditionally certify the nationwide FLSA Collective for failing to have individualized proof of each intern's experience.
Order of U.S. Supreme Court granting writ of certiorari to review the decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirming the district court's dismissal of the claims made by several California teachers, in which they argued that "agency fees" paid to teachers' unions compromise their First Amendment rights.
Announcement issued by the U.S. Department of Education regarding the availability of an updated version of the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS) Gainful Employment User Guide (Guide). The Guide contains the following three chapters: (1) GE Compliance, Guidelines and Administrative Functions; (2) GE Reporting Batch Processing; and (3) GE Reporting Online.
Dear Colleague Letter issued by the U.S. Department of Education providing an overview of the regulatory requirements related to Gainful Employment (GE) programs. The letter provides a summary of the requirements in the GE regulations, the reporting requirements, D/E rates, and certification requirements for GE programs.
Comment request issued by the U.S. Department of Education (Department) regarding a proposed information collection related to the Recent Graduates Employment and Earnings Survey (RGEES) Standards and Survey form. The RGEES can be used in a debt-to-earnings (D/E) ratio appeal under the gainful employment regulations as an alternative to the Social Security administration earnings data. Interested persons are invited to submit comments on or before August 31, 2015.
Announcement from the Department of Homeland Security-United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (DHS-USCIS) that the Office of Management and Budget has approved a revised Document Verification Request G-845 Form (G-845 form). The G-845 form is used by Title IV postsecondary institutions to request verification from DHS-USCIS of an applicant's eligible non-citizenship status. Instructions on how to complete the revised G-845 form are included in the announcement and can also be found in Volume 1, Chapter 2 of the 2015-2016 Federal Student Aid Handbook. Institutions are encouraged to begin using the revised G-845 form immediately. The previous version of the G-845 form may no longer be submitted to DHS-USCIS after August 14, 2015.
Comment request issued by the U.S. Department of Education regarding a reinstatement of a previously approved information collection for the Paul Douglas Teacher Scholarship Performance Report form. Although the Paul Douglas Teacher Scholarship program is no longer a funded program, the annual performance report is necessary to monitor and evaluate the compliance of the former participating state education agencies. Interested persons are invited to submit comments on or before August 28, 2015.
Dear Colleague Letter issued by the U.S. Department of Education summarizing acceptable documentation changes for the 2016-2017 award year. The letter also provides information on changes to the 2016–2017 Verification Tracking Groups and the limited circumstances under which an applicant's Verification Tracking Group could change.
Writ of certiorari granted by the United States Supreme Court in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin. Justice Kagan took no part in the consideration or decision of this petition.
Comment request issued by the U.S. Department of Education regarding a proposed revision to information collected from states and partnerships interested in applying for the Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) grant program. GEAR UP is a discretionary grant program that encourages applicants to support and maintain a commitment to assist eligible low-income students in obtaining a secondary school diploma and in preparing for and succeeding in postsecondary education. Interested persons are invited to submit comments on or before July 27, 2015.
Proposed NCAA legislation sponsored by the NCAA's Division 1 Council (Council) proposes to: (1) set the expectation that all students and staff members act with honesty and integrity; and (2) define academic misconduct, impermissible academic assistance and other academic improprieties that may occur at a school. The proposal requires schools to publish and adhere to an academic misconduct policy for all students and permits schools to have an expedited process for student-athletes so long as the expedited process has been approved by school officials outside of the athletics department. The Council will cast final votes on the proposal in April 2016. If adopted, new academic misconduct rules would be effective in August 2016.
Announcement from Jamienne Studley, the Deputy Under Secretary and Acting Assistant Secretary for Postsecondary Education, regarding an update to the U.S. Department of Education's anticipated college-rating system. The Department expects to release tools this summer that are both easy to use and designed to provide students with data to compare college costs and outcomes.
Announcement from the U.S. Department of Justice that Education Affiliates (EA), a for-profit education company, has agreed to pay $13 million to the U.S. to resolve allegations that it violated the False Claims Act by submitting false claims to the U.S. Department of Education for federal student aid for students enrolled in its programs. The U.S. Government alleged that EA employees altered admissions test results, created false or fraudulent high school diplomas, falsified students' federal aid applications, and referred prospective students to "diploma mills" to obtain invalid online high school diplomas. The settlement resolves five lawsuits filed under the federal False Claims Act.
Order from the United States District Court for the District of Columbia denying the plaintiff's motion for summary judgment and granting the defendant's cross-motion. The plaintiff, the Association of Private Sector Colleges & Universities (Association), challenged the Department of Education's (Department) October 2014 Gainful Employment Rule, which defined "gainful employment" by comparing the average debt load of former students against their earnings. The Court upheld debt-to-earnings portion of the Department's Gainful Employment Rule, concluding that the Department reasonably interpreted an ambiguous statutory command, and that the Rule, having been subjected to a thorough rulemaking process, was not arbitrary, capricious, or otherwise in violation of the APA. The Court also rejected plaintiff's challenges regarding the disclosure, reporting, and certification requirements of the regulations.
Comment request issued by the U.S. Department of Education regarding a proposed extension to the Income Based Repayment (IBR) notifications. Income based repayment, as authorized by the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended, is available for Part B borrowers who have partial financial hardship. Pursuant to regulation, borrowers must receive notification from loan holders once a borrower establishes a partial financial hardship and is placed in an IBR plan by the loan holder. Interested persons are invited to submit comments regarding the proposed extension on or before August 24, 2015.
Opinion from the National Labor Review Board (NLRB) affirming the NLRB hearing officer's rulings, findings, and recommendations, and allowing part-time faculty (which includes adjuncts and instructors) at the Laguna College of Art and Design (College) to join the Service Employees International Union, Local 721. The College alleged that James Galindo, a pro-union supervisor employed by the College, tainted, and therefore invalidated, the unionization vote. Applying both prongs of the objective test established in Harborside Healthcare, Inc., the NLRB declined to invalidate the election, reasoning that: (1) Galindo was a low-level supervisor who engaged in non-coercive election behavior; (2) the College's contemporaneous anti-union campaign ensured that employees would not attribute Galindo's pro-union views to that of the College, effectively mitigating any potentially material interference.
Due Process and Jurisdiction: Texas A&M v. Carapia
June 19, 2015
Order from the Tenth Court of Appeals for the State of Texas reversing the trial court's determinations and dismissing the appellee's suit with prejudice. Appellee Gustavo Carapia, a student at Texas A&M University (TAMU), alleged that TAMU denied him due process when, after notice and a hearing, it suspended him from the Corps of Cadets and placed him on conduct probation. In reversing the trial court's decision, the Court concluded that sovereign immunity barred the Appellee's legal due process claims. The Court also held that Carapia had failed to effect a limited waiver of the State's sovereign immunity because he had not stated a valid due process claim, since extracurricular participation in the Corps of Cadets did not qualify as a property or liberty interest sufficient to give rise to an actionable due process claim. The Court also dismissed Carapia's claims under the Uniform Declaratory Judgment Act (UDJA), concluding that a dispute as to the constitutionality of an institutional code of conduct was not a "challenge to the validity of a statute or ordinance," as is required to state a claim under the UDJA. Finally, the Court held that the temporary injunction that had been issued by the trial court was void because it did not contain any of the requirements found in Rules 683 and 684 of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure.
Dear Colleague Letter issued by the U.S. Department of Education (Department) reminding postsecondary institutions that the State Authorization Regulations will become effective on July 1, 2015. These regulations will require postsecondary institutions to have certain types of State oversight and approvals in place to participate in Title IV Federal Student Aid programs authorized under the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended. The letter advises postsecondary institutions to contact their State authorizing agency to ensure that they have the necessary process is in place to meet these requirements and to ensure that their State has a compliant complaint system. Guidance on the regulations can be found on the Department's website.
Updated report on cybersecurity-related authoritative reports and resources issued by the Congressional Research Service (CRS). The report provides references to analytical reports and other resources concerning cybersecurity from CRS, other government agencies, trade associations, and interest groups. The reports and related websites are grouped in tables based on topic.
Report released by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) comparing two pieces of cybersecurity and information-sharing legislation that have passed the House of Representatives. The legislation discussed includes the Protecting Cyber Networks Act (PCNA) (H.R. 1560, as reported in the House on April 13) and the National Cybersecurity Protection Advancement Act of 2015 (NCPAA) (H.R. 1731, as reported in the House on April 17). The two bills have since been combined to form Title I and Title II of the most recent version of H.R. 1560, respectively, and sent to the Senate for consideration.
Report released by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) comparing three pieces of cybersecurity and information-sharing legislation. The legislation discussed includes the Protecting Cyber Networks Act (PCNA) (H.R. 1560, as reported in the House on April 13), the National Cybersecurity Protection Advancement Act of 2015 (NCPAA) (H.R. 1731, as reported in the House on April 17), and the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act of 2015 (CISA) (S. 754 as reported in the Senate on March 17). The PCNA and NCPAA have since been combined to form Title I and Title II of the most recent version of H.R. 1560, respectively, and sent to the Senate for consideration. CISA is still under consideration in the Senate.
Notice released by the U.S. Department of Education setting forth the schedule and agenda of an upcoming open meeting of the National Advisory Council on Indian Education (NACIE). The NACIE meeting will be held via conference call on July 1, 2015, from 4:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m EDT. Up to 20 dial-in, listen only phone lines will be made available to the public on a first come, first served basis. The conference call number is 1-888-677-5810 and the participant code is 3132285.
Consent Decree entered into between plaintiffs, Anthony Lanzilotti, Mitchel Cossaboon, and the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), and defendant, the Atlantic Cape Community College (ACCC). Lanzilotti and Cossaboon, both blind students at ACCC, alleged discrimination on the basis of disability under the Americans with Disability Act and § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The Consent Decree requires ACCC to: (1) hire a third-party consultant to evaluate the Disability Support Services office and assist ACCC in developing related policies; (2) develop a training program for all of its employees that addresses the requirements of the ADA; (3) conduct and complete a Technology Accessibility Audit, accepting and considering a list of recommendations from the NFB; and (4) make accessible for students with disabilities all instructional materials, online materials, and ACCC's public and student website. Additionally, per the Consent Decree, ACCC may not require a blind student to be accompanied by a sighted aide as a condition for access to campus.
Communication from Federal Student Aid (FSA) announcing publication of the initial chapters of the updated Gainful Employment (GE) Operations Manual. The updated manual includes references to the October 2014 GE regulations, as well as GE program examples. The manual also details necessary disclosures for GE Programs. Chapters on debt measures, challenges, and appeals are forthcoming.
Letter from the U.S. Department of Education (Department) to Accrediting Agency Executive Directors waiving and modifying certain statutory and regulatory requirements to allow a limited number of institutions the opportunity "to participate in experiments that will test alternative methods for administering Title IV aid programs for students enrolled in [Competency Based Education] programs. " For each institution that participates in the Department's experiment, the Department seeks assurance that accrediting agencies will assess the quality of the institution's competency-based education programs. Accompanying the letter is an instructional document that summarizes the Competency-Based Education experiment, as well as the role of accrediting agencies.
Announcement from the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO) outlining their concerns with the U.S. Department of Education's proposed rules on cash management. NACUBO's announcement outlines 11 specific issues, which primarily concern new requirements that would be imposed on colleges and universities that have agreements with financial institutions or third party servicers, such as bank accounts, debit cards, or other financial accounts offered to students and their parents. Other issues include concerns with a new provision that requires institutions to provide a way for Title IV-eligible students to obtain books and supplies by the seventh day of a payment period, and a new provision that requires an institution to list a student's existing financial account as the first and default option when selecting how to receive his or her Title IV credit balance refund.
Tenure Proceedings: Frampton v. UNC
June 17, 2015
Order from the North Carolina Court of Appeals reversing the trial court's entry of judgment in favor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) and remanding the case for further proceedings. The plaintiff, a tenured faculty member at UNC, was arrested and imprisoned in Argentina for allegedly smuggling cocaine into the country. After five weeks of imprisonment, during which time the plaintiff was scheduled to teach a course, UNC placed the plaintiff on personal leave without pay pursuant to the Faculty Services Illness, Major Disability, and Parental Leave Policy. Only after the plaintiff was convicted in Argentina did UNC initiate formal disciplinary proceedings under its tenure policies to terminate his employment. On appeal, the Court concluded that UNC had failed to comply with its own polices when it unilaterally placed the Plaintiff on unpaid leave without pay instead of initiating disciplinary proceedings pursuant to the terms set forth in UNC's tenure policies.
Report released by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) summarizes the major legislative provisions, hearings, and executive branch documents relating to cybersecurity. The report organizes legislative provisions and hearings by congressional year, and executive branch documents by date of issuance.
Staff Report from the U.S. Department of Education (Department) recommending that the Department terminate recognition of the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing for failing to meet the requirements of sections 602.14(a) and (b) of the Secretary's Criteria for Recognition. A summary of the Department's findings are included in the report.
Legislation (S. 11) signed into law by Texas Governor Greg Abbott allows license holders to carry concealed handguns on public and private university campuses. Both public and private institutions may adopt policies that regulate the storage of handguns in dormitories or other residential facilities that are owned, leased, or operated by the institution and located on the campus of the institution. Institutions also may adopt rules, regulations, and other provisions regarding concealed handguns that address the nature of the student population, specific safety concerns, and the uniqueness of the campus environment, so long as these provisions neither prohibit nor have the effect of prohibiting license holders from carrying concealed handguns on campus. Private and independent institutions, after consulting with students, staff, and faculty of the institution, may adopt policies that prohibit license holders from carrying handguns on the campus of the institution, any grounds or building on which an activity sponsored by the institution is being conducted, or on a passenger transportation vehicle owned by the institution.
Order from the United States District Court for the District of Columbia denying the defendant's motion for summary judgment and granting the plaintiff's cross-motion for summary judgment. Plaintiff, an observant Sikh whose religious practices did not comport with the United States Army's (Army) grooming standards, sought a religious accommodation from the Army to enroll in the ROTC program at Hofstra University. Plaintiff contends that the Army's refusal to accommodate his religious practices violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). The Court entered judgment in favor of the Plaintiff, concluding that the Army had failed to show that its grooming regulations furthered a compelling governmental interest by the least restrictive means. The Court based this decision, in part, on the Army's successful accommodation of observant Sikhs in the past and the "tens of thousands of exceptions that the Army has already made to its grooming policy."
Report jointly published by The Washington Post and the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation reveals that twenty percent of women and 5 percent of men reported being sexually assaulted either by physical force or while incapacitated. The researchers polled more than 1,000 individuals who attended college within the past four years. As part of the poll, reporters from The Washington Post interviewed 50 participants, whose stories can be found here.
Order from the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, First Department, affirming dismissal of the complaint. Petitioners alleged that the respondent breached a settlement agreement that purportedly provided the faculty with the exclusive power to formulate university-wide academic admissions and accreditation policies. Specifically, Petitioners alleged that the respondent breached the settlement agreement when the Board of Trustees approved the "Pathways to Degree Completion Initiative" (Pathways) in a June 27, 2011 resolution. The Court held that the Board's actions were proper because the settlement agreement did not provide faculty the exclusive power to formulate university-wide academic admissions and accreditation policies. Petitioners also alleged that the respondents side-stepped the New York Open Meetings Law when they charged the college presidents (who are not subject to the Open Meetings Law), rather than the college faculty senates (who are subject to the Open Meetings Law), with the responsibility of formulating plans to implement Pathways. The Court concluded that these allegations did not state a direct claim under the New York Open Meetings Law.
Legislation (H.B. 3476) signed into law by Oregon Governor Kate Brown vests victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, or stalking with a legal privilege to refuse to disclose and to prevent any other person from disclosing: (1) confidential communications made by the victim to a "certified advocate" in the course of safety planning, counseling, support, or advocacy services; and (2) records that are created or maintained in the course of providing services to a victim. The privilege applies to civil, criminal, and administrative proceedings and to institutional disciplinary proceedings at two-year and four-year post-secondary institutions that enroll one or more students who receive an Oregon Opportunity Grant.
Letter from Kathleen Styles, Chief Privacy Officer at the U.S. Department of Education (Department), to Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.) that responds to the following three questions regarding the Federal Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA): (1) Do any regulations or laws restrict an institution's ability to access and share students' treatment records within the institution?; (2) Do federal regulations or guidance prevent students' treatment records from being shared with other offices of an institution that are not involved in the students' treatment?; and (3) Is there any guidance, regulation or law that limits whether an institution may declare that a treatment record is being used for a non-treatment purpose or otherwise deem a treatment record to be an education record? A similar letter was sent to Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), with one additional section describing differences between the privacy protections in FERPA and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.
Testimony from Barbara Carroll, chair-elect of the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources, before the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee, regarding the impact of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) on colleges and universities. The testimony focuses primarily on the ACA's impact on students and part-time professionals, as well as concerns about the ACA's excise tax.
Report published by the Pew Charitable Trusts analyzes the existing federal-state relationship in higher education funding. The report includes nine figures that illustrate how the federal-state funding relationship has evolved, and how it differs across states.
Announcement from Federal Student Aid (FSA) regarding the availability of instructions (attachment) on the GE program certifications that institutions must provide to the U.S. Department of Education. Included in this announcement is a sample GE Transitional Certification (attachment). Additionally, FSA reminds institutions that they must ensure that the Department has an accurate listing of their Title IV-eligible GE programs. Additional information on Gainful Employment can be found here.
Report published by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences analyzes the benefits of public research universities. The report is comprised of five sections: (1) Public Research Universities Serve the National Interest; (2) Public Research Universities Contribute to the Innovation Economy; (3) Public Research Universities Provide Quality Educational Opportunities and Programs at an Efficient Cost; (4) Public Research Universities are Working to Maintain and Improve Access and Affordability; and (5) Public Research Universities Value Responsible Spending.
Speech given by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) proposes a framework to make college more affordable. Warren's framework is comprised of four policies: (1) changing incentives for colleges; (2) strengthening accountability; (3) renewing state investments in higher education; and (4) reforming federal higher education programs.
Order from the United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee granting the defendants' motion to dismiss. This is a putative class action lawsuit in which the plaintiffs, ten college athletes, alleged that they were entitled to recover monetary compensation from more than 20 athletic conferences, networks, and licensing agencies for the unauthorized use of their names, images, and likenesses in televised broadcasts of FSB Football and NCAA Division 1 basketball games. The alleged causes of action included: (1) statutory violation of the right to publicity under Tenn. Code Ann. § 47-25-1105; (2) violation of the right to publicity under Tennessee common law; (3) civil conspiracy; (4) violation of Section 1 of the Sherman Antitrust Act; (5) false endorsement in violation of Section 43(a) of the Lanham Act (against only the networks and licensing agencies); and (6) unjust enrichment. The seventh cause sought an accounting as to all defendants. The Court dismissed all claims with prejudice, holding that (1) Tennessee common law did not acknowledge a right of publicity for individual participants in sporting events; (2) Tennessee's statutory right of publicity expressly exempted broadcasters from liability for using the names, likenesses, and images of athletes in connection with sports' broadcasts; (3) The Complaint failed to state a claim under the Sherman Antitrust Act because the allegations neither identified an injury-in-fact nor an unreasonable restraint on trade with the requisite specificity necessary to survive dismissal; (4) The Complaint failed to state a claim for False Endorsement because the speech underlying the purported false endorsement was not "commercial speech" nor did it give rise to a "likelihood of confusion," as is required to state a claim under of the Section 43(a) of the Lanham Act; and (5) the remaining claims of Civil Conspiracy, Unjust Enrichment, and the request for an Accounting could not survive independently as a matter of law, in light of the dismissal of the underlying substantive legal claims.
Opinion from the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut granting summary judgment to the Defendants for claims arising under Title IX and §1983. Plaintiff, a complainant in a sexual misconduct proceeding, alleged that Defendant Connecticut State University exhibited deliberate indifference by failing to address prior instances of sexual harassment involving the accused professor and by inadequately responding to her allegations of sexual harassment. The Court concluded that (1) the record was devoid of evidence that would allow a reasonable jury to conclude that the Defendant had actual knowledge of any prior instances of sexual harassment by the accused professor; and (2) the university promptly initiated an investigation, took action to implement remedial measures, and disciplined the accused professor. Regarding Plaintiff's §1983 Claims, wherein the Plaintiff alleged Equal Protection violations, the Court concluded that the named defendants "lacked notice, personal involvement, and authority to remedy the sexual harassment," displayed no indicia of an intent to discriminate, and were entitled to Qualified Immunity.
Announcement from California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris and University of California President Janet Napolitano that a model Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), designed for law enforcement agencies and postsecondary institutions, is available online. The goal of the MOU is to improve coordination, collaboration, and transparency between law enforcement agencies and postsecondary institutions in response to cases of campus sexual assault. The MOU includes a How-To-Guide and a Template MOU.
Announcement from Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine regarding three new initiatives designed to help Ohio's colleges and universities better respond to sexual assault. The three initiatives include: (1) a $3 million competitive grant program dedicated to strengthening sexual assault victim advocacy programs; (2) resources to help institutions develop model memorandums of understanding with law enforcement, prosecutors, and victim services providers; and (3) campus sexual assault investigation trainings that will take place throughout the state in summer 2015.
Connecticut legislation (S. 636) requires any public, private, and for-profit institution of higher education to adopt and disclose in its campus crime report the institution's policies on sexual assault, stalking, and intimate partner violence. Among other things, the policy must include provisions for: (1) providing information to students and employees about their options for assistance if they are victims of such violence; (2) disciplinary procedures; and (3) possible sanctions. This bill also requires institutions to use a standard of affirmative consent when determining whether sexual activity was consensual.
Request from the Federal Student Aid (FSA) to help increase awareness of FSA's Spring Student Loan Repayment Campaign, which is designed to educate borrowers about affordable repayment options and to provide borrowers with the tools and resources they need to make informed decisions.
Memorandum issued by Under Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education Ted Mitchell provides direction to the Department in responding to violations of the incentive compensation prohibition of the Higher Education Act (20 U.S.C. § 1094(a)(20)). According to the memo, the Department may recover all Title IV funds received by an institution over a particular period if the funds were received through implementation of a policy through which an institution recruited students in violation of the incentive compensation prohibition. The Department may also impose fines or revoke an institution's eligibility to violate in Title IV programs. The memo changes the Department's approach for measuring damages for violations of the incentive compensation prohibition as described in a memorandum issued by the Department in 2002.
Comment request issued by the U.S. Department of Education regarding a proposed extension to the Talent Search (TS) Annual Performance Report. The report provides the Department with information needed to evaluate a TS grantee's performance and compliance with program requirements, and to award prior experience points in accordance with the program regulations. Interested persons are invited to submit comments on or before August 10, 2015.
Notice from the U.S. Department of Education (Department) regarding its request to the Office of Management and Budget for an emergency review to facilitate the collection of information from borrowers who believe they have cause to invoke the borrower defenses against repayment of a loan as noted in regulation. The Department requested the review due to a recent increase in claims "due to a building debt activism movement as well as the notoriety of Corinthian's collapse, creating a need for a clearer process for potential claimants." The Department has updated this notice to include a 60-day comment period for public comment for the regular information collection. Interested persons are invited to submit comments on or before August 17, 2015.
Report prepared for the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault by the University of New Hampshire examines the efficacy of different methods for delivering campus sexual misconduct policies to first year students. The goal of the report was to determine if exposure to campus policies increased students' knowledge of the policy and campus resources and/or increased students' confidence to seek help or support for themselves, friends, or strangers. The researchers found that student understanding and recollection of campus policies increased as the number of different delivery methods increased. They also found that actively engaging students (through a facilitated discussion, for example) helped students process the information.
Letter from Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee Charles Grassley (R-IA) to U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security (DHS) Jeh Johnson regarding the Senator's concerns with DHS's proposal to lengthen extension periods for the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program. In addition to questioning the legality of the OPT program, the Senator's letter outlines national security concerns and problems identified in a 2014 Government Accountability Office report. Senator Grassley and others learned of DHS's proposal at a briefing on May 28, 2015. According to Senator Grassley's letter, the proposal is still being discussed internally by DHS.
Order from the Utah Court of Appeals affirming the trial court's decision and denying the plaintiff's motion for summary judgment. The case arose when Roger Bryner filed a complaint seeking to compel the Canyons School District (District) to produce a copy of a video-surveillance recording taken by a security camera at Butler Middle School. Holding that the video was an education record under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), the trial court prohibited the release of the recording. The trial court, however, did require the District to provide a redacted copy of the video at the expense of Bryner. On appeal, Bryner raised two primary arguments: (1) the trial court erred by determining that the video was an education record subject to FERPA; and (2) the trial court erroneously ordered Bryner to pay the estimated cost of redacting the video in order to receive a copy of that recording. In addressing Bryner's first argument, the Court analyzed FERPA's statutory language and concluded that Congress did not intend for the definition of "education records" to be limited to only academic records, as contended by Bryner. The Court then analyzed the two elements of an "education record," as set forth by FERPA, and concluded that both were satisfied because: (1) the video contained information related directly to the students in the altercation; and (2) the video was maintained by the District. Given that both elements were met, the Court concluded that the video was protected by FERPA. In analyzing Bryner's second argument, the Court applied the Government Records Access and Management Act (GRAMA) - which governs the procedure in Utah for requesting government records – and concluded that the redaction fee was allowable because GRAMA allows a government entity to charge a reasonable fee to cover costs. Rejecting both of Bryner's arguments, the trial court's ruling was upheld and the plaintiff's motion for summary judgment was denied.
Interactive timeline published by Bloomberg outlines the allegations made against U.S. fraternities and sororities in 2015. According to Bloomberg, in the spring semester of 2015, 133 fraternity and sorority chapters at 55 U.S. colleges were shut down, suspended, or otherwise punished after alleged offenses. The allegations can be searched using the following categories of offenses: (1) hazing; (2) alcohol or drugs; (3) sexual misconduct; (4) property damages/mischief; (5) death; (6) offensive behavior; (7) intimidation; and (8) unspecified.
Announcement from the U.S. Department of Education outlining President Obama's new debt relief process for Corinthian Colleges' students. A different process has been created for: (1) Corinthian students whose schools have closed down; and (2) Corinthian students who believe they were victims of fraud, regardless of whether their school closed.
Order from Region 6 of the National Labor Relations Board (Board) holding that adjunct faculty at Duquesne University of the Holy Spirit (University) may unionize on the grounds that the adjunct faculty were not held out as performing a specific role in maintaining the University's religious educational environment. In reaching this decision, the Board applied the two-pronged test from Pacific Lutheran University, which held that the Board would exercise jurisdiction over an employee unless the employer could demonstrate that: (1) it holds itself out as providing a religious educational environment; and (2) the employer holds the petitioned-for employees out as performing a specific role in creating or maintaining the university's religious educational environment. To determine if the adjuncts were performing specific religious duties, the Board looked at the adjuncts' contracts, courses, and orientation, as well as the University's hiring practices.
Announcement from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regarding the publication of OSHA's Guide to Restroom Access for Transgender Workers. The Guide includes model practices and applicable local, state, and federal laws.
Interactive report published by the Chronicle of Higher Education providing 2014 fiscal-year data on the compensation of 238 presidents at 220 public universities and systems across the United States. The data is organized into four categories: (1) total compensation; (2) base pay; (3) tuitions equivalent to total compensation; and (4) time in office.
Announcement from the U.S. Department of Education that a set of questions and answers about the Federal Perkins Loan Program is available on the Information for Financial Aid Professionals (IFAP) Web site. The Question and Answer document will be updated periodically.
Order from the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey denying the plaintiff's motion to proceed anonymously. The case arose when a student sued Princeton University for allegedly discriminating against him on the grounds of mental disability. The plaintiff requested that the court conceal his identity to "avoid social stigma and emotion distress relating to his mental health." Analyzing the facts using the 9-factor Provident Life test, the Court concluded that openness in the judicial process outweighed the plaintiff's desire to proceed anonymously. The Court noted that it would be "fundamentally unfair" to allow the plaintiff to remain anonymous while forcing the defendants, Princeton University and several named individuals, to defend themselves publically.
Report published by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) summarizes the outcomes of recent college graduates. The report, based on NACE's 2014 First-Destination Survey, provides data on 31 broad disciplines and 190 majors.
Letter from 53 U.S. legislators to U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan requesting that the Department allow students to use data from the second preceding tax year to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The letter outlines current challenges with the FAFSA deadline (January 1) and potential benefits to students, families, and postsecondary intuitions.
Longitudinal study published by the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics which surveyed, over a ten year period, a nationally representative cohort of students during certain points of secondary and postsecondary education. This summary of the longitudinal study examines differences in students' educational attainment by socio-economic status (SES), as well as how other variables may differentially relate to students' educational attainment by SES group.
Legislation (S.1413) introduced by Sen. Daniel Coats (R-IN) proposing to improve compliance with higher education tax benefits by: (1) eliminating penalties under §6721 of the Internal Revenue Code for education institutions that certify they have complied with IRS standards by requesting a student's taxpayer identification number; and (2) requiring taxpayers to have proof of eligibility before claiming certain education tax benefits, including the American Opportunity and Lifetime Learning Tax Credits. The legislation was introduced in response to a recent report by the U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration which revealed that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) paid out billions in potentially erroneous education tax credits to more than 3.6 million taxpayers.
Proposal from the U.S. Department of State to Amend the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) to: (1) update definitions in order to clarify their scope and consistency with the Export Administration Regulations (EAR); (2) create definitions in order to clarify and support the interpretation of the revised definitions proposed in this rulemaking; and (3) address the electronic transmission and storage of unclassified ''technical data'' via foreign communications infrastructure. The Department of State will accept comments on this proposed rule until August 3, 2015.
Legislation (S.B. 308) signed into law by Texas Governor Greg Abbott requires police departments at private colleges and universities to follow the state's public records law. The law takes effect on September 1, 2015.
Notice from the U.S. Department of Education inviting applications for the FY2015 Native American-Serving Nontribal Institutions Program (NASNTI). NASNTI provides grants to eligible institutions of higher education to plan, develop, undertake, and carry out activities to improve and expand such institutions' capacity to serve Native American and low-income individuals. The application deadline is July 6, 2015.
Announcement from the U.S. Department of Education that Volume 5 of the 2015-16 Federal Student Aid Handbook is available online. This volume covers how a school should respond when a student receiving federal student aid withdraws from the institution.
Announcement from the U.S. Department of Education that effective June 3, 2015, grantees under the following programs are authorized to make subgrants: (1) Centers for International Business Education Program; (2) Language Resource Centers Program; (3) National Resource Centers Program; and (4) Undergraduate International Studies and Foreign Language Program. Subgrants but must be made in accordance with the limitations described in the Department's notice.
Announcement from the Council of Regional Accrediting Commissions (C-RAC) outlining the criteria that the seven regional accreditors will use in defining and approving competency-based education (CBE) programs. The common framework agreed to by C-RAC includes a definition of CBE, approaches to CBE, and the approval process for CBE programs.
Notice released by the U.S. Department of Education setting forth the schedule and agenda of an upcoming open meeting of the President's Board of Advisors on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (PBA). The PBA meeting will be held at the at the Bennie G. Thompson Academic and Civil Rights Research Center in Tougaloo, Mississippi on June 23, 2015, from 9:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
Finances: Updates to NACUBO Manual on Business Administration
June 2, 2015
Announcement from the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO) that two chapters have been updated in its College and University Business Administration (CUBA) manual, both of which are available as free downloads. The Procurement chapter, written in conjunction with the National Association of Educational Procurement, describes best practices and the many variables that affect a procurement department's responsibilities and structure. The Strategic Debt Management chapter addresses how changes in the financial markets have impacted debt management.
Order by Region 13 of the National Labor Relations Board (Board) finding that, with limited exceptions, ballots for adjuncts at Saint Xavier University (University) should be counted in a union election because the University failed to demonstrate that adjuncts play a specific role in creating its religious educational environment. The case was remanded to Region 13 in light of Pacific Lutheran University, in which the Board held that it would exercise jurisdiction over an employee unless the employer could demonstrate that: (1) it holds itself out as providing a religious educational environment; and (2) the employer holds the petitioned-for employees out as performing a specific role in creating or maintaining the university’s religious educational environment.
Order from the U.S. Supreme Court overturning the conviction of petitioner Anthony Douglas Elonis and remanding the case to the Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. The case arose when Elonis used his Facebook account to post violent rap lyrics about his wife, co-workers, a kindergarten class, and law enforcement personnel. In response to his Facebook posts, the Federal Bureau of Investigation charged Elonis with five counts of violating 18 U.S.C. §875(c), which makes it a federal crime to transmit in interstate commerce communications that contain threats to hurt others. The District Court held, and the Third Circuit Court affirmed, that under §875(c), Elonis could be found guilty if a reasonable person would interpret his posts as a threat. In a 7-2 opinion, the Supreme Court struck down the "reasonable person" standard, noting their hesitancy in inferring negligence in a criminal statute. Instead, the Supreme Court held that for a conviction under §875(c), there must be proof that: (1) a communication was transmitted; and (2) the communication contained a threat. Relying on the "general rule" of criminal law, which requires a "guilty mind" for proof of crime, the Supreme Court applied a mental state requirement to both prongs of the framework found in §875(c). Using this standard, a person can be convicted under §875(c) if the defendant transmits a communication for: (1) the purpose of issuing a threat; or (2) with knowledge that the communication will be viewed as a threat. The Supreme Court did not address Elonis's First Amendment defense.
Order from the U.S. Supreme Court reversing the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals' granting of summary judgment to respondent Abercrombie & Fitch Stores (Abercrombie). The Ten Circuit held that an employer could not be liable for failing to accommodate a religious practice if the applicant did not provide the employer with actual knowledge of the need for accommodation. In the 8-1 opinion, the Supreme Court rejected the Ten Circuit's "knowledge requirement," holding that under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act an applicant is only required to show that their need for a religious accommodation was a motivating factor in the employment decision. The case arose when Abercrombie refused to hire Samantha Elauf because her headscarf, which she wore pursuant to religious beliefs, conflicted with Abercrombie's dress code policy. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued Abercrombie on behalf of Ms. Elauf.
Announcement from the U.S. Copyright Office regarding the availability of the Fair Use Index (Index). The Index is an online database that tracks and summarizes major fair use judicial decisions. Each judicial decision includes a brief summary of the facts, the relevant question(s) presented, and the court's determination as to whether the contested use was fair. The Copyright Office intends to update and expand the Index periodically.
Comment request issued by the U.S. Department of Education regarding a proposed extension to Pell Grant reporting under the Common Origination and Disbursement (COD) System. The COD System is used by institutions to request, report, and reconcile grant funds received from the Pell Grant program. Interested persons are invited to submit comments on or before June 29, 2015.
Notice from the U.S. Department of Education proposing an altered system of records for the Freedom of Information Act and Privacy Act Tracking System. The proposed alterations include updates to the system location and system of records notice (SORN) number, categories of individuals covered by the system, categories of records in the system, system managers and addresses, and routine uses. Interested persons are invited to submit comments before June 29, 2015.
Announcement from the U.S. Department of Justice that Navient Corporation will soon compensate the 77,795 service members charged excess interest on their student loans. The checks, which are scheduled to be mailed on June 12, 2015, will range from $10 to over $100,000, with an average of about $771.
Report published by the (Virginia) Governor's Task Force on Combating Campus Sexual Violence. The twenty-one recommendations, aimed at preventing sexual assault on college campuses, are organized into five themes: (1) Engaging Our Campuses and Communities in Comprehensive Prevention; (2) Minimizing Barriers to Reporting; (3) Cultivating a Coordinated and Trauma-Informed Response; (4) Sustaining and Improving Campus Policies and Ensuring Compliance; and (5) Institutionalizing the Work of the Task Force and Fostering Ongoing Collaborations. The task force was established by Governor McAuliffe on August 21, 2014, and was chaired by Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring.
Order from the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York denying the Association of Proprietary Colleges' (APC) motion for summary judgment and granting the U.S. Department of Education's (Department) cross-motion for summary judgment. At issue in this case are the Gainful Employment Rules (GE Rules) promulgated by the Department in October 2014 and scheduled to take effect July 1, 2015. APC claimed that the GE Rules: (1) violate the Due Process Clause; (2) exceed the Department's statutory authority under the Higher Education Act of 1965 (HEA); and (3) run afoul of the Administrative Procedure Act's prohibition on arbitrary and capricious agency rulemaking. In addressing the first claim, the Court held that the GE Rules do not violate due process because: (1) the GE Rules do not deprive APC of a protected interest in property or liberty because proprietary colleges do not have a "vested right" to continued eligibility to participate in Title IV federal funding programs under the HEA; and (2) the GE Rules afford affected institutions all the process that is constitutionally required. In addressing the second claim, the Court held that the 2014 GE Rules are based on a permissible construction of the statute and the Department therefore acted within its statutory authority. In so holding, the Court incorporated portions of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals' 2012 opinion in Association of Private Colleges & Universities v. Duncan, in which the Association of Private Colleges & Universities challenged the Department's 2011 gainful employment rules. Finally, in addressing the third claim, the Court held that the GE Rules were the product of "reasoned decision making." Given that all three claims failed, the Court granted summary judgment in favor of the Department.
Comment request issued by the U.S. Department of Education regarding a proposed extension to the Pell Grant Experiments evaluation. The evaluation is a two-part, seven-year demonstration study that focuses on the effects of expanded access to Pell grants on students' educational outcomes, employment and earnings. Interested persons are invited to submit comments on or before July 27, 2015.
Announcement from the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) that 21 teams will be ineligible for postseason play due to low academic performance. Academic performance is measured by the NCAA's Academic Performance Program (APR). In order to compete postseason, the NCAA requires teams to achieve a 930 multi-year APR, which predicts a 50 percent graduation rate among student athletes.
Report published by the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) presents 42 key indicators on topics and trends in U.S. education.
Announcement from the U.S. Department of Education that its inquiry into four federal student loan servicers (Navient, Great Lakes, PHEAA and Nelnet) revealed that each service provider, in the vast majority of cases, complied with the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) as required by the Higher Education Act (HEA). The inquiry, which looked at active-duty service members' SCRA eligibility between 2009 and 2014, showed that in less than one percent of cases borrowers were incorrectly denied the six percent interest rate cap required by the laws.
Notice from the U.S. Department of Education announcing the availability of the Federal Need Analysis Methodology for the 2016-17 award year. The methodology determines a student's expected family contribution for the following student financial aid programs: Federal Pell Grant, Federal Perkins Loan, Federal Work-Study, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan, Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant and TEACH Grant Programs. U.S. Department of Education has made a technical correction to this notice.
Announcement from the U.S. Department of Education that Volume 6 of the 2015-2016 Federal Student Aid Handbook is available online. This volume provides information that institutions need to administer the Federal Work-Study Program, the Federal Supplemental Educational Grant Program, and the Federal Perkins Loan Program.
Order from the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia granting in part and denying in part Highland Mining Company's (Highland) request for documents related to several articles co-authored by a professor from the West Virginia University School of Medicine (WVU). The court held that pursuant to the West Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), WVU may use FOIA's "internal memorandum" exemption to withhold documents that reflect the professor's deliberative process but may not invoke FOIA's "personal privacy" exemption to protect documents containing anonymous peer review comments of the draft articles (although those documents would be exempt from disclosure under the "internal memoranda" exemption). The court also concluded that WVU may not claim an "academic freedom" privilege to avoid the plain language of FOIA.
Order from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit granting in part and denying in part defendant's motion for summary judgment. The case arose when Iris Foster, a police officer employed by the University Of Maryland-Eastern Shore (University), claimed that the University punished her for filing harassment charges against her work supervisor. Foster, under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, alleged three causes of action against the University: (1) discriminatory termination based on gender; (2) retaliatory termination; and (3) the creation of a hostile work environment. The district court initially granted summary judgment to the University on the first and third causes of action and denied summary judgment on the second cause of action based on the McDonnell Douglas burden-shifting framework. Because Foster lacked direct evidence of retaliation, the district court concluded that a reasonable jury could have found that retaliation was "causally related" to her termination. However, in light of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center v. Nassar, which held that a plaintiff must prove "but for" causation in Title VII retaliation cases, the University motioned for reconsideration. The district court granted the motion for reconsideration, and based on Nassar, granted summary judgment to the University on the retaliation claim. The Court of Appeals affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment on the first and third causes of action but reversed on the second cause of action on the grounds that the McDonnell Douglas framework was the appropriate standard for reviewing Foster's claim because the framework incorporates "but for" causation, as required by Nassar. Under the McDonnell Douglas framework, the Court of Appeals held that a reasonable jury could conclude that Foster was fired due to retaliation and not due to the University's purported justifications, and therefore, the University lacked grounds for summary judgment.
Legislation (S. 1195) introduced by U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR), Mark R. Warner (D-VA), and Marco Rubio (R-FL) that would authorize the Secretary of Education to create new program and institution-specific outcome measures. Institutions of higher education who participate in any program under the Higher Education Act of 1965 would be required to submit data consistent with the new measures. A similar piece of legislation, H.R. 2518, was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives. As of May 26, 2015, language was not available for H.R. 2518.
Report published by the National Center for Campus Public Safety (NCCPS), the IACP University and College Police Section, and the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators (IACLEA) summarizing the discussion at the University Public Safety/Police Practitioner's Title IX/Clery Summit II (Summit). Summit participants reviewed and briefly discussed eight challenges associated with the Clery Act and Title IX and, in organized groups, identified one or more "Promising Practice" per challenge. A summary of each challenge, and the correlating Promising Practices, are included in the report.
Announcement from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that premium processing for all H-1B Extension of Stay petitions will be suspended until July 27, 2015. USCIS will continue to premium process H-1B Extension of Stay petitions filed with Form I-907 premium requests prior to May 26, 2015. Premium processing remains available for all other Form I-129 H-1B petitions.
Announcement from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that information and Frequently Asked Questions are now available to help eligible H-4 dependent spouses who seek employment authorization under the Employment Authorization for Certain H-4 Dependent Spouses final rule.
Order from the Ohio Supreme Court requiring a private university police department to provide documents to a campus publication on the grounds that the police department was a public office for purposes of Ohio's Public Records Act. Although the police department was established under Otterbein University, a private institution exempt from Ohio's Public Record Act, the Court held that the police department was a public office because its officers were sworn, state-certified police officers performing a core function of government. The case arose when the news editor of a campus publication, Anna Schiffbauer, requested criminal records from the Otterbein University police department.
Comments from the American Council on Education (ACE) on behalf of fourteen higher education organizations to Chairman Alexander and Ranking Member Murray regarding S. 590, the Campus Accountability and Safety Act. The letter highlights three broad concerns with S. 590: (1) the one-size-fits-all approach assumes that all students attend large, four-year residential institutions; (2) the vague and unclear legislative language creates uncertainty regarding institutional requirements; and (3) the Secretary of Education is authorized to impose huge fines with no clear standards.
Legislation (S.1102) introduced by Sen. Reed (D-RI) that would require colleges or universities with at least 25 percent of the student population participating in the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan program to make risk-sharing payments to the Secretary of Education if the college or university has a cohort default rate of 15 percent or higher. The legislation, known as the "Protect Student Borrowers Act of 2015," would authorize the Secretary of Education to waive or reduce risk-sharing payments for colleges and universities that develop and implement an approved student loan management plan.
Report by the National Association for Music Education found that nearly 30 percent of respondents indicated they observed some form of hazing in their marching band. The most common acts of hazing involved were public verbal humiliation or degradation. Survey respondents represented freshman, sophomores, juniors, and seniors attending National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I schools in thirty states.
Notice released by the U.S. Department of Education setting forth the schedule and agenda of an upcoming open meeting of the National Advisory Council on Indian Education (NACIE). The NACIE meeting will be held in Washington, DC on June 1, 2015, from 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. and on June 2, 2015, from 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Notice released by the U.S. Department of Education setting forth the schedule and agenda of an upcoming open meeting of the National Board for Education Sciences (NBES). The NBES meeting will be held in Washington, DC on June 8, 2015, from 9:00 a.m. to 4:15 p.m.
Publication by the College Board, American Council on Education, and EducationCounsel identifying the issues and challenges that impact diversity programs at colleges and universities. In addition to identifying relevant issues, the goal of the Syllabus is to direct institutions to resources that will help them pursue their goals related to diversity. The publication is comprised of two sections: (1) Key Elements of a Diversity Policy and Legal Framework and (2) Legal Foundations.
Announcement from Federal Student Aid (FSA) that a series of updates have been made to the FSA Data Center. All reports now reflect activity through or as of March 31, 2015.
Legislation introduced by Sen. Sanders (VT) proposes a grant program to eliminate tuition and required fees for students attending public four-year colleges. Under the proposal, the federal government would be responsible for 67 percent of the program's cost and state governments would be responsible for the remaining 33 percent. A summary of the legislation can be found on Sen. Sanders' website.
Notification from the U.S. Department of Education that awards have been approved for the Federal Work-Study, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, and Federal Perkins Loan programs. A list of approved schools and award amounts can be found here.
Final audit report published by the Office of Inspector General (OIG) covers the results of OIG's review of the U.S. Department of Education's compliance with improper payment reporting requirements from October 1, 2013, through September 30, 2014. The report outlines three findings: (1) the Department failed to comply with the Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Act of 2010; (2) the Department needs to improve the accuracy, completeness, and quality of its improper payment estimates and estimation methodologies; and (3) the Department needs to improve the completeness of its improper payment reporting. The Department has 30 days to develop and submit to OIG a corrective action plan that sets forth the specific action items necessary to implement the final corrective actions and recommendations contained in the report.
Announcement from the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) waiving Section 702 of the Veterans Choice Act for all non-compliant states until January 1, 2016. Section 702 requires the VA to disapprove education programs at public institutions for Post-9/11 GI Bill and Montgomery GI Bill-Active Duty benefits if a school charges veterans, as well as their spouses or children, tuition and fees in excess of the resident rate. The VA is requesting all currently non-compliant states and territories to submit their plans to become compliant to the VA no later than June 15, 2015.
Survey published by the University Risk Management and Insurance Association (URMIA) analyzinged how colleges and universities view the risks associated with fraternities. Based on the survey results, URMIA observed that while two-thirds of the respondents judged fraternity risk to be among the institutions' significant or top liability risks, nearly every institution has one or more strategy for addressing risks related to fraternities.
Comment request issued by the U.S. Department of Education regarding a revision to the Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need (GAANN) performance report. Performance reports are used to evaluate grantee performance, as well as the accomplishments and impact of the GAANN Program as a whole. Interested persons are invited to submit comments on or before July 20, 2015.
Comment request issued by the U.S. Department of Education regarding a revision to the 2015–16 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS) Full Scale Institution Contacting and Enrollment List Collection. NPSAS is a nationally representative study of how students and their families finance postsecondary education. The next major NPSAS data collection will occur in 2016 following a field test collection in 2015. Interested persons are invited to submit comments on or before June 18, 2015.
Comments from the National Association of College and University Business Officers to the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) in response to his request for comments on the committee's white paper on Risk-Sharing/Skin-in-the-Game. The letter addresses two specific components of the white paper: Repayment of Federal Student Loans and Cost Structure.
Report published by the National Association for College Admission Counseling shows that while application growth continues for most colleges, a growing number of institutions are taking steps to increase outreach to international and transfer students.
Research published by EDUCAUSE analyzes the next approach to digital learning, defining its principal functional domains (interoperability; personalization; analytics, advising, and learning assessment; collaboration; and accessibility and universal design) and proposing a "Lego" approach that allows individuals and postsecondary institutions to construct learning environments tailored to their own requirements and goals.
Notice issued by the U.S. Department of Education inviting applications for new awards under the Predominantly Black Institutions (PBI) Competitive Grant Program. The purpose of the PBI Program is to strengthen predominantly black institutions to carry out programs in the following areas: science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM); health education; internationalization or globalization; teacher preparation; or improving educational outcomes of African-American males. The deadline to apply is July 2, 2015.
Letter to the U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations from 812 organizations urging members of Congress to increase the Fiscal Year FY2016 302(b) allocation for the Labor, HHS, Education and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee. Without an increase in the proposed 302(b) allocation, the stakeholder groups believe it will be impossible to fund new initiatives while also maintaining funding for current initiatives.
Legislation introduced by Congressmen Chris Collins (NY) and Blake Farenthold (TX) would provide that tuition payments made to a postsecondary institution by a parent on behalf of their child are not fraudulent for purposes of section 548 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. The proposed legislation is intended to prevent bankruptcy collectors from suing colleges for tuition already paid by parents on the behalf of their child.
Comments sent to the Internal Revenue Service by the American Council on Education (ACE) on behalf of eleven higher education organizations regarding the Section 4980I excise tax on high-cost employer-sponsored health plans referenced in Notice 2015-16 (Notice). The Notice is intended to initiate and inform the process of developing regulatory guidance regarding the excise tax on high-cost employer-sponsored health coverage under Section 4980I of the Internal Revenue Code (Code). ACE's comments focus primarily on the specific technical matters raised in the Notice.
Comment request issued by the U.S. Department of Education regarding a revision to forms related to the Health Education Assistance Loan (HEAL) program. The forms are required for lenders to apply to the HEAL program, to report on loan actions, and to establish the repayment status of borrowers who qualify for deferment. Interested persons are invited to submit comments on or before July 14, 2015.
Announcement from the U.S. Department of Education that Volume 3 of the 2015-2016 Federal Student Aid Handbook is available online. This volume discusses how to calcu¬late, award, and disburse the proper amounts for the various Title IV programs.
Legislation (H.B. 934) signed into law by Maryland Governor Larry Hogan prohibits a postsecondary institution from requiring access to information about a student's personal electronic account. A "student" includes current or prospective students, as well as applicants.
Proposal from the U.S. Department of Education to amend the cash management regulations under subpart K and other sections of the Student Assistance General Provisions regulations issued under the Higher Education Act. The proposed changes are intended to: (1) ensure students have convenient access to their title IV funds; (2) ensure students do not incur unreasonable and uncommon financial account fees on their title IV funds; (3) clarify how previously passed coursework is treated for title IV eligibility purposes; and (4) streamline the requirements for converting clock hours to credit hours.
Report published by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center finds that in spring 2015, overall postsecondary enrollment decreased by 1.9 percent from the previous spring. Included in the report are six tables that compare and contrast enrollment statistics by year, sector, institution size and state.
Request issued by the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection for public comments related to the role that servicing plays in facilitating repayment of student loans. The Bureau will use the comments to assist federal and state agencies in prioritizing resources and to assist financial services providers in developing best practices. The deadline for submission of comments is July 13, 2015.
Comment request issued by the U.S. Department of Education regarding a revision to the Federal Perkins Loan Program Master Promissory Note (MPN).The MPN provides the terms and conditions of the Perkins Loan program and is prepared by the participating eligible institution and signed by the borrower. Interested persons are invited to submit comments on or before July 13, 2015.
Compliance calendar published by the U.S. Department of Education summarizing all reports and disclosures required for participation in Title IV programs. Each summary includes the statutory or regulatory authority, a description of what is required in each report/disclosure, the due date, the method of transmittal or distribution, and the recipient of the report/disclosure. The compliance calendar is comprised of three sections: reports, disclosures, and disclosures related to loans.
Announcement from the U.S. Department of Justice that it has moved to intervene in Aleeha Dudley v. Miami University, et al., a lawsuit alleging disability discrimination by Miami University. In their motion to intervene and complaint, the United States alleges that Miami University violated Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by requiring current and former students with disabilities to use inaccessible websites and learning management system software, and by providing these students with inaccessible course materials. The complaint seeks a judgment from the court requiring Miami University to provide accessible materials to individuals with disabilities and to award compensatory damages to aggrieved individuals.
Report released by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) containing information from security firms regarding the current state of cybersecurity threats in the United States as well as internationally. The table within the report provides a list of projects, databases, and annual reports relating to data security breaches, identity thefts, cybercrimes, malwares, and network securities.
Announcement from the U.S. Department of Education regarding the School Partners Survey, which will begin on May 14, 2015. The survey will assess the performance of Federal Student Aid and the Department of Education in terms of the ease with which school partners are able to do business with them. A notification e-mail with a link to the web survey will be sent to a random sample of school financial aid administrators.
Statement released by the Association of American Universities (AAU) expressed concerns that the adopted FY16 Congressional Budget Resolution would force long-term cuts in the nation's investments in research and higher education. AAU recommends that Congress confront the long-term fiscal challenges by raising budget caps and developing a long-term plan to addressing entitlements and taxes.
Report released by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) comparing two pieces of cybersecurity and information-sharing legislation that have passed the House of Representatives. The legislation discussed includes the Protecting Cyber Networks Act (PCNA) (H.R. 1560, as reported in the House on April 13) and the National Cybersecurity Protection Advancement Act of 2015 (NCPAA) (H.R. 1731, as reported in the House on April 17). The two bills have since been combined to form Title I and Title II of the most recent version of H.R. 1560, respectively, and sent to the Senate for consideration.
Announcement of Cybersecurity Week and the four main takeaways from congressional deliberations on cybersecurity-related legislation was issued on April 22. The key considerations that the announcement advises observers of cybersecurity-related activities in Congress to keep in mind include: 1) the complexity of current laws governing cybersecurity information sharing; 2) the fact that legislative efforts at reform are attempts to create a new framework for information sharing as opposed to altering existing laws; 3) the three distinct but related activities covered by cybersecurity legislation, which are not limited to information sharing or the private sector; and 4) the notion that the precise terms and definitions used in various proposals could change the scope of a given provision.
Updated report on cybersecurity-related authoritative reports and resources was issued by the Congressional Research Service (CRS). The report provides references to analytical reports and other resources concerning cybersecurity from CRS, other government agencies, trade associations, and interest groups. The reports and related websites are grouped in tables based on topic.
Report published by Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce on how much college graduates earn by major at the entry-level (ages 21-24) and mid-career (ages 25-59), the most popular majors, the majors most likely to lead to a graduate degree, and the majors for which a graduate degree provides the largest benefit. According to the report: (1) bachelor's degree holders earn an average annual salary of $61,000 over the course of their careers (compared to, $78,000 for those with graduate degrees); (2) science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) majors comprise 20 percent of college-educated workers, and (3) business majors' wages vary the most whereas education majors' wages vary the least.
Opinion from the United States District Court of Nebraska a former doctoral student's request for injunctive relief on the grounds that the defendants – department chairs and other employees at the University of Nebraska - did not violate the plaintiff's constitutional right to due process nor did they retaliate against plaintiff by failing to compel a faculty member to accept the plaintiff as an advisee or to accept the plaintiff's proposed doctoral topic. The court noted that neither the court nor the defendants can compel an advisor to accept a doctoral topic because doing so would substitute their will for that of an advisor.
American Council on Education and 25 higher education associations submitted comments to U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) in response to his request for comments on the committee's white paper on Federal Postsecondary Data Transparency and Consumer Information. The letter addresses postsecondary data needs and transparency in the following categories: consumer information for students and parents, policy analysis and research, and institutional accountability for receipt of public funds.
Legislation (S.B. 352 and H.B. 647) in Minnesota would require public colleges and universities in Minnesota to establish programs that would allow any student who does not meet minimum course placement criteria and who would otherwise be required to enroll in a developmental noncredit course option to take a regular, credit-bearing course while receiving supplemental academic instruction.
Press release issued from the U.S. Department of Education announcing the availability of $60 million in Fiscal Year 2015 in the First in the World (FITW) program. FITW Program will provide grants to institutions of higher education to "spur the development of innovations that improve educational outcomes and make college more affordable for students and families, and to develop an evidence base of effective practices." FY 2015 FITW grant applications are due by June 30, 2015.
Comment request issued by the U.S. Department of Education on the Fulbright-Hays Seminars Abroad Program Application. The program provides opportunities for U.S. educators to participate in short-term study seminars abroad in the subject areas of the social sciences, social studies, and the humanities. The proposed changes to the application include updating language to reflect the seminars current offered and the electronic system used to accept applications, and reducing the number of references that applicants are asked to submit from three to two. Interested persons are invited to submit comments on or before June 8, 2015.
Proposed amendments to the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy and Civil Procedure were submitted to Congress by the U.S. Supreme Court. The proposed amendments affect Bankruptcy Rule 1007 as well as Civil Rules 1, 4, 16, 26, 30, 31, 33, 34, 37, and 55. The amendments would also abrogate Rule 84 and the Appendix of Forms. Unless Congress takes action to further modify the proposed rules, these amendments will become effective December 1, 2015.
Letter from the Department of Education sent in response to requests for information on campus sexual violence complaint and investigation data from Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and Tim Kaine (D-VA). According to the data provided, the number of sexual violence complaints on the college and university level filed with the Department's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) increased from nine in FY 2009 to 102 during FY 2014. Meanwhile, the average length of time it took OCR to investigate complaints of Title IX sexual violence violations at postsecondary institutions increased from 379 days in FY 2009 to 1,469 days in FY 2014 for investigations that resulted in substantive case closures (as opposed to, for example, cases that resulted in findings of no violation or insufficient evidence). OCR's stated goal is to resolve complaints within 180 days.
List of Questions and Answers regarding gainful employment regulations was posted on the U.S. Department of Education's Federal Student Aid Office website. The answers provide information and operational guidance on the requirements of gainful employment regulations. The listing will be updated periodically with new questions and answers.
Order from the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York granting in part and denying in part defendants' motion for summary judgment. The case arose when Elizabeth Manon, an admissions office receptionist at 878 Education LLC, was fired after accumulating excessive absences from work and a poor punctuality record that were purportedly due to her need to attend to her infant daughter's breathing problems. The plaintiff presented evidence that her boss, the director of admissions, stated that he needed someone without children in the position and asked the plaintiff, "So what is it, your job or your daughter?" The Court ruled that the director's comments are the type of "smoking gun" evidence that could support an associational disability discrimination claim under the ADA and under New York law, and thus the plaintiff had a triable case. The Court granted the defendants' motion for summary judgment with respect to the plaintiff's claim of gender discrimination under New York law.
Dear Colleague Letter issued by the U.S. Department of Education announcing a new process for confirming a student's citizenship or immigration status. Through the process, a student may confirm his or her citizenship or immigration status and, in turn, eligibility for Title IV student financial assistance, when the student is unable to appear in person at the institution to present documentation. The announcement includes a sample affidavit that institutions may use to allow a student to submit immigration or citizenship documentation in this manner.
Resource guide for students, parents, and borrowers on creating a Federal Student Aid ID (FSA ID) was posted by the U.S. Department of Education. The announcement advises institutions to distribute the guide after the FSA ID is made available and individuals are allowed to create an account.
Accounting Standards Update (ASU) was proposed by the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) in order to improve the information provided in not-for-profit financial statements and notes to financial statements. The proposed ASU describes FASB's suggested improvements to a reporting model that was first used by independent higher education institutions in the mid-1990s. Interested parties are invited to submit comments on the proposal by August 20, 2015.
Legislation (S. 335) amending the Internal Revenue Code with respect to qualified tuition programs (529 plans) was approved by the U.S. Senate Finance Committee. The bill would make the allowance for payment of computer technology and equipment expenses from a 529 plan permanent as long as the technology and equipment are used primarily by the beneficiary of the plan. Additionally, the bill would eliminate the aggregation requirement for distributions to a 529 plan for purposes of determining taxable income, and would allow a student who withdraws from an educational institution to make a tax-free recontribution to a 529 plan using refunds received from withdrawal, subject to certain conditions.
Notice released by the U.S. Department of Education setting forth the schedule and agenda of an upcoming open meeting of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities Capital Financing Advisory Board. The Board meeting will be held on Monday, May 18, 2015, from 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. at Xavier University of Louisiana.
Announcement issued by the U.S. Department of Education regarding reimbursements for 2013-2014 Federal Perkins Loan cancellations based on the borrower's employment in certain service fields. According to the announcement, because the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2015 (Pub. L. 113-235) did not allocate funds for the 2013-2014 reimbursements, no reimbursement payments will be issued this year. However, the Department will calculate the reimbursement payment for which an institution would have been eligible to receive and maintain a record of that amount.
Report from the Coalition for Urban Serving Universities (CUSU), the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU), and the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMA)—which have partnered as Urban Universities for HEALTH—on the effects of cluster hiring. The report concludes that, when done correctly, cluster hiring can be a powerful way to build both institutional excellence and faculty diversity.
The Texas State Senate passed legislation (S.B. 778) relating to performance-based tuition limitations for public higher education institutions. The bill would require public colleges to meet several performance standards—including standards measuring graduation rates, student completion milestones, the number of degrees earned by at-risk students, and the institution's administrative costs—in order to increase tuition rates beyond the rate of inflation. The bill has been sent to the State House of Representatives for consideration.
Issue brief released by the American Council on Education (ACE) regarding the guidance documents on Title IX Coordinators released by the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) on April 24. The brief summarizes the main aspects of the guidance documents and highlights the information that OCR has not previously conveyed in formal guidance.
The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) Fiscal Year 2013-2014 report to the President and Secretary of Education was released by the U.S. Department of Education. The report observed that OCR increased the quantity, quality, transparency, and reach of its policy and enforcement efforts during the fiscal year. However, at a time when the volume of complaints, requests for information, demands for stakeholder and public engagement, and needs for technical assistance have dramatically increased, the Office's staffing level has consistently declined. The report concludes that while OCR has made important progress in the advancement of civil rights for students, sizable opportunity gaps still exist.
Comments issued by the American Council on Education (ACE) to Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions regarding accreditation. As Congress considers the role of accreditation in federal higher education policy, ACE encourages members to emphasize and maintain what it characterizes as the four central features of accreditation. It also asks that Congress clarify the responsibilities of accreditors vis-à-vis the Department of Education, asserting that accreditors should focus on student learning and educational quality while the Department of Education focuses on enforcing Title IV eligibility requirements.
Ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit reversing the district court's granting of summary judgment to defendant Heritage College on an allegation of fraud. Former Heritage employees Chickoiyah Yehnee Miller and Cathy Lynn Sillman filed a qui tam False Claims suit against the College, alleging it fraudulently induced the Department of Education to provide the College with federal funds by signing a Program Participation Agreement (PPA) without intending to accurately maintain the PPA's required student records. The district court dismissed the case, accepting Heritage's argument that its failures to keep accurate records under the PPA did not cause any improper disbursement of federal funds. On appeal, the Eighth Circuit reversed, holding instead that the plaintiffs did not have to establish a link between record changes made by the college and fraudulent payments in order to prove a claim of fraud under the Act. The Court remanded the case to allow the district court to decide if Heritage understood its obligation to keep accurate records and whether it intended to manipulate its records.
Letter from the Association of American Universities (AAU) to leaders of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space and Technology on the impending markup of the NASA Authorization Act for 2016 and 2017. The letter expresses concern that the Act makes steep cuts in some areas of scientific research in order to bolster funding in other areas, and advises that the Committee reconsider these proposed cuts so that NASA is able to operate effectively and successfully achieve its mission.
Final rule issued by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security amending its regulations under the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP). The new rule grants school officials more flexibility in determining the number of designated school officials to nominate for the oversight of campuses. It also permits accompanying spouses and children of academic and vocational nonimmigrant students with F-1 or M-1 nonimmigrant status to enroll in study at an SEVP-certified school as long as they are enrolled for less than a full course of study. This rule will go into effect on May 29, 2015.
Statement issued by six higher education organizations (the Association of American Universities (AAU), Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU), Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), American Council on Education (ACE), Association of University Technology Managers (AUTM), and Council on Governmental Relations (COGR)) on the introduction of the PATENT Act in the U.S. Senate. While the organizations will need to examine the legislation further, they consider the Act a "substantial improvement" over the Innovation Act (H.R. 9) introduced in the House of Representatives because it "takes a more measured approach to addressing the abusive litigation practices of patent trolls while protecting the integrity of our patent system."
Patents: PATENT Act
April 29, 2015
Legislation entitled "The Protecting American Talent and Entrepreneurship Act of 2015" (PATENT Act) was introduced in the U.S. Senate by Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) on behalf of himself and six other senators. The bill would amend the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act to stop abusive patent litigation practices and prevent bad actors from further undermining the system. Among the bill's key provisions are clarified pleading standards, protections for end users, limitations on early discovery, deterrents from abusive and dilatory litigation practices, curbs on abusive demand letters, and increased transparency by the Patent and Trademark Office.
ACE and 25 higher education associations submitted comments to U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) in response to his request for comments on the committee staff concept paper on risk-sharing – the idea that colleges should have something at risk in order to participate in federal aid programs.
The Association of American Universities and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities submitted comments to the Federal Aviation Administration recommending that university researchers be allowed to fly certain unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) beyond line of sight and encouraging the creation of a new micro-UAS classification. The associations also recommend that the FAA create a student operator certificate to accommodate faculty who wish to have students fly small UAS as part of their classes.
The Association of American Universities and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities submitted comments to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration outlining the benefits of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) to colleges and universities, including their use in research and development, student instruction, and inspection of campus infrastructure. The letter specifically addresses the use of small UAS and privacy, noting that universities are differently situated from commercial entities and should be treated differently.
Joint motion for consent decree by U.S. Department of Justice and Compass Career College to resolve allegations under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Based on its investigation, the Department determined that the college discriminated against an applicant with HIV. Among other things, the terms of the consent decree would require the College to implement a nondiscrimination policy that ensures that the college does not discriminate against persons with HIV and to stop questioning applicants and students about their HIV status.
Legislation introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Senators Richard Durbin and Maxine Waters that would prohibit the use of mandatory arbitration agreements in enrollment agreements made between students and certain institutions of higher education. The bill would also prohibit institutions from requiring any student to agree to limitations or restrictions on the student's ability to pursue a claim against an institution in court.
Dear Colleague Letter released by the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) regarding Title IX coordinators. In addition to incorporating existing OCR guidance on Title IX coordinators, the Letter outlines the factors an institution should consider when designating a Title IX coordinator, describes the Title IX coordinator's responsibilities and authority, and reminds institutions of the importance of supporting Title IX coordinators by ensuring that the coordinators are visible in their school communities and have appropriate training. The Dear Colleague Letter was released in conjunction with a letter directed to Title IX coordinators providing further information about their responsibilities, as well as a 26-page Title IX resource guide.
Legislation (H.E.A. 1042) regarding information provided to students receiving state financial aid was introduced in the Indiana State House of Representatives. The bill would require any postsecondary educational institution in the state that enrolls students receiving state financial aid to provide those students with certain information regarding their education loans on an annual basis.
Notice published by the U.S. Department of Education inviting applications for new awards under the Centers of Excellence for Veteran Student Success program for the fiscal year 2015. The program is intended to encourage institutions of higher education to develop programs to support veteran students in postsecondary education by coordinating services to address the academic, financial, physical, and social needs of these students. The deadline to submit applications is June 23, 2015.
Letter submitted to the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee by the Association of American Universities (AAU) offering comments on Chairman Lamar Alexander's (R-TN) Higher Education Accreditation Concepts and Proposals Paper. The letter offers general comments on current issues surrounding accreditation in relation to educational quality, innovation, competition, and cost. It further addresses specific proposals outlined in Senator Alexander's paper, including the repeal of accreditation regulations unrelated to direct institutional quality, the provision of authority to accreditors to establish risk-adjusted reviews, the establishment of distinctions and gradations within accreditation statuses and reviews, and the delinking of accreditation from institutional eligibility for federal student aid.
Legislation (S.B. 593) introduced in the North Carolina State Senate directing the state's Board of Governors to adopt a policy requiring all professors to teach a minimum of eight class courses per academic year. Under the bill, any professor who teaches less than the required number of classes would have his or her salary reduced on a pro rata basis. However, this faculty member's salary could be supplemented with proceeds from the constituent institution's endowment fund.
Update: The North Carolina Senate Education Committee pulled S.B. 593 from the legislative docket on April 28 and referred the bill for further study.
Legislation (S.F. 64) introduced in the Iowa State Senate affecting the employment of professors at public institutions of higher education. The bill would require the state's Board of Regents to develop and adopt a ratings system establishing specific performance goals for professors as well as minimum thresholds of performance based on student evaluations. Students enrolled at these institutions would then be required to evaluate the performance of their professors at the end of each semester. Any professor who receives a score falling below the agreed-upon performance threshold would be dismissed from employment regardless of tenure status or contract; the five professors who receive the lowest ranks at a given institution would have their continued employment voted upon by the entire student body.
Dear Colleague Letter released by the U.S. Department of Education's Federal Student Aid Office concerning changes mandated by the Budget Control Act of 2011 (the sequester law) that affect Title IV student aid programs. The Letter provides information regarding sequester-required changes to loan fees in the Direct Loan Program where the first disbursement is on or after October 1, 2015, as well as information on sequester required reductions to Iraq-Afghanistan Service Grant and TEACH Grants awards where the first disbursement is on or after October 1, 2015.
Notice issued by the U.S. Department of Education announcing that the Fiscal Operations Report for 2014-2015 and Application to Participate for 2016-2017 (FISAP) have been approved by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Attachments to the Notice include copies of the FISAP form, FISAP instruction booklet, and FISAP desk reference. The FISAP will be available on the eCampus Based (eCB) Web site by August 1, 2015.
Report issued by the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO), the Association for College and University Technology Advancement (ACUTA), and the Association of Colleges and University Housing Officers International (ACUHO-I) on research findings from the 2015 State of ResNet Study. The research is designed to help administrators and business officers at higher education institutions address issues relating to the unprecedented growth in bandwidth and connectivity demands in light of budget restrictions and policy considerations, among other concerns. This report is the fourth installment of a five-year tracking study and includes data from over 450 higher education institutions.
Letter from the Ad Hoc Group for Medical Research asking that Senator Jerry Moran's (R-KS) biomedical research amendment (the Moran Amendment) be added to Congress' fiscal year 2016 budget resolution agreement. The Moran amendment is designed to create a deficit neutral reserve fund to support investment in biomedical research and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The letter characterizes the amendment as "a strong, bipartisan commitment to medical research and ensuring the health and well-being of the American people and our economy."
Letter to leaders of the U.S. Senate and House Appropriations Committees on behalf of the Association of American Universities (AAU) urging both Committees to make research and higher education programs a top priority as they consider the 302 (b) allocations for the Fiscal Year 2016. The letter asks the Committee leaders to ensure that the 302 (b) allocations for higher education-related and scientific research-related congressional subcommittees "support robust investments" in the agencies and programs within their jurisdictions. Such programs include the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy's Office of Science, Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, NASA's science and technology programs, Pell Grants, and Department of Education research programs, among others.
Budget legislation (H.B. 64) had included language that would have reclassified certain professors as supervisors and managers and barred them from engaging in collective bargaining. That language was removed in the version that passed the House on April 22.
North Dakota Senate Bill 2150 was signed into law. The bill grants students enrolled in public colleges and universities the right to be represented by an attorney during suspension or expulsion hearings but includes an exception if the allegation involves academic dishonesty. The bill provides a similar right to student organizations.
Order by the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey granting defendants' motion for summary judgment. The case arose when plaintiff Sarin Kadakia, a former joint BA/MD student at Rutgers State University of New Jersey Medical School, was dismissed from the school after the Academic Standing Committee Committee voted to dismiss Kadakia because of his "persistent academic difficulty and exceeding [the] limitation on the number of failed blocks or courses," and the Dean upheld the decision on appeal. Kadakia filed suit against Rutgers, the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, and the site director for his Medicine Clerkship course for allegedly violating his due process rights. With regard to substantive due process, the Court noted that even if it were to assume that students have protected property interest in continuing their graduate studies, in this case, the Medical School's decision to dismiss Kadakia was not arbitrary and capricious because the record demonstrated that the plaintiff was legitimately dismissed because of his "continuous and obvious academic difficulties." As for the plaintiff's procedural due process claim, the Court found that Kadakia was afforded far greater procedural due process than the informal faculty evaluation that is constitutionally required because he was provided with adequate notice, an opportunity to be heard while accompanied by an attorney, and an appeal. It thus granted the defendants' motion for summary judgment.
Report on the federal role in protecting the nation's information and communications technology systems was published by the Congressional Research Service (CRS). In recent years, experts and policy makers have expressed increasing concerns about protecting these systems from cyberattacks, which many expect to increase in frequency and severity in the near future. The CRS report discusses the concept of cybersecurity, the management of cybersecurity risks, current and proposed federal actions to address these risks, and the long-term challenges that policymakers face in dealing with the threat.
Update: An updated version of this report was released on April 29, 2015.
Order issued by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York granting the defendant Columbia University's motion to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim. The plaintiff, a male college student, was suspended from Columbia after having been found to have engaged in non-consensual sex with a female classmate. The student filed suit against Columbia and its Board of Trustees alleging that the disciplinary process and his resulting suspension violated Title IX. Specifically, the student asserted that he was treated unfairly—and more harshly—on the basis of his sex due in part to the backlash Columbia received because some believed that its treatment of men accused of sexual assault was too lenient. Applying the "well-established precedent of the Supreme Court and Second Circuit," the District Court found that the complaint's assertion of anti-male bias based on the theories of erroneous outcome and selective enforcement were conclusory and at times "overwrought." Since the Court found that there were no factual allegations in the complaint that plausibly suggest Columbia acted because of, rather than in spite of, the plaintiff's sex, it dismissed the complaint.
Updated summary report on cybersecurity legislation, hearings, and executive branch documents was issued by the Congressional Research Service (CRS). The original report provided lists and tables containing recently-enacted laws, major legislative proposals, congressional hearings, executive orders, presidential directives, and CRS reports relating to cybersecurity issues, dating back to 2011. This report is current as of April 17, 2015.
Title IX, Sexual Orientation, and Right to Privacy: Videckis v. Pepperdine University
April 22, 2015
Order by the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California granting in part and denying in part defendant Pepperdine University's motion to dismiss. Two former college basketball players at Pepperdine claimed that they were harassed and discriminated against by their coach and other university officials on the basis of sexual orientation. They filed suit against the University for alleged gender discrimination under Title IX as well as for violations of their right to privacy concerning their medical records and sexual orientation. The Court dismissed the plaintiffs' invasion of privacy claim with regard to their medical records, finding that the complaint only alleged specific facts regarding staff demands for records that were related to plaintiffs' athletic participation. However, the Court granted the plaintiffs leave to amend their complaint to assert that the records requested were unrelated to confirming their physical fitness to participate in the sport. The Court did, however, find that the plaintiffs had a reasonable expectation of privacy as to their sexual orientation and their intimate activities and thus denied the defendant's motion to dismiss this claim. Finally, the Court dismissed the plaintiffs' Title IX claim, which alleged a Title IX violation due to discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, but granted plaintiffs' request for leave to amend to state a claim of discrimination on the basis of gender discrimination. In so doing, the Court noted that "the line between discrimination based on gender stereotyping and discrimination based on sexual orientation is blurry, at best, and thus a claim that Plaintiffs were discriminated against on the basis of their relationship and their sexual orientation may fall within the bounds of Title IX."
Letter from the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO) on behalf of itself and five other representatives of issuers, dealers, community banks, and nonprofit organizations to the U.S. Senate Finance Committee's Community Development & Infrastructure Tax Reform Working Group. The letter encourages the Working Group to permanently increase the bank qualified annual debt limit from $10 million to $30 million, to index that amount for inflation, and to apply it to individual borrowers. The signers assert that by permanently enacting these changes, local governments, schools, hospitals, colleges, and other entities will be able to access capital markets more easily and to sell debt in a more efficient manner, which will ultimately lead to savings for taxpayers.
Letter from the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO) to the U.S. Senate Finance Committee's Community Development & Infrastructure Working Group offering comments on energy tax policy. In its letter, NACUBO reasserts its interest in promoting energy efficiency and renewable energy investments at colleges and universities, and encourages the working group to consider federal policy options to defray the costs of financing these projects. Two specific proposals are offered for the Working Group's consideration: (1) extending and expanding the Section 179D deduction; and (2) allowing tax-exempt revenue bond financing to prepay power purchase agreements.
Statement by the Task Force on American Innovation—a coalition of businesses and business organizations, scientific societies, and university organizations—on the reauthorization of the America COMPETES Act
(H.R. 1806). The statement supports the proposed increase in overall funding for the Department of Energy Office of Science and the National Science Foundation but expresses concerns about the consequences of proposed cuts to specific programs within the Department. The Task Force claims that these cuts will contribute to an innovation deficit that threatens America's global leadership in innovation as well as its international competitiveness.
Resolution (S. Res. 143) introduced in the U.S. Senate by Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) supporting efforts to ensure that all students have access to debt-free higher education. The Resolution expresses support for efforts (1) to help states make increased investments in higher education; (2) to increase financial aid to cover students' total coast of attendance; and (3) to encourage innovation by states and higher education institutions that would make college more affordable by increasing efficiency and enabling speedy and less-costly degree completion.
2015 survey on administrative burden at institutions of higher education was released by the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA). As a follow-up to a similar survey conducted in 2010, NASFAA surveyed financial aid professionals at its member institutions to better understand how ongoing regulatory changes are affecting college financial aid offices. The findings indicate that students attending institutions in all higher education sectors are likely experiencing reduced access to financial aid office services, due in large part to a prolonged increase in administrative burden and an environment characterized by limited operating resources. The report concludes with nine recommendations designed to address the causes of resource constraints and to reduce administrative burden.
Notice issued by the U.S. Department of Education inviting applications for new awards under the Strengthening Institutions Program (SIP). SIP provides grants to eligible institutions of higher education to help them become self-sufficient and expand their capacity to serve low-income students by providing funds to improve and strengthen the institution's academic quality, institutional management, and fiscal stability. For the fiscal year 2015, the Department will award additional points to applications that meet the competitive preference priority of supporting strategies for which there is "moderate evidence of effectiveness." The application deadline is 45 days after April 23, 2015.
Statement by the Association of American Universities (AAU) opposing the current form of the America COMPETES Act reauthorization legislation (H.R. 1806). According to AAU, the COMPETES Acts of 2007 and 2010 established a "unifying vision for enhancing America's competitiveness through science and innovation" that H.R. 1806 fails to uphold. While AAU acknowledges that tight caps on domestic discretionary spending imposed by the Budget Control Act make it very difficult to provide significant investments in research, it expresses concern that the proposed cuts in vital areas of research are creating an innovation deficit that threatens America's role as global innovation leader.
Order by the St. Joseph County Superior Court, in response to cross-motions for judgment on the pleadings, holding that the University of Notre Dame's Security Police Department is not required to provide ESPN access to police records about student athletes. ESPN and one of its reporters filed suit against the private University and its campus police department, alleging that they violated Indiana's Access to Public Records Act by withholding police incident reports involving student athletes. The Court held that because the University's police department does not constitute a separate legal entity, and because the University is not a public agency under the state's open records law, the police department is no more subject to the state's Public Records Act than the University itself. The Court thus granted the University's motions for dismissal and judgment on the pleadings.
Ruling by the Arizona Superior Court of Pima County upholding defendant Arizona Board of Regents' denial of access to records requested by plaintiff Energy & Environmental Legal Institute (E&E), which included "prepublication critical analysis, unpublished data, analysis, research, results, drafts, and commentary" contained in emails written by two University of Arizona climate scientists. Under Arizona case law, state agencies are presumptively required to disclose requested information but may seek to have records declared exempt "if release of the information would have an important and harmful effect upon the official duties of the official or agency." After weighing the conflicting claims by E&E and the Arizona Board, the Court found that "the abundance of supporting evidence presented" by the Board indicated that it had not abused its discretion or acted arbitrarily or capriciously in refusing to release the requested records.
Emergency decision issued by the Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education – an oversight body located within California's Department of Consumer Affairs - ordering Corinthian Colleges to cease enrollment of any new students in its programs at thirteen locations. The order was issued in light of concerns regarding the school's financial resources and regulatory disclosures. According to the order, Corinthian has the right to request a hearing before the Director of the Department of Consumer Affairs prior to the effective date of the decision, as well as the right to obtain judicial review of the decision after it takes effect.
Order by the Oregon Employment Relations Board finding that Portland State University (PSU) unlawfully interfered with, restrained, or coerced employees represented by the Portland State University Chapter American Association of University Professors (Association) in the exercise of their collective bargaining rights. The Association filed an unfair labor practice complaint against PSU, alleging that the University violated state labor law by announcing, two days before an Association strike vote, that it would disable log-in credentials to University-provided e-mail and other electronic accounts for any striking faculty members. The Board concluded that the University's statement would "naturally and probably" chill the employees in exercising their statutorily-guaranteed rights, including the strike-authorization vote, because Association-represented employees are highly dependent on being able to access the Odin system for their organizing efforts. In addition to issuing a cease and desist order, the Board ordered the University to post and circulate the ruling to Association-represented employees.
Volume 1 of the 2015-2016 Federal Student Aid Handbook was released by the U.S. Department of Education. This volume covers student eligibility requirements and covers issues such as school-determined requirements, citizenship, and financial aid history, among others.
New guidance on financial literacy for counselors and college access professionals was released by the Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA). The guidance provides a framework that institutional professionals can use to inform financial aid recipients and students about key financial concepts to help them make informed budgeting, borrowing, and loan repayment decisions.
Study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on hiring trends in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. The researchers found that, contrary to popular belief, both men and women faculty members from the four fields studied (biology, engineering, economics, and psychology) preferred female applicants by a factor of 2:1 over identically-qualified males with matching lifestyles.
Legislation entitled the "America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2015" was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX). The bill would increase federal funding of technological innovation and prioritize investment in basic research, fundamental scientific discovery, and development. To offset the proposed funding increases, the bill would also cut funding for programs that focus on later-stage technology development and commercialization activities. Representative Smith issued a press release in conjunction with the Act.
Legislation (H.B. 3476) to protect the privacy of survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault was passed by the Oregon House of Representatives. The bill would establish a privilege in civil, criminal, administrative, and postsecondary institutional disciplinary proceedings for certain communications between individuals seeking services related to domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking and qualified victim services programs and advocates.
Legislation (H.R. 1791) introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives to amend the patent law in light of an ambiguity created by language in the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act (AIA) (Public Law 112–29; 125 Stat. 284) and related regulations. Under current law, uncertainty exists regarding the scope of the one-year grace period during which an inventor who discloses an invention to the public may decide whether to file a patent application for the invention. The Grace Period Restoration Act would add a new section, 102(b)(3), to clarify that the grace period protects an inventor against disclosures by anyone even after the inventor has made a public disclosure of the claimed invention in a printed publication.
Report published by the American Psychological Association on racial and gender bias among professors when considering requests from prospective students seeking mentoring. The researchers' data indicated that faculty members were significantly more responsive to white males than to all other categories of students collectively. These results were more pronounced in higher-paying disciplines and at private institutions.
Notice of the collection of information on reaffirmation agreements was published by the U.S. Department of Education. Program lenders will use the information on the reaffirmation form to enforce the borrower's obligation to repay the total Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) or Direct Loan debt that the borrower acquired. Interested persons should submit comments on or before May 18, 2015.
Educational Longitudinal Study of 2002 was released by the U.S. Department of Education. The study tracks the educational and developmental experiences of high school students who were sophomores during the spring of 2002. In the report, the Department uses information gathered during in 2013–14 to provide a "descriptive portrait" of the students' higher education experiences. Some of the variables analyzed included choice of institution, degree completion, and highest level of education achieved.
Budget legislation (H.B. 64) pending before Ohio's House Finance Committee that includes language affecting the classification of professors at public institutions. The bill would reclassify professors who are "involved in personnel decisions, selection or review of administrators, and determination of educational policies related to admissions, curriculum, subject matter, and methods of instruction and research" as supervisors or managers. The classification would bar professors who participate in these activities from engaging in collective bargaining.
2015 Survey of Community College Presidents was released by Inside Higher Ed. The survey is designed to help interested parties understand how community college leaders perceive and address the challenges facing their institutions. Issues addressed include proposals for free community college, the focus on degree completion, online courses, for-profit institutions, stackable credentials, students' academic options, and the purported "skills gap."
Statement from National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO) on behalf of itself and nine other higher education organizations to the U.S. Senate Finance Committee Working Group on Business Income Tax. In light of the Committee's current consideration of options to reform the federal tax system, NACUBO contends that Congress should grant tax-exempt status to colleges and universities due to the contributions these institutions make to the public good.
Comments submitted by the American Council on Education (ACE) on behalf of itself and fifteen other higher education groups to the U.S. Senate Finance Committee Tax Reform Working Group on Individual Income Tax. ACE expresses support for the existing "three-legged stool" framework in the federal tax code that (1) encourages saving for higher education; (2) helps students and families pay for college; and (3) assists borrowers as they repay student loans. Additionally, ACE encourages the Committee to preserve the current tax incentives for charitable donations while avoiding measures that could significantly impact these donations.
Joint statement on behalf of fifteen associations involved in higher education to the Senate Finance Committee Working Group on Community Development and Infrastructure. The statement urges Congress to protect tax-exempt bond financing, including qualified 501(c)(3) private-activity bonds. These financial instruments, the statement contends, are necessary to preserve the financial health of hospitals, colleges, universities, and other charitable organizations.
Order issued by the New York Supreme Court for the County of New York requiring respondent Barnard College permit Petitioner Georgette Fleischer's grievance to be heard by the Faculty Internal Grievance Procedure (FIGP). Petitioner was challenging Barnard's decision not to reappoint her to teach a class that she had taught in previous years. Petitioner asserted that, despite the fact her appointments were fixed terms of limited term duration and she was offered a contract to teach the same number of courses, failure to require a majority faculty vote on the decision not to reappoint her to teach the course she taught previously violated college procedures and was an employment decision grievable under the FIGP. Barnard College directed Petitioner to a different grievance procedure. The Court determined that petitioner's grievance should be considered using the FIGP and ordered Barnard to review Petitioner's grievance using the FIGP.
Letter from the U.S. Department of Education to the President of Corinthian Colleges notifying Corinthian of the Department's decision to fine the Corinthian-owned Heald College. The Department found that Corinthian failed to uphold its fiduciary duty in administrating Title IV programs and misrepresented its job placement rates at Heald. According to the letter, a $29,665,000 fine has been levied on Corinthian for these violations.
Notice regarding the application for Title III or Title IV designation was posted by the U.S. Department of Education. To apply for Title III or Title V designation, and thus be eligible for a waiver of the Federal Work Study (FWS) and Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) non-federal share requirements, an institution must complete the "Application for Designation as an Eligible Institution" annually through the Office of Postsecondary Education's website. The notice posted contains information on the application process for 2015.
Legislation (AB 968) regarding the content of student transcripts has been introduced in the California legislature. The bill would require the governing bodies of both public and private postsecondary educational institutions to indicate on a student's transcript when the student is ineligible to reenroll due to suspension or expulsion.
Annual report on the economic status of college and university faculty by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) was published in the March-April issue of AAUP's magazine, Academe. The report discusses four common myths about higher education and presents data from a variety of sources to counter those myths. Additional information associated with the report, including the appendices and a list of tables and figures, is available on the AAUP website.
Report on state funding of higher education was released by the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association (SHEEOA). The report presents a description of revenue sources and uses, an analysis of national trends in enrollment and revenue, and a comparison between states, among other information. According to the report, the data suggests a "continuing economic recovery and restoration of state funding for higher education on average nationally."
Memorandum issued by Richard F. Griffin, Jr., General Counsel for the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), to guide parties in complying with representation case procedure changes that take effect on April 14. The Board adopted the final rule implementing the procedure changes in December 2014 in order to "remove unnecessary barriers to the fair and expeditious resolution of representation cases, simplify representation-case procedures, codify best practices, and make them more transparent and uniform across regions." In the memorandum, the General Counsel outlines the changes made by the final rule and explains how the changes will impact representation case processing.
Decision by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) regional office in Boston approving potential union participation for fourteen temporary instructors at Lesley University. Service Employees International Union, Local 509 (SEIU) sought to represent 181 core faculty members employed by the University, in addition to fourteen "temporary" faculty members that the University hired to fill in for faculty members who are absent for substantial periods of time. Lesley sought to exclude its temporary faculty members from the unionizing effort based on their temporary status and purported lack of a "community of interest" with the core faculty. However, the NLRB found that the temporary faculty shared a sufficient community of interest with the core faculty to be included in the unit. It further concluded that Lesley failed to demonstrate that the prospect of termination is "sufficiently finite" to make the temporary faculty ineligible to vote because, although the temporary faculty members work on one-year contracts, Lesley repeatedly re-hired enough of them to warrant some expectation of continued employment at the University.
Legislation (H.B. 1892) that grants students at public institutions of higher education the right to active assistance of legal counsel during the campus appeals process was signed into law by Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson. Under the new law, any student who has received either a suspension of ten or more days or an expulsion may hire a licensed attorney or non-attorney advocate to fully participate during the disciplinary appeal proceeding. The student would be responsible for any expenses associated with such representation. The right does not apply to allegations of academic dishonesty.
Legislation (H.B. 1471) entitled the "John Wall New Voices Act" passed unanimously in both the North Dakota Senate and the House and was signed into law by Governor Jack Dalrymple. The law was designed to protect the First Amendment rights of student journalists by forbidding administrators at public and private colleges from using the Supreme Court case Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier to justify censorship of school-sponsored media. In Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier, the U.S. Supreme Court held that student newspapers not designated as public forums have lesser First Amendment protections than other forms of student expression.
Response letter from the Association of American Universities and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities to the letter that the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) recently sent to 145 university presidents and chancellors asking them to reconsider their active opposition to the Innovation Act (H.R. 9), which is currently pending in the U.S. House of Representatives. The letter reiterates the groups' support for addressing the bad actors in the patent system but asserts that legislative efforts to curtail patent abuses "should be narrowly tailored to address the abuses of this small minority of patent holders without substantially weakening the U.S. patent system as a whole." The Innovation Act, they conclude, fails this test.
Program Integrity: Two Reports on Competency-Based Education by the American Enterprise Institute
April 9, 2015
Two new reports on competency-based education were released by the American Enterprise Institute's (AEI) Center on Higher Education Reform. The first paper uses results from a survey of nearly 500 hiring managers at companies throughout the country to pinpoint several obstacles to the expansion and acceptance of competency-based education efforts within the labor market. The survey found that while employers' overall awareness of competency-based education programs is low, those that do know about it have a favorable view of such programs. The second paper identifies best practices for the assessments employed by competency-based programs. The report argues that the viability of competency-based programs depends on the quality of those assessments.
Letter signed by the attorneys general of nine states calling on the U.S. Department of Education to forgive the loan debts of students who attended Corinthian Colleges. The letter suggests two processes for discharging federal student loans based on a school's alleged violations of state law and asks the Department to consider implementing either or both of them. Additionally, the signers offer to help the Department and other federal agencies recoup loan balances from schools that committed violations and benefitted from unlawful deception.
Legislation (S.B. 210) to protect students' social media accounts from school officials—including those at public and private colleges and universities—was passed by the Maryland legislature. The legislation would prohibit school officials from requiring or asking students to provide access to their social media accounts and protect schools from legal liability over students' posts. The bill was submitted to Governor Larry Hogan for consideration.
Notice of a new information collection proposal for the College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP) Annual Performance Report (APR) was published by the U.S. Department of Education. In compliance with the Higher Education Act, CAMP office staff collects the data on recipients of multi-year discretionary grants using the generic 524B APR. The staff has requested a customized APR that goes beyond the 524B APR to facilitate the collection of more standardized and comprehensive data, to improve the overall quality of data collected, and to increase the quality of data that can be used to inform policy decisions. Interested parties are invited to submit comments on or before June 9, 2015.
Draft of a proposed expansion to the Pay As You Earn (PAYE) income-driven student loan repayment program, released by the U.S. Department of Education at the second session of the Department's negotiated rulemaking to establish a new plan for those not covered by the existing Pay as you Earn Repayment Plan in the Federal Direct Loan Program . The revised program, also known as REPAYE, would be available to all Direct Loan student borrowers who have a partial financial hardship at the time they select the plan. The draft proposal outlines several new features, which are designed to target the "neediest borrowers" and are not available in the existing PAYE plan.
Update: On April 30, negotiators on the U.S. Department of Education's rulemaking committee reached consensus on the REPAYE proposal, which would create a new income-based repayment program available to all federal Direct Loan borrowers regardless of when they took out their loans. According to Department lawyer Brian Siegel, the Department plans to formally propose the new repayment program and seek public comment on the plan in early July.
Annual report on the college degree-attainment rate among U.S. residents was released by the Lumina Foundation. The report provides data that describe degree attainment at the national, state, and county levels, as well as for the nation's 100 most populous metropolitan regions. According to the report, forty percent of U.S. residents between the ages of 25 and 64 had at least an associate degree in 2013, representing a 0.6-percentage point increase in the college attainment rate from the previous year. At the end of the report, Lumina provides a roadmap for achieving its goal of having 60 percent of the population earn college degrees or credentials by 2025.
Denial of certiorari was issued by the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Niwayama v. Texas Tech University. The decision left undisturbed the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals' decision that the plaintiff, Satomi Niwayama, could not pursue the Title VII sex, national origin, or race discrimination claims she filed when she was denied tenure by Texas Tech University because she did not file a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) within 300 days of the University's decision. The Fifth Circuit found that although the University did not finally reject Niwayama's appeal until ten months after the limitation period began, the limitation period was not tolled by "the pendency of . . . university grievance procedures." The Fifth Circuit also rejected the plaintiff's argument that because the University's decision to deny her tenure had consequences for her compensation, the decision constituted a "discriminatory compensation decision" under the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. holdings by the Tenth, Third, and District of Columbia Circuits, the Fifth Circuit reaffirmed its previous holding that the Ledbetter Act's prohibition of discrimination does not apply to "discrete acts" by employers such as "termination, failure to promote, denial of transfer, and refusal to hire." The Supreme Court denied review of the claim without additional comment.
Investigative report conducted by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) on the nonrenewal of two long-term professors at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. The report found that the Cancer Center administration violated commonly-accepted academic standards when it terminated the appointments of the professors without affording them requisite academic due process.
Final report released by Brown University's Sexual Assault Task Force as a continuation of the Interim Report released in December 2014. The Task Force was convened in the fall of 2014 to investigate the issues and challenges presented by sexual and gender-based violence and harassment on college campuses. Among its recommendations, the Task Force urges the University to adopt a new "unified policy" that defines gender-based harassment, sexual violence, relationship and interpersonal violence, and stalking as "prohibited conduct"; and to centralize all University processes dealing with sexual assault in a recently-created Title IX office.
Dear Colleague Letter published by the Department of Education discussing the statutory and regulatory requirements for entrance counseling as well as institutions' flexibility to augment that counseling. The letter provides institutions with information on loan counseling strategies that they can use to help ensure that students' borrowing decisions are well-informed. Additionally, the letter reminds institutions that they may require students to complete exercises designed to improve student understanding of the implications of borrowing as part of their loan entrance counseling program, but that those measures may not "unreasonably" impede students' access to a loan.
Contract agreement between New York University and its graduate student employee union, International Union UAW Local 2110, was ratified. As a result of the agreement, NYU will increase the starting hourly pay for employees of NYU's graduate school over the life of the five-year agreement. Among its other provisions, the contract also establishes new family health-care and child-care benefits and adds protections from discrimination.
Draft plan regarding participation rate index appeals was unveiled by the White House. The plan would expand the circumstances under which a college could appeal a high default rate on the basis that a low percentage of its students borrow money through the federal loan program. Under this proposal, colleges would be allowed to appeal their default rate based on a low rate of federal loan borrowing any year in which their default rate is 30 percent or greater.
Comments submitted by the National Association of College and University Businesses Officers (NACUBO) in response to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's (CFPB) proposed Safe Student Account Scorecard (see attachment). The Safe Student Account Scorecard is designed to be a tool for institutions of higher education to solicit information on the fees and features of financial products before selecting a financial institution partner. The comments reflect NACUBO's concerns regarding the initiative, as well as their recommendations for improvements.
Report published by the U.S. Department of Education on the total, net, and out-of-pocket prices by type of institution in 2011–12. The report, "What is the Price of College," focuses on three topics: (1) the average prices paid by full-time undergraduates at different types of institutions; (2) how components of average total and net prices of attendance vary by type of institution; and (3) how net prices paid by full-time undergraduates vary by income.
Texas bill, S.B. 1819, would repeal the 2001 Texas Dream Act by abolishing in-state college tuition for students who are not "authorized under federal statute to be present in the United States." After 11 hours of debate, the Senate Subcommittee on Border Security voted to send the bill to the full Veterans Affairs and Military Installations committee.
Notice from U.S. Department of Education on a proposed extension of an existing information collection related to the Lender's Application Process (LAP). LAP is submitted by lenders who are eligible for reimbursement of interest and special allowance, as well as Federal Insured Student Loan claims payment, under the Federal Family Education Loan Program. The information will be used by the Department to update Lender Identification Numbers (LID's), lender names, addresses with 9 digit zip codes, and other pertinent information. Interested persons are invited to submit comments on or before May 7, 2015.
Memorandum opinion by the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania granting defendant University of Pittsburgh-Johnstown's (UPJ) motion to dismiss a lawsuit by Seamus Johnston, a transgender male student who alleged that the University discriminated against him based on his sex and transgender status in violation of Title IX and the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Johnston initially applied to UPJ by listing his sex as "female" on his application form; however, he "consistently lived as male" while enrolled at UPJ, which included using the men's locker room and restrooms. UPJ informed Johnston that he would only be allowed to use the men's locker room and restrooms if he officially changed his gender in UPJ's records by presenting a new birth certificate or court order. Johnston failed to take these steps and instead continued using men's restrooms and the men's locker room, which resulted in his expulsion from the University after being found guilty of "exhibiting disorderly, lewd or indecent behavior" and disregarding University directives. Federal Judge Kim Gibson dismissed Johnston's suit, holding that his transgender status was not covered by either the Equal Protection Clause or Title IX. With regard to the Equal Protection claim, Judge Gibson concluded that transgender status is not a suspect class and therefore analyzed UPJ's actions under rational basis scrutiny. Judge Gibson subsequently found that the University's rationale of needing "to ensure the privacy of its students to disrobe and shower outside of the presence of members of the opposite sex" was a rational justification for its actions. With regard to Title IX, Judge Gibson held that "the plain language of Title IX does not prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity," and therefore rejected that claim as well.
Opinion and order by the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York granting defendant Vassar College's motion for summary judgment. The student, Yu, was expelled from Vassar after the College's Interpersonal Violence Panel found that he had sexually assaulted another student in violation of the Vassar College Regulations prohibiting non-consensual sexual contact. Yu filed suit, claiming that gender bias was a motivating factor in his expulsion from Vassar and therefore that his expulsion violated his rights under Title IX. After reviewing the facts presented by Yu, the Court found that there was no evidence that gender bias was a contributing factor in Yu's expulsion or that Vassar had otherwise violated state law.
Announcement that the U.S. Department of Justice has entered into a settlement agreement with edX Inc. to remedy alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). edX is a nonprofit platform used by approximately 60 universities and institutions to offer massive open online courses (MOOCs) to the general public. Within 18 months of the date of the settlement, edX is required to modify its website, platform, and mobile applications to conform to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 AA. Among other things, edX must provide accurate captioning for the deaf, oral navigation signals for the blind, and programing changes so that those with dexterity disabilities can navigate content without struggling with a hand-operated mouse.
Statement issued by President of the University of Maryland Wallace D. Loh concluding that although a student's private email that condoned non-consensual sexual conduct was "hateful and reprehensible," it did not violate University policies and was protected by the First Amendment.
Letter from forty-six members of Congress to the Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies, requesting that the Subcommittee include "robust funding" for Title VI/Fulbright-Hays programs. The letter states that these programs have helped the United States "develop a strong foundation in international education, research, and foreign language studies," all of which are crucial to the interests of national security and global economic competitiveness.
Request for comments regarding the reinstatement of the application for the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) Program and the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act (SAFRA) of 2009 Program was published in the Federal Register by the Department of Education. These programs provide historically Black institutions with resources to establish or strengthen their physical plants, financial management, academic resources, and endowments. Interested parties are invited to submit comments within sixty days of the posting of the comment request.
Notice published by the U.S. Department of Education inviting applications for new awards for the fiscal year 2015 Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need (GAANN) Program. The GAANN Program provides grants to colleges and universities to support graduate fellowships for students with excellent academic records who demonstrate financial need and plan to pursue the highest degree available in their course of study at the institution. The deadline for submitting applications is May 29, 2015.
Notice published by the U.S. Department of Education inviting applications for new awards for the fiscal year 2015 Minority Science and Engineering Improvement Program (MSEIP). The MSEIP is designed to improve science and engineering education at predominantly minority institutions and to increase the flow of underrepresented ethnic minorities into scientific and technological careers. The deadline for submitting applications is June 1, 2015.
Statement released by Penn State President Eric Barron in light of media reports on a private Facebook page created by members of the Kappa Delta Rho (KDR) fraternity that depicted unconscious women, hazing, and drug deals. President Barron stated that he was "repulsed and shocked" by the alleged behavior but, in the interest of due process, called upon those pushing for the immediate expulsion or suspension of all KDR members to allow the criminal investigation of the matter to be completed before any sanctions are considered. The President also announced that he will create a task force to conduct a "focused examination" of life in fraternities and sororities at Penn State "in a manner that supports the best of Greek life, while promising real and lasting change."
Announcement from the U.S. Department of Education (Department) that they will soon publish a list of the 560 institutions subject to Heightened Cash Monitoring. Heightened Cash Monitoring is a step that the Department's Federal Student Aid office can take with institutions to provide additional oversight on financial or federal compliance issues. The list has been released to members of the press that previously requested it, and will be published on the Department's website in the coming days and updated on a regular basis.
Update: The Department of Education has released a complete list of the 560 institutions subject to Heightened Cash Monitoring. The current list includes the names of twenty institutions that were redacted from the previously-released list.
Press release announcing the results of an annual study conducted by the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources (CUPA-HR) on the salaries of higher education professionals. The data from CUPA-HR's 2014-15 Professionals in Higher Education Salary Survey indicated that the overall median base salary for these professionals increased by 2.2 percent in 2014. The median base salary increase for professionals employed by public institutions was 2.3 percent, while the increase for those at private institutions was 2.1 percent.
Religious Freedom and Discrimination: Statements by the Presidents of Three Indiana Universities on Indiana's Religious Freedom Restoration Law
March 30, 2015
Statements issued by the presidents of Indiana University, Butler University, and DePauw University questioning the wisdom of the state's newly-signed Religious Freedom Restoration law. The legislation states that the government may not impose a substantial burden on a person's exercise of religion unless the burden: (1) "is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest;" and (2) "is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest." Critics of the law claim that it enables businesses to discriminate against LGBT individuals; state lawmakers, on the other hand, defend the law as necessary to protect religious freedom. The presidents' statements express concerns about the law and reaffirm their institutions' commitment to diversity and respect for all individuals.
Update: The Indiana legislature has since introduced a new bill (S.B. 50) designed to address concerns that the original law would allow privately-owned businesses to discriminate against individuals on the basis of their sexual orientation. S.B. 50 clarifies that the original law does not authorize any business to refuse to offer or provide services to members of the public based on various characteristics, including sex or sexual orientation.
Press release issued by the U.S. Department of Justice's Office of Public Affairs announcing the indictment of a student at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, Mississippi, for federal civil rights violations. The student, Graeme Phillip Harris, allegedly conspired with others to hang a rope and an outdated version of the Georgia state flag, which prominently depicts the Confederate battle flag, around the neck of the James Meredith statue on the campus of the University. Harris was indicted by a federal grand jury on one count of conspiracy to violate civil rights and one count of using a threat of force to intimidate African American students because of their race.
Announcement issued by the U.S. Department of Education detailing how a college or university may request a waiver of the community service expenditure requirements under the Federal Work-Study (FWS) Program for the 2015-2016 Award Year. Section 443(b)(2)(A) of the Higher Education Act of 1965 sets forth the community service expenditure requirements under the FWS Program that an institution must meet unless the Secretary of Education grants it a waiver. The Secretary may waive the requirements if the institution has demonstrated that enforcing the requirements would cause a hardship for the students at that school.
Press release issued by the Association of American Universities (AAU) and Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU) recommending principles that institutions can incorporate into their policies regarding innovation, technology transfer, and commercialization. The Associations hope that these recommendations will "help assure the public and policymakers that universities continue to be focused on their primary missions [of education, research, and public service], and that their technology transfer operations are being managed in a way that serves these missions."
Determination letter issued by the Illinois Assistant Attorney General on whether colleges and universities can withhold access to student directory information under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). The underlying debate arose when the College of Dupage turned over a database of its email accounts in response to an Illinois Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request but redacted all student email addresses. The College claimed that it retained the right to choose not to release the information requested even though it had permission under FERPA to disclose directory information, including student email addresses. The Illinois Assistant Attorney General disagreed, concluding that the College did not demonstrate that FERPA could be interpreted to prohibit student email addresses from being disclosed in response to a state FOIA request.
Letter from a group of twenty-seven U.S. Senators asking members of the Senate Appropriations Committee to fund the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) at the President's requested levels of $147.9 million. The letter states that federal financial support for the arts and humanities is "a vital economic, educational, and cultural priority" and that the requested funding will help the endowments maintain their successful programs.
Audit report released by the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Inspector General regarding the Department's Federal Student Aid Office (FSA). The report found that FSA has not adequately carried out regulatory changes that were made in 2010 to override previous regulations that allowed colleges and universities to pay recruiters without violating the federal law banning incentive compensation. While the 2010 regulatory changes, according to the Inspector General's office, gave the Department "an excellent opportunity to revise its enforcement policies and practices" regarding incentive compensation, FSA has failed to carry out all of the recommended tests for identifying violations or institute more aggressive penalties for violating the ban.
Announcement from the U.S. Department of Education that an open NACIQI meeting will be held on June 25–26, 2015, from 8:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., at a location to be determined in the Washington DC area. In addition to its review of accrediting agencies and State approval agencies for Secretarial recognition, the meeting agenda will include Committee discussions regarding the Committee's policy recommendations to advise the Secretary in preparation for the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA). Any written comments must be received by May 1, 2015. One June 15, 2015, the Department issued a revised agenda for the NACIQUI meeting.
Report published by the American Association of University Women highlighting research that explores the factors underlying the underrepresentation of women in STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics), including stereotypes and biases, college curriculum, and workplace environment. The report includes a number of recommendations for specific changes at colleges and universities and in the workplace.
Report issued by Richard F. Griffin, Jr., General Counsel for the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), on recent case developments arising in the context of employee handbook rules. The report is designed to help employers review and, if necessary, revise their handbooks. The report is divided into two parts: (1) a comparison of rules that the NLRB found unlawful with rules the NLBR found lawful and an explanation of the Board's reasoning; and (2) a discussion of handbook rules from a recently settled unfair labor practice charge against Wendy's International LLC.
Statement made by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) expressing its concern over the passage of a controversial Indiana bill (S.B. 101). The new law includes broad language that critics are concerned will allow businesses to refuse service based on a customer's sexual orientation. According to its statement, the NCAA is committed to ensuring that athletes competing in, and visitors attending, next week's Men's Final Four in Indianapolis will not be negatively impacted by the new law.
Update: The Indiana legislature has since introduced a new bill (S.B. 50) designed to address concerns that the original law would allow privately-owned businesses to discriminate against individuals on the basis of their sexual orientation. S.B. 50 clarifies that the original law does not authorize any business to refuse to offer or provide services to members of the public based on various characteristics, including sex or sexual orientation.
Legislation (S.B. 1565) to amend the Higher Education Student Assistance Act was introduced in the Illinois State Senate by State Senator Bill Brady. The bill would require the Illinois Student Assistance Commission to award grants to students in financial need who are enrolled for at least 15 credit hours in a college or university within the state. Then, beginning with the 2016 fiscal year, the bill would ban all appropriations to institutions of higher education from the General Revenue Fund other than amounts appropriated for these grants, in effect privatizing these institutions.
Statement announcing Kalamazoo College's adoption of a test optional admissions policy beginning with students applying for enrollment in the fall of 2016. Kalamazoo states that it decided to change its policy after a study found that high-school grade point average was the most accurate predictor of academic performance at Kalamazoo, and that SAT and ACT scores reflected family economic status as opposed to academic performance. Under the new policy, prospective students will no longer be required to submit SAT or ACT scores when they apply for admission but can submit these scores as additional information in their applications.
Statement released by University of Virginia (UVA) President Teresa A. Sullivan regarding the results of a local police investigation into the sexual misconduct allegations reported in Rolling Stone magazine. The Charlottesville Police Department recently announced that there was no evidence to show that the gang rape described in the magazine article had occurred at a UVA fraternity. President Sullivan stated that the investigation "confirms what federal privacy law prohibited the university from sharing last fall: that the university provided support and care to a student in need, including assistance in reporting potential criminal conduct to law enforcement."
Notice issued by the U.S. Department of Education regarding the annual updates to the Income Contingent Repayment (ICR) plan formula for the Federal Direct Loan Program. Each year, as required by federal regulation, the Department adjusts the income percentage factor used to calculate a borrower's ICR payment to reflect inflation and issues notice of the adjustment to Direct Loan borrowers and the general public. The income percentage factors contained in this notice are effective for any borrower who enters the ICR plan or has his or her monthly payment amount recalculated from July 1, 2015, to June 30, 2016.
Request for comments regarding Federal Pell Grant program reporting under the Common Origination and Disbursement (COD) System was published in the Federal Register by the Department of Education. Institutions are required to report
student Pell Grant payment information to the Department electronically through the COD system. Interested parties are invited to submit comments by May 22, 2015.
Federal Perkins Loan Program Status of Default Report as of June 30, 2014 was published by the U.S. Department of Education. The report, also known as the Orange Book, lists each school that participated in the Perkins Loan Program during the 2013-2014 Award Year and provides a cohort default rate for each school.
Proposed 2015-16 budget for the state of New York containing provisions that would require all colleges and universities in the state to "implement uniform prevention and response policies and procedures relating to sexual violence including sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking." These policies and procedures would include codifying an affirmative consent standard for college students who engage in sexual activity, requiring that state institutions distribute a "Victim and Survivor Bill of Rights" to all students each year, and calling for mandatory campus climate assessments, among other reforms.
Letter to the U.S. House Appropriations Committee Chairman and Ranking Member from 86 members of Congress on the funding of the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science. The letter requests that the Committee make funding for the Office a priority in the fiscal year 2016 in its Energy and Water Appropriations bill. "Sustained and robust funding" of the Office, the letter states, "will preserve our capacity to innovate, reduce our dependence on foreign sources of energy, enhance our competitive edge in the global economy, improve our quality of life, ensure our national security, and create good American jobs well into the future."
Memorandum opinion from the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia dismissing the plaintiff's complaints on jurisdictional grounds. Jane Doe, a former undergraduate student at the University of Virginia (UVA), claimed to have been sexually assaulted by another student in late 2011. The following June, she filed complaints with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Education (DoE), alleging that UVA failed to "promptly and equitably" investigate her complaint. Then in March 2014, she filed suit against HHS and DoE, claiming that these agencies' failure to promptly resolve her complaints against the University constituted a violation of Title IX and the Clery Act. The Court, however, held that Jane Doe should have brought her claims of discrimination against the University rather than the agencies charged with enforcing the law. Additionally, it concluded that although agency regulations required a prompt investigation of complaints involving sexual misconduct, they did not require a prompt resolution of the complaints or provide any sort of mandatory time frame to guide agency investigations. Judge Howell added that Jane Doe's complaint was based in part on an incorrect interpretation of the Clery Act amendments at issue, which require schools to address sexual misconduct in their policies but do not affect the Title IX standard that colleges use to evaluate sexual misconduct complaints. Thus, the Court granted the defendants' motion to dismiss.
Statement from the Association of American Universities (AAU) suggesting that the House and Senate FY16 budget resolutions would likely widen, not close, the nation's innovation deficit by cutting nondefense discretionary spending, ultimately forcing reductions in research and higher education funding.
Policy papers released by Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) on the following three topics related to the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA): (1) risk sharing related to student borrowing; (2) accreditation; and (3) data collection. Each policy paper describes the problems to be addressed and identifies potential solutions. Comments are requested by April 24, 2015 to help inform the Committee's work on the reauthorization of the HEA.
Report on Fiscal Year 2016 proposed budget appropriations was published by the Association of American Universities (AAU). Each fiscal year, AAU prepares analyses of the Administration's proposed budgets for eight federal research and education agencies. These organizations include the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy, NASA, the Department of Education, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative.
Legislation (H.R. 1030) introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives that would amend the Environmental Research, Development, and Demonstration Authorization Act of 1978. The bill would prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from proposing, finalizing, or disseminating a "covered action" unless all scientific and technical information relied on to support such action is the best available science, is specifically identified, and is available to the public. A "covered action" includes a risk, exposure, or hazard assessment; criteria document; standard; limitation; regulation; regulatory impact analysis; or guidance.
Letter to the U.S. House of Representatives written by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) on behalf of itself and thirty-four other research organizations and institutions of higher education regarding the proposed Secret Science Reform Act of 2015 (H.R. 1030). The letter urges members of the House to evaluate the potential unintended consequences of the bill, including the possibility of misinterpreting some key terms, the workability of standards for gauging the reproducibility of research, and the imposition of additional uncompensated burdens on federal research recipients.
Advisory report on student financial responsibility agreements was released by the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO). The report provides sample language on various subjects to assist colleges and universities in developing or strengthening these agreements, which provide students with information about their financial obligations and ensure institutional compliance with various laws and regulations.
Letter from the Student Aid Alliance—which represents students, college presidents, and other educators who support federal student aid—on the Fiscal Year 2016 Budget Resolution was sent to the U.S. House of Representatives. In its letter, the Alliance expresses "strong opposition" to the proposed Budget Resolution that is currently under consideration in the House for its alleged threat to the nation's future economic competitiveness.
Letter from Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA), an advocacy group, to Yale University, Brown University, Columbia University, Cornell University, Princeton University, the University of Pennsylvania, and Dartmouth College in response to reports of the destruction of student records at Yale University law school. SFFA objects to the destruction of admissions files because, according to the group, it raises concerns under the Family Education Rights Privacy Act and risks spoliation of evidence relevant to ongoing litigation between SFFA and Harvard University.
Report on the legal issues surrounding cybersecurity and information sharing published by the Congressional Research Service (CRS). The report examines the various legal issues that arise with respect to the sharing of cybersecurity intelligence, focusing specifically on the sharing of cyber-information within the government's possession as well as information within the possession of the private sector. It concludes by examining the potential legal issues that could be prompted by three major legislative proposals: the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) (H.R. 234), the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA) (S. 754), and the Cyber Threat Sharing Act (CTSA) (S. 456).
Notice from the U.S. Department of Education inviting applications for FY 2015 awards for the Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institutions (AANAPISI) Program. The AANAPISI Program provides grants to eligible institutions of higher education (IHEs) that have an undergraduate enrollment of at least 10 percent Asian American or Native American Pacific Islander students to assist such institutions to develop and implement activities to improve and expand such institutions' capacity to serve Asian Americans and Native American Pacific islanders and low-income individuals. Applications for grants under this competition must be submitted electronically using the Grants.gov by May 19, 2015.
Notice from U.S. Department of Education inviting application for FY 2015 awards for the Developing Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSI) Program. The HSI Program provides grants to assist HSIs to expand educational opportunities for, and improve the academic attainment of, Hispanic students. Applications for grants under this competition must be submitted electronically using the Grants.gov by May 19, 2015.
Notice from the U.S. Department of Education on an altered system of record entitled ''Person Authentication Service" (PAS). PAS contains records about former, current, and prospective students, and their parents and endorsers, who apply for a user ID and password (FSA ID). Specifically, through this notice, the Department revises the name of the system from the ED PIN Registration System to the PAS and makes alterations to the system, including, but not limited to, the system location, the categories of records maintained in this system, the system's purposes, and the system's routine uses. Additionally, the Department seeks comment on the altered system of records described in this notice, in accordance with the requirements of the Privacy Act. Comments on this notice of an altered system of records must be made on or before April 20, 2015.
Florida District Court of Appeals upheld a rule adopted by the State Board of Education which established standards and criteria for tenure-like contracts with full time employees. The rule substantially revised the prior version of the rule and, among other things: 1) increased the period of satisfactory service required for an employee to obtain a continuing contract, and 2) prescribed specific performance criteria to determine whether to award or terminate a continuing contract.
Comment request issued by the U.S. Department of Education on a reinstatement of a previously approved information collection. The Predominantly Black Institutions (PBI) Program makes grant awards to eligible colleges and universities to support the strengthening of PBIs to carry out programs in the following areas: science, technology, engineering, or mathematics; health education; internationalization or globalization; teacher preparation; or improving the educational outcomes of African American males. Interested persons are invited to submit comments on or before April 20, 2015.
Senate Budget Committee passed the GOP's budget proposal on March 19, 2015 in a 12-10 party-line vote. The Senate Republican budget instructs the Finance Committee and the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions to report, by July 31, 2015, changes in laws within their jurisdictions to reduce the deficit by $1 billion over the 10-year period of fiscal years. The full Senate will consider the committee's budget proposal next week.
Announcement by the U.S. Department of Education that "Volume 4 – Processing Aid and Managing FSA Funds of the 2015-2016 Federal Student Aid Handbook" is available as a PDF file. The file is comprised of an introduction, table of contents, chapters, and appendices, followed by separate PDF files for each chapter and appendix of the volume. To access the 2015-2016 Federal Student Aid Handbook, click here.
Statement by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) expressing that they are "deeply troubled" that the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.) denied New York University (NYU) professor Andrew Ross entry to the emirate of Abu Dhabi. Ross has been conducting research on labor conditions in the country and has been a critic of the U.A.E.'s policies on migrant labor. NYU has maintained that its Abu Dhabi campus will observe the AAUP's principles on academic freedom and that all faculty and students will be free to enter and leave the country without undue restriction. The AAUP urges NYU to make every effort to get the ban on Ross lifted or to work with its faculty to reconsider its role in the U.A.E.
Texas legislation (SB 11) that would allow concealed handguns to be carried in college and university buildings passed the state Senate. The bill would expand the current law which allows concealed weapons on university grounds, but not buildings. Private institutions are permitted to ban the practice.
Fiscal Year 2016 budget proposal released by Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives. The proposal calls for freezing the maximum Pell Grant award at the current $5,775 for the next decade.
Gallup survey of college and university presidents published by Inside Higher Ed. Gallup surveyed 647 college presidents about a range of issues facing higher education institutions. Topics covered include the White House's proposed ratings framework, the sustainability of institutional financial models, the prevalence of campus sexual misconduct, campus race relations, and the president's role in decisions on tenure and hiring, among others.
Report released by the University of Michigan (UM) Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs (SACUA) concluding that the University's Office of Institutional Equity's (OIE) procedures for handling allegations against faculty lacked "basic elements of fairness and due process." Concerns about lack of due process in the OIE's practices and procedures were originally raised in reports to SACUA from the Faculty Grievance Monitor (FGM) beginning in 2012. The report, which focuses on the OIE's investigation of allegations against three UM faculty members, concludes with a list of five recommendations, including revising current OIE procedures "to ensure due process and procedural fairness" and reversing the actions taken against the three faculty members until their cases can be reconsidered.
Unpublished National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) order in New School and Student Employees at the New School-SENS/UAW. The order reverses a decision by an NLRB Regional Director to reject union petitions filed by the United Auto Workers on behalf of graduate students at the New School based on an NLRB decision handed down in 2004. The previous ruling held that graduate teaching assistants at Brown University were primarily students and not employees, and therefore could not unionize. The Board remanded the case to the Regional Director.
Unpublished National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) order in Columbia University and Graduate Workers of Columbia-GWC, UAW. A Regional Director originally rejected union petitions filed by the United Auto Workers on behalf of graduate students at Columbia based a 2004 NLRB decision, which held that graduate teaching assistants at Brown University could not unionize because they were primarily students, not employees. The Board reversed the Regional Director's decision and remanded the case.
Legislation (S.B. 5954) that would tie tuition at public colleges in Washington State to a percentage of the average state wage passed the state Senate. Under the bill, the tuition fees for resident undergraduates would be no more than 6 percent of the state's average wage for students at community and technical colleges; 10 percent of the state's average wage for students attending the regional universities and The Evergreen State College; and 14 percent of the state's average wage for those attending research universities. The bill now heads to the House of Representatives.
Data and Policy Brief on basic research at American universities was published by the Association of American Universities (AAU). The brief states that federal government remains the largest funder of basic research in 2012, although its proportion has declined from its peak of 70.3% in 1980 to 52.6% in 2012. Moreover, universities
have performed much of the nation's basic research after surpassing industry in the late 1950s.
New coalition, known as the College Athletes Rights & Empowerment Faculty Coalition (CARE-FC), was recently created by more than 20 faculty members from around the country to help college athletes become recognized as employees. CARE-FC is targeting its efforts in four areas: (1) Developing relationships with other like-minded entities and concerned faculty; (2) Educating public policy makers and legislators about the realities of the current college sport industry; (3) Creating awareness around the disproportionate negative impact that college sport business practices have on college athletes in the racial minority; and, (4) Opposing reform efforts that do not result in justice and fairness for athletes.
Comment request issued by the U.S. Department of Education (Department) on proposed changes to the Direct Loan Program: Internship/Residency and Loan Debt Burden Forbearance Forms. These forms serve as the means by which a borrower may request forbearance of repayment on their loans if they meet certain conditions. The Department and other loan holders use the information collected on these forms to determine whether a borrower meets the eligibility requirements for the specific type of forbearance. Interested persons are invited to submit comments on or before May 12, 2015.
Comment request issued by the U.S. Department of Education (Department) on proposed changes to the Direct Loan Program Deferment Request Forms. These forms serve as the means by which borrowers in the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan (Direct Loan) and Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Programs may request deferment of repayment on their loans if they meet certain statutory and regulatory criteria. The Department and other loan holders use the information collected on these forms to determine whether a borrower meets the eligibility requirements for the specific deferment type being submitted. Interested persons are invited to submit comments on or before May 12, 2015.
Legislation (H.B. 403) introduced in the Illinois House of Representatives amending various laws relating to the governance of state universities. The bill would repeal provisions that permit the children of state university employees who have been employed by any state university for at least seven years to receive a 50 percent tuition waiver.
Letter to the U.S. Department of Education from U.S. Representative Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) asking for clarification on the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). The letter suggests that, under a certain interpretation, FERPA may permit sexual assault victims' medical and therapy records to be released as part of a student's education record. Representative Bonamici asks the Department to clarify the distinction between students' "treatment records" and their "education records" in the statute to determine if this loophole exists.
Notice of deadline dates for the receipt of documents and other information from applicants and institutions participating in certain federal student aid programs authorized under Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 for the 2015-2016 award year was published by the U.S. Department of Education. The financial aid programs covered by this deadline notice include the Pell Grant, Direct Loan, TEACH Grant, and Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant programs.
Student Aid Bill of Rights was released by the White House. The Bill of Rights consists of four rights and is part of President Barack Obama's effort to ensure "affordable, quality education for all Americans." In conjunction with the release, the President will sign a Presidential Memorandum directing the U.S. Department of Education and other federal agencies to do more to help borrowers afford their monthly loan payments.
Statement released by American Council on Education (ACE) President Molly Corbett Broad on President Barack Obama's student loan plan. In the statement, President Corbett Broad "welcome[s] the administration's move to streamline the system for servicing student loans" and expresses the hope that the proposed changes will make the loan repayment process more straightforward.
Letter to U.S. House and Senate Judiciary Committee leaders from forty economists and law professors who specialize in patent law and policy regarding discussions of legislation to address abusive patent legislation. The letter cautions that much of the information used to inform these discussions is "flawed, unreliable, or incomplete." Reliance on flawed data, the authors argue, will lead to legislation "that goes well beyond what is needed to curb abusive litigation practices, causing unintended negative consequences for inventors, small businesses, and emerging entrepreneurs." The authors urge Congress to demand more empirically sound data from researchers before taking any action.
Legislation (H.B. 3932) to amend Illinois' Private College Campus Police Act was introduced in the Illinois General Assembly. The bill would require campus police departments at private universities to publicly disclose any information that other law enforcement agencies are required to provide under the state's Freedom of Information Act.
Legislation (S.B. 182) to provide a public records exemption for those applying to become president, provost, or dean at state universities or Florida College System institutions was approved by the state's Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee. The bill would allow institutions to withhold any personally identifying information about an applicant, including his or her name, credentials, and salaries.
Order issued by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirming the trial court's decision dismissing the case as a result of the defendant's motion for summary judgment. The plaintiff, Associate Professor Tollie Carter, filed suit against Chicago State University, claiming that he was not appointed acting department chair in retaliation for his taking leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and because he is black. Professor Carter claimed that the temporal proximity of his taking FMLA leave and the appointment of the acting department chair "raised a suspicion of discriminatory intent." The trial court rejected this claim, holding that, "We do not find a span of seven months suspicious," and the Seventh Circuit affirmed. The Seventh Circuit also observed that the plaintiff provided no direct or indirect evidence of racial discrimination. Finally, the Seventh Circuit concluded that the record contains evidence that the plaintiff was actually less qualified than the person named acting department chair because the plaintiff had refused to teach several classes, had student complaints about the quality of his teaching from the classes he taught, and was removed from the department chair position in the past.
Guidance from the IRS on § 4980I of the Internal Revenue Code (Code), commonly referred to as the "Cadillac tax." Section 4980I, which was added to the Code by the Affordable Care Act, applies to taxable years beginning after December 31, 2017. The issues addressed in this guidance primarily relate to: (1) the definition of applicable coverage, (2) the determination of the cost of applicable coverage, and (3) the application of the annual statutory dollar limit to the cost of applicable coverage. The IRS and U.S. Department of Treasury anticipate issuing another notice before the publication of proposed regulations under § 4980I.
Reminder from the U.S. Department of Education regarding the procedures for adding or correcting a student's Alien Registration Number on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid to confirm eligible noncitizen status with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The summary address eligible and non-eligible citizen documentation, Social Security Administration and U.S. Department of Homeland Security matches, codes and the G-845 form. Additional information can be found in the Federal Student Aid Handbook, Volume 1, Chapter 2: Citizenship.
U.S. Supreme Court orders the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals to reconsider its decision against the University of Notre Dame in light of the June 2014 Supreme Court ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., which allowed certain privately owned corporations to seek exemptions from the contraceptive provision of the 2010 Affordable Care Act. The United States District Court for the Northern District of Indiana denied Notre Dame's first motion for the preliminary injunction in December 2013. In February 2014, the Court of Appeals affirmed the district court's holding.
Public Infractions Decision was released by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) regarding violations committed by Syracuse University. The Division I Committee on Infractions panel concluded that, over the course of a decade, Syracuse failed to exercise proper control over the administration of its athletics program and used deficient monitoring systems, which allowed violations to occur involving academics, compliance with the college's drug testing policy, and staff and student relationships with a booster. Syracuse discovered and self-reported ten of the violations. Penalties will include five years of probation, vacations of all wins during the years that ineligible men's basketball and football students played, suspension of the head men's basketball coach, and fines, among others.
Report published by the Center for Community College Student Engagement at the University of Texas at Austin on part-time community college students. The Center has collected community college student data since 2004 from nearly 900 institutions across the country. According to the results of the study, more part-time community college students are coming to class prepared, working with instructors, and participating with other students, in comparison to the data from 2004.
The Research and Development Efficiency Act (H.R. 1119) was approved by the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee. The legislation seeks to reduce the burden of federal regulations on government-sponsored research by harmonizing, streamlining, and eliminating duplicative federal regulations and reporting requirements.
Financial responsibility composite scores for private, non-profit, and proprietary institutions with fiscal years ending between July 2012 and June 2013 were released by the U.S. Department of Education. Section 498(c) of the Higher Education Act of 1965 requires these institutions to submit audited financial statements to the Department annually to demonstrate that they are maintaining the standards of financial responsibility necessary to participate in the Title IV programs. The composite score of three ratios—reserve ratio, an equity ratio, and a net income ratio—reflects the overall relative financial health of each institution. Institutions with scores of less than 1.5 but greater than or equal to 1.0 are considered financially responsible but require additional oversight, while institutions with scores less than 1.0 are considered not financially responsible.
E-mails from the University of Minnesota's President and Vice President announcing that the University's crime alert practices will no longer use race to describe a suspect when information is too general to aid the community in identifying the suspect. President Kaler and Vice President Wheelock believe that this new approach will advance public safety while also recognizing the harm caused by using race in otherwise limited suspect descriptions. This change is the product of an 18-month discussion at the University of Minnesota that asked if: (1) The University community is safe? and (2) The University of Minnesota feels safe?
Opinion by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirming the district courts' finding that a community college and certain of its administrators are not "arms of the state" entitled to Eleventh Amendment sovereign immunity. The appellee, Carol Leitner, was a former adjunct professor at Westchester Community College (WCC) who claimed that her First Amendment rights were violated after she was fired for making allegedly offensive comments during class. WCC asserted that it should be immune from Leitner's lawsuit because of the Eleventh Amendment, which generally bars suits in federal court by private individuals against non-consenting states. Although the Supreme Court has not articulated a clear standard for determining whether a state entity is an "arm of the state" and thus entitled to sovereign immunity, the Second Circuit has applied two different tests to determine whether government entities are "arms of the state." Using both tests, the Second Circuit found that WCC is not entitled to sovereign immunity because it would not further the state's interest in preserving its treasury, nor would it protect the integrity of the state. The Second Circuit did note that federal courts have concluded that community colleges in some states are entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity, while community colleges in other states are not. The difference in these opinions is often contingent on whether a community college is predominantly or exclusively dependent on state appropriations rather than local funding, or where the state government controls the college's board of trustees.
Letter to Secretary Arne Duncan from student body presidents at 76 universities opposing the Office for Civil Rights' (OCR) recommendation that students not be permitted to serve as adjudicators in campus conduct hearings related to Title IX violations. The student presidents outlined six primary reasons for their opposition, including a shared belief that students provide a valuable perspective to hearings that supports a more fair and balanced process. The letter proposes that, as an alternative, hearing boards should be required to adopt baseline standards for training and confidentiality expectations for all members. Six principles are provided to guide the development of these standards. A list of the student presidents and their respective institutions can be found in the letter.
Letter from NASPA, Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education, to state elected officials expressing concern regarding bills pending before multiple state legislatures that (1) require school officials to mandatorily refer all reports of sexual violence that they receive to law enforcement, or (2) give students and student organizations accused of misconduct a right to seek judicial review of student disciplinary or other institutional proceedings and to obtain monetary damages if a court finds in favor of the accused student. Although NASPA applauds states legislatures for their desire to assist institutions of higher education in improving their responses to gender-based violence, NASPA is deeply concerned that these proposals will have the unintended consequence of making it more difficult for campuses to end gender-based violence. The letter outlines six specific concerns, including conflicts with federal law.
Statement made by the President of the Association of American Universities (AAU) in support of the STRONG Patents Act of 2015. AAU supports the legislation because they believe that its measures will not make it more difficult and/or costly for patent holders to enforce their patents.
Statement made by the President of the Association of Land-Grant Universities (APLU) in support of the STRONG Patents Act of 2015. APLU supports the legislation because they believe that the bill will curb "abusive practices" without weakening the U.S. patent system.
Patent-reform legislation, known as the STRONG Patents Act of 2015, was introduced by three U.S. senators. The legislation is designed to (1) make it harder for firms to be targeted with frivolous patent lawsuits, (2) level the playing field between small inventors and large companies, and (3) ensure that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has the resources it needs to ensure patent quality. This bill is in contrast to another patent-reform bill, the Innovation Act, which was recently introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives. A detailed summary of the STRONG Patents Act of 2015 can be accessed at Senator Coon's website.
Letter from two members of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (Commission) addressed to members of Congress expressing concerns with President Obama's proposal to increase funding by 31 percent to the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR). The two members of the Commission argue against any funding increases to OCR because, among other issues, they argue that OCR misstates applicable law on sexual assault and harassment on college and university campuses, encourages unfair treatment for some accused students, and gives colleges and universities approval to violate students' First Amendment rights. The commissioners conclude by asserting that Congressional intervention is necessary to balance OCR's overreach. The letter was not written on behalf of the Commission as a whole.
Letter from the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities, the Association of American Universities, and the American Council on Education requesting that the following be considered in Congress's budget resolution: 1) End budget sequestration in FY2016 and beyond; 2) Outline a path for comprehensive tax reform, which will spur economic growth and produce new revenue; 3) Provide for meaningful entitlement reforms that do not adversely affect those most vulnerable in society; and 4) Include specific language that places a high priority on scientific research and higher education. The letter was sent to chairmen and ranking members of both the U.S. Senate's and the U.S. House of Representatives' budget committees.
Press release announcing the results of an annual study on the salaries of higher education administrators conducted by the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources (CUPA-HR). For 2014, the data from the CUPA-HR's 2014-15 Administrators in Higher Education Salary Survey show an overall median base salary increase of 2.4 percent for administrators at both private and public institutions. The median base salary increase for those in senior-level positions at public institutions was 2.5 percent, compared to a 2.3 percent increase for those in the same positions at private institutions.
Press release issued by the U.S. Department of Education announcing that, after a review of twenty-two private collection agencies, it will end contracts with five agencies that were providing inaccurate information to borrowers. The five companies include Coast Professional, Enterprise Recovery Systems, National Recoveries, Pioneer Credit Recovery, and West Asset Management. The Department plans to reassign accounts held by these five agencies that are not already in repayment to other agencies.
Final report published by the National Association of System Heads (NASH) summarizing the findings of a two-year project that sought to strengthen institutional research among public systems, colleges, and universities. The researchers found that institutional research offices are becoming increasingly central to institutional and state efforts to track student completion, performance, and other education-related metrics, but are not always receiving the financial support or other resources that they need. The report is designed to provide the context and serve as a tool that system and institutional research leaders can use to "align their functions with current and future challenges."
Comment request issued by the U.S. Department of Education on regulations affecting the Student Assistance General Provisions. The final regulations will require institutions to report certain information on each student who, during an award year, began attending or completed a program leading to gainful employment in a recognized occupation. Additionally, the regulations will require these institutions to disclose certain information to prospective students. Interested persons are invited to submit comments on or before April 1, 2015.
The U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) released an updated Case Processing Manual. The Manual outlines the procedures by which OCR investigates and resolves complaints, compliance reviews, and directed investigations to ensure compliance with civil rights laws. The newly-released version includes updates and revisions as of February 2015.
By a 401-20 vote, House members approved H.R. 529 to expand 529 college-savings accounts. The bill proposes to: (1) expand the qualifying expenses to include certain computer and related expenses; (2) eliminate the requirement that distributions from a 529 plan be aggregated for purposes of determining the amount includible in a taxpayer's income; and (3) allow a tax-free re-contribution to a 529 plan of amounts refunded to a student by an eligible educational institution if the re-contribution is made not later than 60 days after the date of such refund and does not exceed the refunded amount. According to the Congressional Budget Office estimate, the bill will cost approximately $51 million over the 2015-2025 period.
Bi-partisan group of U.S. Senators introduced a new version of the Campus Accountability and Safety Act, which was originally introduced in July 2014. Changes to the legislation include imposing fines of up to one percent of the institution's operating budget for violations, requiring colleges and universities to update memoranda with local police departments every two years, requiring institutions to publish a campus climate survey every two years rather than annually, and the creation of a competitive grant program that would provide funds to colleges and universities to research best practices for improving prevention of and response to sexual assault on their campuses. A companion bill is expected to be introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Announcement from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopting stronger rules aiming to ensure that America's broadband networks are fast, fair, and open. The adopted Open Internet Order: (1) sets three "bright-line" rules for behavior known to harm the Open Internet, (2) adopts an additional, flexible standard to future-proof Internet openness rules, and (3) protects mobile broadband users with the full array of Open Internet rules.
Announcement from the U.S. Department of Education that final 2015-16 Campus-Based programs funding worksheets and the 2015-16 Statement of Account for each of the Campus-Based programs will be posted to the eCampus-Based (eCB) Web site by April 1, 2015. In addition to the Department's Electronic Announcement, individual schools will be notified by e-mail that the 2015-2016 Campus-Based allocation information has been posted to the eCB Web site.
Final rule issued by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that extends eligibility for employment authorization to certain H-4 dependent spouses of H-1B nonimmigrants who are seeking employment-based lawful permanent resident (LPR) status. With this change, DHS hopes to reduce personal and economic burdens faced by H-1B nonimmigrants and eligible H-4 dependent spouses during the transition from nonimmigrant to LPR status, to attract and retain highly skilled foreign workers to the United States, and to minimize disruption to American businesses. The new regulations will go into effect on May 26, 2015.
Comments submitted by the Association of American Universities (AAU) to the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI) on the panel's draft policy recommendations regarding accreditation. The comments address six of the panel's recommendations, including AAU's opposition to the Department or accreditors mandating specified quantitative general assessment measures. AAU reiterates its "continued support for a non-federal process for determining quality, one that allows for flexibility, cost-efficiency, and informed academic judgment."
Letter to Representatives Virginia Foxx (R-NC), Alcee Hastings (D-FL); Matt Salmon (R-AZ); and John Kline (R-MN) from American Council on Education (ACE) President Molly Corbett Broad on behalf of twenty-six higher education groups endorsing the Supporting Academic Freedom Through Regulatory Relief Act (H.R. 970). The Act would block some of the most controversial Department of Education regulations that impact colleges and universities, including state authorization, credit hour, and gainful employment. In the letter, President Broad states that "the sheer volume, ineffectiveness and cost" of the U.S. Department of Education's regulations and related actions have far surpassed what might reasonably be required holding colleges and universities accountable to taxpayers.
Letter from 144 universities warning the House and Senate Judiciary Committees that pending legislation to address patent litigation will weaken the nation's patent system and hinder the flow of groundbreaking advances from universities to the private sector. Of these proposals, the universities are particularly concerned that mandatory fee-shifting and involuntary joinder will weaken the university technology transfer process, which is an essential part of the United States' innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystem. A list of the 144 signatories can be found in the letter.
Proposed legislation, S.B. 308, that would amend the Texas Education Code to require police departments at private colleges and universities to follow the state's public records law. Private college and university police departments, which are licensed by the state of Texas, are not currently required to make records publicly available. The bill has been referred to the Texas Senate Committee on Criminal Justice, which has not yet set a date for a public hearing.
Statement of accreditation status by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education unanimously affirming the Commission's November decision to withdraw the accreditation status of Sojourner-Douglass College. The decision is effective June 30, 2015, which will allow current students to complete the academic year.
Notice of proposed rulemaking for the First in the World Program, the Obama administration's effort to encourage innovation in higher education, was published by the U.S. Department of Education. The notice outlines the priorities that the Department will use in awarding the program's grants in 2016, which include improving developmental education; improving teaching and learning; improving student support services; developing and using assessments of learning; facilitating pathways to credentialing and transfer; and increasing the effectiveness of financial aid. Interested parties are invited to submit comments on or before March 25, 2015.
Kansas legislation (H.B. 2234) to prohibit college and university employees from including their official titles in certain publications was introduced in the Kansas state House of Representatives. Specifically, the bill would forbid employees of state colleges from providing their job title when authoring a newspaper opinion column, and "only when the opinion of the employee concerns a person who currently holds any elected public office in this state, a person who is a candidate for any elected public office in this state or any matter pending before any legislative or public body in this state."
Announcement from the Big 12 that all member institutions will be required to follow the National Collegiate Athletic Association's 2014 Inter-Association Consensus Guidelines for Concussion Diagnosis and Management. The protocol states that institutions should have on file a team physician-directed concussion management plan and the specific protocol for evaluation and management of a concussion. Each Big 12 member institution will be required to submit an updated concussion management plan annually to the Conference office, which will establish a plan to track potential unsafe plays.
Response from sixteen University of Pennsylvania Law School professors regarding the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights' guidelines for enforcing Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972. The law professors, although recognizing the concerns about of sexual assaults on college campuses, as well as the necessity for "comprehensive protections for those who are abused," are concerned about the federal government's failure to abide by the traditional procedures for passing laws and promulgating regulations. The letter concludes by providing suggestions for a policy that both strongly condemns and punishes sexual misconduct and provides for a fair adjudicatory process.
Opinion by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit reversing the district courts' grants of appellees' motions for preliminary injunction. Appellees—including Geneva College, a nonprofit higher education institution established by the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America—challenged the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act's (ACA) (42 U.S.C. § 300gg-13(a)(4)) contraceptive coverage requirement and the accommodation mechanism that compels those organizations wishing to opt out of the contraception mandate to notify the entity that administers its health plan of its objection so that the entity may offer separate coverage for contraceptive services directly to the insured individuals. The appellees claimed that both options impose a substantial burden on their religious exercise in violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) (42 U.S.C. § 2000bb et seq.). Geneva specifically asserted that complying with either the contraceptive mandate or opting for the accommodation mechanism would cause the institution to "trigger," "facilitate," or be "complicit" in the commission of what it believes to be a "sinful" act, namely supporting access to abortion through emergency contraceptives and intrauterine devices. The Court rejected this argument, holding that the accommodation mechanism does not trigger or facilitate the provision of contraceptive coverage because federal law, rather than any involvement by the appellees in filling out or submitting the form, mandates that such coverage be provided. Moreover, the Court held that the submission of the self-certification form does not make the appellees "complicit" in the provision of contraceptive coverage but rather constitutes a declaration that they will not be complicit in providing coverage, since the form itself contains a provision stating that the filer objects to providing coverage on religious grounds. Thus, the Third Circuit concluded that the appellees did not show a likelihood of success on the merits of their RFRA claim.
Nevada legislation (A.B. 148) to allow concealed weapons on college campuses was introduced in the state Assembly. Specifically, the bill would enable individuals authorized to carry a concealed firearm to carry firearms on the property of the Nevada System of Higher Education, as well as that of a private or public school or a child care facility.
The U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice (NIJ) issued a request for applications for research and evaluation related to the investigation and adjudication of sexual assaults on college and university campuses. Based on recommendations in the January 2014 report by the White House Task Force to Protect Students From Sexual Assault, NIJ seeks to identify "promising practices" for campus sexual assault investigations. Applications are due by April 6, 2015.
Final injunction and judgment from the Superior Court of California for the County of San Francisco in favor of the state giving the City College of San Francisco (CCSF) the option to have the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) reconsider its 2013 decision to revoke the College's accreditation. If CCSF elects this option, ACCJC must provide a written report identifying CCSF's deficiencies in compliance with accreditation standards and convene a meeting of the Commission to review the College's response to the report.
Decision by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I Committee on Infractions ruling finding that coaches at West Virginia University sent impermissible text messages and made impermissible telephone calls to prospective student-athletes and their parents between June 2010 and February 2013. Penalties include two years of probation and a one-year show cause order for the assistant coach involved. The university also adopted self-imposed penalties that were adopted by the NCAA Committee on Infractions panel.
Letter from the American Council on Education (ACE) and twenty-six other higher education associations to the U.S. Department of Education detailing their concerns with the feasibility of the Department's approach to the Postsecondary Institution Ratings System (PIRS). The authors note that the draft framework released by the Department in December 2014 is not sufficient enough to allow institutions the opportunity to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the PIRS. The letter requests that the Department offer more detail about its plan in advance of publishing any ratings and make its rating formula open for comment.
Order by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in a case addressing faculty unionization at Duquesne University of the Holy Spirit, a religious institution. This decision follows three similar NLRB orders issued earlier this month in which the Regional Director initially asserted jurisdiction over the institutions and directed that union elections take place. Yet in December 2014, while the cases were pending review, the Board issued its decision in Pacific Lutheran University, 361 NLRB No. 157, which specifically addressed the standard that the Board should apply for determining whether it can exercise jurisdiction over faculty members at self-identified religious colleges and universities. The Board thus remanded the Duquesne University proceedings for further action consistent with Pacific Lutheran University.
Proposed regulations from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that would adopt specific rules and guidelines for the operation of small unmanned aircraft systems in the National Airspace System, certification of their operators, and registration. Provisions include weight restrictions for aircraft, speed limits, airspace restrictions, and a requirement for an unmanned aircraft operator certificate. A full summary of the proposed provisions is available here.
Opinion and order issued by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas granting the plaintiff states' request for preliminary injunction. Plaintiffs—which include the state of Texas as well as twenty-five additional states—filed suit against the United States and various Department of Homeland Security officials challenging the "Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents" (DAPA) program, which is designed to provide legal presence to over four million individuals who are currently in the country illegally and would enable these individuals to obtain a variety of both state and federal benefits. Adopting the "constitutional avoidance" principle, the court sidestepped the constitutional concerns with the executive action and instead answered the question of whether, in enacting the program, the defendants legislated a substantive rule without complying with the procedural requirements of the Administration Procedure Act. The court concluded that the defendants did just that because 1) the DAPA program clearly represents a substantive change in immigration policy; 2) the plaintiff states would likely suffer substantial and immediate irreparable injury if the injunction was not granted; 3) the equities strongly favor the issuance of an injunction to preserve the status quo; and 4) the granting of a preliminary injunction would not be adverse to the public interest. Judge Andrew Hanen thus issued a temporary injunction enjoining the implementation of the DAPA program.
Report released by the Senate Task Force on Federal Regulation of Higher Education found that "oversight of higher education by the Department of Education has expanded and evolved in ways that undermine the ability of colleges and universities to serve students and accomplish their missions." The report reflects the work of a bipartisan group of U.S. senators charged with three goals: (1) Summarizing the increasing burden of federal regulation on higher education; (2) Identifying regulations of particular concern to institutions of higher education, explaining why they are problematic, and recommending changes to ameliorate them; and (3) Offering longer-term process improvements that would minimize similar concerns about regulations in the future.
Virginia state senate passed legislation, SB 1122, requiring public colleges to establish policies on parental notification for dependent students that exhibit "suicidal tendencies." The Virginia State delegates have proposed a similar bill, HB 1715, which would require a student's "suicidal tendencies" to be reported to a campus's threat-assessment team.
Letter from the Hispanic Association of College and Universities (HACU) opposing the U.S. Department of Education's proposed regulations for teacher preparation programs Accountability System under Title II of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended (HEA). HACU's letter to Secretary Duncan outlines eight concerns, including federal overreach and a negative impact on affordability and access to college. The proposed regulations were released in December 2014 with the intent of final regulations being issued in the summer of 2015.
Comments submitted by the National Association of Independent College and Universities (NAICU) in response to the U.S. Department of Education's proposed postsecondary ratings system. The letter reflects both NAICU's recognition of the President's commitment to access, affordability, and transparency in higher education, as well as their concern that the weighting and assignment of value to higher education information must remain in the hands of consumers and not a federal rating tool. Further, NAICU questions the federal government's capacity to design a ratings system that provides a useful consumer information tool and an effective accountability system. Comments on the ratings system are due by February 17, 2015 and can be submitted through this online form: www.ed.gov/blog/collegeratings.
Comments request issued by the U.S. Department of Education on the application package for the Minority Science and Engineering Improvement Program (MSEIP). The purpose of MSEIP is to effect long-range improvement in science and engineering education at predominantly minority institutions and to increase the flow of underrepresented ethnic minorities, particularly minority women, into scientific and technological careers. The U.S. Department of Education is ED is proposing a reinstatement of a previously approved information collection. Interested persons are invited to submit comments on or before March 16, 2015.
Announcement that the U.S. Department of Education will collect information directly from third party servicers that perform work on behalf of Title IV eligible institutions since the Department determined that "a significant number of higher education institutions failed to report, update, and/or incorrectly report[ed] third party servicer information" as required under 34 C.F.R. § 668.25(e). Entities that meet the definition of a third party servicer are required to submit a Third Party Servicer Data Form. A timeline for submission of the data form can be found in the announcement.
Updated guidance from U.S. Department of Education for institutions regarding Direct Loan refunds. Included in the guidance is a reminder that, as of January 1, 2015, the Department no longer accepts paper checks for Direct Loan refunds of cash. To make the most timely and accurate refunds, the guidance generally recommends using the G5 Web Site. The guidance also provides general information about Direct Loan funds and the process for making a direct loan refund.
Recommendations made by the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU) in response to President Obama's proposal to combine current higher education tax benefits. The recommendations proffered by NAICU include: (1) Preservation of Sec. 529 College Savings Plans and Coverdell Education Savings Accounts; (2) Tax tuition incentives directed at certain income levels of taxpayers and employers who provide tuition benefits to employees; and (3) Assistance to students who finance their college education, including the removal of taxes on forgiven student debt.
Announcement from the U.S. Department of Education that gainful employment (GE) reporting functionality is now available on the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS), including on the NSLDS Professional Access website. While the GE final regulations, published on October 31, 2014 with an effective date of July 1, 2015, provide that the deadline for institutions to report GE Program information is July 31, 2015, institutions may begin submitting GE data now on a voluntary basis. The NSLDS Gainful Employment User Guide is available here.
Comments from the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU) and nine other higher education associations in response to the Department of Education's notice of proposed rulemaking on teacher preparation issues published in the Federal Register on December 3, 2014. The letter argues that the regulations would violate Title II, Section 207 of the Higher Education Act by requiring states to adopt a federally-mandated rating system, rather than developing their own at the state level. The authors also express concern that the regulations evaluate teacher preparation programs based on "invalid and unreliable metrics" and do not reflect current practices in the profession.
Maryland legislation (S.B. 210) introduced by five state senators would prohibit educational institutions from requiring or requesting that a student or prospective student provide access to their social media or other personal electronic accounts. The bill would not prohibit institutions from accessing information available in the public domain and, in specified circumstances, would permit access to certain personal communications during an investigation in accordance with institutional policy.
Report on higher education research and development expenditures was released by the National Science Foundation (NSF). According to data from the Higher Education Research and Development (HERD) Survey, university spending on research and development in all fields totaled $67.2 billion in fiscal year 2013. When adjusted for inflation, the total spending increased by less than half a percent from the previous fiscal year. The NSF also released a chart ranking expenditure amounts by university.
Comment request issued by the U.S. Department of Education on the proposed waiver and extension of the project period for the Native American Career and Technical Education Program (NACTEP). The Secretary of Education is proposing to: (1) waive the requirements that generally prohibit project period extensions involving additional federal funds; and (2) extend the project periods for current NACTEP grantees for up to twenty-four months. Interested parties are invited to submit comments on or before sixty days after publication of the proposal in the Federal Register.
Comment request issued by the U.S. Department of Education regarding the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI) Draft Policy Recommendations Report dated January 2, 2015. The NACIQI advises the Secretary of Education about accreditation agency criteria for recognition under federal and state law, the eligibility and certification process for institutions of higher education, and the relationship between accreditation and state licensing of such institutions. Recommendations from the Report include simplifying the accreditation and recognition process, developing common definitions of accreditation actions and procedures, and requiring periodic Departmental review of criteria for recognition, among others. Interested parties are invited to submit comments, which must be received by February 28, 2015.
Statement released by the Association of American Universities (AAU) on the President's Fiscal Year 2016 Budget. The AAU applauds the budget proposal for recommending the elimination of sequestration, raising the budget caps to increase funding for various federal research entities, and expanding and making permanent the American Opportunity Tax Credit. However, it criticizes the 8.3 percent cut in basic research spending by the Department of Defense, which the AAU deems necessary for "this nation's fighting men and women to remain the world's best equipped, most technically advanced force."
New Hampshire legislation (H.B. 142) designed to protect students' online privacy was introduced in the state House of Representatives by State Representative Katherine Rogers. The bill would forbid both public and private institutions from requiring or requesting that students provide access to a personal social media accounts via user name, password, or other means of authentication. However, institutions would still be allowed to conduct investigations of alleged student misconduct associated with a student's social media account as long as they do not require or request access to the account.
Order by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in three cases dealing with the unionization of faculty at self-identified religious colleges and universities: Seattle University and Service Employees International Union, Saint Xavier University and St. Xavier University Adjunct Faculty Organization, and Manhattan College and Manhattan College Adjunct Faculty Union. Originally, the Regional Director issued decisions asserting jurisdiction over the institutions and directing that union elections take place. Yet in December 2014, while the cases were pending review, the Board issued its decision in Pacific Lutheran University, 361 NLRB No. 157, which specifically addressed the standard that the Board should apply for determining whether it can exercise jurisdiction over faculty members at self-identified religious colleges and universities. The Board thus remanded the proceedings in all three cases for further action consistent with Pacific Lutheran University.
Minnesota budget legislation (H.F. 3172) that includes a proposal requiring public colleges to disclose information about the safety records of their education abroad programs. Specifically, the bill would call for the state's colleges to file annual reports on student deaths, accidents, and illnesses that occur abroad and require hospitalization.
Wyoming legislation (H.B. 0114) entitled the "Wyoming Repeal Gun Free Zones Act" was approved by a vote of 42 to 17 in the state House of Representatives. The bill would repeal the gun-free zones carved out around public schools, including colleges and universities, thereby allowing those holding a valid concealed carry permit issued by the state to carry concealed firearms on campus. The bill will be considered by the state Senate.
Report released by the Center for Collegiate Mental Health (CCMH) at Penn State University, in partnership with Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education (NASPA) and the American College Personnel Association (ACPA), summarizing the data on student mental health that was contributed to CCMH during the 2013-2014 academic year. The information was gathered directly from students and from campus counseling centers across the country. The survey included questions on a variety of mental health issues, from those that affect the general student population (financial woes, safety concerns, sexuality, etc.) to those that affect certain individuals (mental illness, substance abuse issues, and thoughts of suicide).
Comment request issued by the U.S. Department of Education on information collection activities related to the Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need (GAANN) program. Title VII of the Higher Education Act of 1965 requests the collection of specific data necessary to evaluate, score, and rank the quality of the projects proposed by higher education institutions applying for the grant. The Department is proposing a reinstatement of this collection. Interested parties are invited to submit comments on or before March 9, 2015
Comment request published by the U.S. Department of Education on the Campus Safety and Security Survey. The Survey, which is mandated under the Higher Education Act of 1965, is a tool used to compile annual data on campus crime and fire safety in hopes of increasing the transparency surrounding college safety and security information. The Department is proposing a new information collection through this Survey. Interested parties are invited to submit comments on or before March 9, 2015.
Letter from six higher education associations (AAU, ACE, AAMC, APLU, AUTM, and COGR) on the Innovation Act (H.B. 3309). The signers express support for efforts to reign in the litigation practices of those who abuse the patent system. However, they assert that the Innovation Act, in its current form, would substantially raise the costs and risks associated with patenting, thereby discouraging the private sector from using research discoveries at universities to craft new innovations. As such, they are withholding support for the Act until it is redrafted in a way that promotes, rather than discourages, technology transfer and sustains the existing patent system.
Report released by the Cooperative Institutional Research Program at the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA on norms in America's 2014 freshmen. The report covers ten issues, ranging from student alcohol and tobacco use, emotional health concerns, and interest in both early admission programs and advanced degrees. The results reported are based upon 153,015 first-time, full-time students who entered 227 four-year U.S. colleges and universities. A list of participating institutions can be found in Appendix C.
Report released by the Babson Survey Research Group in partnership with the College Board on the state of online learning in U.S. higher education based on a 2014 survey of more than 2,800 colleges and universities and data from the U.S. Department of Education's Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). According to survey data, the proportion of academic leaders who report that online learning is critical to their institution's long term strategy increased from 49 percent in 2002 to 71 percent in 2014. However, while 28 percent of respondents believed online learning is sustainable when asked in 2002, only 16 percent believe so in 2014.
Press release issued by the U.S. Department of Education announcing that Zenith Education Group, a newly-created nonprofit provider of career school training and subsidiary of the ECMC Group, has finalized its acquisition of over fifty Everest and WyoTech campuses from Corinthian Colleges Inc. As part of the terms of the sale, the parties agreed to pay $12 million in up-front payments, and up to an additional $17.25 million in earn-out payments to the Department over the next seven years, all of which will be used to benefit Corinthian students. The sale also included the forgiveness of $480 million in loans that Corinthian students took out from a private lending program the company created.
Report released by the Hiring Policies and Procedures Review Committee at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) on the faculty hiring process. The Committee, which was appointed in response to the Steven Salaita faculty appointment case, was charged with reviewing the policies and processes for faculty hiring on the Urbana-Champaign campus. Among its recommendations, the Committee stated that the Board of Trustees should formally delegate its responsibility for tenured and tenure-track academic appointments to senior campus administrators, who in turn should continue the existing policy of delegating to the chancellor and provost.
Letter to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan from the Association of American Universities (AAU) in response to the U.S. Department of Education's draft ratings framework. The letter builds on two previous sets of comments on the proposed rating system—submitted by AAU on December 2, 2013 and January 24, 2014—to offer comments and suggestions on the rating system generally as well as on data and metrics. AAU also urges the Department to provide an opportunity for public comment on a "full and complete rating proposal" before the system is ultimately implemented.
Ruling released by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) affirming an earlier 2013 ruling holding that Grand Canyon University wrongly fired an employee for discussing her working conditions. Three former employees working on Grand Canyon's "grad team" frequently discussed concerns about the quality of leads referred to them, the limited degree programs in which they were permitted to enroll students, and the difficulty of meeting enrollment quotas. Grand Canyon fired these employees because the conversations violated a clause in the University's Employee Counseling Statement prohibiting employees from discussing with each other the terms and conditions of their employment. In 2013, the NLRB found that the University violated labor law by threatening to fire the employees and interrogating them about their speech, which constituted "protected concerted activity." Grand Canyon filed an appeal at the time when two of President Obama's appointments to the NLRB during a three-day Congressional recess were being challenged. After the appointment question was settled in NLRB v. Noel Canning, the Board considered the decision 2013 de novo. The NLRB ruled that the University's questioning of the employees in response to another employee volunteering information about the conversations unlawfully sought specific information about the protected activities of other employees, and thus found the interrogation unlawful.
Report from the California Legislative Analyst's Office (LAO) on the implementation of state legislation—the Student Transfer Achievement Reform Act— requiring the creation of associate degrees for transfer from the state's community colleges to the California State University System. The report found that the institutions have developed a sufficient number of the thirty-three transfer model curricula to "meet the spirit of the legislation," and recommended setting specific reporting and data requirements to make sure the institutions stay on track.
California University of Pennsylvania commissioned The Compliance Group to conduct a review of its football program after an October 2014 incident in which six University football players were arrested in connection with a beating that left a man hospitalized. The University's Interim President stated that four of the recommendations from the review will be implemented immediately, and that she is taking into consideration each of the remaining twenty-eight recommendations.
Comment request issued by the U.S. Department of Education on the College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP). CAMP office staff collects information for the CAMP Annual Performance Report (APR) to ensure that the data being collected is in compliance with Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965, the Education Department General Administrative Regulations (EDGAR), and other federal legislation. The CAMP office staff is requesting a customized APR that goes beyond the generic 524B APR to facilitate the collection of more standardized and comprehensive data, to improve the overall quality of data collected, and to increase the quality of data that can be used to inform policy decisions. Interested parties are invited to submit comments, which are due by April 6, 2015.
Announcement issued by the U.S. Department of Education regarding changes made to the adverse credit history provisions used in determining an applicant's eligibility for a Direct PLUS Loan. The announcement discusses early operational impacts to institutions and provides preliminary information about the changes planned for the Common Origination and Disbursement (COD) System implementation during the period of March 27-29, 2015. This announcement is the first in a series of announcements that will provide operational information about the upcoming changes, as described in final regulations published on October 23, 2014 and the January 27, 2015 Electronic Announcement, which will be implemented on March 29, 2015.
Letter from American Council of Education (ACE) President Molly Corbett Broad on behalf of ACE and thirty-one other higher education organizations offering comments on the U.S. Department of Education's Notice of Proposed Rulemaking regarding teacher preparation. The letter states that while the goals of the proposal are commendable, the regulation will not only fail to meet the intended goals, it will also "exacerbate existing challenges while undoing much of the progress made by states and institutions to improve program quality." To conclude, the letter respectfully requests that the Department withdraw the proposed "pending further study and analysis."
Settlement agreement reached between Ohio University (OU) and Isaac Smith in a case involving alleged violations of the First Amendment. Plaintiff Smith, a student at OU, sued various University officials in July 2014 after campus administrators ordered Smith and other members of the Students Defending Students (SDS) campus organization to stop wearing shirts bearing the slogan, "We get you off for free," on the grounds that it violated the University's Student Code of Conduct. The Code of Conduct prohibited any "act that degrades, demeans, or disgraces" another student as well as "taking any reckless, but not accidental, action from which mental or bodily harm could result to another person." As part of the settlement, OU has agreed to revise its policies and will pay $32,000 for Smith's damages and attorneys' fees.
Budget request for the fiscal year 2016 was released by President Barack Obama. The request calls for increasing federal spending on many higher education programs, a range of initiatives targeted at increasing overall college access, a bonus grant program to reward colleges that graduate large numbers of low-income students, and a scheduled increase in the Pell Grant maximum award from the current $5,775 to $5,915 for 2016-17. Because many of these proposals would require legislative action by a Republican-controlled Congress to be enacted, their future remains uncertain.
Legislation (S. 227) to amend and reauthorize the Education Sciences Reform Act of 2002 through fiscal year 2021 was approved by the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. The Strengthening Education Through Research Act (SETRA) makes a number of changes to the Institute for Education Sciences, a semi-independent agency within the Department of Education that conducts and oversees education research, as well as changes to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).
Letter from the Association of American Universities (AAU) and the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU) to the Acting Director of the Office of Clinical Research and Bioethics Policy at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Sarah Carr on the "Draft NIH Policy on the Use of a Single Institutional Review Board (IRB) for Multi-Site Research." The letter states that AAU and APLU support the movement towards the use of a single IRB for multi-site research studies in principle, but recommend that the NIH take into account potential unintended, negative consequences that may result from the new policy.
Discussion draft of legislation entitled the "21st Century Cures Initiative" was introduced in the House Energy and Commerce Committee by Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI). The discussion draft includes a number of smaller bills and proposals primarily related to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The NIH proposals in particular are aimed at assisting young scientists, developing a strategic plan and examine regulatory burden, and supporting high risk, high reward research.
White paper entitled "Innovation for Healthier Americans" was released by Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Senator Richard Burr (R-NC). The paper outlines challenges faced by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the research, development, and regulation of new medical products and identifies ways to facilitate stakeholder engagement in these processes. Overall, the paper seeks to "identify and advance[e] specific steps to better align public policy to support medical innovation and patient access to new medicines and technologies."
Letter to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) on NIST Special Publication 800-171 on behalf of the Council on Governmental Relations (COGR) and the Association of American Universities (AAU). The letter expresses concern for the proliferation of federal
requirements relating to sensitive, unclassified information, particularly with regard to basic and applied research. The authors note that the requirements in NIST Special Publication 800-171 appear to contradict National Security Decision Directive 189 (NSDD-189), which states,
". . . to the maximum extent possible, the products of fundamental research remain unrestricted. . . ." To resolve this issue, the letter concludes with several recommendations that would help clarify the scope of Publication 800-171.
Order by the U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois granting the defendant's motion to dismiss. Plaintiff Jack Blank, a student at Knox College, was accused of sexual misconduct by two female students. After considering the information presented at a grievance hearing, including only a partial amount of the information offered by the plaintiff, the College determined that Blank's conduct violated its policy against sexual misconduct as to both complainants and suspended him for two terms. Blank filed suit alleging that the College had violated Title IX by denying a portion of relevant evidence and failing to consider all of the relevant evidence he presented during the hearing while giving full consideration to all evidence presented by or on behalf of the female complainants. The Court held that the plaintiff never actually stated that the sex of his accusers was the reason for the alleged bias, but that even if he had, the complaint would nonetheless be insufficient under federal pleading requirements because such a statement would be a mere conclusion and devoid of the requisite particular facts necessary to cast doubt on the outcome of the hearing.
Report published by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching on the role of the Carnegie Unit—also known as the "credit hour"—in the changing world of higher education. The report acknowledges the difficulties that the credit hour can present to areas such as the allocation of financial aid, the development of curricula with alternative pacing, and innovations that make education more flexible and learning outcomes more transparent. However, the authors argue that despite its flaws, the credit hour remains the best option for maintaining a common language in education.
Payment and disbursement schedules for determining Federal Pell Grant awards for the 2015-2016 Award Year for full-time, three-quarter-time, half-time, and less-than-half-time students were released by the U.S. Department of Education. Under the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act (SAFRA), the Federal Pell Grant maximum award increases annually based on changes in the Consumer Price Index. The 2015-2016 maximum award is $5,775, reflecting an increase of $45 from the previous year's maximum.
Order by a unanimous three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit reversing the district court's decision holding that Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) School of Medicine arbitrarily and capriciously denied Amir Al-Dabagh a diploma based on its determination that he lacked the professionalism required to discharge his duties responsibly. The Sixth Circuit concluded that a lack-of-professionalism finding amounts to an academic judgment for several reasons, including the fact that the CWRU student handbook—the governing contract—states repeatedly that professionalism is part of Case Western's academic curriculum, that professionalism has played a role in the field of medicine since ancient times, and that case law from various jurisdictions supports this conclusion. Since the University's lack of professionalism finding did not represent "such a substantial departure from accepted academic norms as to demonstrate that the . . . committee responsible did not actually exercise professional judgment," the Sixth Circuit held in favor of the University.
Press release announcing the results of the 2014 NACUBO-Commonfund Study of Endowments was issued by the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO). The final data gathered from 832 U.S. colleges and universities indicated that these institutions' endowments returned an average of 15.5 percent for the 2014 fiscal year, an increase of 3.8 percentage points from the 2013 fiscal year average. These rising return rates have enabled institutions to increase spending from their endowments to support student financial aid programs, faculty research, and other activities vital to their missions, according to survey respondents.
Dartmouth College released a plan entitiled "Moving Dartmouth Forward" that describes on their strategies to bring campus life to a "safe, sustainable place". The new policies implemented by the plan are based on recommendations from a Presidential Steering Committee that was formed in April 2014 to address the incidence of high-risk behavior and a lack of inclusivity on campus. Dartmouth's plan includes strategies to eradicate sexual assault on campus and to promote community awareness of sexual violence and gender-based harassment.
Legislation (S.B. 893; House companion bill H.B. 1722) introduced in the Virginia legislature by Senator J. Chapman Petersen (D-Fairfax) that would eliminate an existing public records law exemption for public college and university presidents was passed over by the Senate General Laws and Technology subcommittee. Currently, the state's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) (Va. Code § 2.2-3705.7) exempts the working papers and correspondence of these presidents from public disclosure. Both H.B. 1722 and S.B. 893 would remove the language, "the president or other chief executive officer of any public institution of higher education in Virginia" from the list of exemptions. Lawmakers refrained from passing the bill because of an ongoing Freedom of Information Advisory Council study to examine all of the law's exemptions.
Draft template proposed by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) for colleges and universities to use when issuing requests for proposals (RFPs) that include provision of financial accounts to students. The Safe Student Account Scorecard is intended to help institutions set parameters for student financial accounts sponsored by or otherwise connected to the institution and to compare offerings. The CFPB also published a Request for Information in the Federal Register to solicit comments on the draft template. Interested parties may submit responses to the questions posed in the Request by March 9.
Letter from the American Council on Education (ACE) and ten other higher education organizations to Representative Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) strongly endorsing the American Opportunity Tax Credit Act of 2015. Among other provisions, the Act would consolidate the AOTC and Lifetime Learning Credit into one simplified, permanent AOTC that would provide up to $2,500 per year in tax relief for students and their families. The letter applauds the bill for seeking to simplify the current higher education tax credit, which the authors characterize as overly complex and difficult for students and their families to use correctly.
Report released by the U.S. Department of Justice on campus law enforcement during the 2011-12 academic-year. The findings include statistics on the types of officers providing law enforcement services, the average number of full-time campus law enforcement employees per 1,000 students, and the prevalence of community policing activities. Data from the 2004-05 survey is included for comparative purposes.
Plan announced by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker to reform the partnership between the state and the University of Wisconsin (UW) System. Under the plan, the UW System would receive a true Grantee Performance Report (GPR) block grant from the state with independent authority over spending and the resident undergraduate tuition freeze would continue for an additional two years. The plan is designed to grant the UW System greater independence and flexibility regarding decisions on employee matters, construction projects, and other issues.
Report released by the University of California, Berkeley on a study of the salaries of the institution's faculty. The data suggest that women and members of ethnic minority groups earn somewhat lower salaries on average than male non-minority faculty members. Although the study could not identify the causes for these salary differences, the report concludes with a number of recommendations designed to address them.
Announcement by Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) that it will no longer will require applicants with a high school GPA of 3.3 or higher to submit SAT scores. VCU President Michael Rao stated that the decision was made based on studies showing that GPA has proven to be a better determinant of how well a student will do in college and that the SAT has racial and socio-economic biases.
Study released by United Educators (UE) on student sexual assault claims filed between 2011 and 2013 by the institutions it insures. The findings include statistics on the victims and perpetrators, responses by colleges and universities to sexual misconduct allegations, lawsuits filed against the institutions, and federal Title IX complaints filed against institutions.
Announcement released by the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Postsecondary Education stating that the new standards and procedures relating to adverse credit history, which were announced in a January 14, 2015 Federal Register notice, will apply to all PLUS Loan credit checks conducted on or after March 29, 2015. Furthermore, beginning on March 29, 2015, the Secretary of Education will implement the new regulatory provision requiring special loan counseling for any PLUS Loan applicant who has an adverse credit history but who qualifies for a PLUS Loan through the process for reconsideration due to extenuating circumstances or by obtaining an endorser for the loan.
Poll conducted by Christopher Newport University's Judy Ford Wason Center for Public Policy of registered voters in Virginia on a range of public policy issues, including issues surrounding sexual misconduct on campus. In response to the question of whether colleges and universities should be required to report allegations of sexual assault to local police or whether they should be allowed to handle such allegations as internal disciplinary matters, 90% of respondents chose the former option.
Illinois Public Act 098-0129—which gives schools, colleges, and universities access to the passwords of student social media accounts—went into effect on January 1, 2015. Under the new law, if a school or institution has reasonable cause to believe that the student's account contains evidence that a student has violated a disciplinary rule of policy, that school or institution can demand the student's social media password. This authorization applies even if the alleged violation is posted after school hours.
Information bulletin issued by California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris to all California state and local law enforcement agencies, campus police, security personnel and campus administrators. The bulletin provides a summary of new and amended California state laws regarding campus safety and sexual misconduct and highlights critical points of collaboration between law enforcement and campus authorities. The two laws summarized include AB 1433 (Reporting of Sexual and Hate Violence) and SB 967 (Affirmative Consent).
Same-Sex Marriage: Caspar v. Snyder
January 27, 2015
Order issued by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan preliminarily enjoining the defendant, Michigan Governor Richard Snyder, from refusing to recognize the marital status of the plaintiffs and all other same-sex couples who were lawfully married under Michigan law. Plaintiffs include eight same-sex couples who were married in Michigan during a brief window of time after a federal district court in the state declared that Michigan's refusal to authorize same-sex marriage was unconstitutional (DeBoer v. Snyder, 973 F. Supp. 2d 757 (E.D. Mich. 2014)). The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit issued a stay on the decision the next day (DeBoer v. Snyder, 772 F.3d 388 (6th Cir. 2014)). Following the Sixth Circuit's ruling, Governor Snyder announced that the state would not recognize the marital status of the same-sex couples who were issued marriage licenses while the district court's original ruling remained in effect. After determining that courts have been "unwavering in their disapproval of any attempt to deprive people of their marital status when that state's law authorized the marriage when solemnized," the District Court concluded that the continued legal validity of an individual's marital status is a fundamental right under the liberty interest protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Same-Sex Marriage: Searcy v. Strange
January 27, 2015
Order by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama granting the plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment and denying the defendant's cross motion for summary judgment. The case was filed by Cari Searcy and Kimberly McKeand, a same-sex couple legally married in California who petitioned the state of Alabama to allow Searcy to adopt McKeand's 8-year-old biological son under a provision of Alabama's adoption code that allows a person to adopt a spouse's child (ALA. CODE § 26-10A-27). Their petition was denied because Searcy did not qualify as a "spouse" for adoption purposes under Alabama law. Both the Alabama Sanctity of Marriage Amendment and the Alabama Marriage Protection Act (ALA. CODE § 30-1-19) provide that Alabama will not recognize same-sex marriages that occurred under the laws of any other jurisdiction. After concluding that the right to marry is fundamental, the Court applied strict scrutiny review and determined that the laws in question injured the children of same-sex couples both emotionally—by making it difficult for the children "to understand the integrity and closeness of their own family"—and financially—by denying their families "a panoply of benefits that the State and the federal government offer to families who are legally wed"—in a way that it did not harm children of opposite sex couples. It therefore held the challenged laws to be unconstitutional under the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Sample memorandum of understanding (MOU) with law enforcement released by the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault. The sample MOU includes provisions concerning communication and coordination with law enforcement, sexual assault prevention measures, policies and procedures for responding to a reported sexual assault, and training coordination. The Task Force acknowledges that there is no "one-size-fits-all" approach and that the sample MOU is intended only as a guide.
Order by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois granting plaintiffs' motion for preliminary injunction. Plaintiffs Wayne Lela and John McCartney, members of Heterosexuals Organized for a Moral Environment (HOME), filed suit against the Board of Trustees of Community College District No. 516, alleging that Waubonsee Community College (WCC) violated their First Amendment rights when it denied their request to hand out flyers on campus. Defendant claimed that the flyers, which promoted a message critical of homosexuality, posed a direct conflict to the College's mission "to uphold and adhere to the legal requirements for maintaining a non-discriminatory educational enforcement, free of unlawful hostility." While Judge Gettelman did not dispute that the views outlined in the flyers would promote policies that violate the college's anti-bias policies, the court found that the defendant unlawfully discriminated against the plaintiffs based on the content of their speech.
Announcement issued by the National Academy of Science's Committee on Science, Technology, and Law on a study of federal regulations and reporting requirements, specifically focusing on those directed at research universities. The Committee will develop a new framework for federal research regulations that addresses the needs of Congress, federal agencies, and the public while advancing the missions of research universities.
Letter from the American Academy of Universities (AAU), the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU), and over two hundred other organizations to U.S. House and Senate Judiciary Committee leaders expressing concerns about potential patent litigation legislation. The letter acknowledges that abusive patent litigation is a problem but contends that any legislation designed to address this behavior should not overreach in a way that weakens the overall patent system. The letter also describes several major judicial and administrative developments that have positively reshaped the patent landscape since Congress last considered the issue, and asks the Committee leaders to take these changes into account when drafting any legislation.
Alert from the Department of Homeland Security's Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) regarding multiple scams targeting universities, university employees, and students nationwide. The scams include attempts to get employees to divulge their personal payroll information and to steal student reimbursement money, including student loan funds. Victims of these scams are encouraged to file a complaint with the IC3 at http://www.ic3.gov and to notify the police at the relevant university.
Press release issued by the Association of American Universities (AAU) announcing that 29 public and private research universities will participate in its national sexual assault climate survey. The survey, which will be conducted this Spring, will document the frequency and characteristics of campus sexual assault and sexual harassment, in addition to assessing campus climate. Nearly all of the AAU universities that opted not to participate in the survey are either carrying out their own surveys or participating in state university system surveys.
Legislation (H.B.5034) introduced in the Rhode Island General Assembly that would require institutions of higher education to report allegations of sexual assault involving students or employees to law enforcement authorities. The bill, which was introduced by State Representative Mia Ackerman (D-Cumberland and Lincoln), does not preclude the institution from responding to or investigating the allegation itself for the purpose of imposing disciplinary action on the alleged perpetrator.
Letter from American Council on Education (ACE) President Molly Corbett Broad and thirteen higher education association leaders to the Senate sponsors of the Immigration Innovation Act of 2015 expressing strong support for the measure. The Act is designed to expand the ability of high-skilled workers to live and work in the United States by eliminating the H-1B cap for advanced-degree graduates, exempting advanced-degree STEM graduates from employment-based green card limits, and creating a visa fee to fund STEM education programs.
Amendments regarding transgender student participation were made to the policies and tournament materials for the National Intramural-Recreational Sports Association (NIRSA) Championship Series Events. Under the new language, NIRSA explicitly recognizes transgender tournament players and encourages these students to participate in intramural sports based on their expressed gender identity.
Results of a survey conducted by the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) regarding admissions officers' views of federal regulations under the Higher Education Act. NACAC surveyed 824 admissions officers at postsecondary institutions to gauge their awareness of federal regulations pertaining to enrollment management and to solicit feedback on the regulations' efficacy and importance to prospective students and their families.
Advisory opinions from October 31, 2014 and January 5, 2015 by Indiana Public Access Counselor Luke Britt in response to a complaint filed by ESPN alleging that the Notre Dame Security Police Department (NDSPD) violated Indiana's Access to Public Records Act (Ind. Code § 5-14-3-1 et. seq.). In September and November 2014, NDSPD denied ESPN access to incident reports relating to certain student athletes on the grounds that NDSPD is a private law enforcement agency and therefore is not subject to the Act. The Advisory Opinions, however, state that because Indiana law gives NDSPD the power to enforce the law, NDSPD is subject to open records laws. ESPN and its reporter, Paula Lavigne, filed suit against the University of Notre Dame on January 15, 2015.
Press release issued by the White House outlining President Barack Obama's "middle class economics" plan to provide working families with the support they need to thrive in the 21st century economy. Proposals that specifically affect the higher education community include making two years of community college free for responsible students, reducing the burden of student loan debt, extending tax credits for college, and partnering with businesses to create more on-the-job training opportunities.
Study published by coalition of five higher education groups (The American Council on Education (ACE), InsideTrack, NASPA: Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education, and the University Professional and Continuing Education Association (UPCEA)) on graduation and retention rates of non-first-time students. The researchers found that non-first-time students are more likely to complete an associate degree and less likely to drop out if they combine full-time and part-time enrollment.
Report issued by the U.S. Department of Justice based on the 2011-12 Survey of Campus Law Enforcement Agencies, which includes Clery Act data from more than 900 U.S. four-year colleges and universities that enroll 2,500 or more students. According to the data, while violent crimes on college campuses decreased by 27 percent between 2005 and 2012, the number of sworn and armed police officers on campuses continues to rise.
Press release issued by the California Community Colleges Chancellor's Office announcing that the state's Community Colleges Board of Governors gave initial approval to fifteen colleges to develop bachelor's degree programs as part of a pilot program approved by the Legislature and Governor Jerry Brown. The programs selected will undergo additional review by the Chancellor's Office as well as further consultation before final approval is considered by the Board of Governors in March.
Comment request issued by the U.S. Department of Education on reaffirmation agreements. Reaffirmation is the agreement to repay the amount that a Title IV borrower received in excess of the maximum total amount allowed under the Higher Education Act according to the terms and conditions of the promissory note that the borrower signed. Interested parties are invited to submit comments, which are due by March 23, 2015.
Final regulations published in the Federal Register by the U.S. Department of Education to amend the Education Department General Administrative Regulations (EDGAR). The final regulations include amendments to certain definitions, technical edits to regulations to improve their clarity and consistency, and the addition of a provision that allows the Secretary of Education to give special consideration to projects supported by evidence of promise.
Legislation (H.B. 1471) introduced in the North Dakota Legislative Assembly to protect the First Amendment rights of student journalists. The bill, entitled the "John Wall New Voices Act," would prevent administrators at public and private colleges from invoking the Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier precedent to justify censorship of school-sponsored media. In Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier, the U.S. Supreme Court held that student newspapers not designated as public forums have lesser First Amendment protections than other forms of student expression.
Legislation (H.B. 1343) introduced in the Virginia General Assembly that would require police departments at Virginia public universities to report incidents of sexual assault to the local Commonwealth attorney. The bill, which is sponsored by Delegates Eileen Filler-Corn and David Albo, would require the departments to report incidents within 48 hours of receiving the report.
Proposal announced by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo entitled the "Get On Your Feet Loan Forgiveness Program." Under the proposal, New York State would cover the difference between what the federal government covers under the Pay As You Earn (PAYE) program and the individual student's total loan payment. In order to qualify, a student must attend college in New York and continue to live in the state following graduation; participate in the federal PAYE program; and earn less than $50,000 annually.
Legislation introduced in the U.S. Senate by Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Chris Coons (D-DE), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) entitled the "Immigration Innovation Act of 2015." Among other provisions, the Act would uncap the existing U.S. advanced degree exemption for H-1B visas; allow dual intent for foreign students at U.S. colleges and universities; exempt U.S. STEM advanced degree holders, outstanding professors, and researchers from the employment-based green card cap; and reform fees on H-1B visas and employment-based green cards.
Press release issued by Duke University announcing that it has decided to reverse its previously-announced plan to present a traditional Muslim call-to-prayer from the bell tower of the Duke Chapel. In defending the decision, Vice President for Public Affairs and Government Relations Michael Schoenfeld acknowledged that the policy was not having the intended effect of unifying the campus. However, he also reiterated Duke's commitment to "fostering an inclusive, tolerant and welcoming campus for all of its students" and welcomed the continued expression of faith by Duke's Muslim community.
Statement issued by the University of Illinois Board of Trustees regarding its decision to rescind its offer of a faculty position to Stephen Salaita after he posted controversial remarks on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on his Twitter account. The Board stated that its 8-1 vote not to approve Dr. Salaita's appointment was final, contrary to what some may have concluded due to a December report issued by the Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure recommending that the Board reconsider its position.
Letter from the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) to the City College of San Francisco (CCSF) granting the College a two-year restoration of its accreditation status. The Commission found that while CCSF was noncompliant with several accreditation standards, it had demonstrated the ability to meet them during the restoration period. CCSF will be required to submit an Institutional Self Evaluation Report by October 15, 2016, demonstrating that it has come into compliance with all eligibility requirements and accreditation standards.
Report on an investigation by the University of Massachusetts (UMass) Chancellor's Working Group of the UMass Amherst Police Department's confidential informant program, which used students as informants in drug investigations. UMass convened the working group after a student informant died of a heroin overdose in October 2013. In light of the report's conclusions that the program was too secretive and may have harmed students who participated, Chancellor Kumble R. Subbaswamy has decided to end the program.
Order by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois denying defendants' motion to dismiss. Plaintiffs Phillip Beverly and Robert Bionaz, two professors at Chicago State University (CSU), filed suit against CSU's president and other officials alleging that the defendants violated their First Amendment rights by trying to shut down their blog and adopting a cyberbullying policy that prohibits electronic communications that may have an "adverse impact on the work environment of a CSU faculty member or employee." The defendants moved to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction, claiming that they never enforced the policy against the plaintiffs. The Court denied the motion, holding that the plaintiffs sufficiently alleged a concrete, particularized, and imminent injury, as well as the existence of an actual dispute, by citing a cease and desist letter from the defendants demanding that they shut down the blog on the grounds that "the lack of civility and professionalism expressed on the blog violates the University's values and policies requiring civility and professionalism."
Press release issued by the U.S. Department of Education announcing that it has granted nearly $570,000 to the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) to assist with the funding of mental health services following the May 2014 shooting near campus. The immediate services grant, which is being made through the Department's Project School Emergency Response to Violence (SERV) program, will expand the campus' existing mental health staff to help meet the increased demand for services in light of the attack.
Announcement issued by the U.S. Department of Education regarding the date for early implementation of the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program regulations that update the standard for determining if a potential parent or student borrower has an adverse credit history for purposes of eligibility for a loan. The Department issued these final regulations in 34 CFR part 685 for the PLUS Loan Program in October 2014. The early implementation date is March 29, 2015.
Freedom of Speech and Retaliation: Barnes v. Zaccari
January 14, 2015
Order by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit vacating and remanding the district court's grant of summary judgment to defendant Ronald Zaccari. During the spring of 2007, former Valdosta State University (VSU) President Ronald Zaccari expelled Thomas Hayden Barnes, a student at VSU, for protesting Zaccari's plan to construct two parking garages on campus by posting a collage on his personal Facebook page. After calling the collage a "threatening document" and labeling Barnes a "clear and present danger" to VSU, Zaccari expelled Barnes without a hearing. Barnes sued Zaccari and other VSU administrators in 2008, and the district court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants on the claim of retaliation for exercising his right to free speech under the First Amendment. The Eleventh Circuit disagreed, holding that the district court erred in reading the complaint too narrowly in ruling that there was no "stand-alone" or individual retaliation claim against Zaccari and that Barnes' complaint contained several factual allegations to support the claim.
Employment Discrimination: Brown v. Sessoms
January 14, 2015
Order by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit reversing in part, remanding in part, and affirming in part the district court's ruling dismissing the plaintiff's complaint. Plaintiff Stephanie Brown, a black female and former law professor at the University of the District of Columbia School of Law (UDC), was denied tenure because she had only written two published articles rather than the three necessary under UDC's tenure requirements. The D.C. Circuit found that Brown presented evidence showing that a white male applicant with equivalent qualifications was granted a tenured position despite only having published one article. It thus held that Brown and the white male applicant who was granted tenure were similarly situated and therefore that Brown's discrimination case should be reinstated.
Press release issued by the White House announcing that the U.S. Department of Energy will give $25 million in grants over the next five years to support a cybersecurity education consortium consisting of thirteen Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and two national labs. The program will help to fill the growing demand for skilled cybersecurity professionals in the American job market in addition to expanding the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) curricula at HBCUs.
Corporate filing by Corinthian Colleges, a for-profit higher education chain, stating that the proposed sale of fifty-six of its campuses to student loan guarantor ECMC Group, Inc., will be postponed until February 2, 2015. The filing states that while Corinthian and ECMC have made "substantial progress towards the satisfaction of the closing conditions," they were unable to satisfy all these conditions in time to conduct an initial closing on January 12, 2015, as the parties had previously agreed.
Settlement agreement reached between the United States and Quinnipiac University based on a complaint filed with the United States Attorney's Office in Connecticut alleging that Quinnipiac discriminated against a student with a disability in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Specifically, the complainant alleged that Quinnipiac failed to make necessary reasonable modifications to its policies, practices, and procedures when it placed the student on a mandatory medical leave of absence because of the student's depression without first considering options for the student's continued enrollment. Under the terms of the settlement, Quinnipiac agreed to pay off the former student's tuition loan and to issue her a payment for emotional distress, pain and suffering.
Legislation entitled the "Campus Free Expression Act" (CAFE Act) was introduced in both the Senate (S.B. 93) and the House (H.B. 408 and H.B. 436) of the Missouri state legislature. The Act would deem outdoor areas of campuses at public colleges and universities to be "traditional public forums." Institutions would be allowed maintain and enforce reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions within these forums to serve compelling institutional interests "only when such restrictions employ clear, published, content, and viewpoint-neutral criteria, and provide for ample alternative means of expression."
Arbitrator's decision and award ordering the University of Hawaii to rehire longtime adjunct professor, Dr. Monique Mironesco, to a tenure-track position. Dr. Mironesco served as an adjunct lecturer at the University of Hawaii-West Oahu (UHWO) on a temporary contract that was renewed each year from 2002 until 2014, when UHWO converted her position into a tenure-track one and announced it would conduct a national search to fill the slot instead of rehiring Dr. Mironesco. The University of Hawaii system's faculty union filed a grievance on behalf of Dr. Mironesco based on a provision in the faculty contract stating that adjuncts should be converted to tenure-track faculty if the University creates a tenure-track position in a field "where evidence of continued need has been demonstrated by consistent funding of the [adjunct] position for seven consecutive years that includes at least 75 percent state general funding." The arbitrator ruled that under these circumstances, the contract dictated that "open recruitment was not needed," and for this reason, Mironesco was entitled to a position on the tenure track.
Dear Colleague Letter issued by the U.S. Department of Education providing guidance to institutions that contract with third-party servicers to administer any aspect of the institution's participation in Title IV student assistance programs. Title IV of the Higher Education Act and related regulations require these institutions to report the names of any individual or entity that performs for, or on behalf of, the institution any of the listed Title IV functions. However, the Department has determined that a significant number of institutions have failed to report or update this information, or have reported incorrect information, due to confusion relating to which entities should be reported as third-party servicers. The Letter seeks to address this confusion.
Draft discussion guide on measuring college outcomes was published by the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU), and the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU). The guide contains a strategic framework designed to enable colleges and universities, policymakers, and the public to discuss and create measurement tools for reporting student outcomes after college.
Legislation (S.B. 2150) was introduced in the North Dakota legislature that would grant students enrolled in public colleges and universities the right to be represented by an attorney during suspension or expulsion hearings. However, the bill includes an exception to this right if the allegation involves academic dishonesty. The bill would also provide a similar right to student organizations.
Proposal announced by President Barack Obama that would allow students enrolled in community college to earn the first half of a bachelor's degree or the technical skills needed in the workforce at no cost. To be eligible, a student must attend community college at least half-time, maintain at least a 2.5 GPA, and make steady progress toward completing his or her program. Federal funding would cover three-quarters of the average cost while participating states would be expected to contribute the remaining funds.
Legislation introduced in the U.S. Senate by Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) that would reduce the length of the application for federal student aid and consolidate federal grant and loan programs. The purpose of the bill is to provide greater access to postsecondary education for students and families and to give information that will allow students and families to make better consumer choices. Senator Alexander hopes to bring the bill to the Senate floor by the end of this spring.
Legislation introduced in the U.S. Senate by Senators Angus King (I-ME) and Richard Burr (R-NC) that would direct the Secretary of Education to streamline federal student loan repayment plans for new borrowers. The bill would also implement limits on the amount of loan forgiveness that high-debt borrowers can receive.
New fraternal organization agreement regarding the safety practices of campus fraternity and sorority councils was adopted by the University of Virginia. The new policies and regulations focus on reducing "high-risk drinking," increasing oversight of fraternity and sorority activities, and providing resources to students to combat the risks of these activities.
Publication containing the quarterly special allowance rates for the federal Family Education Loan Program was released by the U.S. Department of Education. Under section 438(b)(2)(I)(i)(I) of the Higher Education Act (HEA), the Department is required to determine these rates, which consist of "the average of the bond equivalent rates of the quotes of the 3-month commercial paper (financial) rates in effect for each of the days in such quarter as reported by the Federal Reserve in Publication H-15 (or its successor) for such 3-month period." For the quarter ending December 31, 2014, the average rate used to compute special allowance will be 0.14 percent.
Policy statement on campus free speech was released by the Committee on Freedom of Expression at the University of Chicago. The statement declares that the University "is committed to free and open inquiry in all matters," and that because of this commitment, it "guarantees all members of the University community the broadest possible latitude to speak, write, listen, challenge, and learn." The policy states further that, "it is not the proper role of the University to attempt to shield individuals from ideas and opinions they find unwelcome, disagreeable, or even deeply offensive."
Decision from the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals denying both parties' petitions for rehearing en banc, thereby upholding the panel's unanimous October 2014 ruling finding that the lower court's analysis of fair use was erroneous and reversing the district court's ruling in favor of defendants at Georgia State University and the University System of Georgia.
Order issued by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa denying defendants' motion to dismiss. The case arose when officials at Iowa State University (ISU) withdrew the ISU Trademark Office's approval of a t-shirt design submitted by the ISU chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) that expressed support for legalizing marijuana after state officials and members of the public complained about the t-shirt's message. ISU later adopted new trademark regulations to prohibit messages by student groups promoting "dangerous, illegal, or unhealthy" products or actions and rejected two additional NORML's t-shirt designs. Plaintiffs, two student leaders of NORML, alleged that these actions violated clearly established constitutional rights of which reasonable administrators and staff should have known. The Court found that the restrictions on speech were viewpoint-based and that the plaintiffs' speech was private speech, as opposed to government speech, because case law suggests that speech by collegiate student organizations is not government speech. Based on these conclusions, the Court held that the complaint sufficiently alleged facts indicating that a reasonable college administrator would know that restricting students' speech based on viewpoint is a constitutional violation.
Pilot program that will help cover the expenses of student basketball players' family members who travel to the men's and women's Final Four games this spring was announced by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). For men's and women's Final Four teams, the NCAA will pay up to $3,000 total for travel, hotel and meal expenses for student-athletes' families to attend games, while championship game participants will receive $4,000.
Press release issued by the U.S. Department of Justice announcing that a settlement was reached between the Department and Kaplan Higher Education, a nonprofit education company that runs colleges in Texas. The Department began investigating Kaplan after a whistleblower suit alleged that Kaplan knowingly requested, received, and retained federal tuition funds for courses taught by individuals who did not meet the minimum requirements established by Texas law. Under the settlement terms, Kaplan will pay $1,329,753.25 to resolve the whistleblower claims, the majority of which will be paid in the form of tuition refunds.
Order by the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania granting defendant Bucknell University's motion for summary judgment. The case arose from a sexual assault allegation by Kelly Stefanowicz against plaintiff Reed Dempsey, both of whom were students at Bucknell. Bucknell held a student conduct hearing in which both students were found guilty of disorderly conduct. Dempsey filed suit against the University as well as various Bucknell officials and employees alleging a total of fourteen claims, including false arrest, malicious prosecution, supervisory liability, and breach of contract, among others. The Court held that because Dempsey's claims of false arrest and malicious prosecution failed as a matter of law, there was no violation of his constitutional rights and thus no supervisory liability under Section 1983 on the part of the defendants. Furthermore, the Court granted summary judgment to Bucknell on the plaintiff's breach of contract claim because Dempsey, having been found not guilty of the sexual assault allegation, did not present any evidence of damages resulting from Bucknell's refusal to provide him with certain documents related to the conduct hearing.
Comments from the American Council on Education and twenty-two other higher education associations in repsonse to the Office of Management and Budget's (OMB) Information Collection Request published in 79 FR 71819. The associations express concern that OMB's estimates of approximately $42 million as the likely financial burden of the proposed regulations for teacher preparation programs are "unrealistically low" based on existing data on the costs of developing systems capable of meeting the new requirements. The letter requests that OMB use a third party to verify the Derpartment of Education's estimates prepared for the proposed regulations.
Statement issued by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill explaining the disciplinary actions it is taking to address the findings of an investigation into academic irregularities that occurred at the University between 1993 and 2011. Among these actions includes the University's announced intent to terminate the employment of Jeanette Boxill, former chair of the Faculty Council, based on the evidence in a report on the irregularities. The University states that its that disclosing this information to the public fully complies with the North Carolina Public Records Act and Human Resources Act, and that it is "necessary to maintaining the level and quality of services Carolina provides." In response, Dr. Boxill has requested a hearing before a committee of the faculty.
Letter and resolution agreement between the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and Harvard Law School (HLS) following an OCR investigation into Title IX complaints filed against the University. Harvard University and Harvard Law School have agreed to take a series of action steps, including revising their recent sexual and gender-based harassment policies; expanding the HLS Title IX Coordinator's responsibilities to include overseeing the implementation of appropriate interim steps to provide for campus safety during investigations, and serving as a resource to the campus police department; and conducting annual campus climate assessments, among others. OCR issued a press release regarding this investigation.
Michigan bill (HB-6074) preventing student-athletes at Michigan public universities from unionizing was signed into law by Governor Rick Snyder. The law requires all students participating in intercollegiate athletics to be classified as "students" and excludes "students" from the definition of "public employees" entitled to collective bargaining rights.
Order issued by Louisiana's First Circuit Court of Appeal reversing in part, amending in part, and affirming as amended the district court's judgment declaring that certain documents requested by the plaintiffs are public records under Louisiana's Public Records Act. Plaintiffs Capital City Press and the Times-Picayune filed public records requests for documents relating to the 2012-2013 search by Louisiana State University (LSU) to fill the position of President/Chancellor. The Court concluded that the state's Public Records Act, which explicitly entitles the public to the names and backgrounds of "applicants" for executive positions such as college presidencies, refers only to "individual[s] who ha[ve] expressed [their] desire through words or actions to be considered for the position in question." Applying this definition, the Court held that of the thirty-five semi-finalists who received serious consideration for the presidency, LSU will only have to identify the four candidates who were actually interviewed for the position. The Court further held that LSU will have to pay $30,800 in attorney fees to the publishers of the two newspapers who challenged the closed-door search under the Public Records Act as opposed to the $500-a-day contempt fines for every day the University refused to disclose the information requested.
Report released by the Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign stating the University should reconsider its decision not to hire Steven G. Salaita for a faculty position after he posted controversial Tweets about Israel's treatment of Palestinians. Salaita was offered a faculty position at the University in 2013 but the offer was rescinded after he posted criticisms of Israel and its supporters on Twitter. The report's authors stated that they believe Chancellor Phyllis Wise raised legitimate questions about Salaita's "professional fitness" and recommended that Salaita's candidacy be sent to a committee of academic experts within the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences to provide him with the opportunity to respond to any findings of professional unfitness before the panel makes any decisions.
Letter from the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) to Marquette University on its decision to suspend Professor John McAdams after he wrote a blog post criticizing a graduate student for forbidding her students from discussing same-sex marriage. The letter asserts that Professor McAdams' suspension violates Marquette's explicit promises to its professors-- including the requirement that a faculty member may only be fired "for cause" –and, therefore, must be rescinded.
Report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on tax-exempt organization compliance. The GAO found that various units within the IRS' Exempt Organizations division could not fully assess or communicate their effectiveness because they lacked meaningful performance measures. It also found that there is a lack of clarity about how state charity regulators can use IRS data to build cases against suspicious charitable organizations. In light of its findings, the GAO offered recommendations for how the IRS and Congress can address these issues and strengthen their oversight of tax-exempt organizations.
Report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) finding that from October 2009 through March 2014, accreditors were no more likely to have sanctioned institutions with weaker student outcomes than those with stronger student outcomes. However, institutions with weaker financial characteristics were more likely to be sanctioned that those with stronger financial characteristics. The GAO recommends that the Department of Education determine whether accreditor standards effectively address academic quality, a key requirement under the Higher Education Act, and better utilize accreditor sanction information to oversee colleges and universities.
Ruling issued by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in Pacific Lutheran University and Service Employees International Union. Pacific Lutheran had asserted that, as a higher education institution affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, it was exempt from the NLRB's jurisdiction. It further argued that certain full-time contingent faculty members seeking to join the bargaining unit qualified as managers under National Labor Relations Board v. Yeshiva University, 444 U.S. 672 (1980), and therefore could be denied union representation. The Board rejected both of those arguments, concluding that although Pacific Lutheran provided a religious educational environment, the Board could assert jurisdiction because the University "does not hold its petitioned-for faculty members out as performing any religious function." The NLRB also ruled that because the University had failed to prove that full-time contingent faculty members exercised managerial authority under Yeshiva, they could not be barred from forming unions.
Dear Colleague Letter on competency-based education programs was released by the Department of Education. The Letter provides guidance to institutions regarding the eligibility of competency-based education programs for Title IV student assistance programs. It also addresses the distinction between direct assessment and credit hour competency-based education, requirements for establishing credit hour equivalencies, and the role of accrediting agencies, among other issues.
Statement issued by President Molly Corbett, Broad President of the American Council on Education (ACE); on the U.S. Department of Education's recently-announced College Ratings Framework. President Corbett Broad calls the framework merely "a status report on the beginning of a conceptual framework," which does not give colleges a reasonable idea about how the framework will impact them. Given these shortcomings, she concludes that ACE "continue[s] to have serious reservations about whether, even after 16 months of effort, the Department possesses the necessary data and time to accomplish its stated goal by the 2015-16 academic year."
Press release by House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) and Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Ranking Member Lamar Alexander (R-TN) on the U.S. Department of Education's College Ratings Framework, which was announced on December 19. Both members express skepticism of the proposed framework as well as the federal government's ability to accurately and efficiently rate the nation's higher education institutions.
Resolution agreement reached between the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and the University of Cincinnati to ensure that the University's websites comply with federal civil rights laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of disability. OCR determined that the University was not in compliance with Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act because portions of the University's websites were not readily accessible to persons with disabilities. Among the terms of the agreement, the University has pledged to provide notice of a web accessibility policy and an implementation and remediation plan, and to designate one or more persons to coordinate its efforts to comply with Section 504 and Title II. A copy of the resolution letter can be found here.
Notice issued by the Department of Education announcing its semiannual agenda of federal regulatory and deregulatory actions. The notice includes a list of completed actions and the dates on which the actions were taken. Interested members of the public are invited to comment on any of the items listed in this agenda that they believe are not consistent with the Principles for Regulating, as well as on any uncompleted actions that the Department plans to review to determine their economic impact on small entities.
Florida legislation (S.B. 182) proposed by State Senator Alan Hayes (R-Umatilla) providing an exemption from public records requirements for any personal identifying information of an applicant for president, provost, or dean of a state university or Florida College System institution. Additionally, any meeting held to identify or vet applicants would be exempt from the state's public meetings law, including meetings to discuss applicants' qualifications or pay. The institutions would be required to release information about final candidates ten days before making a selection.
College ratings system framework was released by the U.S. Department of Education. The system will use broad categories to highlight particular institutional successes and weaknesses using nearly a dozen metrics that may include the percentage of students receiving Pell Grants, average net cost of attendance, and completion rates, among others. At minimum, the Department plans to group institutions for comparison purposes according to whether they grant two-year or four-year degrees. The Department invites interested parties to submit comments by February 17, 2015.
Pennsylvania law (H.B. 435) that will require employees who work with minors to submit to regular criminal background checks will take effect for newly-hired employees on December 31, 2014. The law mandates renewed clearance for affected employees every three years and applies to faculty and staff at Pennsylvania's public and private colleges who have direct, routine interaction with minors.
Press release issued by the White House on President Barack Obama's announcement that the United States will reestablish diplomatic relations with Cuba. Under the new policy, general licenses will be available to "all authorized travelers" in twelve categories, several of which are education- or research-related. The new policy will thus have implications for students and faculty at institutions of higher education.
Press release issued by Victor C. Johnson, senior adviser for public policy at NAFSA, applauding President Barack Obama for "charting a new course for productive relations between the United States and Cuba." The press release states that the decision to renew diplomatic ties will further expand opportunities for students to study abroad and for researchers in the two countries to collaborate their efforts. President Johnson encourages Congress to lift the trade embargo with Cuba.
Letter on behalf of forty-six student, consumer, veterans, and civil rights groups to the Obama Administration opposing the proposed sale of fifty-six Corinthian Colleges' campuses to a nonprofit student loan guarantee agency, ECMC Group. The letter states that the terms of the proposed sale "would not give students the choice of completing or a fresh start, while leaving the campuses in the hands of a troubled entity with no educational experience." The letter also suggests stricter terms for the deal.
Comment request issued by the Department of Education's Office of Postsecondary Education (OPE) on the renewal of the three-year clearance for the College Affordability and Transparency Explanation Form (CATEF) data collection. The collection of information through CATEF is required by the Higher Education Act of 1965 in order to increase the transparency of college tuition prices for consumers. Interested parties are invited to submit comments, which are due thirty days after the date of publication.
Notice of intent to establish a negotiated rulemaking committee to prepare proposed regulations governing the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program. The committee will include representatives of organizations or groups with interests that are significantly affected by the topics proposed for negotiations. The Department is requesting nominations for individual negotiators to serve on the committee, which must be received on or before thirty days after this notice is published.
Letter from the American Council on Education on behalf of itself and twenty-four higher education-related organizations on the Census Bureau's proposed information collection entitled "The American Community Survey Content Review Results." The letter urges the Census Bureau to retain Person Question No. 12 (Undergraduate Field of Degree) in the survey, asserting that removing the question would harm the signed organizations' ability "to understand the career and employment pathways and the quality of life of college graduates residing in the United States." The removal of the question, the letter states, would also cost the government more money than it would save.
Order denying plaintiff's motion for preliminary approval of a proposed $75 million settlement of a class-action lawsuit involving student-athlete head injuries. Under the proposal, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) would toughen return-to-play rules for players with concussions, create a $70 million fund to test current and former athletes in contact and non-contact sports for brain trauma, and would set aside $5 million for research. Judge John Lee of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois dismissed the proposed settlement without prejudice after finding the deal to be too unwieldy and potentially underfunded given the number of athletes it would cover. The judge also urged the two sides to try to resolve these issues through further negotiations.
Order and opinion of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirming the decision of the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona dismissing plaintiffs' amended complaint for failure to state a claim. Plaintiff investors brought this suit against Apollo Group, Inc., which is the parent company of the University of Phoenix, alleging that Apollo violated securities law by making false and misleading statements about its enrollment, revenue growth, business model, and recruitment of students. The Court rejected plaintiffs' claims, distinguishing between knowingly false statements of fact and acceptable "business puffery" upon which investors do not reasonably rely. Additionally, the court concluded that Apollo sufficiently disclosed material information about its recruitment incentive system and the type of students it recruited because public filings revealed the amount of money spent on advertising each year and "made clear that it targeted individuals unable to attend traditional colleges and universities."
Michigan bill (HB-6074) that would prevent student-athletes at Michigan public universities from unionizing was passed by both houses of the state legislature. The bill would exclude students participating in intercollegiate athletics from the definition of "public employees" entitled to collective bargaining rights.
Public Infractions Decision issued by the National Collegiate Athletic Association Committee on Infractions finding that the University of Georgia head coach of women's and men's swimming and diving was responsible for conferring an impermissible benefit on a student-athlete and failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance. The panel recognized the university's "exemplary cooperation" in the case and applauded its compliance monitoring and detection of the violations. The panel prescribed a financial penalty of $5000 to be paid by the institution, suspended the head coach from 50% of the 2014-2015 regular season competitions, and prohibited the head coach from recruiting duties until April 2015.
United States' motion for leave from the Supreme Court of Montana to file an amicus curiae brief in Krakauer v. Montana Commissioner of Higher Education for the limited purpose of addressing the relationship of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA) to state open records laws. The Montana Supreme Court is reviewing a lower court's ruling that FERPA does not prohibit the Montana Commissioner of Higher Education from disclosing redacted records related to a University of Montana student-athlete's disciplinary proceedings following sexual assault allegations. The United States seeks to clarify that "disciplinary records constitute protected 'education records' under FERPA." Further, the United States intends to argue that Montana's open records laws should be construed consistently with FERPA and where the Court may find conflicts, FERPA should control because the Montana University System has received federal funds. The Student Press Law Center has submitted a letter to the U.S. Department of Education urging the government to withdraw its motion.
Audit report by the U.S. Department of Education's Inspector General on what actions the Department has taken to prevent borrowers from defaulting on their student loans. The Inspector General found that while the Department manages a growing portfolio of federal student loans, officials lack a coordinated plan for preventing borrowers from defaulting and thus cannot ensure that efforts by various offices involved in default prevention activities are coordinated and consistent. To address this problem, the report recommends that the Undersecretary of Education develop a comprehensive default prevention plan that "describes the Department's default prevention strategy, defines the roles and responsibilities of key Department offices and personnel, and establishes performance measures that can be used to assess the effectiveness of the default prevention initiatives and activities identified in the plan."
Settlement agreement reached as a result of Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley's investigation into enrollment practices at Salter Schools, a for-profit higher education chain in Massachusetts. The institution was alleged to have used misleading recruitment tactics to obtain tuition payments and fees from students.To resolve these allegations, Salter will pay $3.75 million to help pay down the federal and private student loans of roughly 600 students. Attorney General Coakley issued a press release in conjunction with the release of the consent judgment.
Agreement reached between Youngstown State University and the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) to ensure that the institution's websites comply with federal civil rights laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of disability. OCR determined that the school was not in compliance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Among the terms of the agreement, Youngstown State has pledged to develop, adopt and provide notice of a Web accessibility policy as well as an implementation and remediation plan to ensure adherence to the policy. A copy of the resolution letter can be found here.
Letter of Findings and Voluntary Resolution Agreement between Southern Methodist University (SMU) and the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) following an investigation into three complaints alleging that SMU failed to promptly and equitably respond to complaints of gender harassment, sexual harassment, and sexual assault, and that as a result, complainants were subjected to a hostile environment. The Letter of Findings concludes that the SMU’s grievance procedures do not conform to Title IX requirements because they do not designate timeframes for the appeal process, notify parties that they may end the informal process and begin the formal process at any time, address conflicts of interest, disallow evidence of past relationships, or assure that the university President will comply with Title IX when reviewing student conduct decisions. Under the Resolution Agreement, SMU will amend its grievance procedures to comply with Title IX, develop and implement a procedure for sharing information between campus police and the Title IX coordinator, implement trainings for staff and students, and conduct annual climate surveys, among other changes.
Report by the U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics comparing the numbers of rape and sexual assault victimization of female college students and non-students using data from the National Crime Victimization Survey for the period 1995-2013. Key findings of the report include that the rate of rape and sexual assault for non-students was higher than that of students, that student victims were less likely to report victimizations to the police, and that student victims were more likely to state that the incident was not important enough to report.
Final investigation report from GRACE, a religious organization that investigates sexual abuse, commissioned by Bob Jones University to review the University’s response to complaints of sexual assault. The report concludes that the University “communicated at least some responsibility to victims for being sexually assaulted” through statements by representatives of the University including administrators, counselors, faculty, and chapel speakers, and through official policies. Further, the report highlights incidents of the University shaming victims and discouraging victims from reporting abuse to law enforcement. The report concludes with recommendations for the University to update policies and procedures related to sexual abuse prevention, response, and reporting; increase awareness within the student body; refer victims to outside licensed and trained trauma counselors; and “disassociate from any teachings, organizations, and individuals which have demonstrated to be directly or indirectly hurtful” to victims, among other recommendations.
White paper release by the American Council on Education that provides a primer and answers to questions frequently asked by students, faculty, alumni, journalists, public officials, and others about college and university endowments.
Omnibus spending bill (H.R. 83) for fiscal year 2015 approved by the House and now before the Senate for a vote. Significant provisions affecting higher education include a $15 million increase in funding for the Federal Work-Study program, $116. Million decrease in funding for the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FISPE), $150 million increase in funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and reallocation of $300 million of the Pell Grant surplus, most of which will be put toward student loan servicing. Funding for the Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (OCR) will increase by $1.9 million. Appropriations Committee notes suggest that with the additional funding, the committee expects OCR “to continue its efforts to prevent sexual violence on campus.”
Draft recommendations on accreditation policy from the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI) issued to the U.S. Department of Education. The recommendations set out four tasks: 1) simplify the accreditation process, 2) enhance nuance in the accreditation/recognition process, 3) develop the relationship between quality/quality assurance and access to Title IV funds, and 4) clarify and define NACIQI’s role and function. Recommendations to accomplish those tasks include establishing a range of accreditation statuses that provides differential access to Title IV funds, eliminating regional accrediting agencies and converting all accrediting agencies into national accreditors, and establishing common definitions of accreditation actions and terms, among others.
Letter from thirteen Democratic U.S. Senators to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan urging the Department of Education to immediately discharge federal student loan debt for borrowers with claims against Corinthian Colleges, Inc. The letter also urges the Department to implement clear policies and procedures for borrowers to assert defenses to repayment of federal student loans based on acts or omissions of their colleges and universities. The letter makes requests for additional information about loan cancellation procedures, including questions about which federal and state law claims are sufficient to constitute a defense to repayment, what procedures the Department has implemented to allow borrowers to assert defenses to repayment, and how the Department plans to address loan cancellation for borrowers who attended Corinthian Colleges, among other requests.
Letter from U.S. Representatives Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD) and Tony Cárdenas (D-CA) to Mark A. Emmert, President of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) requesting additional information about the NCAA’s oversight of academic services provided to student-athletes in light of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill report on “no-show” classes that “primarily benefitted student-athletes.” The letter requests clarification on the NCAA’s position that it would not penalize student-athletes for taking “no-show” classes that are available to all students and questions NCAA’s failure to sanction under these circumstances.
Letter from the American Council on Education (ACE) to U.S. Senators expressing support for permanent extension of the Individual Retirement Account (IRA) Charitable Rollover, which expired at the end of 2013. ACE asserts that the IRA Charitable Rollover incentivizes charitable giving, particularly for taxpayers who do not itemize tax deductions and therefore cannot take advantage of the charitable tax deduction.
Order of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida granting defendant's motion to dismiss plaintiff's Title VII discrimination and retaliation claims. Plaintiff Michelle Mitcham, who is African American, began working at the University of South Florida as an Assistant Professor in the College of Education in 2005. In December 2010, it was recommended that plaintiff's application for tenure and promotion be denied and she subsequently submitted a Charge of Discrimination to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In January 2011, the Provost made the final recommendation to deny tenure and promotion after independently evaluating her application. Plaintiff alleges that the tenure decision was based on discriminatory and retaliatory animus. Additionally, plaintiff alleges that she was subjected to a hostile work environment based on unfair class assignments and "rude, dismissive or condescending" emails and verbal statements by colleagues and other university employees. The Court concluded that plaintiff's disparate treatment claim failed under the "cat's paw" theory because there was no evidence that any discriminatory animus from lower-level employees affected the Provost's tenure decision and plaintiff could not identify any evidence suggesting that her tenure application was denied for a discriminatory reason. Additionally, the Court concluded that plaintiff's hostile environment claim failed because she did not present sufficient evidence to show that any of the allegedly harassing conduct was based on her race or gender. Finally, the Court rejected plaintiff's retaliation claim because the university provided a non-discriminatory reason for its tenure decision and there was no evidence of retaliatory animus.
Order of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana on cross motions for summary judgment. Plaintiff Margaret Herster worked in numerous positions at Louisiana State University's (LSU) School of Art. During her employment at LSU, she complained internally about sexual harassment and sexual discrimination and filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. After LSU hired a less-qualified male candidate for a tenure-track position and failed to renew plaintiff's contract, she brought suit against LSU and the School of Art, among others, asserting Equal Pay Act, Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), Title VII, and state law violations. The Court granted summary judgment to defendants on the Equal Pay Act claim because plaintiff failed to show that the pay discrepancy was based on her sex after LSU offered three non-discriminatory reasons for the discrepancy. Additionally, the Court granted summary judgment to defendants on the Title VII sex discrimination claim because plaintiff did not submit a formal application for the tenure-track position. The Court denied summary judgment to defendants on plaintiff's Title VII harassment claim, Title VII disparate pay claim, Title VII and FMLA retaliation claims, and state law claims.
Announcement issued by the Department of Education defending the deal it helped broker for Corinthian Colleges, a for-profit chain of higher education institutions. Corinthian has agreed to sell fifty-six of its campuses to the Educational Credit Management Corporation (ECMC), a non-profit student loan guarantee agency, for $24 million. The Department stated that the deal, if approved, will avoid "disruption and displacement" for the nearly 40,000 students affected and strengthen the students' education prospects.
New guidance released by the Department of Education clarifying that the prohibition on incarcerated students receiving federal Pell Grants under the Higher Education Act of 1965 (HEA) does not apply to those confined to juvenile correctional facilities. The HEA declares that "any individual who is incarcerated in any Federal or State penal institution or who is subject to an involuntary civil commitment upon completion of a period of incarceration for a forcible or nonforcible sexual offense" is ineligible for a federal Pell Grant. Under 34 CPR §600.2, "incarcerated student" means any "student who is serving a criminal sentence in a Federal, State, or local penitentiary, prison, jail, reformatory, work farm, or other similar correctional institution." As the Dear Colleague Letter explains, juvenile correctional facilities are not "penal institutions" under these statutory and regulatory provisions.
Press release issued by the Department of Justice regarding the announcement by Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan of the Correctional Education Guidance Package. The guidance package builds on recommendations in the My Brother's Keeper Task Force report released in May to "reform the juvenile and criminal justice systems to reduce unnecessary interactions for youth and to enforce the rights of incarcerated youth to a quality education." The package includes a Dear Colleague Letter clarifying and explaining the extent to which confined youth may be eligible for the federal Pell Grant Program, which is accompanied by a fact sheet for students and a set of questions and answers for institutions of higher education.
Final supplemental priorities and definitions for discretionary grant programs were released by the Department of Education. Notice of the proposed priorities and definitions were published in the Federal Register on June 24, 2014 (79 FR 35736). Some of the proposed priorities that deal with postsecondary education include projects designed to increase postsecondary access, affordability, and completion; projects that focus on improving job-driven training and employment outcomes; projects to support the education and training of individuals in fields related to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics; and projects that implement internationally benchmarked college- and career-ready standards and assessments. The final priorities and definitions are effective thirty days after the date of publication and will replace the 2010 Supplemental Priorities (76 FR 27637).
Legislation (H.R. 5771) passed by the House of Representatives that will extend more than fifty expired tax benefits through 2014. The package contains several tax benefits that affect institutions of higher education, including the IRA Charitable Rollover, the above-the-line deduction for qualified tuition and related expenses, and the research and development tax credit. The Senate is expected to approve the measure when it considers the bill on December 10.
Response from Association of American Universities (AAU) President Hunter Rawlings to criticisms of the AAU Sexual Assault & Campus Climate Survey that the Association recently announced it is developing. Rawlings noted that the main goal of the survey is to provide member universities with the information they need to develop the best policies and practices for protecting students and promoting campus safety. He assured critics that while AAU will encourage institutions to make their data available to the public, it will be up to individual institutions to decide whether and how to release their data. AAU intends to make public the overall results of the survey to aid other researchers and inform policymakers.
Opinion of the Court of Appeal of the State of California reversing the judgment of the lower court dismissing plaintiff's claim of wrongful termination in violation of public policy. Plaintiff Linda Ferrick worked at Santa Clara University as a senior administrator in its real estate department. Ferrick made several internal complaints concerning her immediate supervisor, Nick Travis, accusing him of fiscal misconduct. The University terminated Ferrick after she improperly processed an invoice overpaying for a truck procured for the real estate department by her son-in-law, a construction supervisor at SCU, although she promptly corrected the error. Ferrick sued the University, claiming that her termination was unlawful because it violated fundamental public policy "encouraging whistle-blowers to report unlawful acts without fear of retaliation." The lower court dismissed the complaint because it found that Travis's illegal conduct harmed only the University rather than the public at large. The appellate court disagreed, concluding that California law recognizes protection for whistleblowers as a fundamental public policy. Further, the Court ruled that Ferrick adequately pleaded that she had reasonable basis to support her complaint of illegal conduct and that she was terminated "because of" her complaint.
Request for comments posted by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) on a draft policy promoting the use of a single Institutional Review Board (IRB) for domestic sites of multi-site studies funded by the NIH. The goal of the proposal would be to enhance and streamline the process of IRB review and reduce inefficiencies so that research can proceed efficiently without compromising ethical principles and protections. Comments should be submitted electronically by January 29, 2015, to the Office of Clinical Research and Bioethics Policy.
Letter to Congress from the Coalition to Promote Research (CPR)—a coalition of national organizations committed to promoting public health, innovation, and fundamental knowledge through scientific research—to explain and express support for the competitive peer review process used by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The letter also articulates concern over alleged mischaracterizations and accompanying criticism of NIH-supported research made by some in Congress and the media. In light of this criticism, the Coalition encourages Congress to "resist efforts to undermine the NIH and its peer review process."
Notice of technical corrections made to the final Gainful Employment rule was issued by the Department of Education. The Department published the final regulations for the Gainful Employment rule on October 31, 2014. The corrections involve the regulatory text, footnotes, and a chart contained in the rule.
Settlement agreement was reached in the case of Sinapi-Riddle v. Citrus Community College District. Vincenzo Sinapi-Riddle, a student at Citrus Community College (CCC), filed suit against the College after it threatened him with removal from campus for soliciting signatures against domestic surveillance by the National Security Agency (NSA) outside of the campus "free speech area." As part of the settlement, CCC has agreed to pay $110,000 in damages and attorneys' fees to Sinapi-Riddle. Citrus has also revised several of its speech policies, has agreed not to impede free expression in all open areas of campus, and has adopted a definition of harassment that complies with the First Amendment.
Notice of proposed rulemaking issued by the Department of Education to implement requirements for the teacher preparation program accountability system under Title II of the Higher Education Act of 1965. These proposed regulations are designed to address shortcomings in the current system by defining the indicators of quality that states will use to assess the performance of their teacher preparation programs. They would also link assessments of program performance under Title II to eligibility for the Federal TEACH Grant program. The Department requests comments on the proposed rule, which must be received on or before February 2, 2015.
Abrar Faiaz, a Muslim citizen of Bangladesh and student at Colgate University, filed a complaint against the University and sixteen of its employees claiming he was interrogated, intimidated, harassed, falsely imprisoned, threatened, and eventually expelled as the result of his race, religion, national origin and sex. The suit arose out of allegations that Faiaz was involved in altercations involving two female students. The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York denied the defendants' motion for partial judgment on the pleadings as to the plaintiff's cause of action for false imprisonment because the fact that plaintiff attempted to convince the Dean to let him stay on campus instead of returning to Bangladesh and attending his disciplinary hearing via Skype or telephone did not establish that he was consenting to stay in a University building basement under security surveillance prior to the hearing. The Court also dismissed the motion for judgment on the pleadings as to the respondeat superior claim to the extent that the plaintiff agreed that the claim was not a separate cause of action but rather applicable only to those claims where respondeat superior was available against Colgate. However, the Court granted the motion in all other respects.
Settlement agreement reached in a lawsuit filed by students Merritt Burch and Anthony Vizzone against the University of Hawaii System. The lawsuit arose after University administrators prevented the students from distributing copies of the U.S. Constitution pursuant to University policy restricting such activities to "free speech zones." As part of the settlement, the University agreed to pay $50,000 to the plaintiffs. Additionally, just prior to the settlement, the University amended its speech policy to allow students to distribute non-commercial literature "in all areas generally available to students and the community."
Prepared remarks delivered by Undersecretary of Education Ted Mitchell addressing a Federal Student Aid conference in Atlanta. Undersecretary Mitchell discussed the reforms implemented by the Obama Administration and suggested that the government may move away from its current system of contracting with four companies to manage payments for the majority of its federal student loan portfolio. The Department of Education formally solicited public input on its loan servicing system last week.
Unofficial Notice of Proposed Rulemaking was released by the U.S. Department of Education regarding new regulations for implementing teacher preparation program accountability system requirements under Title II of the Higher Education Act of 1965. The proposed regulations seek to encourage all states to develop systems to identify high- and low-performing teacher preparation programs, to streamline current data requirements and incorporate more meaningful outcomes measures, to improve the availability of relevant information on teacher preparation, to reward programs determined to be effective or better by states with eligibility for TEACH grants, and to offer transparency into the performance of teacher preparation programs. The Department, which published a webpage detailing the proposed regulations, is soliciting comments from interested parties, which must be received on or before 60 days following the official date of publication.
Comment request issued by the U.S. Department of Education on its newly-proposed information collection under the Campus Safety and Security Survey. The Higher Education Act of 1965 mandates the collection of information through the Campus Safety and Security Survey with the goal of increasing transparency surrounding college safety and security information for students, prospective students, parents, employees, and the general public. Interested parties are invited to submit comments on or before January 27, 2015.
Legislation (H.B. 1343) introduced by Delegate Eileen Filler-Corn (D-Springfield) in the Virginia General Assembly calling for mandatory reporting of sexual misconduct reported to have taken place on a college or university campus. The legislation would require campus and local law enforcement agencies to notify the local commonwealth's attorney within 48 hours of the start of an investigation into a felony criminal sexual assault that occurs on property owned or controlled by an institution of higher education.
Press release issued by Service Employees International Union (SEIU) on a recent vote by adjunct faculty members at Saint Michael's College to form a union. The vote was forty-six in favor of unionization to twenty-six opposed. This decision is the latest in votes by adjuncts at three Vermont colleges to unionize, and comes as part of SEIU's Adjunct Action campaign to organize part-time professors nationwide.
Decision issued by Judge Stout of the Inyo County Superior Court on the modification of the L. L. Nunn Trust that governs Deep Springs College, an historically all-male, two-year college in California where roughly two dozen students work as farmhands while earning their degrees. In 2011, the College's Board of Trustees voted in favor of admitting women, but a judge ruled that this change would violate the Trust. Finding that L. L. Nunn would "not have been reluctant" to admit women, Judge Stout ruled that language in the Trust can be changed to reflect a commitment to "the education of promising young people," replacing the current "young men."
Announcement issued by the U.S. Department of Education on the availability of the new National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS) Transfer Student Monitoring (TSM)/ Financial Aid History (FAH) User Guide and Batch File Layouts. The guide provides instructions for creating and managing the TSM list using the NSLDS Professional Access Website. It also contains batch and report instructions, as well as the updated TSM and FAH batch file layouts. These new documents will replace the ones released in February 2014.
Press release issued by the U.S. Department of Justice on Maricopa County Community College District's (MCCCD) agreement to pay $4.08 million to settle allegations under the False Claims Act. MCCCD is accused of submitting false claims to the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) concerning AmeriCorps state and national grants. The claims that the settlement resolves are allegations, and no determination of liability has been made.
Decision from the Iowa Court of Appeals affirming the lower court's ruling on judicial review that plaintiff Malik Juweid, former tenured professor at the University of Iowa College of Medicine, was not denied due process in the administrative proceedings that led to his dismissal from the University. In January 2011, the University's Provost, Tim Rice, placed Juweid on administrative leave upon advice from the University's threat assessment team following twenty-eight "prejudiced, insulting, and inflammatory" statements that Juweid made via e-mail to co-workers and University administrators that allegedly "disparaged and attacked the character and integrity of colleagues at the University and other institutions." In February 2011, Rice notified Juweid in writing of an ethics complaint against him and charges of violating the University's operations manual and other policies based on these e-mail messages. A three-person faculty panel presided over a hearing on the charges against Juweid and recommended that his employment be terminated. The panel's recommendation was accepted by the University's President. The Court rejected Juweid's claims that there were conflicts of interest in the University's disciplinary proceedings that violated his due process rights and affirmed the lower court's ruling in favor of the University.
Letter from the American Council on Education and other higher education associations to Senators Tom Harkin and Jerry Moran opposing any effort to use Pell Grant Program funding for any other purpose in the FY 2015 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies appropriations bill that is currently being considered as part of an omnibus spending bill. The letter's signers contend that weakening the Pell Grant program would have disastrous effects on low-income and middle-income students and request that the Senators reject any such proposals.
Compilation of correspondence sent from University of Virginia administrators and student leaders to the University community regarding a widely-publicized 2012 sexual assault.
Standards of Professional Practice for Chief Diversity Officers (CDOs) were developed and approved by the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education (NADOHE). The standards are intended to be a "formative advancement toward the increased professionalization" of CDOs in institutions of higher education and to serve as useful guideposts for clarifying and specifying the scope and flexibility of their work.
Statement released by seven groups representing research universities (AAU, AEARU, LERU, GO8, RU11, the Russell Group, and the U15 Canada) on the role of the social sciences and humanities in the global research landscape. The statement asserts that while policy makers are questioning the need for government support of education and research into these fields, understanding these disciplines is essential to the global community. The statement concludes by identifying actions that research universities, networks of these institutions, and governments can take to assure that the contributions of the social sciences and humanities to national and global wellbeing endure.
The Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) and its two co-presidents filed suit to challenge the constitutionality of 26 U.S.C. § 107, also known as the parsonage exemption, which excludes the value of employer-provided housing benefits from the gross income of any "minister of the gospel." FFRF claimed that the provision violates the First Amendment because it conditions a tax benefit on religious affiliation. While the district court found that the plaintiffs had standing, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit disagreed, holding that the plaintiffs could not assert the requisite harm necessary to establish standing because they never requested the parsonage exemption and therefore could not have been denied the exemption. Absent this denial of a personal benefit, the Court found that the plaintiffs' claim amounted to a generalized grievance, which does not support standing. Furthermore, because a plaintiff cannot establish standing based solely on being offended by the government's alleged violation of the Constitution, the Court vacated the district court's ruling and remanded with instructions to dismiss the complaint.
Amicus brief filed by the American Council on Education (ACE), the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges (AGB), and the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU) in support of the defendant-appellant in the case of O'Bannon v. National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). The appeal challenges the district court's decision that the NCAA's rules prohibiting student-athletes from receiving compensation for use of their names, images, and likenesses violates antitrust laws. The brief emphasizes the vital role that amateur college athletics plays in the overall educational process and experience, and contends that turning amateur student-athletes into paid professionals will impede their integration into the academic community and negatively affect the quality of their educational experience.
U.S. Department of Education guide containing a summary of the changes made in the student financial aid processing system for the 2015-2016 academic year was released on the Information for Financial Aid Professionals (IFAP) website. The guide provides information about changes involving the processing schedule, the ordering and distribution of worksheets, access to the Central Processing system, and the system itself.
Letter from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) to the Board of Trustees of Lewis & Clark College (LCC) on an alleged First Amendment violation involving student verbal exchanges. LCC charged two students with "Physical or Mental Harm," "Discrimination or Harassment," and "Disorderly Conduct" after investigating an incident that took place at a residence hall party in which racially-insensitive remarks were overheard and reported by a student not present at the party. In its letter, FIRE reiterated a claim asserted in a previous letter sent to LCC President Barry Glassner in April accusing LCC of ignoring its institutional commitments to free speech and misapplying the legal standard for student-on-student harassment established by the Supreme Court. FIRE asks the LCC Trustees to make sure that the charges and sanctions against these two students are dismissed and expunged from their records.
Plaintiff Yoona Ha, a freshman at Northwestern University, claimed that the University violated Title IX by failing to fire Peter Ludlow, one of Ha's professors, after its Director of Sexual Harassment Prevention found that Ludlow had engaged in unwelcome and inappropriate sexual advances toward her. She argued that allowing him to remain on campus created a hostile environment that effectively deprived her of the education opportunities and benefits provided by the University. The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois disagreed, pointing to the Supreme Court's holding that Title IX does not give the victim the right to make particular remedial demands (see Davis Next Friend LaShonda D. v. Monroe). The District Court held that because Northwestern took disciplinary action against Ludlow by instructing him to have no contact with the plaintiff, she had no legal recourse against the University. Additionally, the Court dismissed the plaintiff's retaliation claim because the alleged retaliatory actions—including denial of a fellowship, denial of a refund for a non-refundable deposit she made for a study abroad program, and a threatened lawsuit by Ludlow—were either not causally related to her threats to bring suit against the University or not the kind of adverse action encompassed by the retaliation statute. The Court thus granted Northwestern's motion for judgment on the pleadings.
Letter to Members of the 113th Congress from the Coalition for National Security Research (CNSR)—representing research universities, scientific associations, businesses, and institutions—urging passage of the fiscal year 2015 Omnibus Appropriations legislation before the end of the year rather than passing a continuing resolution. In the letter, the CNSR requests at least $2.27 billion for 6.1 basic research accounts and at least $12.04 billion for Defense Science and Technology Accounts in order to maintain military readiness and provide a "technologically superior force" in the face of a growing "innovation deficit" between the U.S. and global competitors.
Proposed legislation introduced by departing Senate Education Committee Chair Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) to reauthorize the Higher Education Act of 1965. The bill is substantially similar to Senator Harkin's previous draft legislation but includes the following changes: revises methods for allocating federal funding by taking into account the number of low- and moderate-income students the eligible institution serves; provides additional funds to colleges and universities that enroll and graduate a significant number of low- and moderate-income students on time under a "College Opportunity and Graduation Bonus Demonstration Program"; establishes a student unit record data system to track financial aid, academic progress, earnings data, and repayment rates, among other things; and creates a "One-Time FAFSA Pilot Program" to streamline the student aid application process. Some commentators have suggested that although the legislation is unlikely to advance before the end of the current legislative session, it may serve as a starting point for negotiations between Senate Democrats and Republicans.
Speech by President Barack Obama announcing a series of executive actions on immigration, including a temporary grant of reprieve of deportation to undocumented immigrants who (1) have been in the U.S. for more than five years and (2) have children who are American citizens or legal residents. In order to remain in the U.S., undocumented immigrants who meet the above criteria must register, pass a criminal background check, and pay taxes. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will also expand the existing Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to include more immigrants who came to the U.S. as children. Additionally, the executive actions will provide additional resources to border security agents and will ease the ability of high-skilled workers, graduates, and entrepreneurs to come to and remain in the U.S. In conjunction with the President's speech, the White House released a Fact Sheet containing further details on the executive actions.
Infractions decision released by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) regarding violations of NCAA ethical rules at Weber State University. A Weber math instructor admitted to completing online quizzes, tests and exams for five student-athletes during the spring 2013 semester, resulting in fraudulent academic credit. Because the University's compliance system detected the violations and the University quickly took action, the NCAA Committee on Infractions determined that the University did not fail to monitor the academic coursework of student-athletes. The penalties imposed by the Committee include three years of probation, scholarship reductions for the football team, over $5,000 in fines, and a five-year show-cause order for the math instructor.
Letter from five civil rights and community organizations—including the National Security and Civil Rights Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus (Advancing Justice-ALC), Palestine Solidarity Legal Support (PSLS), the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), the National Lawyers Guild (NLG), and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)—to 140 universities on student free speech rights. The letter cautions universities against the use of "the vague and highly subjective concept of 'civility'" to limit speech on campus in light of the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine. The authors assert that democratic norms and firm legal principles require institutions to uphold student speech rights on these and other issues, even in the face of controversy and public outcry.
Testimony submitted by six higher education groups—including the Association of American Universities (AAU), the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU), the American Council on Education (ACE), the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU), and the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU)—to the House Judiciary Committee regarding a hearing on copyright issues in education. The testimony asserts that any effort to update or amend the Copyright Act should not disrupt the basic structure of rights, which the authors contend "carefully balances the copyright holder's rights with limitations that authorize rights and uses for the public." The testimony also outlines a series of recommendations for reform that the signing organizations support.
Statement released by Representative John Kline (R-MN) on being selected to serve as Chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee for the 114th Congress. In his statement, Representative Kline indicates that strengthening the nation's higher education system is a priority that "will remain at the forefront of the committee's agenda."
Plaintiff Scott Goff, a newly-hired campus police officer at Kutztown University, called the state police to report that a woman called him claiming that her estranged husband—another campus police officer—had threatened her with a gun. Goff informed the state police that he was a campus officer and requested assistance for the woman, but did not report that he was having an affair with her. The state police informed the campus police chief John Dillon about Goff's report. Dillon later filed an incident report alleging that Goff allowed an unauthorized person in a campus police car and the University subsequently discharged Goff following disciplinary conferences. Goff filed suit, claiming that the discharge constituted unlawful retaliation and that his report to the state police was protected speech under the First Amendment. The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania ruled that Goff did not report the complaint as a private citizen but rather as a public employee, and held that because the complaint was made against a co-worker in the context of the plaintiff's employment, the complaint did not involve a matter of public concern. It therefore granted defendants' motion to dismiss and held that the officer's speech was not protected by the First Amendment. Furthermore, because the plaintiff was still within his probationary period, the Court held that the University was not required to terminate him for just cause.
Opinion of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit affirming the lower court's decision dismissing Plaintiff's complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that his termination violated his right to procedural due process. Plaintiff Joy Laskar was a tenured professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech). Georgia Tech instituted dismissal proceedings against Laskar and, pursuant to the procedures in the Georgia Tech Faculty Handbook, a four-person Faculty Hearing Committee unanimously recommended his dismissal after nearly twelve hours of testimony and argument. University President G.P. Peterson reviewed the Committee's report and agreed with its recommendation. Laskar filed the present lawsuit alleging that he was denied a "meaningful opportunity to be heard" in violation of his procedural due process right under the Fourteenth Amendment because his hearing was not conducted by or before Peterson. The Court concluded that Laskar's procedural due process right had not been violated because the university's pre-termination procedures, including the hearing, provided him notice of the charges against him and an opportunity to make arguments and present evidence in response to the charges before unbiased decision makers.
Guide produced by the Higher Education Mental Health Alliance (HEMHA) to assist colleges and universities in responding to campus suicide. The guide suggests that colleges and universities implement a "postvention" plan for addressing the effects of a campus suicide adopted and implemented by a postvention committee composed of individuals and offices such as student affairs leadership, counseling and psychological services and leadership, campus security, legal affairs and chaplaincy, among others. Further, the guide addresses key areas of a postvention plan including drafting communications with families, the campus community and the media, implementing clinical services intervention to "help the campus community regain emotional stability," and holding memorials and managing related events.
Letter from U.S. Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) and U.S. Representative George Miller (D- CA) to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan expressing concern that the recent adjustments to calculating official three-year cohort default rates implemented by the Department of Education may "allow poorly performing institutions to put more student loan borrowers at risk of taking on debt they cannot repay." The lawmakers request additional information on the Department's decision to make adjustments, including information about the prevalence of split-servicing, among other questions.
Report submitted by the Ohio State University (OSU) Marching Band Culture Task Force to the University's President and Board of Trustees assessing the cultural climate of the OSU Marching Band and reviewing the administrative oversight of the Band. The report concluded that there is "an undercurrent of inappropriate behavior and tradition" that is "inconsistent with the overall excellence and reputation of the Band," including inappropriate and offensive "rookie names," videos featuring hazing and inappropriate behavior, and pervasive alcohol abuse. The report also concluded that the Band had successfully distanced itself from University oversight and that the University failed to oversee the Band's management or operations. The report provides 37 recommendations for addressing these findings including hiring a compliance officer, providing trainings to Band members, staff, and directors, implementing guidelines for traditions such as videos and "rookie names," among other recommendations.
Report on adjunct faculty working conditions based on results of a survey conducted at 238 colleges and universities by Adjunct Action, a project undertaken by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). The report documents the workload, hours, and pay of adjunct faculty members, and analyzes the level of protections that federal employment laws provide to the contingent workforce. The report also offers recommendations and actions that faculty, students, and elected officials can take to remedy the issues cited.
Statement released by the Association of American Universities (AAU) announcing that it has contracted with a national research firm, Westat, to help design and administer a sexual assault climate survey at up to sixty of its member research universities. The survey, which will be administered in April 2015, will document the frequency and characteristics of sexual misconduct at institutions of higher education. AAU contends that the survey will provide institutions with reliable information on the incidence of sexual misconduct on their campuses and on student attitudes regarding the issue.
Letter from the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) to the University of Southern Maine (USM) on the University's decision to discontinue four of its academic programs and terminate fifty tenured and non-tenured faculty members. The AAUP points to evidence cited by USM faculty members tending to show that the financial condition of the University "is by no means precarious." If these assertions are accurate, the AAUP states, the USM administration is acting in disregard of Regulation 4c in AAUP's Policy Documents and Reports—which calls for meaningful faculty participation in determining that a condition of financial exigency exists—in terminating the faculty positions.
Set of documents released by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) relating to the events that led to the signing of the consent decree between the NCAA and Penn State University in light of the child abuse scandal. The documents are intended to provide context to emails recently made public during the ongoing court case, which seemingly revealed that the NCAA doubted its authority to punish Penn State and that it threatened Penn State with the "death penalty" if it did not accept the consent decree. On Thursday, the NCAA also filed a motion in Pennsylvania state court urging the judge to decide that the consent decree was "not entered into under duress."
Report released by the Community College Research Center identifying and analyzing the types and numbers of unintended impacts—actual or potential—of state performance funding policies on higher education institutions. The unintended impacts most frequently cited were restrictions in admissions to college and a weakening of academic standards. To address these unintended impacts, the authors offer a series of policy recommendations at the conclusion of their report.
Letter from members of the Coalition for National Science Funding, which includes several higher education institutions, to Congress urging it to pass the fiscal year 2015 Omnibus Appropriations legislation this year as opposed to passing a continuing resolution based on the appropriation levels for the fiscal year 2014. The letter asserts that stagnation of investments in scientific research in the United States has created an innovation deficit between the United States and China. To close this deficit and maintain America's position of leadership, the letter argues, Congress must make "strong and sustainable" investments in our research enterprise by passing the Omnibus bill and thereby increase funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF).
Letter to the majority and minority leaders of both houses of Congress from nine research organizations representing national aerospace, academic, scientific, and public interest communities, urging passage of the fiscal year 2015 Omnibus Appropriations legislation that provides increased funding for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The proposed 1.5 percent increase over fiscal year 2014 appropriations levels, the letter contends, will keep new science missions, technologies, and world-class public and private space transportation systems on track, and will enable the agencies to pursue new projects. The organizations argue that "robust and sustainable" funding of these organizations is more important than ever to keep America safe and prosperous in the 21st century economy.
A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit unanimously held that a regulatory accommodation for religious nonprofit organizations permitting them to opt out of the contraceptive coverage requirement under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) (42 U.S.C. § 300gg-13(a)(4)) does not impose an unjustified substantial burden on the plaintiffs' religious exercise in violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) (42 U.S.C. § 2000bb et seq.). Plaintiffs challenged mechanism that allows religious organizations holding religious objections to contraception to opt out of an ACA regulation that requires group health plans cover such services, but compels those organizations to notify the entity that administers its health plan of their objection so that the entity may offer separate coverage for contraceptive services directly to the insured individuals. The plaintiffs contended that this notification procedure substantially burdens their religious exercise by failing to extricate them from providing, paying for, or facilitating access to contraception. The Court rejected this argument, holding that filling out and sending the required paperwork constitutes the least-restrictive means to serving the government's compelling interest in providing contraceptive coverage to insured individuals.
Factsheet released by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs containing an overview of Section 702 of the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014. As the Factsheet explains, Section 702 requires the Veterans Administration to withhold benefit payments under the Post-9/11 GI Bill and Montgomery GI Bill-Active Duty from public post-secondary institutions if the institutions charge qualifying veterans and their dependents tuition and fees more that the rate for in-state resident students after July 1, 2015. The Factsheet also contains answers to frequently asked questions about Section 702.
Announcement by the U.S. Department of Education that the Campus-Based Processing Information Page on the Information for Financial Aid Professionals (IFAP) website will centrally locate complete information on Federal Perkins Loan portfolio liquidation and assignment procedures.
Order by the Administrative Review Board of the U.S. Department of Labor affirming an Administrative Law Judge's (ALJ) determination on a dispute arising under the H-1B provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act. The University of Alabama Birmingham Huntsville (UA) had agreed to employ Mohammed Rehan Puri, a Pakistani immigrant, for a period of three years, but later fired him on July 27, 2007. Prior to his discharge, Puri had changed his immigration status by marrying a United States citizen in May 2007 and had informed the University that in light of his marriage and ensuing change in immigration status, he did not intend to return to Pakistan after his employment period ended. The University notified the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) of its decision to terminate Puri on July 30. The ALJ determined that because of the change in Puri's immigration status, the University had no liability for wages beyond its notice to USCIS that Puri's employment had been terminated or for the cost of return transportation to Pakistan. The Review Board upheld ALJ's decision and affirmed Puri's award of back wages and interest for one additional day.
Letter from Pensacola State College administrators to its faculty members explaining that state law forbids the faculty from speaking with student journalists about an ongoing labor dispute at the College. The law referenced, Section 447.501(2)(f), was intended to prohibit unions from using students to promote union activities. In response to the letter, the Pensacola State College Faculty Association (PSCFA) issued its own letter asserting that the administrators' letter "mischaracterizes the nature of the PSCFA's and [it's] members' actions" and noting that the provision at issue was held to be a facially unconstitutional content-based and viewpoint-based restriction on speech by both a Florida state and federal court.
Fact sheet released by the U.S. Department of State on an agreement reached between the United States and China to extend terms for short-term visas, including student visas. Chinese students in the United States on F, M or J visas are now eligible for multiple-entry visas valid for up to five years or the length of their program. American students headed to China will be eligible for residency permits valid for up to five years.
Indexed version of the 2014-2015 Federal Student Aid Handbook was released by the U.S. Department of Education. The new version contains several updates to the content and layout of the indexed version of the 2014-2015 Federal Student Aid Handbook, including the addition of the Appendices.
Order by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit declining a request for an en banc rehearing of a decision by a three-judge panel of the Court. The case originally arose in 2008, when the University of Texas at Austin (UT) denied admission to Abigail Fisher, a Caucasian Texas resident who did not qualify for automatic admission under the state's Top Ten Percent Plan and was instead considered under the holistic review program. Fisher sued, claiming that the holistic review program that took race into account in admissions violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The case went to the Supreme Court, which held in 2013 that the lower courts reviewed UT's admissions programs with undue deference. On remand from the Supreme Court, in July 2014 a three-judge panel from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the Texas district court's grant of summary judgment to the University, thereby upholding the legality of the University's admissions programs. Lawyers who challenged the district court's ruling have indicated that they plan to take their appeal back to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Opinion and order of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi on cross motions for summary judgment on Plaintiff’s claims of salary discrimination, race discrimination, national origin discrimination, and retaliation. Plaintiff, Dr. Shu-Hui Wu, was hired as an Assistant Professor of history at Mississippi State University (MSU) in 1998 and was promoted to Associate Professor with tenure in 2004. In 2012, the Head of the History Department recommended against Dr. Wu’s application for promotion to the rank of Professor, observing that she did not demonstrate excellence in research, teaching, or service to the university and the President of MSU ultimately denied Dr. Wu’s application for promotion. In 2011, Dr. Wu filed two charges of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) related to her salary and other conditions of employment and in 2012, she filed a third charge related to the denial of promotion. She subsequently filed the instant lawsuit claiming discrimination based on race and national origin under 42 U.S.C. § 1981 and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, and retaliation under those laws. The Court granted MSU’s motion to dismiss plaintiff’s race discrimination and retaliation claims. However, the Court denied MSU’s motion to dismiss Dr. Wu’s national origin discrimination claim because she alleged enough circumstances—including the History Department Head’s comment that Dr. Wu’s scholarly work was not as valuable as that of her American colleagues— to create a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the promotion decision was motivated by discriminatory animus towards Dr. Wu’s national origin. Additionally, the court denied MSU’s motion to dismiss plaintiff’s salary discrimination claims because by merely citing salary compression without explanation of the market forces allegedly influencing salaries, MSU failed to meet its Title VII burden of showing that salary discrepancies were caused by legitimate non-discriminatory reason.
Statement issued by the Association of American Universities (AAU) criticizing an inquiry by the U.S. House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology into specific National Science Foundation (NSF) grants. While the AAU recognizes Congress’ need to provide “constructive oversight” of agencies like the NSF, it expresses concern that the Committee’s current inquiry “is having a destructive effect on NSF and on the merit review process that is designed to fund the best research and to remove those decisions from the political process.” AAU contends that if Committee members are seeking to override the merit review process or to cease NSF funding of research related to certain activities, they should clearly announce their intentions to the American public.
Public infractions decision issued by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) finding that the University of Alaska Fairbanks lacked control over and failed to monitor its Division I and II athletics programs. The penalties imposed include three years of probation; a 2014-15 postseason ban for certain men’s and women’s sports; scholarship reductions; fines; and vacation of various wins and points scored during competitions in which ineligible athletes participated. This case was resolved through the summary disposition process.
Written response issued by Syracuse University Chancellor Kent D. Syverud detailing a proposal to end a student sit-in conducted by THE General Body. The group, which has engaged in four student protests in the past two months, presented Chancellor Syverud with a 43-page document charging that the administration lacks transparency, that the campus lacks diversity, and that the University should not have shut down a center that helped victims of sexual assault. The response is intended to be “the beginning of a constructive process of dialog and action” between the students and University leadership.
Decision from the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in a consolidated appeal from cases in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky, and U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee. Each of the four states enacted statutory provisions and constitutional amendments that prohibited same-sex couples from marrying in the state and denied recognition to same-sex couples who married in other states. The Sixth Circuit applied rational basis review to the laws, rejecting heightened scrutiny based on the lack of explicit Supreme Court precedent treating same-sex marriage as a fundamental right for Due Process Clause purposes and the lack of explicit Supreme Court precedent subjecting sexual orientation classifications to heightened scrutiny under the Equal Protection Clause. The Court upheld the laws based on two factors under its rational basis review: 1) By creating and subsidizing marital status for the purpose of incentivizing male-female couples to procreated and stay together to raise children, the state may rationally choose not to extend the status to same-sex couples who "do not run the risk of unintended offspring;" and 2) States may "wish to wait and see before changing a norm that our society (like all others) has accepted for centuries."
Report by the National Commission on College and University Board Governance, a 25-member panel formed in July 2013 by the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, recommending changes in higher education governance. The Commission found that, "Far too much time and talent, and too many resources, are preoccupied with institutional advantage, the preservation of the status quo, internal disputes over governance roles and authority, and the advancement of political and individual agendas." To resolve these issues, the report offers seven recommendations for improving institutional value through more effective governance.
Announcement by the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) stating that it has entered into a resolution agreement with Princeton University to ensure compliance with Title IX. The action follows an OCR investigation that found that Princeton was in violation of Title IX for failing to promptly and equitably respond to complaints of sexual misconduct, for failing to end a sexually hostile environment for one student, and for instituting policies and procedures regarding investigations of and responses to allegations of sexual misconduct that did not comply with Title IX. This fall, Princeton implemented new policies and procedures that correct many of the deficiencies identified and has committed to take campus safety seriously and respond to complaints promptly and equitably. A copy of the resolution letter and agreement are available on the Department's website.
Letter to Ebola response coordinator Ron Klain from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), along with 120 medical schools and teaching hospitals, offering to work with state and federal officials to make sure that institutions and health-care professionals are trained to treat Ebola patients. The letter points out that AAMC-member institutions "offer unique services and expertise typically unavailable elsewhere in the region, and they provide leading-edge care informed by the latest advances in medical and clinical research." This experience, the authors assert, would serve as a valuable asset in coordinating care for confirmed Ebola cases.
Dear Colleague Letter released by the Department of Education on the implications of laws and regulations that limit the courses that may be offered by a foreign institution as part of an eligible program for students receiving Direct Loan funds. The letter emphasizes that offering ineligible courses makes the program ineligible for Title IV funds, but notes that a foreign institution may remain eligible by offering two versions of a program if it offers ineligible courses only in the program that does not enroll students receiving Direct Loan funds and that program meets all other legal requirements. The letter also explains that a foreign institution may award credit to a student receiving Direct Loan funds for an ineligible course taken at a different institution as long as the student does not receive Direct Loan funds for those credits and there is no arrangement between the institutions for transfer of credits. Finally, the letter reiterates that a foreign institution will face serious enforcement consequences if a student receiving Direct Loans enrolls in an ineligible course as part of his or her educational program regardless of whether the course is optional or required.
Order of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas denying summary judgment to the defendant, The College of the Mainland, in a First Amendment retaliation lawsuit brought by former employee David Michael Smith. Smith was a professor who sued the College previously alleging that the College violated his First Amendment rights by reprimanding him for expressing his unfavorable position on the College's decision to end its policy of deducting union dues directly from employee paychecks. After the court denied summary judgment to the College in December 2012, the parties settled in January 2013. Several months later, the College terminated Smith because "he was insubordinate and fostered a climate of fear amongst his fellow faculty." Smith sued the College, alleging that he was terminated in retaliation for asserting his First Amendment rights, and the College moved for summary judgment, arguing that Smith failed to provide evidence to support the second, third and fourth elements of a Free Speech retaliation claim. The Court denied summary judgment because Smith sufficiently presented a prima facie case of First Amendment retaliation. On the second and third elements of the claim, the Court ruled that the previous lawsuit was speech on a matter of public concern, and that Smith's speech rights far outweighed the impact on the College's ability to maintain an orderly and efficient workplace under the Pickering Balancing Test. Additionally, the Court concluded that a reasonable jury could find that the termination was motivated by Smith's protected speech because the temporal proximity of the lawsuit to the termination was sufficient to establish a causal link and the College did not present any intervening unprotected conduct that would break the causal link and justify termination.
Bill of Rights for faculty in the Colorado Community College System was published by the Colorado Conference of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP). The Colorado Conference states that they hope to end the "two-tier" faculty system and to improve the transparency and representative nature of faculty government. The Bill offers a list of twenty-three articles consisting of recommendations for practices that colleges can adopt to achieve these goals.
2014 Study of Endowments was released by the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO) and the Commonfund Institute. The preliminary data from an annual survey indicated that higher education endowments and affiliated foundations achieved an average investment return of 15.8 percent for the fiscal year of 2014, which represents a four percentage point increase from returns in the previous fiscal year. The final data collected through the survey will be released in late January.
Notice from the U.S. Department of Education announcing the availability of grant applications for certain programs authorized under Title III (Parts A and F) and Title V of the Higher Education Act. Applications are due by December 18, 2014.
The U.S. Department of Education has updated the Verification section of its Program Integrity Regulations Questions and Answers website. The updated guidance clarifies that, "Because there are currently no restrictions under the REAL ID Act on Federal agencies from accepting non-compliant identification for other purposes, such identification is acceptable to complete verification for an applicant required to verify his or her identity if that identification has not expired and includes the applicant's photo and name."
Report entitled "Sexual Violence on College Campuses: A New York State Perspective" was released by the New York Senate Standing Committee on Higher Education. The report summarizes existing federal and state law on the issue of campus sexual misconduct, reviews existing research on campus sexual misconduct, outlines several best practices that New York's colleges and universities are using to prevent and respond to sexual misconduct, and provides legislative recommendations designed to improve prevention efforts and response to incidents.
Adjunct professor of business Robin Meade was terminated from her position at Moraine Valley Community College after she wrote an unflattering letter about the College to the League for Innovation in the Community College, criticizing Moraine Valley for its allegedly poor treatment of adjunct faculty. Meade sued her former employer for retaliation in violation of her First Amendment rights and for depriving her of a protected property interest (her contract to teach a class that fall) without due process. After the district court found in favor of the College on both claims, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit reversed, holding that Meade's concerns about adjunct employment conditions and their relationship to student success met the legal definition of public concern necessary to warrant First Amendment protection, and any partial, personal motivation for writing the letter did not undermine its public relevance. The Court also overturned the district court's holding on the due process claim, finding that the district court failed to take into account Illinois' rule that employment with a fixed duration—as was present in the contract at issue—provided an exception to the at-will presumption in Meade's part-time contract.
Letter from three U.S. Senators— Senator Robert Casey (D-PA), Al Franken (D-MN), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)— to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan urging him to provide better information on safety and security concerns to college students who plan to study abroad. The signers offer four recommendations that they believe the Department of Education should implement to pursue this goal.
Announcement by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) of its decision to suspend Todd Gurley, a University of Georgia football student-athlete, for four games. Gurley admitted to accepting more than $3,000 in exchange for autographed memorabilia and other items, which violates NCAA rules. The university has indicated it will appeal the decision.
Final version of the Department of Education's revised gainful employment regulations were released. The revised regulations establish an "accountability framework" to define measures by which the Department will evaluate whether a program remains eligible for Title IV funding, and a "transparency framework" designed to increase the quality and availability of information on students' outcomes. Under the new rules, programs will no longer be held accountable for their cohort default rates, and instead will only be evaluated based on their graduates' debt-to-earnings ratios. The regulations will take effect on July 1, 2015.
New policy statement regarding student press rights was released by the University of Wisconsin-Stout. In the statement, Chancellor Meyer recognizes independent student publications as designated public forums for student expression. As such, these publications will now constitute independent expression of the students and publications themselves as opposed to institutional speech, and thus will not be subject to University censorship or oversight.
Compliance resolution agreement reached between the Department of Education and Southeastern Louisiana University (SELU) on its alleged noncompliance with Title IX regulations. The agreement requires SELU to demonstrate that it provided equal opportunities in awarding athletic scholarships to male and female athletes during the 2014-2015 academic year; that it is effectively accommodating the athletic interests and abilities of both sexes; and that male and female athletes are receiving comparable benefits and opportunities with respect to locker rooms, practice fields and facilities, and competitive fields and facilities. If found to be deficient in any of these areas, SELU must develop a plan to bring it into compliance with the regulations.
Settlement agreement reached between the United States and Columbia University regarding a qui tam action brought against the University in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York under the False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. § 3729 et seq. Columbia University admitted that from 2004-2012, as the grant administrator for the International AIDS Care and Treatment Programs, it "mischarged certain sponsored agreements for work that was not allocable to those agreements" using an unsuitable method for verifying charges and employee wage allocations between various federal and non-federal activities. In settlement of the government's claims, Columbia agreed to pay $9,020,073.04.
Annual Report published by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) Student Loan Ombudsman analyzing complaints submitted by consumers from October 1, 2013 through September 30, 2014. The report categorizes and describes issues faced by borrowers "to help illustrate where there is a mismatch between borrower expectations and actual service delivered." The most common issue reported to the CFPB was the inability to negotiate alternative repayment options with lenders and servicers when facing financial distress. The report notes that consumers have expectations about loan modifications and repayment options based on their experiences with federal student loans, which is complicated by the fact that many servicers manage both federal and private student loans but do not effectively communicate that various programs are available only for certain loans. CFPB recommends that Congress assess whether certain reforms to the servicing of credit cards and mortgages might apply to the student loan servicing context and determine whether disclosures regarding repayment options adequately reflect their limitations.
Order of the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado granting in part and denying in part defendants' motions to dismiss plaintiff student's claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Title IX of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 against Western State Colorado University and several of its employees in their individual and official capacities. Plaintiff, Keifer Johnson, was a student on partial athletic scholarship and teaching assistant for an English course. He was subject to university disciplinary proceedings for engaging in a sado-masochistic sexual relationship with a student in the class for which he was a teaching assistant after the student's mother contacted a professor at the university and provided her a copy of a sexually explicit letter he wrote to the student. Johnson attempted to show that gender bias gave rise to the disciplinary proceedings by arguing that the female student was not similarly disciplined and that the majority of employees involved in the investigation were female. The court concluded that the female student was not similarly situated because Johnson had a very different relationship to the university as athlete and teaching assistant. Further, the court concluded that the number of female employees involved in the investigation did not indicate any gender bias. The court dismissed all of Johnson's § 1983 claims against the individual defendants except for his First Amendment claim because he alleged sufficient facts to show that the disciplinary proceeding was based, in part, on his protected speech contained in the letter.
Report released by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) on a survey undertaken in the Spring of 2014 to understand students' perceptions and opinions on various social behaviors, including their experiences with sexual misconduct. The document is intended to be an initial summary of the survey results and thus contains only the most pertinent results corresponding to questions asked in the survey.
Opinion of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit affirming the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky's ruling in favor of defendant, Morehead State University, on plaintiff Braden Frieder's employment discrimination claims. Frieder was a tenure-track professor at the University who was evaluated for tenure based on three factors: teaching, professional achievement, and service to the university. His evaluations for professional achievement and service to the university were excellent but reviews of his teaching abilities were "abysmal." After being denied tenure, Frieder sued claiming that the University retaliated against his exercise of free speech and discriminated against him based on his diagnosis of bipolar disorder. The court concluded that Frieder's First Amendment claim failed because he did not show any connection between the tenure decision and his exercise of free speech when he extended his middle finger to his students. Additionally, the court ruled that the discrimination claim was meritless because his disability was not disclosed to the University and evaluators' criticism of his disorganization did not show that he was regarded as having a disability.
Guide from College Board's Access and Diversity Collaborative and Education Counsel to assist institutions of higher education in evaluating race- and ethnicity-neutral policies in support of their mission-related diversity goals. The guide "synthesize[s] relevant research and practice on race-neutral strategies to inform and guide institutional deliberations regarding diversity-related enrollment policies and practices."
Memorandum opinion and order of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas granting defendant University of Texas Southwestern Medical School's (UT Southwestern) motions to dismiss plaintiff's federal and state law claims. Plaintiff Varun Shah was a medical student at UT Southwestern who was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. After receiving low grades in his internal medicine rotation based on lack of "professionalism," Shah was dismissed from the program and subsequently sued alleging violations of his rights to procedural due process, substantive due process, and equal protection under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, disability discrimination under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and state tort law claims. The court held that the individual defendants were entitled to qualified immunity on each of the § 1983 claims because the plaintiff did not allege facts that showed that any of them violated one or more of his constitutional rights. The court also held that, assuming Shah met the other essential elements of a Rehabilitation Act claim, he did not plausibly allege that he was discriminated against solely by reason of his disability because he simultaneously maintained that his dismissal was motivated in part by animus towards his ethnicity. Finally, the court dismissed plaintiff's Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress claim because he failed to plead conduct sufficiently "atrocious" to support the claim.
Final regulation amending the standard for determining if a potential parent or student borrower has an adverse credit history for purposes of eligibility for a federal Direct PLUS Loan was released by the U.S. Department of Education. The new rule reduces the period of time that the Department reviews a prospective borrower's history for adverse credit events from five years to two. It will also exempt up to $2,085 in delinquent debt from counting against an applicant, an amount that will increase over time based on the rate of inflation. The regulation is scheduled to take effect on July 1, 2015.
Amicus brief submitted by the National Association of Independent Schools, American Council on Education, and 27 other education-related associations to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in the case of Munn v. Hotchkiss School. The brief supports the Hotchkiss School in its appeal of a lower court ruling that awarded $41.75 million to the plaintiff for allegedly suffering a tick bite while on a study abroad trip. According to the authors, the Second Circuit should overturn the ruling because international travel and study abroad are crucial components of higher education, and because a liability standard that places a heavy burden on institutions to anticipate, warn about, and guard against remote risks would stifle international education.
Announcement of the National Institutes of Health award of nearly $31 million in grants to develop new approaches to improve racial diversity in the biomedical sciences. These awards are part of a projected five-year program to support more than 50 awardees and partnering institutions in establishing a national consortium to develop, implement, and evaluate approaches to encourage individuals of underrepresented racial backgrounds to begin and remain in biomedical research careers.
Report commissioned by the University of North Carolina- Chapel Hill (UNC) on the findings of an eight-month investigation into the University's offering of "academically unsound classes" between 1993 and 2011. The investigation found that during this time period, the Student Services Manager of the African and Afro-American Studies (AFAM) Department, under the supervision of the Department Chair, developed and ran a "shadow curriculum" that provided certain students with academically flawed instruction. More than 3,100 students, nearly half of whom were student-athletes, enrolled in these classes and received inflated grades that had a "significant impact" on their GPAs and academic standing. Investigators report that they "found no evidence that the higher levels of the University tried in any way to obscure the facts or the magnitude of this situation." UNC has fully acknowledged its mistakes and reports that it has since made "significant reforms" and "continue[s] to work diligently to ensure these academic irregularities do not happen again."
Announcement by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) of the decision to temporarily block federal financial support of "gain-of-function" scientific research. This research involves experiments in which scientists aim to improve their understanding of disease pathways by increasing the ability of infectious agents to cause disease. In the interim, the government will conduct a deliberative process to assess the potential risks and benefits associated with these experiments.
Comments submitted to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) by four higher education associations (AAU, COGR, AUTM, and APLU) on the agency's proposed revisions to its Guidance Memorandum on patenting natural phenomena and products. The associations express concern that the Guidance Memorandum might be further revised before the final version is published. Given the "profound impact" that any revised guidance would have on the life sciences community, the associations urge the agency to issue any newly-revised guidance in draft form for public comment so that the patent community and the public can offer their views on any proposed substantive changes.
Comments submitted to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) by the Association of American Universities (AAU) and the Council on Government Relations (COGR) in response to an advance notice of proposed rulemaking on the agency's Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS). The associations assert that research and teaching laboratories at nonprofit research organizations should be exempt from the CFATS because the standards are designed to regulate the security of high-risk chemical facilities, not universities, and that the risk that mass quantities of chemicals could be stolen from universities is relatively low.
Unanimous decision by a three-judge panel of the Eleventh Circuit finding that the lower court's analysis of fair use was erroneous and reversing the district court's ruling in favor of defendants at Georgia State University and the University System of Georgia. The Court ruled that while fair use must be determined on a case-by-case basis by applying the four factors codified in the Copyright Act of 1976 to each work at issue, a court must not give each of the four factors equal weight or analyze whether fair use applies with a formulaic calculation. The Court held that the district court did not err in its analysis of the first and fourth factors, but did err in its analysis of the second factor and its application of a "10 percent-or-one-chapter" standard of analysis for the third factor. Accordingly, the Court reversed the district court's judgment, vacated the injunction, declaratory relief and award of fees to defendants, and remanded for further proceedings.
Final regulations issued by the Department of Education to implement amendments made to the Clery Act by the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 (VAWA). The new regulations amend 34 C.F.R. § 668.46 to implement these statutory changes and incorporate provisions added to the Clery Act by the Higher Education Opportunity Act. The new regulations require institutions to: 1) Record incidents of stalking based on the location where either the perpetrator engaged in the stalking or the victim first became aware of the stalking; 2) Add gender identity and national origin as new categories of bias for a determination of a hate crime; 3) Describe each type of disciplinary proceeding used in cases of alleged sexual misconduct; 4) Provide the accuser and the accused the same opportunities to have an advisor of their choice present during the disciplinary proceeding; and 5) Include in their annual security report a statement of policy regarding their programs to prevent sexual misconduct and stalking, as well as the procedures that the institution will follow when such a crime is reported. The Department of Education reminds institutions that while the final rule is not effective until July 1, 2015, “the VAWA statutory provisions are in effect now and institutions are expected to make a good faith effort to comply with those requirements.”
Opinion of the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland granting in part and denying in part defendant Baltimore City Community College's (BCCC) motion for summary judgment. Plaintiff Diane Williams, was employed as Assistant Director of Housekeeping at BCCC. She was diagnosed with a degenerative eye disease that required her to undergo surgery in her right cornea and a left corneal transplant. After giving contradictory information about the amount of approved intermittent leave following her surgeries, the college required her to undergo a workability evaluation by the State Medical Doctor who concluded that her severely limited vision, headaches, and other symptoms, were "unlikely to improve enough in the foreseeable future" to perform her job. Based on this evaluation, BCCC informed Williams that it believed she was no longer physically capable of performing her duties and that she would be terminated if she failed to return to work on a date much earlier than she had previously been approved for based on her treating physician's recommendation. Plaintiff filed the instant case alleging that BCCC discriminated against her based on a perceived disability in violation of the American with Disabilities Act (ADA). The court concluded that Williams presented enough information to establish a genuine issue of material fact as to whether she was "regarded as" disabled triggering protection under the ADA, and whether she was discharged unlawfully based on her perceived disability. The court, therefore, denied BCCC's motion for summary judgment on plaintiff's discrimination and retaliation claims, but granted the motion with respect to her failure to accommodate claim.
Plaintiff Monica Pompeo withdrew from a class at the University of New Mexico after her professor accused her of using "hate speech" in a paper she submitted, refused to assign a grade to the paper, and urged her to withdraw. In her paper, Pompeo "harshly criticized" the lesbian characters portrayed in a film shown in class as well as lesbianism in general. The U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico concluded that Pompeo's allegations were sufficient to make out a plausible case that the defendants violated her First Amendment rights by subjecting her to restrictions on speech that were not reasonably related to legitimate pedagogic concerns. It therefore rejected the defendants' motion to dismiss.
Letter published in the Boston Globe and signed by twenty-eight members of the Harvard Law School faculty opposing Harvard University's Sexual Harassment Policy and Procedures. The signers contend that the institution's policy imposes rules that are inconsistent with basic elements of fairness and due process. They stress that the goal of any sexual misconduct policy should not be to prevent such misconduct by any means necessary, but rather to "fully address" the problem while simultaneously "protecting students against unfair and inappropriate discipline, honoring individual relationship autonomy, and maintaining the values of academic freedom."
Press release announcing that the U. S. Department of Education has approved Brandman University's application to offer financial aid to students enrolled in its competency-based education program. The program allows students to earn credit through direct assessment of skills and competency as opposed to the accumulation of credit hours. Brandman is the fourth institution in the nation to earn this type of approval.
Press release by the University of Colorado at Boulder announcing that its philosophy department will resume graduate admissions for the 2015-16 academic year. Since the American Philosophical Association raised allegations of discrimination, harassment, and a combative work culture within the department earlier this year, the University has implemented a series of reforms designed to address these issues. Chancellor Philip P. DiStefano reported that he was "impressed by the number and scope" of the steps taken and "the way in which the faculty and staff in the department have worked hard, and continue to work, to build a positive environment for learning and teaching."
Report jointly authored by the American Council on Education, NASPA: Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education, and the American Psychological Association discussing the detrimental effects of mental health issues on academic performance and job-readiness of college and university students and the safety risks associated with mental health issues. The report offers advice on making mental health a strategic priority on campuses including implementing greater campus-wide monitoring for signs of distress or dysfunction.
Announcement from the Department of Education that the servicing transition for federal education loans from Sallie Mae to Navient has been completed. Navient will now service loans under the Federal Direct Loan Program, the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program, and a majority of Sallie Mae private loans that existed prior to the change.
Plaintiff Connie Shao, an Asian-American woman, filed suit against the City University of New York (CUNY) and two University officials, alleging retaliation, hostile work environment, and discrimination on the basis of her race, national origin, and gender. The University fired Shao from her position as Director of Finance after she received two consecutive unsatisfactory performance evaluations. The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York held that Shao's claim that her supervisor told her during an evaluation conference, "I hated you from the first day because of your accent," coupled with the fact that she was terminated the day after this conference, was sufficient evidence of discrimination to withstand a summary judgment motion. The Court also denied summary judgment as to the gender discrimination and hostile work environment claims because the defendants' briefs either ignored the allegation completely or failed to point out the absence of evidence offered by the plaintiff. However, because Shao failed to raise the retaliation claim in her Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint, the Court held that she was precluded from raising the claim in the present action.
Opinion of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit reversing summary judgment order granted by the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan in favor of the White Lake Ambulance Authority (WLAA). Plaintiff Emily Kroll, an emergency medical technician for WLAA, was ordered to obtain psychological counseling by the director of WLAA after she ended a relationship with a married coworker. Kroll stated that she was unable to afford psychological counseling and was terminated. She sued WLAA claiming that they violation the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by requiring a medical examination that was not “job-related and consistent with business necessity.” The director admitted that his concerns were due to her “personal life and her sexual relationships” rather than concerns about her ability to perform her work. However, several coworkers testified that Kroll had emotional disturbances at work, neglected patients, and used her phone while driving an ambulance in violation of company policy. The district court granted summary judgment to WLAA, reasoning that requiring Kroll to obtain psychological counseling did not violate the ADA because it was both job-related and consistent with business necessity. The Court of Appeals reversed because WLAA failed to show that there was no material dispute as to whether the director could reasonably have concluded either that Kroll was unable to perform her job functions, or that she was a direct threat to the public. The court concluded that a jury could find that the director was aware of only isolated incidents of professional misconduct and that the counseling requirement was impermissibly driven by moral concerns rather than medical judgment.
Opinion of the Court of Appeals of Tennessee reversing the judgment of the Chancery Court granting petitioners access to records accumulated and maintained by the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department in the course of its investigation and prosecution of an alleged rape in a Vanderbilt University dormitory. The Tennessean filed a complaint and petition for access to public records under the Tennessee Public Records Act (TPRA) for “records regarding the alleged rape on the Vanderbilt campus.” The Chancery Court granted petitioners’ access to numerous records including Vanderbilt access card information, emails provided by Vanderbilt, pano scan data of the Vanderbilt premises, and text messages and emails received from third parties. The Court of Appeals reversed the lower court’s decision, concluding based on affidavits from the Chief of Police and District Attorney, that “the material that is the subject of the request is ‘relevant to a pending or contemplated criminal action’ and therefore not subject to disclosure.”
Judgment of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama pursuant to an offer of judgment, and acceptance of offer, in favor of plaintiff Lucile Youngblood in the amount of $75,000 following the court’s denial of defendant’s motion for summary judgment. Youngblood, an African American woman, worked as a Printing/Duplication Technician at the George C. Wallace State Community College (WCC) print shop from 1998 until her retirement in 2011. In 2000, a white male employee was reassigned to the print shop after previously serving as supervisor of grounds and maintenance. He maintained his higher supervisor-level salary despite holding the same job as plaintiff. After discovering the pay discrepancy, Youngblood filed the instant lawsuit alleging several race and sex discrimination claims. WCC filed a motion for summary judgment, asserting that the pay discrepancy was due to the college’s policy of maintaining salaries pursuant to transfers. The college asserted that this was an instance of “red circling” justified by one of the four statutory exceptions to the Equal Pay Act. Noting that there was no evidence of an official policy to that effect, the court denied summary judgment because the college failed to carry the heavy burden of establishing that it was entitled to the affirmative defense. Additionally, the court denied summary judgment to WCC on the plaintiff’s Title VII discrimination claim because she produced sufficient evidence to allow a jury to conclude that the college’s proffered reasons for the pay discrepancy were a pretext for discrimination.
Settlement agreement reached between the National Federation of the Blind and the U.S. Department of Education. The underlying issue involved a 2011 administrative complaint filed by a blind student whose loan servicer initially denied his request for a copy of his loan statement in Braille and assistance with filling out a change of payment form over the phone. When the Department granted the student's request but refused to make the systemic changes he sought on behalf of all blind borrowers, the Federation threatened suit. As a result of the settlement, the Department will be required to make student loan information more accessible to blind students and order all loan collection companies that it hires to do the same.
Press release announcing the Big Ten Conference's decision to guarantee four-year scholarships to all of its scholarship athletes. Under the new policy, an athlete recruited to a college within the Conference through the offer of an athletic scholarship may not have his or her scholarship cut, "provided he or she remains a member in good standing with the community, the university, and the athletics department."
Decision from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in a consolidated appeal from cases in the U.S. District Court for District of Idaho and the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada. Idaho and Nevada each enacted constitutional amendments and statutory provisions that prohibited same-sex couples from marrying in the state and denied recognition to same-sex couples married in other states. The Ninth Circuit applied heightened scrutiny to the constitutional and statutory provisions based on the Supreme Court's decision in U.S. v. Windsor, which rejected rational basis review by scrutinizing the Defense of Marriage Act's actual motivating purposes rather than hypothetical rationales and declining to defer to legislative judgment. The Court concluded that the laws are "so poorly tailored" to the proffered interest in encouraging opposite-sex couples to raise their children together that they cannot survive heightened scrutiny. Additionally, the Court rejected Nevada's proffered interest in preferring that children are raised by a male parent and female parent because expressing such a preference unconstitutionally denotes inferiority of same-sex couples. The Court then dispenses with each of the states' additional asserted justifications in turn, concluding that both same-sex marriage bans violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Letter from fourteen state attorneys general to Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Representative Elijah Cummings (D-MD) regarding the Proprietary Education Oversight Coordination Improvement Act (S. 2204). The state attorneys general state that they support the legislation because it increases oversight and accountability of for-profit colleges by requiring federal agencies charged with overseeing the for-profit college industry to produce an interagency report that will offer "a more accurate and complete picture of each for-profit institution than consumers are currently receiving form the marketing departments of those same institutions." The letter also applauds the publication of a "For-Profit College Warning List" that identifies for-profit colleges that have engaged in illegal activities or abusive, fraudulent, or predatory recruiting and lending practices.
Plaintiff Sarah Peterson, an African American who was fired from her position at the University of Alabama Health Services Foundation, sued her former employer for alleged discrimination on the basis of race and retaliation for complaining about discrimination in violation of federal law. Peterson also alleged that she was terminated in violation of Alabama law because she had filed a claim for worker's compensation benefits after suffering an injury at work. Peterson's supervisor had received numerous complaints about Peterson's job performance, her ability to follow protocol, and her general attitude toward patients and coworkers. The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama held that Peterson failed to present any evidence that the reasons for her termination were pretextual, that she received discriminatory treatment in comparison to similarly-situated employees, that her manager expressed any negative attitude toward her injured condition, or that her supervisors failed to adhere to company policy. It therefore granted the defendant's motion for summary judgment.
The U.S. Supreme Court denied, without comment, all seven petitions for a writ of certiorari in cases where lower courts had struck down same-sex marriage bans in Indiana, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Utah, and Virginia. The cases are: Bogan v. Baskin (Indiana); Walker v. Wolf (Wisconsin); Herbert v. Kitchen (Utah); McQuigg v. Bostic (Virginia); Rainey v. Bostic (Virginia); Schaefer v. Bostic (Virginia); and Smith v. Bishop (Oklahoma).
Resolution adopted by the State University of New York (SUNY) Board of Trustees to establish system-wide prevention and response practices regarding sexual misconduct. The resolution requires all SUNY campuses to adopt – within 60 days - a uniform definition of affirmative consent, a uniform Sexual Assault Victim's Bill of Rights, a uniform amnesty policy for code of conduct infractions in connection with sexual assault reporting, and a uniform Confidentiality and Reporting Protocol. All SUNY campuses must also conduct a uniform campus climate assessment and work with the state to meet requirements related to training and public awareness campaigns.
Announcement from the Department of Education regarding the servicing transition for federal education loans from Sallie Mae to the newly formed Navient loan servicing company. The announcement details necessary actions for colleges and universities including updating the servicing information in university systems and websites. It also provides information about upcoming updates and outages related to the transition.
Opinion by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on cross motions for summary judgment. In 2010, the Department of Education amended its regulations to eliminate the regulatory safe harbors for the payment of incentive compensation for the recruitment of students. The revisions, challenged in 2011 by the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities (ASPCU), were upheld on motion for summary judgment by D.C. District Court. On appeal, the D.C. Circuit Court upheld the regulations with the exception of two aspects which it found arbitrary and capricious. First, the Circuit Court held that the Department's prohibition of graduation-based pay was arbitrary and capricious because the Department did not offer a sufficient explanation for why this type of pay was susceptible to manipulation and contrary to statutory bans on enrollment-based compensation. Additionally, the Circuit Court held that the Department failed to address concerns that its regulation changes would adversely affect minority enrollment. On remand, the Department issued an amended preamble in March 2013, asserting that graduation numbers were used by institutions as a proxy for enrollment numbers and stating that the compensation regulations were designed to protect minority and low-income students from predatory enrollment practices. APSCU subsequently filed the instant complaint, alleging that the Department's explanation was insufficient to comply with the court order, and both parties moved for summary judgment. The District Court granted APSCU's motion for summary judgment, holding that (1) the Department's explanation for its ban on graduation-based pay was insufficient because it did not support its arguments that graduation numbers were a proxy for enrollment or that colleges and universities were manipulating graduation numbers by pushing students into shorter programs and (2) the Department's amended preamble was unresponsive to the court's order requiring the Department to address effects on minority enrollment and diversity outreach.
Final audit report released by the U.S. Department of Education Inspector General on the Department of Education's oversight of direct assessment programs. Direct assessment programs are degree programs that award students credit by assessing their skills rather than their passage of courses. The report concluded that the Department did not adequately address the risks that direct assessment programs pose to Title IV programs and did not establish sufficient processes to ensure that only programs meeting regulatory requirements are approved as Title IV-eligible.
Final audit report by the U.S. Department of Education Inspector General on the Office of Postsecondary Education's (OPE) implementation of Talent Search, Upward Bound, and Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness For Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP). The report found that OPE did not fulfill Higher Education Act and Department of Education requirements to ensure that grantees minimized the duplication of services already provided to a school or community. Although the auditors did not find any evidence demonstrating that students were in fact being provided redundant services, the Inspector General said that the Department needs to improve its internal processes to make sure duplications do not occur in the future.
Press release by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln announcing a new early retirement program that will be available to certain faculty members. Through the Voluntary Separation Incentive Program (VSIP), the University will offer partial salary buyouts to tenured faculty members who are at least 62 years-old and have provided at least 10 years of service within the University of Nebraska system. About 30% of the University's tenured faculty may be eligible to participate in the program.
Report published by the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO) providing advice to colleges and universities on collecting student taxpayer identification numbers (TINs) to meet their obligations to report tuition payments to the Internal Revenue Service. The report describes the relevant regulations, includes advice on best practices, and provides model substitute W-9S forms for institutions to use.
Order by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on the defendant's motion for summary judgment. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") filed suit on behalf of Clarence Muse, alleging that defendant Howard University violated Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 by declining to hire Muse based on his disability. At the time Muse applied to work for the University, he was suffering from renal disease and was required to undergo dialysis treatments three times per week. The University asserted that its failure to hire Muse was not unlawful because the schedule for Muse's dialysis treatment prevented him from being able to work a flexible three-shift schedule, which the defendant claimed was an "essential function" of the position for which Muse applied. The Court found that the University offered varying descriptions of what the position entailed and that, even if availability for a flexible shift schedule was "essential," there was a genuine issue of material fact as to whether Muse could have performed the duties of the postition. Thus, the Court denied the defendant's motion for summary judgment.
Audit report prepared by the Department of Education Office of Inspector General evaluating Federal Student Aid’s (FSA) oversight and monitoring of private collection agency and guaranty agency information security controls. The report concludes that FSA failed to adequately oversee private collection agency and guaranty agency information security controls, which poses concerns that sensitive financial and personally identifiable information pertaining to borrowers is not sufficiently protected. The report highlights four areas of concern and offers recommendations to ensure that 1) private collection agencies are properly authorized, respond timely to system deficiencies, and provide sufficient training to employees, and 2) guaranty agencies’ agreements comply with Federal Information Security Management Act requirements for information security controls.
Opinion by the Illinois Court of Appeals for the Sixth Division affirming the circuit court’s order granting, with prejudice, defendant university’s motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. Plaintiffs were enrolled in and graduated from DePaul University College of Law between 2007 and 2011 and are licensed attorneys. After failing to obtain permanent, full-time legal positions with salaries sufficient to allow them to repay their student loans, plaintiffs sued DePaul claiming that the university violated the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act and committed common law fraud and negligent misrepresentation by publishing misleading employment statistics for recent graduates. The court held that plaintiffs failed to state a claim under Consumer Fraud Act or under common law because the university did not engage in deceptive practices by basing employment information on voluntary surveys and by including non-legal, part-time and temporary positions in the employment statistics when that information was available to plaintiffs from other sources, including the American Bar Association. The court further concluded that plaintiffs’ statutory and common law claims failed to adequately plead proximate cause or actual damages.
Order from the Superior Court of California denying the City and County of San Francisco’s petition for Writ of Mandate to compel respondent universities to collect and remit taxes from their operation of parking stations. The court concluded that the universities were acting in a governmental capacity in the operation of their parking stations because making parking available is integral to achieving the universities’ educational missions and they did not operate the parking stations to earn profit. Based on that finding, the court held that the universities are exempt from the parking tax ordinance under sovereign immunity.
Report by four health and higher-education organizations (Urban Universities for Health, the Coalition of Urban Serving Universities, the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities, and the Association of American Medical Colleges) on the use of holistic review admissions processes in the health professions. Holistic review is an admissions strategy designed to enable universities to take into account a broad range of factors reflecting the applicant's unique experiences--alongside more traditional measures of academic achievement-- when making admissions decisions. The report found that of the more than 90% of medical institutions and nearly half of nursing bachelor's programs that are using holistic admissions, over 80% report that using this method led to increased student diversity within their classes.
Announcement by Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan of the winners of $450 million in competitive grants under the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Program (TAACCCT). The grants are intended to provide community colleges and other eligible institutions of higher education with funds to increase collaboration with employers. Supporters hope that this increase in collaboration will help expand and improve institutions' ability to deliver programs that will help students develop skills they will need for jobs in high-demand industries.
California bill (S.B. 850) to establish a statewide pilot program enabling up to fifteen community colleges to issue baccalaureate degrees was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown. The measure will enable selected community colleges to issue four-year degrees in a limited number of programs that have a high demand in the workforce. The state's Legislative Analyst's Office will conduct statewide interim and final evaluations of the program and report the results by July 1, 2018, and July 1, 2022, respectively.
California DREAM Loan Program (S.B. 1210) was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown. The program will offer loans at relatively low interest rates to students who were brought to the United States as undocumented children and who attend a participating campus of the University of California or California State University. Although these students are already eligible for Cal Grants and can pay in-state tuition, many of them still have financial-aid gaps because they do not have access to federal grants or loans. The new law aims to help close this gap.
Lehigh University has entered into a voluntary resolution agreement with the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (OCR) following a complaint filed by a Lehigh graduate alleging that the University violated Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by permitting a racially hostile environment on campus following acts of vandalism. The agreement does not constitute an admission of liability by the University, nor does it constitute a determination of any legal violations by OCR. Among other actions, the University has agreed to issue an anti-discrimination statement to the University community, revise its racial harassment policy, and provide training on racial harassment to staff and students.
California Governor Jerry Brown signed SB967 into law. The law will require California institutions of higher education that receive state funds to enact sexual misconduct policies that include specific elements, including an affirmative consent standard, which requires "an affirmative, conscious and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity." The policies must also note that silence or a lack of resistance does not grant consent for sexual activity. The bill also requires policies to address a number of related issues, including student intoxication, confidentiality, and trauma-informed training programs, among others.
Opinion of the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit affirming the lower court's order of summary judgment in favor of the University of Puerto Rico on plaintiff's retaliation claims. Plaintiff, María J. Collazo-Rosado, a mentorship coordinator in the University of Puerto Rico's academic support development center, suffered from Crohn's Disease and filed charges of disability-based discrimination and retaliation with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. After the University informed her that they would not renew her contract because they were restructuring the center, she filed suit claiming retaliation under the ADA and free speech retaliation under § 1983. Under the burden-shifting analysis, the District Court determined that plaintiff made a prima facie case of ADA retaliation and that the University presented non-retaliatory reasons for not renewing her contract, including that she had poor performance and was not complying with the center's attendance policy, but concluded that plaintiff failed to show that the purported reasons were a pretext. The Court of Appeals agreed, determining that the non-retaliatory reasons were supported by the facts of the case and consistent with the restructuring referenced in her notice of nonrenewal. On the free speech retaliation claim, the District Court ruled that relief under § 1983 was unavailable and that the ADA was plaintiff's exclusive remedy. Declining to decide whether the Supreme Court's ruling in Fitzgerald v. Barnstable School Committee applies to disability discrimination, the Court of Appeals ruled that even if § 1983 remedy is available, plaintiff failed to present a genuine issue of material fact as to whether protected speech was a substantial or motivating factor in the employment decision.
Order from the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania on defendant's motion for summary judgment. Plaintiff Douglas Mahler, former Director of Financial Aid at the Community College of Beaver County (CCBC), sued his former employer alleging that CCBC discriminated against him based on age. The court held that the plaintiff presented a prima facie case of age discrimination in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 ("ADEA"). The court also found that the plaintiff presented enough evidence to raise a genuine issue of material fact as to whether CCBC's proffered reasons for terminating Mahler—that his position was eliminated due to budget constraints and that the significantly younger employee hired for the newly created position taking over his former responsibilities was the "best candidate" based on technological know-how— were a pretext for age discrimination.
Announcement issued by The Graduate School (TGS) at Northwestern University that its application for admission will now contain an optional question allowing applicants to self-identify as members of the LGBTQ community. TGS emphasizes that compiling data on sexual orientation will allow it to tailor programs and resources to student needs.
Draft policy guidance issued by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement clarifying the proper certification of pathway programs. The policy guidance outlines procedures and requirements for certifying pathway programs and explains adjudicator responsibilities.
Press release announcing a decision by the Interfraternity Council at Clemson University to suspend all social and new-member initiation activities by the University's fraternities. The decision comes in the wake of several reports of legal and student conduct code violations by fraternity members, including one involving activities that allegedly led to the death of a Clemson student.
Investigative report released by the Texas State Auditor's Office regarding a recent audit of the University of North Texas (UNT). The investigators report that the University received more state funds than it should have by manipulating its payroll expenditures. State auditor John Keel recommends that the Texas legislature require UNT to repay the state at least $75.6 million over the next ten years.
Comments submitted by six higher-education organizations (ACE, AAU, APLU, COGR, and AAMC) on upcoming revisions to A Strategy for American Innovation, a policy document released by the Obama administration in 2011. The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the National Economic Council issued a request for information earlier in 2014 to inform the revision process. According to the signing organizations, the administration should focus on increasing the productivity of the nation's science and technology enterprise—including basic research conducted at universities—by increasing investments in research without mandating offsets that may force detrimental tradeoffs between scientific disciplines, and by improving access to higher education.
Order issued by Appellate Commissioner Peter L. Shaw granting a joint motion by the parties to expedite the rehearing of O'Bannon v. National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The parties sought to revise the schedule so that a decision would be handed down before an August 2015 permanent injunction takes effect. Under the new schedule, the NCAA's opening brief will be due on November 14, 2014; the plaintiffs' answer must be submitted by January 21, 2015; and the NCAA's optional reply should be filed by February 11, 2015.
Report on a special audit of the California State University system conducted by the state Office of Audit and Advisory Services. The report details issues requiring attention, including misuse of campus funds, conflicts of interest, and use of an off-campus bank account by the former head of the San Jose State University (SJSU) Justice Studies Department. According to the findings, campus leaders at SJSU knew of these fiscal improprieties but failed to report them to the state. The report includes recommendations related to policy notifications and responses from campus officials to each finding.
Pennsylvania bill (S.B. 444) that would alter open records exemptions for state-related universities in Pennsylvania was unanimously approved by the state Senate. The bill would require Pennsylvania's state-related universities to submit an annual report highlighting the institution's highest-paid employees in addition to disclosing information about its budget, revenues, and expenditures. The House will now consider whether to pass the bill.
Guide issued by the U.S. Department of Education for originating lenders, current holders, and guaranty agencies participating in the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program to provide the student loan industry with information on the calculation of cohort default rates. The guide explains how the rate is calculated, details the procedure for correcting cohort default rate information used to calculate the rate and offers questions and answers concerning the cohort default rate.
Announcement from the U.S. Department of Education concerning an adjustment to the calculation of cohort default rates (CDR) for colleges and universities that would have otherwise been subject to potential loss of eligibility with the release of FY 2011 CDR. The Department explains that the cohort default rate excludes borrowers who defaulted on one loan, but had one or more other Direct or Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program loans in a repayment, deferment, or forbearance status for at least 60 consecutive days and that did not default during the applicable CDR monitoring period from the numerator of the calculation.
Order from the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois granting in part and denying in part defendants' motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. Plaintiff, Ruth Stone, a building services sub-foreman who had been denied changes to her job title despite increased job responsibilities, alleged violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Title VII, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), the whistleblower provisions of the Illinois State Officials and Employees Ethics Act, the Illinois Whistleblower Act, and various Illinois tort laws. Following increases in her pay and job responsibilities, Stone received a reduction in pay after mentioning to building services supervisors that several foremen were allowing relatives to receive payments in excess of their hours worked and other improper practices. After challenging her pay cut, a supervisor told Stone that if she did not accept the reduction she would receive a demotion and her pay would be reduced further. Upon filing an EEOC complaint regarding the supervisor's actions, Stone was demoted and her pay was reduced again. In addition, two males under the age of forty were hired for an available foreman position to which she applied. The court held that these allegations were sufficient to support the disparate treatment and retaliation claims under Title VII and under ADEA. The court, however, granted the defendant's motion for failure to state a claim on the plaintiff's allegations of hostile work environment based on age and gender. The plaintiff's conspiracy claims were also dismissed.
Order from the 15th Judicial District Court of the State of Louisiana granting summary judgment to plaintiffs, a same-sex couple married in California and living in Louisiana, on their claims that Louisiana laws violate the due process and equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment and the full faith and credit clause of the U.S. Constitution. Plaintiffs sought a decree of intrafamily adoption under Louisiana law, which was signed by the court on February 5, 2014. On March 6, 2014, Louisiana Attorney General James Caldwell moved the court for a Suspense Appeal from the final adoption decree, which the court ordered. The plaintiffs claim that the following Louisiana laws violate their constitutional protections: 1) the Louisiana Constitution, which defines marriage as between one man and one woman; 2) article 3520(B) of the Louisiana Civil Code, which denies recognition of same-sex marriages contracted in other states; and 3) Louisiana's Revenue Bulletin No. 13-024 (9/13/13), which does not recognize same-sex marriages for state tax purposes. Relying on United States v. Windsor, Meyer v. Nebraska, and other precedent, the court concludes that the "right to marry and raise children in the home [is] a central part of the liberty protected by the Due Process Clause. Further, the court held that there was no rational connection between Louisiana's laws prohibiting recognition of same-sex marriages and its purported interests in "linking children to intact families formed by their biological parents" and "ensuring that fundamental social change occurs through widespread social consensus." Finally, the court concluded that the full faith and credit clause of the Constitution required Louisiana to recognize plaintiffs' marriage.
Press release announcing the launch of a new public awareness and education campaign, entitled "It's On Us," was issued by the White House. The campaign seeks to engage all members of campus communities in preventing sexual misconduct by fundamentally shifting the way people think about the problem, by creating an environment where sexual misconduct is unacceptable, and by inspiring everyone to see it as their responsibility to prevent incidents from occurring. The Center for American Progress' Generation Progress, student body leadership from nearly 200 higher education institutions, collegiate sports organizations, and private companies that have strong connections with students are partnering with the White House in these efforts.
Document containing sample language and guidance on the role of a Title IX coordinator in an institution's sexual misconduct policy released in conjunction with the White House's announcement of the "It's On Us" public awareness campaign to combat sexual misconduct on campus. The document contains a description of the Title IX coordinator's role, functions, and responsibilities in addressing student sexual misconduct at each stage in the process.
Sample language and guidance regarding how interim measures required by Title IX can be incorporated into a college's sexual misconduct policy. "Interim measures" include "the services, accommodations, or other assistance that colleges must provide to victims after notice of alleged sexual misconduct but before any final school outcomes – investigatory, disciplinary, or remedial – have been determined." This document was released as part of the White House's announcement of the "It's On Us" public awareness campaign to combat sexual misconduct on campus.
Guide containing sample language for higher education institutions to consider when developing their sexual misconduct policies as well as the definitions of prohibited conduct under those policies. The White House released this guide in conjunction with its announcement of the "It's On Us" public awareness campaign to combat sexual misconduct on campus.
Test optional admissions policy adopted by Eastern Connecticut State University. Under the new policy, prospective students no longer have to submit SAT or ACT scores when they apply for admission. Instead, the University will make a "holistic decision" on a student's application that emphasizes his or her "achievement in a strong high school curriculum."
Announcement by the Department of Education that it has distributed the Fiscal Year 2011 Three-Year Official Cohort Default Rate (CDR) notification packages to all eligible domestic and foreign schools. A CDR is the percentage of a school's borrowers who enter repayment on certain Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program or William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan (Direct Loan) Program loans during a federal fiscal year and who default or meet other specified conditions prior to the end of the next fiscal year. The time period for appealing this CDR begins on Tuesday, September 30, 2014 for all schools.
Announcement issued by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) on its award of $10.1 million in supplemental grants to 82 grantees who will explore the effects of sex in preclinical and clinical studies. The grants were awarded as a result of a promise made by the NIH in May to address a longstanding, overwhelming tendency among scientists to use primarily male animals and cells in labs.
Email sent by President Michael S. Roth and Board of Trustees Chair Joshua Boger to the Wesleyan University community announcing a new policy requiring residential fraternities to become fully co-educational over the next three years or lose formal recognition. The policy comes in the wake of calls for change by students and faculty members in April, who highlighted the role of all-male fraternities in fueling campus sexual misconduct. Mr. Roth and Mr. Boger hope that the policy change will encourage groups to "work together to create a more inclusive, equitable and safer campus."
Analysis of the proposed Technology, Equality and Accessibility in College and Higher Education Act ("TEACH Act") commissioned by six higher education associations (AAU, ACE, APLU, ARL, EDUCAUSE, and NAICU) from Barnes & Thornburg LLP. The analysis finds that the bill, which is intended to guarantee equal access to instructional technology for students with disabilities, would establish nominally optional accessibility guidelines that would "ultimately serve as de facto requirements" and limit institutions' ability to use various technologies and accommodations permitted under existing law for the benefit of student learning.
Student Loans: Repay Act of 2014
(September 19, 2014)
Bipartisan bill to amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 was introduced by Senators Angus King (I-ME) and Richard Burr (R-NC). The legislation would replace existing federal loan repayment programs with a "streamlined" program providing two repayment options: a simplified income-driven repayment (SIDR) plan and a fixed repayment plan. The SIDR plan would calculate monthly payments based on household income and cap payments at 15% of monthly discretionary income. A loan balance forgiveness program would be available to borrowers who select the SIDR plan. The legislation renames the existing ten-year "standard repayment plan" to the "fixed repayment plan" but would make no changes to the terms and conditions of the existing plan. Additionally, the legislation provides complete tax forgiveness for individuals whose loans are discharged under section 437(a) of the Higher Education Act due to total and permanent disabilities. If enacted, the act would take effect July 1, 2015.
Opinion by the Supreme Court of Washington reversing the trial court's grant of the defendant college's motion for summary judgment. Kathryn Scrivener, a 55-year-old full-time, temporary English instructor at Clark College applied for a tenure-track position in the college's English department, but was not hired for the position. After the college hired two applicants under the age of 40 for the positions, Scrivener claimed that the college discriminated against her on the basis of age in violation of Washington's Law Against Discrimination (Wash. Rev. Code § 49.60.180). In reversing the trial court's ruling, the Supreme Court of Washington clarified that a plaintiff may satisfy the pretext prong of McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792 (1973), by showing that discrimination was a substantial motivating factor for the employer's hiring decision. The court concluded that the plaintiff has presented sufficient evidence of pretext to defeat a summary judgment motion by presenting circumstantial evidence that age played a role in the college's decision, including public statements by the President expressing a desire to hire individuals under the age of forty and other statements during the application process about youthfulness.
Bill to reauthorize the Institute for Education Sciences, which is the independent research arm of the Department of Education, was unanimously approved by the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. The Strengthening Education Through Research Act is designed to streamline the Institute's operations and promote accountability by requiring routine evaluations of its programs by outside entities. In May, the House of Representatives passed a similar version of the bill (H.R. 4366).
Plaintiff–appellee Christian Cutler, former Director of the University's art galleries, sued officials at Stephen F. Austin State University (SFA) under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging he was fired in retaliation for exercising what he claimed to be protected speech in violation of the First Amendment. The district court denied the defendants' motion for summary judgment on qualified immunity grounds and held that genuine issues of fact existed as to whether the defendants conducted a reasonable investigation into the allegation and as to whether, as a result of the investigation, they reasonably found that Cutler's remarks were given in an official capacity. The defendants appealed, claiming qualified immunity from suit. The Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit held that every reasonable official in the defendants' positions would have known that the reasonableness of an investigation depends on its thoroughness and its inclusion of some formal process for reviewing evidence and weighing disputed claims. Since the investigation the defendants conducted only involved talking to Cutler and to the direct witness to the speech at issue, the Court concluded that the defendants should have known that their investigation was "woefully inadequate." It thus held that the district court did not err in finding that the law was "clearly established" and that it properly denied summary judgment to the defendants on qualified immunity grounds.
Plaintiff Stephen Cunningham claimed that defendant Wichita State University (WSU) violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act by failing to accommodate his disability. Cunningham, who was diagnosed with diabetes and ADD, was dismissed from the WSU physician's assistant program after failing a re-administered neurology exam. Due to an alleged hyperglycemic episode, Cunningham had failed the exam the first time and was allowed to remain in the program on the condition that he retake and pass the exam. The U.S District Court for the District of Kansas concluded that WSU clearly had knowledge of Cunningham's diabetes and his requested accommodation when it re-administered the exam, as is required to file a plausible claim under the ADA and Section 504. However, Cunningham's suit rested not on any diabetic-related effects but rather on his ADD, which he claims was triggered when WSU administered his neurology retest in a professor's office located in a busy hallway. Because Cunningham did not plead any facts showing that WSU knew that he needed accommodation for his ADD, the Court held that Cunningham failed to state a plausible claim for relief under either the ADA or Section 504.
Report by the American Academy of Arts & Sciences offering policy recommendations for enhancing partnerships between the federal government, state governments, universities, and industry to fund scientific and engineering research. The report states that bolstering scientific and engineering research is crucial to the American economy and the country's global competitiveness. In order to achieve that goal, the report focuses its recommendations on securing sustainable federal investments in science and engineering research, ensuring that the benefits of federal investments in research flow to the American public, and establishing robust partnerships between government, industry and universities.
Guide issued by the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) for colleges and universities on international student recruitment agencies. NACAC cites the risks involved in using student recruitment agencies including fraud, legal action and financial damage suffered by students and the questionable ethics of colleges and universities paying per-capita commissions to such agencies as the reasons that it does not endorse the practice of commission-based international student recruitment. However, the guide also provides concrete steps to ensure accountability, integrity, and transparency when using these agencies in light of its 2013 decision to permit members to use commission-based international recruitment. Measures include prohibiting recruitment agents from charging students and parents for recruitment services in addition to their university-paid commissions, posting information about agency relationships conspicuously on the university's website, and completing an extensive campus impact study.
Decision from the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit reversing the conviction of a former Utah Valley University student who was charged with one count of sending an interstate threat, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 875(c). The student sent a poem to a University of Utah professor via e-mail that contained violent and anti-immigrant language. The district court ruled that the student "knowingly transmitted" a message containing a threat to injure the professor and that the poem was a true threat under a reasonable person standard, but did not determine whether the student intended for the professor to feel threatened. The Tenth Circuit reversed the lower court's ruling and held that the conviction violated the student's First Amendment rights because in order for the e-mail to have been considered a "true threat," the government was required to prove that the student intended to instill fear in the professor by sending the poem. The Court remanded the case for a determination on this issue.
Publication released by the American Council on Education (ACE) presenting its "Creating Global Citizens: Exploring Internationalization at Historically Black Colleges and Universities" project and highlighting strategies that Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) can use to further the internationalization of their institutions. ACE worked closely with seven HBCUs to develop and implement the project, which was aimed at assisting these and similar institutions in improving strategies to advance internationalization initiatives, refining their existing internationalization efforts, and positioning them to pursue funding and partnering opportunities for internationalization.
Annual survey report released by the National Association of State Student Grant and Aid Programs (NASSGAP) on state-funded expenditures for postsecondary student financial aid. According to the data, which was collected during the 2012-2013 academic year, states awarded a total of approximately $11.2 billion in financial aid to students pursuing postsecondary education. This amount—which includes grants, loans, loan forgiveness, work-study, and tuition waivers—represents a 1.3% increase in nominal terms from the $11.1 billion in aid awarded in 2011-2012 but a decrease of 0.6% in constant dollar terms. The report concludes that while state funding of financial aid remains limited, states are slowly turning their attention to helping low-income college students, as demonstrated by the increase in the portion of spending dedicated to need-based aid.
Notice announcing the continuation of the ''Verification Division USCIS/ED'' computer matching program between the Department of Education and the Department of Homeland Security's U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. The program allows the Department of Education to confirm the immigration
status of alien applicants for or recipients of financial aid under Title IV, as authorized by 20 U.S.C. 1091(g).
Plaintiff John Lombardi was fired from his position as the Director of Grants and Training at George Washington University (GW). He then sued GW, claiming that his termination constituted unlawful retaliation under the False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. § 3730(h)(1), because the University fired him after he reported conduct that he believed would result in the submission of false certifications under a government contract. Specifically, the plaintiff argued that his replacement as technical representative on a subcontract without prior approval from the prime contractor, Science Applications International Corporation, would have resulted in the submission of a false certification regarding the identity of the technical representative. The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, however, concluded that Lombardi's claim rested on "speculative actions" that did not provide an objectively reasonable basis for his belief that GW would have submitted a false claim or certification. It thus granted the University's motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim.
Testimony given on behalf of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU) before the Congressional Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance regarding President Obama’s proposed Postsecondary Institution Ratings System (PIRS). While NAICU supports the goal of enabling students and families to make informed choices in higher education, they expressed concerns about what the PIRS will actually measure and that the creation of a “simplistic” rating system will be ineffective and undermine college access and completion goals.
The U.S. Department of Education, New York Office for Civil Rights (OCR) reached a determination in its investigation into a complaint filed by the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) alleging that Rutgers University discriminated against Jewish students by failing to respond appropriately to a 2011 complaint filed with the University claiming that Jewish students were subjected to harassment and different treatment based on their national origin. Following its investigation, OCR found there was insufficient evidence that students were unlawfully harassed based on national origin because the allegedly harassing speech was protected under the First Amendment. OCR also found that the University promptly investigated complaints of differential treatment of Jewish students at a campus event and determined that there was insufficient evidence to support ZOA’s allegation that Rutgers failed to respond appropriately to these complaints.
The Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) is revising the regulations at 25 CFR Part 41 and has prepared a preliminary discussion draft. Subpart B of the preliminary discussion draft concerns financial and technical assistance to tribal colleges and universities funded under the Tribally Controlled Colleges and Universities Assistance Act of 1978, as amended (25 U.S.C. 1801 et seq.). Subpart B does not concern financial assistance to Diné College or to tribally controlled postsecondary career and technical institutions. Subpart C of the preliminary discussion draft applies to financial assistance to Diné College under the Navajo Nation Higher Education Act of 2008. Subpart A includes general provisions and applies to both subparts B and C. Comments on the preliminary discussion draft are due by the November 15, 2014. BIE will host five meetings to obtain input on the preliminary discussion draft.
The U.S. Department of Education announced the release of the updated Gainful Employment (GE) Disclosure Template. Institutions must update the disclosures for each of their GE programs to reflect the 2013-2014 award year using this updated Disclosure Template no later than January 31, 2015. Institutions that offer GE programs must use the Disclosure Template to meet their disclosure responsibilities under current 34 CFR 668.6(b).
The American Council on Education has released a memorandum prepared by Hogan Lovells US LLP on political campaign-related activities at colleges and universities. The educational memo summarizes federal restrictions on political activity and involvement at 501(c)(3) institutions and offers “do’s” and “don’ts” based on these restrictions.
Letter of findings and resolution agreement between The Ohio State University (OSU) and the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights (OCR) following a proactive Title IX compliance review initiated by OCR to examine whether OSU "responded promptly and equitably to complaints, reports and any other notice" of sexual misconduct. OCR found that the university's grievance policies and procedures did not comply with Title IX, but OCR praised the university for its investigation of harassment complaints within the marching band and for its actions toward bringing its policies and procedures into compliance with Title IX. The university has agreed to revise its policies and procedures for clarity and consistency, provide mandatory training to all members of the university community on sexual assault and harassment, and conduct annual climate assessments, among other changes.
The Department of Education is requesting comments on its proposal to revise the Common Services for Borrowers (CSB) system of records as a result of amendments made to the Higher Education Act of 1965 (HEA). The CSB system maintains records for all Department activities regarding the making and servicing federal Title IV loans. The proposed revisions are designed to enhance the ability of the Secretary of Education to collect and maintain information on Title IV loans or grants repayment obligations that are made, insured, or guaranteed under Titles IV-A, IV-B, IV-D, and IV-E of the HEA. Comments must be submitted by October 12, 2014.
Report sent to Congress, the Department of Defense (DOD), and Department of Education (ED) assessing the quality of contractor evaluations of postsecondary institutions participating in the DOD Military Tuition Assistance Program (TA Program). DOD contracts with an independent entity to evaluate institutions participating in the TA program to ensure that DOD has the proper information to assess the quality of each institution. The report concludes that the contractor assessments failed to provide the DOD with useful and consistent information regarding the quality of participating institutions because the DOD did not 1) clearly define the evaluation questions and methodology; and 2) address the knowledge, skills, and experience that the contractor needed to conduct the evaluation. The report recommends that DOD develop a plan for future evaluations containing clearly-defined evaluation questions and an assessment of the requirements for the contractor to perform such evaluations.
Memorandum issued to the American Council on Education (ACE) by Hogan Lovells regarding the Campus Accountability and Safety Act (CASA) (S. 2692). The memorandum identifies and analyzes provisions within CASA that Hogan Lovells believes merit consideration. These include provisions related to confidential advisors, campus-climate surveys, mandatory reporting, mandatory agreements with law enforcement agencies, which personnel shall be responsible for compliance, penalties, and the date by which the law will become effective if passed.
Report released by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) criticizing trigger warnings as "a threat to academic freedom in the classroom." It calls the presumption that students need to be warned of potentially controversial topics "infantilizing and anti-intellectual" because it puts comfort ahead of critical thinking and engagement. The demand for trigger warnings, the report states, also singles out politically controversial topics that could likely be marginalized or even avoided by faculty members who may be especially vulnerable to student complaints, such as non-tenured and contingent faculty.
Letter from the American Council on Education (ACE) to Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Lamar
Alexander (R-TN) regarding the Campus Accountability and Safety Act (CASA) (S. 2692). ACE states that it "strongly support[s]" many of the concepts embodied in the legislation but points to certain provisions that should be altered to reinforce effective implementation and to promote a safe campus environment. Specific provisions addressed include those mandating confidential advisors, climate surveys, memoranda of understanding with law enforcement agencies, Title IX training for responsible employees, and new Clery reporting requirements. The letter also calls upon Congress to resolve ambiguities and conflicts between Title IX and the Clery Act and to require the Department of Education to engage in extensive outreach with all stakeholders before implementing new policies that address campus sexual misconduct.
Motion filed with the Circuit Court of Kanawha County, West Virginia seeking limited fund class certification and class settlement approval in litigation surrounding the withdrawal of Mountain State University's (MSU) accreditation in December 2012. MSU's loss of accreditation--and the subsequent termination of its educational programs--prompted hundreds of lawsuits against the University, its Board of Trustees, and former personnel, totaling an estimated $35 million. The proposed settlement would establish a pool of funds and other assets out of which compensation can be made to former MSU students. Additionally, fifteen percent of the proceeds from property sales and twenty-three percent of any Department of Education funds received would be allocated to a separate subfund to satisfy the University of Charleston's potential claims. MSU entered into an agreement with the University of Charleston providing for a "teach out" for certain MSU students. MSU further agreed to pay $60,000 to fund the costs of class notice and settlement administration.
Report by Penn State University's (PSU) Athletics Integrity Monitor on the status of the University's compliance with its agreements with the NCAA and Big Ten Conference and the recommendations of the 2012 Freeh Report. Based on PSU's progress and commitment to fulfilling the requirements of the agreements and the Freeh Report recommendations, the Athletics Integrity Monitor recommends that the NCAA remove its post-season game ban on PSU and restore the total number of grants-in-aid in 2015-16 to the maximum allowed under NCAA rules. The NCAA has accepted these recommendations.
Decision from the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that same-sex marriage bans in Wisconsin and Indiana violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Court restricted the analysis to the Equal Protection Clause and did not opine on the question of whether same-sex marriage is a fundamental right. Based on the immutability of sexual orientation, the Court determined that laws discriminating on that basis are subject to heightened scrutiny. The Court concluded that in face of the significant harms that result from denying same-sex couples the ability to marry, Wisconsin and Indiana were required to show a "clearly offsetting governmental interest" in discriminating against same-sex couples. Each state's arguments failed to meet this burden and the Seventh Circuit concluded not only that the states' interests in denying legal significance to same-sex marriages were not "important" but that their purported interests were "illogical." Ultimately, the Court concluded that the same-sex marriage bans bear no relationship to a legitimate government purpose.
Policy brief published by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities regarding state lottery-funded scholarship programs as a method of improving college affordability. These programs earmark lottery earnings for merit-based scholarships for high performing high school students to attend in-state public and private colleges. The AASCU brief argues that despite the apparent success of these programs in expanding access and affordability of higher education, they result in several unintended negative consequences including reductions in overall education spending by states and inequities based on socio-economic status of students and state lottery participants. The AASCU brief recommends several changes to the structure of lottery-funded scholarship programs that would improve their ability to expand access and affordability of higher education.
Letter to Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) from the Higher Education Task Force on Teacher Preparation (Task Force) discussing the teacher preparation provisions of his draft of the Higher Education Affordability Act (HEAA). The Task Force approves of certain provisions that it believes "build on effective practice and proven methodology" to improve teacher preparedness programs. However, the Task Force opposes the data collection provisions as "an unwarranted overreach by the federal government" and opposes the use of Value Added Modeling to measure the quality of teacher preparation programs as an unreliable methodology.
Retaliation: Benison v. Ross
(September 4, 2014)
Order from a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. The lawsuit arose in 2011 when Christopher Benison, then an undergraduate at Central Michigan University, sponsored an Academic Senate resolution calling for a vote of no confidence in the University's President and Provost. Subsequently, the Geology Department refused a salary supplement to Mr. Benison's wife Kathleen, a tenured professor of geology at the University who had previously been approved to take a 2012 spring semester sabbatical. Mrs. Benison then resigned from her position and refused to repay the compensation and benefits that she had received during the sabbatical, which included her husband's tuition. The University filed suit against her, claiming that Mrs. Benison had breached her commitment to return to the University after her sabbatical, leading the Benisons to sue the University in federal court on the grounds that Central Michigan retaliated against the couple for exercising their First Amendment rights through Mr. Benison's role in instigating the no confidence votes in 2011. A federal court judge largely sided with the University. On appeal, the Sixth Circuit concluded that the petitioners had provided sufficient evidence to persuade a reasonable jury that the University had unlawfully retaliated against Mrs. Benison by suing her to seek reimbursement for sabbatical compensation and her husband by placing a hold on his undergraduate transcript because of an outstanding tuition balance.
Handbook released by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) on the problems that result from sexual misconduct and interpersonal violence on campus and how these issues are affecting college students and student-athletes. The handbook is designed to assist intercollegiate athletics administrators and those who provide educational programming for student-athletes in developing approaches to preventing or reducing the incidents of sexual misconduct and other acts of interpersonal violence on their campuses.
The Department of Education seeks comments on the reporting requirements contained in the regulations promulgated under the Federal Family Educational Loan (FFEL) Program (34 CFR 682.302). Under these regulations, a state, non-profit entity, or eligible lender trustee must provide the Secretary of Education with a certification stating the basis upon which the entity meets the Program's requirements. The Department is interested in comments related to the necessity of the reporting requirements, the timeliness of the information processing, the accuracy of the burden estimate, and how the Department can enhance the information collected and minimize the burden the requirements impose on the respondents. Comments must be submitted by November 3, 2014.
First Amendment: Keefe v. Adams
(September 4, 2014)
Order from the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota granting the defendants' motion for summary judgment. Craig Keefe was dismissed from the associate degree nursing program at Central Lakes College on the grounds that comments on his Facebook page amounted to "behavior unbecoming of the profession and transgression of professional boundaries" under the student handbook. The Court concluded that Keefe received sufficient notice of faculty dissatisfaction and potential dismissal when he met with the Dean of Nursing to discuss the comments, and that her decision to dismiss Keefe after his explanation revealed a general lack of professionalism constituted a rational basis for the dismissal. It further held that Keefe's statements were not protected under the First Amendment because the Amendment does not require colleges to accept students who do not meet nationally-established standards for the nursing profession that are incorporated into their degree programs.
Order from the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana on cross motions for summary judgment. The instant case arose from lawsuits filed by six same-sex couples who live in Louisiana and are married under the law of another state, one same-sex couple who seeks the right to marry in Louisiana, and the Forum for Equality Louisiana, Inc., a nonprofit advocacy organization, against Louisiana Attorney General James Caldwell. The plaintiffs allege that the Louisiana Constitution, which defines marriage as between one man and one woman, and article 3520(B) of the Louisiana Civil Code, which denies recognition of same-sex marriages contracted in other states, violate their constitutional rights to Equal Protection and Due Process. Based on the Supreme Court's avoidance of heightened scrutiny in United States v. Windsor and the Court's judgment in the present case that same-sex marriage is not sufficiently "rooted in this nation's history and tradition" to be considered a fundamental right, the Court submitted these claims to rational basis review. The Court held that Louisiana's laws are rationally related to its legitimate state interest in "linking children to an intact family formed by their two biological parents" and in addressing the definition of marriage through the democratic process. It thus denied the plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment and granted that of the defendants.
Decision by the Missouri Court of Appeals holding that the Federal Copyright Act exempts course syllabi, as requested in the present case, from disclosure under the Missouri Sunshine Law. The University of Missouri denied a request for faculty syllabi from the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ), arguing that they were exempt from disclosure under the state's public records law. The court ruled that in order to disclose the documents as requested by NCTQ the university would have had to reproduce and distribute the syllabi, which would constitute a violation of the Copyright Act. The court notes, however, that the Copyright Act does not protect against disclosure of public records that does not require reproduction or distribution.
Advice issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for colleges, universities and students regarding Ebola outbreaks in West Africa. The CDC recommends that education-related travel plans in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone be postponed until further notice. The CDC also advises student health centers to implement certain precautions including identifying students, faculty, and staff who have travelled to countries where Ebola outbreaks have occurred, conducting risk assessments regarding their risk of exposure, and monitoring for Ebola symptoms.
Data-sharing policy issued by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) requiring scientists who conduct government-funded genomic research to load genomic data they collect into a government-established database. The final policy acknowledges that it results in increased financial burdens on institutions, but maintains that such costs are outweighed by the "significant discoveries made possible through the secondary use of the data." The policy provides that use of information in the database is restricted to research purposes and NIH will respond to violations of the terms and conditions for secondary use with appropriate action.
U.S. Department of Education, New York Office for Civil Rights determination that the University of Rochester's actions in response to a student who had been hospitalized for self-harm and depression, expressed plans to commit suicide, and violated University policy were not discriminatory. Following the student's hospitalization, University administrators recommended that she take a voluntary leave of absence, which the student agreed to do. The university also banned the student from a campus dormitory after she violated the Residential Life Policy by writing what was perceived as a threatening and retaliatory message to a Resident Advisor in the dormitory. The student alleged that the University discriminated against her on the basis of perceived disability by suggesting that she take a voluntary medical leave of absence, banning her from the dormitory without due process, and denying her appeal to the ban. OCR found that the University had legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons for its actions and the student was provided the required due process following her ban from the dormitory. OCR will take no further action on the student's allegations.
Statement released by the U.S. Department of Education announcing that it has renegotiated the terms of its contracts with federal student loan servicers. These new terms include an increase in the weight of customer satisfaction survey results in the calculation of servicer performance scores, a revised payment structure designed to encourage servicers to keep borrowers in on-time repayment status and prevent them from defaulting, and new incentives tied to a servicers' success in reducing delinquency payments. With these revisions, the Department hopes to strengthen incentives for servicers to provide more effective customer service and to help borrowers stay up-to-date on their payments.
Announcement issued by the Department of Education publicizing its intent to establish a negotiated rulemaking committee to draft the regulations that will govern the Federal William D. Ford Direct Loan Program authorized under Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (HEA). The committee will include representatives of organizations with interests that are significantly affected by the proposed regulations. Interested parties may suggest additional issues for the committee to consider by attending either of two scheduled public hearings or by submitting written comments to the Department by November 4, 2014.
Cover letter and comments on Senator Tom Harkin's (D-IA) draft proposal to reauthorize the Higher Education Act of 1965, entitled the Higher Education Affordability Act (HEAA), were submitted by the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU). NAICU commends the Senator for continuing to offer financial assistance and campus-based aid programs through the Higher Education Act. However, it also expresses concern over the proposed endowment funds to a sector of higher education based on student enrollment without regard to student income, as well as provisions that would require an extensive amount of accreditation material to be made public.
Comments submitted by the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU) to Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) on his proposed Higher Education Affordability Act (HEAA), which would reauthorize the Higher Education Act of 1965. The APLU points to twelve provisions within the proposal that it supports and eight areas that it believes should be altered or deleted. In its cover letter accompanying these comments, the APLU expresses hope that the HEAA ultimately offers increased transparency, builds in better accountability, reduces redundancies and inefficiencies in the law, and lessens the regulatory and reporting burden on higher education institutions.
Letter to Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) from the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) discussing his draft of the Higher Education Affordability Act (HEAA). AASCU applauds Senator Harkin for including the State-Federal College Affordability Partnership provisions in his proposal, which it believes will allow state policymakers to exercise their best judgment on behalf of constituents while creating powerful incentives for the federal government to work with states to promote college affordability.
Comments submitted to Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) by the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) and the Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT) regarding his proposed Higher Education Affordability Act (HEAA). The organizations praise the Senator for introducing this "ambitious" proposal and express support for several of its provisions. However, they also encourage him to include additional changes to the Pell Grant program and federal student loan programs.
Comments from the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) on Senator Tom Harkin's (D-IA) draft proposal of the Higher Education Affordability Act (HEAA). While CHEA states that it understands and agrees with the need for greater accountability and transparency, it advises the Senator to ensure that changes to the law and regulations governing accreditation focus on clarifying and strengthening accreditation's role in overseeing academic quality rather than adding new requirements that may inadvertently detract from this role. The Council offers four recommendations on how to better incorporate this advice into the proposed legislation.
Legislation (S.B. 967) that would require California institutions of higher education that receive state-funded student aid to incorporate an "affirmative consent" standard into their sexual assault policies was passed by the state legislature. The bill would require that affirmative consent, or "an affirmative, unambiguous and conscious decision" to engage in sexual activity, be given by both parties when initiating the activity and be "ongoing throughout a sexual encounter." Governor Jerry Brown must now decide whether to sign the bill into law by September 30.
Revised policy on sexual harassment, sexual violence, interpersonal violence, and stalking was released by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-CH). Among the key changes are the establishment of a voluntary resolution process as an alternative to traditional adjudication, the removal of students from hearing panels, and the clarification of the definition of consent as consisting of an affirmative conscious choice as opposed to silence or lack of resistance.
Comments on the Higher Education Affordability Act, a draft proposal for the upcoming reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA), were submitted by the Association of American Universities (AAU) to Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA). The AAU states that while it supports the goals of the proposed bill, including its "focus on more rigorous institutional performance measures as a means for strengthening higher education accountability," it cautions that adding to existing regulations increases institutions' compliance burden and may ultimately waste government and university resources if not adequately tied to ensuring accountability.
Draft of proposed additions to the Statement of Principles of Good Practice was released by the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC). The additions are intended to clarify changes implemented last year, which allowed member universities that meet certain standards of accountability, integrity, and transparency to use commission-based agents in international student recruiting. The proposed interpretative language details how member universities will ensure accountability, integrity, and transparency in their international recruitment practices.
Letter from U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer to University of California President Janet Napolitano and four other California college leaders asking them to voluntarily implement the Survivor Outreach and Support (SOS) Campus Act. The Act, introduced in Congress by Senator Boxer (S. 2695) and Representative Susan Davis (D-CA) (H.R. 5277), would require all federally-funded colleges to appoint an independent advocate for campus sexual assault prevention and response.
The Department of Education seeks comments on a proposed information collection request (ICR) to determine a student's eligibility to receive student aid under Title IV of the Higher Education Act. The process would require students to submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and then to review the Student Aid Report summarizing the data submitted and make corrections or updates if necessary. For the 2015–2016 proposal, the Department estimates a net burden decrease of 2,081,212 hours on applicants. Comments on the proposal must be submitted by October 27, 2014.
Report on an external investigation into a potential conflict of interest involving Sussex County Community College's award of a building renovations contract to CP Engineers. Sussex hired an outside law firm to conduct an investigation after three of its trustees voted to award the contract to CP Engineers. All three trustees had been paid for various services by the firm. According to the report, investigators found that the contract was properly noticed and that state public contracts laws were followed.
Letter to the University of Arizona from seventeen Senators and Representatives from the Arizona State Legislature defending Dr. Suzanne Sisley. Sisley was studying the effects of medical marijuana on military veterans diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder until June 27, when the University decided not to renew her contract due to an alleged lack of funding. The letter urges the University to reinstate her contract, citing claims that Sisley's termination may have been politically motivated.
Pursuant to the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act, 37 CFR 201.40 has been amended to provide that, "the prohibition against circumvention of technological measures that effectively control access to copyrighted works set forth in the United States Code shall not apply to persons who engage in such circumvention to enable used wireless telephone handsets to connect to wireless telecommunications networks when the circumvention is initiated either by the owner of the handset or certain other persons, and when connection to the network is authorized by the operator of the network."
Dear Colleague Letter from the U.S. Department of Education to provide guidance related to the maximum interest rate that may be charged to certain Direct Loan and Federal Family Education Loan program borrowers who are on active-duty military service under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA). The Department's loan servicers are now instructed to use the Department of Defense's Defense Manpower Data Center database (https://www.dmdc.osd.mil/appj/scra) to identify borrowers who are eligible for benefits under the SCRA and apply the interest rate limitation to the those borrowers' accounts.
Interim final regulations issued under the Affordable Care Act to permit an eligible organization to notify the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in writing of its religious objection to contraception coverage. HHS will then notify the insurer that the organization objects to providing contraception coverage and that the insurer or third party administrator is responsible for providing enrollees in the health plan separate no-cost payments for contraceptive services for as long as they remain enrolled in the health plan. The interim final rule solicits comments but is effective on date of publication in the Federal Register.
Bill (S.B. 850) to authorize the state Board of Governors to establish a statewide baccalaureate degree pilot program at up to fifteen of the state’s community college districts was approved by the California Legislature. Specifically, the measure would enable the selected colleges to issue four-year degrees in a limited number of programs that have a high demand in the workforce. The bill will be sent to Governor Jerry Brown for consideration.
Public infractions decision placing Cheyney University of Pennsylvania on probation for five years was released by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). The decision was made in light of findings that the University allowed 109 of its athletes to compete between 2007 and 2011 without first being certified as amateurs by the NCAA's eligibility center. In addition to the probation, Cheyney University will lose its NCAA Division II voting privileges for two years, must attend a rules seminar annually for the next five years, and will have all of its wins from 2007 to 2011 vacated.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has filed a notice of appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in O’Bannon v. NCAA. In a statement about the appeal, the NCAA’s Chief Legal Officer explained, “In its decision, the Court acknowledged that changes to the rules that govern college athletics would be better achieved outside the courtroom, and the NCAA continues to believe that the Association and its members are best positioned to evolve its rules and processes to better serve student-athletes.”
Order from the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida addressing two consolidated cases challenging Florida’s constitutional provision defining marriage as the legal union of one man and one woman (Article I, § 27), and its statutes prohibiting the legal recognition of same-sex marriages performed out-of-state (Florida Statute § 741.212 and § 741.04(1)). Following “the unbroken line of federal authority since [United States v. Windsor (133 S.Ct. 2675 (2013))],” the Court held that marriage is a fundamental right under the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses, thus requiring it to review Florida’s same-sex marriage provisions under strict scrutiny. In applying strict scrutiny review, the Court held that the plaintiffs are likely to prevail on the merits and will suffer irreparable harm as a result of an ongoing unconstitutional denial of a fundamental right if an injunction is not issued, and that the damage of the injunction will not be adverse to the public interest. It therefore denied the defendants’ motions to dismiss the two cases, granted a preliminary injunction against the defendants from enforcing the state’s marriage laws, and temporarily stayed the injunction.
Letter from Senators Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY) and John Thune (R-SD) to the Office of the Special Counsel (OSC) calling for the Office to investigate retaliation claims at the Air Force Academy. Staff Sergeant Brandon Enos claims that Academy officials retaliated against him as well as a cadet informant for investigating allegations of drug use and sexual assault by members of the football team. The Senators insist that an independent investigation is necessary to “help restore transparency and accountability to our military and our institutions of higher education.”
New policy for acceptable network use was recently enacted by Northern Illinois University (NIU). The policy defines “acceptable use” as being “based on common sense, decency, ethical use, civility, and security applied to the computing environment.” It restricts access to social media sites during time “that would interfere with professional responsibilities” and prohibits the use of the network for political activity. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has criticized the policy for potentially violating students’ First Amendment right to free speech.
Order by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan holding that the plaintiff’s need for frequent urination caused by prescription medication was an ADA impairment but that it did not rise to the level of protection as a disability. Plaintiff Sandra Sanders was employed as a Job Coach for disabled individuals, which required her to be with her disabled customers at all times during her shift. She was fired when she left two individuals unattended in a van while she went to the restroom. The Court recognized that impairments caused by medications can rise to the level of ADA-protected impairments even where the impairment was not related to the underlying condition. However, it rejected the plaintiff’s claim that her need to urinate was so severe that it precluded her from “focusing” on the job as insufficient to prove a limitation on the major life activity of “thinking” and thus granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment.
Same-Sex Marriage: McQuigg v. Bostic
(August 20, 2014)
Order issued by U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts staying the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit's injunction in the case of Bostic v. Schaefer. On July 28, the Fourth Circuit held that Virginia's statutes and constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex couples from marrying and refusing to recognize same-sex couples' lawful marriages performed out-of-state violated the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. It thus enjoined enforcement of those laws. Michele McQuigg, the county clerk for Prince William County, Virginia, petitioned the Supreme Court to stay the Fourth Circuit's decision, which otherwise would have gone into effect on August 21. The Chief Justice granted the stay "pending the timely filing and disposition of a petition for a writ of certiorari."
Order by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit affirming the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the defendant Ohio State University (OSU). Plaintiff Enrique Seoane-Vazquez, an assistant professor at OSU's College of Pharmacy, asserted that his tenure review process was tainted with retaliation for protected activity, including his filing of internal complaints and a lawsuit. The district court rejected the plaintiff's claims and granted summary judgment to the defendant after determining that the provost did not act with retaliatory animus when he ultimately denied the plaintiff's application for tenure. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, holding that the plaintiff failed to establish a genuine issue of fact that most, if not all, of his dossier was tainted by retaliatory animus. Rather, the evidence showed that the provost based his decision on the plaintiff's unsatisfactory dossier and concerns expressed by other faculty members over the quantity and quality of his scholarship.
Order by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit reversing the judgment of the district court and remanding for entry of summary judgment in favor of Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell. Rush University filed suit against Burwell after an administrative review board affirmed a fiscal intermediary's denial of the University's request to include medical residents' time spent conducting research in its 1993, 1994, and 1996 reimbursable indirect medical education (IME) cost calculation. Following a regulation (42 C.F.R. § 412.105(f)(1)(iii)(C)) promulgated under the Affordable Care Act, the Seventh Circuit overturned its holding in University of Chicago Medical Center v. Sebelius, 618 F.3d 739 (7th Cir. 2010) and held that academic medical centers may not seek reimbursement under Medicare for residents' "pure research" time in the 1990s that was not directly linked to patient care.
Order by the Superior Court of the District of Columbia granting the Trustees of the Corcoran Gallery of Art's petition and cy pres motion to transfer its college to George Washington University and the bulk of its art collection to the National Gallery of Art. The Trustees argued that continuing the gallery's operations as a stand-alone charity was impossible or impracticable. After holding that a party seeking cy pres relief can establish impracticability only if it demonstrates that it would be unreasonably difficult—and that it is not viable or feasible—to carry out the current terms and conditions of the trust, the Court held that the Trustees had effectively established that it would be impracticable to carry out the Deed of Trust that created the Corcoran given the Corcoran's current financial condition.
Letter from the University of Arizona to Phi Gamma Delta informing the fraternity that its recognition as a student organization has been withdrawn. The fraternity had been on interim suspension since July while University officials investigated numerous allegations, including claims that members withheld information from police after the death of a fraternity member. The investigators found that the fraternity had violated ten items in the Student Code of Conduct, including prohibitions against providing alcohol to minors and hazing.
Gender-based misconduct policy and procedures released by Columbia University. The policy and procedures were revised based on 2014 guidance from the U.S. Department of Education and the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault.
Letter from the Student Press Law Center (SPLC) to the University of Alabama (UA) expressing concern over the University's media guidelines for covering its Sorority Fall Formal Recruitment week. The SPLC takes issue with three specific guidelines that it claims restrict "consensual communications" between students and the media on matters of public concern in violation of the First Amendment. They urge the University to lift what they call a "gag order" on UA students.
Letter from the Association of American Universities (AAU) and the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU) to the Director of the Office of Management and Budget requesting that the Obama administration increase investments in higher education and research when designing the Fiscal Year 2016 budget. The organizations urge that the administration's 2016 budget include strong funding levels for the Pell Grant and other financial aid programs as well as graduate education and Title VI international programs. They also endorse funding increases for research at a number of federal agencies, noting that increased spending in these areas will help close the innovation deficit between the United States and other nations, and will ensure domestic economic growth and prosperity.
Bill entitled the "Manufacturing Universities Act of 2014" (S. 2719) was introduced in the U.S. Senate by Senators Chris Coons (D-DE) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC). The measure would authorize the National Institute of Standards and Technology to designate twenty-five universities as "Manufacturing Universities" and to provide incentives to renovate these universities' engineering programs in an effort to better align their educational offerings with the needs of modern manufacturers. According to a press release issued in conjunction with the Act, each of the designated universities would receive five million dollars per year for four years to meet specific goals, including focusing engineering programs on manufacturing, building new partnerships with manufacturing firms, growing training opportunities, and fostering manufacturing entrepreneurship.
Marlboro College student Luke Benning sought damages for breach of contract, breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and defamation against the College following his suspension in December 2013. Benning was suspended after the College's Sexual Misconduct Panel found that he engaged in sexual relations with another student without obtaining effective consent and then retaliated against her. The U.S. District Court for the District of Vermont granted the defendant College's motion to dismiss the defamation count for failure to state a claim because Benning merely inferred from hostile encounters with students and staff that Marlboro employees made false and defamatory statements to the students and staff; but he failed to allege any specific facts that would identify a particular defamatory statement, its speaker, its audience, or when it was said. In response to the defendant's motion for a protective order to prevent Benning from deposing Marlboro employees under the deliberative process privilege, the Court refused to expand the deliberative process privilege—which normally applies only to government entities—to a faculty deliberation at Marlboro College and thus denied the motion.
Order by the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana holding that plaintiff Louisiana College does not have to cover contraception methods that the institution deems "religiously offensive" under its insurance plan. Regulations promulgated under the Affordable Care Act require certain employer group health insurance plans to cover FDA-approved contraceptive services (77 Fed. Reg. 8725 (2012)). The plaintiff, a nonprofit university affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, argued that any involvement in the use or provision of certain emergency contraceptives is forbidden by its religion and, therefore, the mandate imposes a substantial burden on its free exercise of religion under the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act. The Court held that either complying with the challenged regulations or accepting "crippling" financial penalties would impose a substantial burden on the College's exercise of its sincerely-held religious beliefs. It therefore granted plaintiff Louisiana College summary judgment as to its Religious Freedom and Restoration Act claim.
Bill (H.R. 5298) introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Representative Michael Turner (R-OH) entitled the "Student Job Protection Act of 2014." The bill would amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to exempt student workers from the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) employer mandate, which requires certain employers—including colleges and universities—to offer health insurance plans to employees working at least thirty hours per week.
Letters from the American Council on Education (ACE) and seven other higher education organizations to U.S. Representatives Mark Meadows (R-NC) and Michael Turner (R-OH) endorsing the Student Worker Exemption Act of 2014 (H.R. 5262) and the Student Job Protection Act of 2014 (H.R. 5298), which would exempt student workers from the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) employer mandate. The signers contend that, given the budgetary constraints institutions are already facing, the employer mandate could force some institutions to choose between ensuring that students have sufficient work opportunities to pay for school and limiting student work hours to avoid additional health insurance costs. They commend the Representatives for their leadership on the issue and offer their assistance in advancing the two bills.
Resolution on campus sexual violence was unanimously approved by the National Collegiate Athletic Association's (NCAA) Executive Committee. The Resolution asserts that athletic departments at institutions of higher education must "cooperate but not manage, direct, control or interfere with" institutions' investigations into allegations of sexual violence when those investigations involve student-athletes or athletics department staff. It further directs athletics departments to cooperate with campus authorities; educate all college athletes, coaches, and staff about sexual violence prevention and response; and ensure compliance with all federal and state regulations related to sexual violence.
Press release issued by the White House announcing that it plans to hold a second summit on expanding college access on December 4, 2014. The goal of this summit will be to build on the work from the first College Opportunity Summit, which was held in January 2014, and to launch new initiatives geared toward building partnerships between K-12 schools, higher education institutions, and communities to support college access and completion. The press release also includes an announcement of three new private and public sector commitments to expand college opportunity.
Revised accreditation standards were approved by the American Bar Association. These changes include new provisions requiring that law students receive at least six credit hours of experiential learning and allowing schools to fill up to ten percent of their entering classes with students who have not taken the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). In addition, results of the teaching process at each school will be measured on the basis of outcomes, such as bar passage rate, rather than inputs, such as libraries and other support facilities.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed a summary judgment in favor of Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, dismissing claims by a graduate nursing student who was expelled because of inadequate academic performance. The plaintiff, who had been a student at the former University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey prior to the merger of the nursing school into Rutgers, asserted contract claims, arguing that the grade standard that had been in effect when he first matriculated should govern his grading, and that the university was barred from making those grade standards more rigorous while the student was in the program. The Court affirmed the lower court’s holding that the former student failed to “present sufficient factual evidence that a reasonable factfinder could rely on to conclude that UMDNJ violated its rules and regulations in some substantial way.” The student also asserted that the university violated his constitutional due process rights, and discriminated against him on the basis of his military status. The Court similarly affirmed the dismissal of the student’s due process claims, adopting the District Court’s finding that the “dismissal was based on academic grounds and not due to other non-academic disciplinary grounds,” and that the student “received all the process to which he was entitled.” Finally, the Court affirmed the dismissal of the military status discrimination claim, observing that “there are not sufficient facts in the record to conclude that any discrimination or retaliation occurred based on [the student’s] military status.”
Revised “Statement of Expectations” for the Board of Visitors of the University of Virginia was released to the public. The original draft included a controversial provision that prohibited Visitors from openly opposing the Board’s actions once the Board reached a decision on a given matter. The Board has now replaced that provision with a statement that reads: “Once decisions are reached . . . Visitors bear a collective responsibility to ensure, as much as possible, that the Board’s actions and decisions are successfully implemented.”
Plaintiffs, twenty current and former college student-athletes, filed a class action suit against the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) challenging several association rules that the plaintiffs contend violate the Sherman Antitrust Act. The rules at issue bar student-athletes from receiving a share of the revenue that the NCAA and its member schools earn from the sale of licenses to use the student-athletes' names, images, and likenesses in videogames, live game telecasts, and other footage. The Court held that the challenged NCAA rules unreasonably restrain trade in two related national markets: the college education market and the group licensing market. It further found that the pro-competitive justifications that the NCAA offers do not justify this restraint and could be achieved through less-restrictive means. The court will enter a permanent injunction prohibiting certain overly-restrictive restraints as a remedy.
Joint press release issued by the City University of New York (CUNY), the Professional Staff Congress (PSC)- CUNY's faculty union, and various city and state officials announcing that they have reached an agreement to allow eligible CUNY adjunct faculty members to receive health insurance through the New York City Health Benefits Program. In the past, funds were provided to the union's Welfare Fund according to the union's contract negotiations with CUNY, but the fund was unable to keep up with the demand as more adjuncts were hired. The agreement will help stabilize the finances of the PSC-CUNY Welfare Fund through additional funding from the state.
Statement released by the Department of Energy's Office of Science (DOE) announcing new requirements for the management of digital research data. These new requirements call for all research funding proposals submitted to the Office to include a Data Management Plan addressing four issues and were designed to comply with a February 2013 Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) directive. The new requirements will appear in funding solicitations beginning on October 1, 2014.
Statement issued by the Association of American Universities (AAU) on the recently-introduced America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2014. In the statement, AAU praises Senator Rockefeller and his colleagues for introducing the Act, which it says will establish "robust but sustainable" funding increases for organizations that are "critical to fostering the nation's innovation enterprise," underscore the value of cross-discipline research, and recognize the success and significance of the National Science Foundation's (NSF) merit review process.
Order from the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois on defendants' motion to dismiss. Plaintiff Jerome Cole, the only African American building services supervisor at Northern Illinois University (NIU), sued his employer and several of NIU's employees, alleging violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1981, 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and Title VII. Cole accused his employer of filing fraudulent bills of lading in his name, overpaying employees who acted under his supervision, falsely accusing him of unauthorized possession of a set of keys, and placing a hangman's noose at his workstation on two occasions, all out of alleged racial animus. The Court held that Cole established a sufficiently plausible link between his demotion, transfer, and three-day suspension, and alleged racial discrimination on behalf of his employer to survive a motion to dismiss the disparate treatment and hostile work environment complaints. The Court further denied the defendant's motion to dismiss the retaliation claim, holding that the plaintiff's assertion that his suspension amounted to retaliation was plausible based on the fact that it occurred shortly after he reported the noose incidents to the police and filed complaints with NIU's human resources department and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Legislative proposal to reform the governance structure for Division I athletic programs was adopted by the National Collegiate Athletics Association's (NCAA) Division I Board of Governors. The new model would grant flexibility to schools in the Atlantic Coast, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12, and Southeastern Conferences to change rules for themselves in specific areas within Division I. It would also streamline and simplify the Council governance process and expand Board membership. The proposed legislation is subject to a sixty-day override period, allowing the Board to reconsider the change if at least seventy-five schools request an override.
Report released by a nine-member panel of the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators' (NASFAA) Consumer Information Task Force on federal requirements for consumer information disclosure. The task force was convened to review current student consumer information requirements and propose ways to streamline both the content and delivery of those requirements. The report contains fifteen improvements to federal disclosure rules that NASFAA recommends lawmakers consider.
Proposed rule issued by the Department of Education to amend the Federal Direct Loan Program. The rule would update the standard for determining if a potential parent or student borrower has an adverse credit history for the purpose of eligibility for a Direct PLUS Loan (PLUS loan) by altering the definition of "adverse credit history." Additionally, the rule would require that applicants who are determined to have an adverse credit history but who can prove that extenuating circumstances existed complete PLUS loan counseling prior to receiving the loan.
Bill (H.R. 5262) introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Congressman Mark Meadows (R-NC) and nine other members on student workers. The measure would amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to exempt student workers from being taken into account for the purposes of determining a higher education institution's employer health care shared responsibility under the Affordable Care Act.
Letter from six Democratic Senators, led by Senators Tom Harkin of Iowa and Dick Durbin of Illinois, to President Barack Obama asking the Administration to undertake a full assessment of the risks posed by publicly-traded, for-profit colleges based on a series of nine questions. The letter was written in light of the recent financial collapse of Corinthian Colleges Inc. and the Department of Education's alleged lack of adequate information, resources, and expertise to monitor the financial integrity of similarly-situated institutions.
Order on appeal from the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania's grant of summary judgment in favor of the defendant Corinthian Colleges, Inc. Plaintiff Lisa Lupyan was fired from her position as an instructor in Corinthian's Applied Science Management program when she failed to return from medical leave. She filed suit against her former employer, alleging that it interfered with her rights under theFamily and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) by failing to give her notice that her leave fell under the Act, and that she was fired in retaliation for taking FMLA leave. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals held that a genuine issue of material fact existed as to whether the plaintiff received timely personal notice of her FMLA rights because Corinthian did not provide any direct evidence to counter Lupyan's affidavit claiming that she never received the letter notifying her of her rights that Corinthian claimed to have sent. On Lupyan's retaliation claim, the Court held that, given the "unusual nature" of her termination and its proximity to her medical leave, a jury could reasonably conclude that Lupyan's request for FMLA leave motivated differential treatment. The Court therefore reversed the District Court's order granting summary judgment on Lupyan's FMLA interference and retaliation claims and remanded for further proceedings.
Former Assistant Professor and Art Director, Dr. Ann T. Shafer, filed suit against the American University in Cairo (AUC) claiming that she was subjected to a hostile work environment, demoted, and discriminated against relative to tenure as a result of her identity as a white American who converted to Islam shortly after being hired, and that the AUC retaliated against her when she filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The District Court asserted that it could not infer invidious discrimination from the fact that Shafer was removed from the Director position for several transgressions, including poor performance and extended absences from campus at the beginning of two semesters, and that she was not granted tenure when she did not apply. Even assuming Shafer had established a prima facie case of discrimination, the Court found that she could not successfully rebut AUC's proffered non-discriminatory reasons for the adverse actions taken against her, could not demonstrate that the defendant created a hostile work environment from the allegedly offensive tone of emails or stray comments from non-employees, and presented no evidence to show she was treated less well than her non-Muslim colleagues. Therefore, the Court granted summary judgment to the defendants on the discrimination claim. However, the Court also held that Shafer's removal from committees and AUC's decision to record faculty meetings expressly because Shafer filed an EEOC complaint could constitute a "materially adverse action" and thus denied the defendants' motion for summary judgment on Shafer's retaliation claim.
Letter from the U.S. Department of Education notifying the University of Nebraska-Kearney (UNK) that the Department intends to impose a total fine of $65,000 on UNK for failing to comply with the Clery Act. The fine stems from a 2010 compliance review in which the Department found that UNK failed to compile a complete and accurate 2009 Annual Security Report, improperly reported a 2008 burglary as a larceny, and failed to properly distribute its 2009 Annual Security Report to prospective employees and graduate students. The University announced the fines in a statement released on August 4, expressing disappointment in the "nature and magnitude" of the fines but promising to "remain proactive and vigilant" in ensuring campus safety and complying with the Clery Act in the future.
Companion bill to the bipartisan Campus Accountability and Safety Act (CASA), introduced by Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and seven other senators in the U.S. Senate on July 30th, was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by a bipartisan coalition of eighteen House members led by Representative Jackie Speier (D-CA). The language of the House bill, entitled the "Hold Accountable and Lend Transparency on Campus Sexual Violence Act (HALT Campus Sexual Violence Act)," mirrors that of its Senate companion bill. Both bills establish new campus support services for student survivors, ensure minimum training standards for campus personnel, create new transparency requirements, increase local law enforcement coordination, and establish new penalties for Title IX violations and increased penalties for Clery Act violations.
Annual letter from the U.S. Department of Education was sent to the chief executive officers of all institutions of higher education on the campus safety and security information survey for the fall of 2014. The letter includes an explanation of any changes to the survey, survey collection dates, the name of the person who completed the reporting at the institution the previous year, and a new ID and password for completing the survey. This year's letter is also accompanied by a copy of the amendments to the Clery Act by the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 (VAWA) and the Dear Colleague Letter providing guidance to institutions regarding their compliance responsibilities under the new amendments before the final regulations go into effect.
Staff working draft of the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2014 was introduced in the U.S. Senate by Senator John D. Rockefeller (D-WV) and five other senators. The measure includes a five-year (FY15-FY19) reauthorization of the America COMPETES Act, which was originally passed in 2007 and reauthorized in 2010, and is designed to increase investments in key federal research and development activities through the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology; to advance science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education; and to support the innovation necessary for economic growth.
Comments submitted to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) by four higher education organizations (including the Association of American Universities (AAU), the Association of University Technology Managers (AUTM), the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU), and the Council on Governmental Relations (COGR)) expressing concerns about the office's guidance memorandum on determining which natural phenomena and products are eligible for patent consideration. The organizations contend that the USPTO guidance is "overly broad" and that it disregards the Supreme Court's warning in Mayo v. Prometheus (556 U.S. __ (2012)) against interpreting its holdings in a way that might stifle innovation. Based on the two major flaws described in the letter, the organizations urge the USPTO to revise its guidance to help ensure that the benefits of university research reach the American public and stimulate the economy.
Bill (H.R. 3230) to require public institutions of higher education to provide in-state tuition rates to veterans within three years of the veteran's discharge from active-duty was approved by a 91-3 vote in the U.S. Senate. Spouses and dependents of veterans would also be eligible for in-state tuition. Institutions that do not offer the benefit would not be allowed to continue to accept Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits. The legislation previously passed the U.S. House and will now be sent to President Obama's desk for signature.
Order by the Wisconsin Supreme Court upholding the constitutionality of Wisconsin's Act 10. Among other provisions, Act 10 prohibits public employees from collectively bargaining on issues other than base wages, prohibits municipal employers from deducting labor organization dues from paychecks of public employees, imposes annual recertification requirements, and prohibits fair share agreements requiring non-represented public employees to make contributions to labor organizations. Plaintiffs Madison Teachers, Inc. and Public Employees Local 61 challenged the constitutionality of the law, alleging that these provisions violate the constitutional associational and equal protection rights of the employees they represent. The Court rejected the plaintiffs' argument, holding that collective bargaining is not a constitutional right but rather "a creation of legislative grace" that the First Amendment cannot be used to expand.
Bill (S. 2712) to amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to allow adjunct faculty members who have student loan debt to qualify for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program was introduced by Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL). The program allows public and non-profit employees to apply for forgiveness of the remaining balance of their federal student loans after they have made a certain number qualifying payments on those loans while employed full-time.
Summary and analysis of the Fifth Circuit's July 15, 2014 decision in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin provided by the College Board's Access & Diversity Collaborative, including a list of five key takeaways for institutions.
Notice issued by the U.S. Department of Education inviting institutions of higher education to participate in new, institutionally-based experiments under its Experimental Sites Initiative (ESI). Under the ESI, the Secretary of Education has the authority to grant waivers from certain Title IV statutory and regulatory requirements, thereby allowing a limited number of institutions to participate in experiments to test alternative methods for administering Title IV programs. Letters of application must be received by the Department no later than September 29, 2014.
Bill to amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to support survivors of sexual assault introduced in the U.S. Senate by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA). The legislation would require every institution of higher education that receives federal funding to designate an independent advocate for campus sexual assault prevention and response. This advocate would be responsible for ensuring that sexual assault survivors have access to medical care, forensic or evidentiary exams, counseling, guidance on reporting assaults to law enforcement, and information on their legal rights.
Order by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit affirming the district court's grant of the defendant University's motion for summary judgment. Michael Dunn, a 47-year-old former computing employee at Boston University (BU), claimed that BU discharged him due to his age in violation of the Massachusetts Fair Employment Practices Act (Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 151B, § 4.1B). In upholding the district court's ruling, the First Circuit held that the fact that Dunn's responsibilities were reassigned to younger co-worker did not establish a prima facie case of age discrimination. It further held that because the increasing integration of the University's field and central support divisions called for their consolidation under a single manager, BU had a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for eliminating Dunn's job, consolidating his duties with those of younger coworkers to create a new position, and for awarding that position to a younger coworker who had experience with the duties required under the new position.
Bill to amend the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) (20 U.S.C. § 1232g) intended to improve protection of student education records handled by private companies was introduced in the U.S. Senate by Senator Ed Markey (D-MA). Its provisions require such companies to put in place safeguards to protect sensitive student data, keep records of other outside entities that have access to the data they store, destroy personally identifiable data once it is no longer needed, and provide access to student data they hold when requested by a parent. The measure also minimizes the amount of personally identifiable information that is transferred from schools to private companies.
Bipartisan bill to amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 and the Clery Act was introduced by Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and seven other senators. The legislation establishes minimum training standards for campus personnel regarding campus investigations of sexual assaults and requires institutions to designate Confidential Advisors to be responsible for providing guidance and support services to survivors. To increase coordination with outside law enforcement, institutions would be required to enter into memoranda of understanding with local law enforcement agencies to delineate responsibilities and streamline the sharing of information during investigations. Finally, the results of surveys of all students regarding their experience with sexual assault on campus would be published annually, and the Department of Education would be required to publish the names of schools with pending Title IX investigations as well as all final resolutions and voluntary resolution agreements related to Title IX. Institutions that do not comply with Title IX requirements may face penalties of up to one percent of the institution's operating budget, and Clery Act violations may result in penalties of up to $150,000 per violation.
Tentative settlement agreement has been reached in a class action suit filed against the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) over concussions in college sports. As part of the settlement, the NCAA has agreed to establish a $70 million Medical Monitoring fund for testing and diagnosing concussions in NCAA-sanctioned student-athletes, including current student-athletes and those who have competed in all contact sports and divisions within the past fifty years. An additional $5 million will be put toward concussion research and education. U.S. District Judge John Z. Lee must approve the agreement before it goes into effect.
Letter from the University of Arizona's Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs and Provost Andrew Comrie denying an administrative appeal for reinstatement filed by Dr. Suzanne Sisley, a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry in the University's College of Medicine who was studying the effects of medical marijuana on military veterans diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. The University refused to renew Dr. Sisley's contract on June 27, claiming insufficient funding for her research and a shift in the direction of the program in which she worked. Dr. Sisley, however, claimed that state legislators who disapproved of her research pressured the University to fire her. Provost Comrie found no reason to reverse the nonrenewal decision.
Report on the Post-9/11 GI Bill released by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) on behalf of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee's Democratic majority. The report found that enrollment of veterans in for-profit colleges increased sharply during the 2012-2013 academic year despite a decline in overall student enrollment in for-profit colleges. It further discovered that these companies appear to be "increasingly dependent" on veteran enrollment, since the bill's benefits are exempt from regulations forbidding colleges to receive more than ninety percent of their revenue from federal grants and loans.
Decision issued by the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination upholding a 2011 Commission finding in favor of Lulu Sun, an English professor at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth. In her original complaint, Sun claimed the University discriminated against her on the basis of gender, race, and national origin; and alleged that administrators retaliated against her for refusing to withdraw her application for promotion. The hearing officer ruled in favor of Sun, ordered the University to promote her to full professor, and awarded her all her lost wages as well as $200,000 in damages. The University appealed the damages, arguing that the extent to which the situation had impacted Sun's well-being—including how long Sun had suffered a rash she said was induced by stress—was exaggerated. The Commission found there was insufficient evidence to overturn any of the 2011 decision.
Letter to President Barack Obama from fifty Virginia college presidents objecting to the President's proposed college ratings system. The signers assert that the ratings system, which links an institution's rating to its federal financial aid award, is "misguided" due to the "problematic nature" of the system itself as well as its potential to put needy students at a disadvantage. A draft plan of the ratings system is expected to be released this fall.
Order from the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia granting the defendant University's motion for summary judgment. The plaintiff, former Professor Richard Soland, filed suit alleging that George Washington University (GW) breached a fiduciary duty under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) (29 U.S.C. § 1001) by failing to inform him of a department-wide retirement plan that he believed was being developed at the time he was negotiating his retirement. Because he was not made aware of the new plan during these negotiations, Soland claimed that GW caused him to accept a less-beneficial retirement package. The Court concluded that Soland failed to offer evidence tending to prove that GW made a misstatement or "misleadingly omitted" information about the plan. Furthermore, because Soland did not put forth evidence showing that GW had engaged in anything other than "the antecedent steps of gathering information, developing strategies, and analyzing options," the Court held that the plan was "in too nascent a stage" to require disclosure. It thus ruled in favor of the defendant University.
Same-Sex Marriage: Bostic v. Shaefer
(July 28, 2014)
Order on appeal by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirming the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia's ruling in favor of the plaintiffs. The plaintiffs—two same-sex couples—challenged the constitutionality of Virginia Code Sections 20-45.2 and 20-45.3, the Marshall/Newman state constitutional amendment, and "any other Virginia law that bars same-sex marriage or prohibits the State's recognition of otherwise lawful same-sex marriages from other jurisdictions" (collectively the "Virginia Marriage Laws"). Plaintiffs from a similar case pending in the Western District of Virginia, who certified their case as a class action on behalf of all same-sex couples in Virginia, successfully intervened. In applying strict scrutiny analysis to the Virginia Marriage Laws, the Court ruled that all of defendants' proffered justifications failed and, therefore, held that Virginia's Marriage Laws violated the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to the extent that they prohibit same-sex couples from marrying and forbid Virginia from recognizing same-sex couples' lawful, out-of-state marriages.
Annual memorandum issued by the White House to federal research agencies offering guidance on their development of science and technology priorities in their fiscal year 2016 budget requests. The priorities represent "variations on themes from earlier years" and include advanced manufacturing, clean energy, climate change research, information technology, biological innovation, national security, and research and development for informed policymaking.
Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act was signed into law by President Barack Obama. The law was designed to ensure effective worker education and workforce development opportunities. It will provide for continued community college representation on local workforce development boards and improved performance accountability metrics. The measure also increases focus on the transition to postsecondary education for adult basic education students.
Draft committee report on legislation to finance the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies for the fiscal year of 2014 was published by the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee. The draft of the bill would reportedly provide $30.5 billion for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), an increase of $606 million above the FY14 level. In terms of student financial aid, the bill would maintain the discretionary portion of the maximum Pell grant award for the 2015-2016 school year at $4,860. The bill would also increase funding for several campus-based student aid programs, including Federal Work Study, TRIO, Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants, and GearUP.
Report on a draft of its Energy and Water Appropriations Bill for the Fiscal Year 2015 was published by the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee. The bill would provide $5.086 billion for the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science, representing a $15 million increase over the fiscal year 2014 level. The Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy would receive $280 million, the same amount as it received for the fiscal year 2014 but $45 million below the Administration's request. The DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy would receive $2.073 billion, a $171.24 million increase over the fiscal year 2014 funding level but $243.821 million below the Administration's request.
Bill (H.R. 3393) to amend the Internal Revenue Code to consolidate education tax benefits was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives. The measure would replace the current Hope Scholarship tax credit, the Lifetime Learning tax credit, and the tax deduction for qualified tuition and related expenses with a single, permanent American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC). It would also change how the tax credit is calculated to more fully account for Pell Grant recipients.
Dear Colleague Letter released by the Department of Education on how the United States v. Windsor (570 U.S. ___ (2013)) decision affects the eligibility of spouses of certain members of the armed forces to receive in-state tuition at public institutions of higher education. The Letter states that, for the purpose of determining eligibility for spousal in-state tuition, the Department will acknowledge any marriage that is recognized by the jurisdiction in which the marriage took place without regard to whether the marriage is between persons of the same sex or the opposite sex.
Dear Colleague Letter released by the Department of Education clarifying the United States v. Windsor (570 U.S. ___ (2013)) decision's effect on Title IV student financial assistance programs. The Letter states that, for all income-driven repayment plan purposes, the term "spouse" includes a same-sex spouse as long as the borrower and spouse were legally married in a jurisdiction that recognizes the marriage, regardless of where the couple resides. It also declares that a stepparent who is of the same sex as the dependent student's biological or adoptive parent, who is legally married to the biological or adoptive parent in a jurisdiction that recognizes the marriage, and who meets the definition of "parent" in 34 CFR 668.2 may apply for a Direct PLUS Loan.
Report on an investigation by Ohio State University into a report of sexual harassment within the University's marching band. The report concluded that the marching band's culture "facilitated acts of sexual harassment, creating hostile environment for students," and that the marching band director, Jonathan Waters, knew or should have known about inappropriate rituals and traditions among student members but failed to address their occurrence or effects. As a result of the investigation, the University fired Mr. Waters.
Bill (H.R. 3136) to amend Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives by a vote of 414-0. The measure directs the Secretary of Education to select institutions of higher education for voluntary participation in Competency-Based Education Demonstration Programs. Such programs would provide participating institutions with the ability to offer competency-based education that does not meet certain statutory and regulatory requirements, which would otherwise prevent those institutions from participating in federal student aid programs.
Bill (H.R. 4983) to amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives by a voice vote. The legislation is designed to “simplify and streamline” information that the Department of Education provides to prospective students about higher education institutions. It would create a "College Dashboard" website with information and data on enrollment, costs, financial aid, graduation rates, etc. to replace the Department of Education's existing College Navigator website. The Act would also eliminate the requirement that the Secretary of Education release college affordability and transparency lists and state higher education spending charts to the public.
Bill (A.B. 1989) to exempt underage students enrolled in winemaking and brewery courses from being found guilty of a misdemeanor under the Alcohol Beverage Control Act for consuming alcoholic beverages while in class was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown. The law only permits students between the ages of eighteen and twenty-one to “taste” the beverage, a term defined as “draw[ing] an alcoholic beverage into the mouth, but does not include swallowing or otherwise consuming the alcoholic beverage.”
Comments submitted by the American Council of Education (ACE) to the Department of Education on its proposed regulations implementing changes to the Clery Act made by the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) Reauthorization Act. The comments address several concerns that ACE has with areas where the Department invited input, including provisions related to the reporting of stalking, the identification of the relationship between the perpetrator and the victim in reports, the calculation of costs and benefits of reporting, the definition of non-criminal offenses as crimes for the purposes of Clery Act disclosures, and the requirement that the accuser and the accused be entitled to have an advisor accompany him or her during campus sexual assault proceedings.
Plan to alter and expand federal job-training programs released by Vice President Joe Biden. During his 2014 State of the Union Address, President Barack Obama announced that he had assigned the Vice President to lead the effort to review the nation's worker programs and design a plan based on these findings. The plan will require grant applicants to follow a "job-driven checklist" consisting of seven elements, including increased collaboration with employers, more on-the-job training, and improved tracking of employment outcomes.
New Experimental Sites Initiative announced by the U.S. Department of Education. The initiative will allow institutions to apply for limited waivers that will give them flexibility over a portion of their federal student aid. This flexibility will enable institutions to implement experiments designed to provide "better, faster and more flexible paths to academic and career success." Applications for the waivers will be due in late September.
Letter from Senators Mark Udall (D-CO) and Claire McCaskill (D-MO) to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan regarding access to information on sexual assault nurse examiners ("forensic nurses"). Specifically, the Senators request that the Department of Education, as part of its implementation of the Campus SaVE Act, require institutions to provide written notification to students and campus personnel of the availability of forensic nurses on campus and the surrounding community.
Press release issued by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, Western Association of Schools and Colleges (ACCJC) announcing that it will not reconsider its decision to revoke the City College of San Francisco's (CCSF) accreditation after an independent appeals panel ordered ACCJC to review the College's compliance with accreditation standards. Upon review of testimony and documentary evidence describing CCSF's progress toward compliance, the Commission concluded that CCSF did not establish that it met ACCJC's accreditation standards as of May 21, 2014. The College may now move to the third administrative process by applying for restoration status, which would grant CCSF two additional years to come into compliance with these standards.
Memorandum opinion issued by the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania refusing the plaintiffs' motion to use fictitious names while proceeding with a Fourth Amendment lawsuit against Bucknell University. The plaintiffs, six former Bucknell students, wanted to remain anonymous because the suit would result in public revelation of their possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia. The Court held that the only harm the plaintiffs identified—the embarrassment caused by public disclosure of their possession of contraband and possible denial of future employment—did not qualify as an exception to the strong presumption of openness in the federal court.
Order by the Iowa Supreme Court affirming a district court's award of intentional infliction of emotional distress damages and reputational-harm damages to former marketing specialist Dennis Smith, but reversing its award of damages to the plaintiff under the state's whistleblower law. Smith sued the Iowa State University of Science and Technology (ISU) and the state of Iowa for intentional infliction of emotional distress and retaliation by his superiors, including his former boss, whom Smith alleged had engaged in unlawful activity. The state Supreme Court concluded that Smith's superiors had "engaged in unremitting psychological warfare against Smith over a substantial period of time." It thus affirmed the jury verdicts of liability and award of damages to the plaintiff for intentional infliction of emotional distress and also upheld district court's award of reputational-harm damages to the plaintiff after finding that the state failed to preserve error with respect to the challenge to that award it is now pursuing on appeal. However, the Court agreed with the state that Smith's loss of his job in a downsizing that occurred in 2010 could not be causally linked to any reporting he made to ISU's president three years earlier and therefore vacated $634,027.04 of Smith's whistleblower damages.
S. 2244 was passed by the Senate and would renew the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act for an additional seven years. The original Act, implemented in 2002, established a public-private risk sharing mechanism to pay the federal share of compensation for insured losses resulting from terrorist acts, thereby helping ensure that colleges and universities can purchase adequate and affordable insurance coverage to protect against losses resulting from a terrorist attack.
Policy brief published by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) regarding the proposed "Pay it Forward, Pay it Back" solution to the problem of financing student tuition. This method would eliminate up-front tuition and fee payments at public institutions in exchange for students agreeing to pay the institution a pre-determined, fixed portion of their annual earnings after graduation. The AASCU brief argues that Pay it Forward would ultimately harm colleges, students, and taxpayers because it fails to address the underlying factors associated with high levels of student debt, would create substantial financial uncertainty for public institutions, and would make college more expensive for most graduates.
Corporate filing by DeVry University in which the University discloses that it is under investigation by New York's attorney general for possible "false advertising and deceptive practices" in its television ads and website marketing. A letter from the state's Office of the Attorney General requested relevant information from January 1, 2011, to the present that would allow the Office to determine whether any legal action against the University is warranted. DeVry stated that it intends to fully cooperate with the investigation.
Bill to appropriate funds to the Department of Defense for the fiscal year of 2015 (H.R. 4870) was approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee. The measure would increase the budget for basic research programs to $2.27 billion, an increase of five percent from the fiscal year 2014 budget. However, it would also cut overall appropriations for Defense research, development, testing & evaluation by $428 million; and cut Defense science and technology funding by $146 million.
Bill entitled the "America Gives More Act of 2014" (H.R. 4719) was approved by the House of Representatives. The legislation contains a package of five charitable giving tax provisions, including a permanent extension of the IRA Charitable Rollover.
Letter from the American Council on Education (ACE) on behalf of itself and nine other higher education organizations expressing concern over the Student and Family Tax Simplification Act (H.R. 3393). The authors approve of the proposed consolidation and simplification of current higher education tax credits as well as the improved coordination with the Pell Grant. However, they add that they cannot support the bill as currently written because other proposed changes would harm many low- and middle-income students who benefit from the existing law as well as graduate students and lifetime learners who use the current tax deduction or the Lifetime Learning Credit.
Settlement reached in a suit filed against the University of Connecticut (UConn) by five current and former students alleging that the University violated Title IX. The settlement was announced in a joint statement released by UConn and the plaintiffs. Under the settlement terms, UConn has agreed to pay the plaintiffs $1.225 million, which includes damages and attorneys' fees that the plaintiffs claimed or could have claimed in the lawsuit. In addition to withdrawing their federal suit, various plaintiffs agreed to withdraw their complaints filed with the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights and the EEOC. The settlement does not constitute an admission of guilty by the University.
Comments released by eleven higher education groups and libraries regarding the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) notice of proposed rulemaking on net neutrality. The groups criticize the proposal, which would creating a "fast lane" for online traffic for vendors willing to pay for access, arguing that it "fall[s] short of what is necessary to ensure that libraries, institutions of higher education and the public at large will have access to an open Internet." They suggest that the FCC instead design open Internet rules to promote research, learning, education, and the free flow of information by ensuring that the rules cover institutions that serve the public interest by prohibiting paid prioritization, exempting private networks and end users from open Internet rules, and making the rules technology-neutral.
Press release issued by the U.S. Department of Education indicating that it has assigned Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP & Affiliates, under the leadership of former U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, to monitor the closure and sale of Corinthian College. On July 3, the Department and Corinthian entered into an operating agreement requiring that an independent monitor oversee the process. Mr. Fitzgerald and his firm are tasked with the role of confirming that Corinthian provides the Department with an accurate accounting of its operations "to ensure students are protected" and to "protect the integrity of taxpayers' investment."
Order by the Wisconsin Supreme Court reversing the appeals court ruling in favor of the defendant and former University of Wisconsin System (UW) student, Jeff Decker. The case arose after Decker repeatedly disrupted campus meetings, trespassed on UW property, and attempted to purchase a gun after police tried to serve him with a temporary restraining order, in an effort to protest UW's use of student funds. The state Supreme Court held that Wis. Stat. § 813.125 can extend injunctive protection to institutions and that the circuit court's decision to grant a harassment injunction against Decker was a proper exercise of its discretion. After concluding that sufficient evidence existed for the circuit court to find that Decker's conduct constituted harassment and lacked a legitimate purpose, the Court reversed the court of appeals' decision to overturn the injunction and remanded the case to the circuit court to clarify and refine the terms of the injunction because the parties agreed that it was overbroad.
Letter from the New England Association of Schools and Colleges' (NEASC) Commission on Institutions of Higher Education to the president of Gordon College regarding concerns that the school's accreditation is in jeopardy due to its recent request for an exemption from federal antidiscrimination requirements. The letter states that the planned discussion of Gordon's policies at the Commission's September meeting is "common practice" when controversies over policies covered by accreditation standards gain prominent media attention. It also assures the president that Gordon has no chance of having its accreditation withdrawn or of being placed on probation as a result of the discussion.
Bill to amend the state university exemption to public records laws in Delaware's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) was signed into law by Governor Jack Markell. Although the law largely preserves public records and open meetings exemptions for the University of Delaware and Delaware State University, it requires the two universities to produce records of proposals or contracts "relat[ing] to the expenditure of public funds."
Order by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania granting defendant Temple University's motion for summary judgment. The case arose when Mable Jones, an African-American woman and former physician at the Temple University Hospital, sued the University alleging that it had discriminated against her because of her race and sex when she was not promoted and ultimately terminated from her employment. The Court found that Temple put forth legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons for its decision to hire a highly-experienced radiologist and administrator as Chief of the Radiology Department instead of the plaintiff; and that the plaintiff failed to identify a similarly-situated, non-African-American or male employee who was retained despite the University's reduction in force in light of budget issues. Because Jones did not set forth evidence that would enable a jury to reasonably find in her favor, the Court granted the defendant's motion for summary judgment.
Latest version of the Department of Defense's Voluntary Education Partnership Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), which has been updated to incorporate a minor technical change from a version released on May 15. Institutions participating in the program now have until September 5 to sign the MOU—even if they have already signed the previous version—to ensure that service members on their campuses continue to receive tuition support.
Questions & Answers published by the American Council on Education (ACE) and the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO) on the latest version of the Department of Defense's Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) regarding its tuition assistance program. Colleges and universities are now required to sign the revised MOU by September 5 if they wish to participate in the program.
Order by a three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals affirming the district court's grant of summary judgment to the defendant University of Texas at Austin (UT). UT denied admission to Abigail Fisher, a Texas resident who did not qualify for automatic admission under the state's Top Ten Percent Plan and was instead considered under the holistic review program. Fisher sued the University, arguing that the facially-neutral Top Ten Percent Plan—which guarantees Texas residents graduating in the top ten percent of their high school class admission to any public university in Texas—is sufficient to enable the University to attain the educational benefits of diversity, and that the holistic review process—which takes into account many factors, including an applicant's achievements, extracurricular activities, work experiences, socioeconomic status, and race, among others—violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. After the district court and the Fifth Circuit ruled in favor of UT, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the lower courts reviewed UT's admissions programs with undue deference, and thus vacated the decision and remanded to the Fifth Circuit with orders to examine UT's efforts to achieve diversity using strict scrutiny. A majority of the Fifth Circuit panel concluded that UT "has demonstrated that race-conscious holistic review is necessary to make the Top Ten Percent Plan workable by patching the holes that a mechanical admissions program leaves in its ability to achieve the rich diversity that contributes to its academic mission." Further, the court ruled that, "We are persuaded that to deny UT Austin its limited use of race in its search for holistic diversity would hobble the richness of the educational experience in contradiction of the plain teachings of Bakke and Grutter."
Dear Colleague Letter released by the Department of Education on complying with the Clery Act (20 U.S.C. 1092(f)). In response to numerous inquiries the Department received asking for clarification on Clery Act compliance, the letter states that until the Department's final rules are published and take effect, higher education institutions "must make a good-faith effort to comply with the statutory provisions as written." Examples of such good-faith efforts include revising policy statements to include investigation procedures, evidence standards, and the options available to victims in changing their academic, transportation, and living situations in the aftermath of an alleged sexual assault.
Bill introduced by Representatives David Price (D-NC) and Tom Petri (D-WI) that would require public and private institutions, athletic conferences, and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) to provide the federal government with detailed revenue and expenditure data on an annual basis, which would then be released to the public.
Corporate filing issued by the Apollo Education Group, parent company of the University of Phoenix, announcing that the U.S. Department of Education will conduct an "ordinary course program review" of the University's financial-aid administration under Title IV, as well as its compliance with the Clery Act (20 U.S.C. § 1092(f)), the Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act (20 U.S.C. § 1011i), and related regulations. The review is scheduled to begin on August 4, 2014 and will cover the financial aid years of 2012-2013 and 2013-2014.
Testimony submitted by the American Council on Education (ACE) on behalf of itself and nine other higher-education organizations to the Senate Committee on Finance regarding the Committee's Hearing on Higher Education and the Tax Code. In its testimony, ACE expresses approval of the "three-legged stool" framework within the current tax code that furthers three important goals: encouraging people to save for higher education, helping students and families pay for college, and assisting borrowers in repaying their student loans. ACE also reiterates its support for legislative efforts to consolidate and simplify tax incentives in order to increase their effectiveness and enhance access to higher education.
Joint media statement released by the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) and David S. Cunningham, an African-American judge who filed suit against the University alleging that he had been the victim of racial profiling and mistreatment during a traffic stop by campus police. UCLA agreed to pay Judge Cunningham $150,000 in legal fees, to create a $350,000 scholarship fund in the Judge's name, and to increase diversity training for its police force to settle the complaint.
The Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations bill for the fiscal year of 2015 was approved by the U.S. House of Representatives. The measure would provide the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science with $5.071 billion. Although this total is equivalent to the Office's fiscal year 2014 funding, the bill changes the amount appropriated to specific programs within that total.
Bill to fund the Department of the Interior, environment, and related agencies for the fiscal year of 2015 was approved by the House Interior-Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee. The bill would cut $8 million in funding of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), from $146 million during the fiscal year of 2014 to $138 million in 2015.
Letter submitted to the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee by the Association of American Universities (AAU) and the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU) on legislation to reauthorize basic and applied research programs in the Department of Energy (DOE). The letter commends the proposed increase in authorized funding for the DOE Office of Science as well as the exemption granted to universities and nonprofit organizations from the existing 20 percent matching requirement for conducting DOE applied research and development. However, it expresses "strong concern" regarding cuts to funding for the Biological and Environment Research program in the Office of Science, the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy (ARPA-E), and the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) research program.
Package of three bills to reauthorize the Higher Education Act was approved by the House Education and the Workforce Committee. The bills include the Strengthening Transparency in Higher Education Act (H.R. 4983), the Advancing Competency-Based Education Demonstration Project Act (H.R. 3136), and the Empowering Students through Enhanced Financial Counseling Act (H.R. 4984). The proposals are intended to support innovation, strengthen transparency, and enhance financial counseling in the nation's higher education system.
Settlement reached in a lawsuit between the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor (UM) and the Young Americans for Liberty. The lawsuit arose when UM's student government denied the group funding for a speech by Jennifer Gratz on the grounds that the speech was political. Gratz played a lead role in the 2003 case Gratz v. Bollinger, in which the Supreme Court held UM's affirmative-action admissions policy unconstitutional. As part of the settlement, the University agreed to pay $5,000 to Young Americans for Liberty's UM chapter and $9,000 in legal fees to the Alliance Defending Freedom.
Report released by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) on the projected state higher education spending for the fiscal year of 2015. The report projects a 3.6 percent increase in higher-education appropriations collectively, which is less than the 5.7 percent increase for the fiscal year of 2014. Of the 49 states that have passed a 2015 budget, 43 increased higher education funding for the new fiscal year while the rest cut funding.
Letter to the House Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade from four higher education organizations (AAU, ACE, APLU, and COGR) expressing support for the July 7 draft of the Targeting Rogue and Opaque Letters (TROL) Act of 2014. While acknowledging that some modest improvements could be made to the draft, the letter commends the Subcommittee members for their effort to combat abusive demand letters while maintaining the integrity of legitimate patent enforcement activity.
Dear Colleague Letter announcing the two sets of designated nonprofit entities that are eligible to receive FAFSA Filing Status Information from state grant agencies under the new FAFSA Completion Initiative. The two categories of entities include the Talent Search, Upward Bound, and Student Support Services programs (the TRIO programs) and the Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR-UP).
Statement issued by eleven libraries and organizations involved in higher education setting forth a list of principles for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to bear in mind as it reconsiders its net neutrality policies. The principles seek to protect the openness of the Internet, thereby ensuring equitable access and preserving the nation's social, cultural, educational, and economic well-being.
Bill designed to streamline the nation's workforce development system and to establish a standard set of outcome measures for evaluating all federal job training programs, was approved by the Senate by a vote of 95-3 last month and passed the U.S. House of Representatives. President Obama is expected to sign the bill into law.
Letter submitted by the American Council on Education (ACE) to the House Education and the Workforce Committee regarding a set of three bills to reauthorize the Higher Education Act. The bills include the Advancing Competency-Based Education Demonstration Project Act (H.R. 3136), the Strengthening Transparency in Higher Education Act (H.R. 4983), and the Empowering Students Through Enhanced Financial Counseling Act (H.R. 4984). Although ACE states that it has some concerns with several aspects of the bills, it calls the package a "welcome step towards reauthorization of the Higher Education Act" and states that many of its members support the overall measures contained in the bills.
Press release announcing that the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board (IELRB) has approved efforts by non-tenure-track faculty members at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) to form a union. A majority of non-tenure track faculty members at UIUC submitted signed union authorization cards to demonstrate their interest in union representation in May. The Campus Faculty Association (CFA), the Illinois Federation of Teachers (IFT), the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), and the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) led the union organizing drive.
The American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) recently revised its Uniform Clinical Training Affiliation Agreement. The Agreement is designed to spell out roles and responsibilities between a medical education program and its clinical affiliates and provide a consistent framework for managing an increasing number of students participating in clinical training. The Liaison Committee on Medical Education has endorsed the Affiliation Agreement as meeting its accreditation standards.
Report released by Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) on the results of a national survey of 440 four-year institutions regarding how they report, investigate, and adjudicate incidents of sexual violence on campus. The report concludes that "many institutions are failing to comply with the law and best practices" in handling sexual violence, and that these problems can be found at every stage in the response process. Some of the key findings show that there is a failure to encourage reporting of sexual violence, a lack of adequate sexual assault training, a failure to investigate reported sexual violence, and a lack of adequate services for survivors.
Statement released by Washington and Lee University announcing that it will remove the Confederate flags that are displayed outside of its campus chapel in response to student protests. In the statement, President Kenneth P. Ruscio acknowledged the University's past involvement with slavery—a "regrettable chapter" in its history—and stated that in making the decision to remove the flags, he called upon Washington and Lee's "principal values," including mutual respect, civility, appeals to reason over emotion, a reverence for history combined with the courage to examine it critically, and a focus on the future. The flags will be moved to the American Civil War Museum and the Lee Chapel Museum.
Statement released by Gordon College President Michael Lindsay explaining why he, along with several other Christian-institution leaders, signed a letter to President Obama asking him to include a religious exemption within his forthcoming executive order on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). Asserting that Gordon is an educational institution "grounded in [a] commitment to Christ," he argued that the College should be able to set its own expectations for the conduct of members of its community. However, he also clarified that Gordon has never prohibited categories of individuals from campus as students or employees and does not intend to do so in the future.
New guidelines to improve student-athlete safety were issued by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). The guidelines—which do not carry the force of NCAA rules—address independent medical care for college student-athletes, diagnosis and management of sport-related concussions, and year-round football practice contact. They were developed by the NCAA in conjunction with the College Athletic Trainers' Society, medical organizations, college football coaches, and conference commissioners.
Settlement reached between Southern University and student Kayla Williams in a suit alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Williams, who has paraplegia, argued that the lack of accessible restrooms, elevators, and adequately-sloped ramps at Southern's athletic facilities, among other problems, led her to experience "embarrassment, humiliation and inability to participate in classroom instruction to the same degree as students without disabilities." The settlement requires the University to make thirty-four physical upgrades to its campus within the next five years and to conduct a publicized self-evaluation of its ADA compliance measures by June 30, 2015. Southern also agreed to pay Williams an undisclosed amount to cover damages, attorney's fees, and legal expenses.
Amicus brief written by the American Council on Education (ACE) and four other higher education associations (AGB, APLU, CUPA-HR, and NAICU) was submitted to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) discussing the question of whether student-athletes are eligible to form unions for collective bargaining purposes. In May, the NLRB invited interested parties and amici to file briefs in response to its decision to grant Northwestern University's request for review in Northwestern University v. College Athletes Players Association. The authors argue that student-athletes are not subject to the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) (29 U.S.C. § 151–169), and therefore cannot form unions, because they are primarily students who participate in athletics for their own benefit as opposed to employees who render services for compensation.
Operating agreement reached between Corinthian Colleges and the Department of Education in which Corinthian agreed to a plan to close or sell all of its campuses and online programs. The Department has agreed to release $35 million in Title IV student aid funds to finance the normal daily operations of the colleges; however, these funds may not be used for legal fees or shareholder dividends. Pursuant to the agreement, Corinthian must halt the enrollment of new students and provide notice to all current and prospective students on the status of its colleges as well as the options and protections afforded to the students during the process.
Order by the U.S. Supreme Court granting an emergency injunction to Wheaton College, a religiously-affiliated non-profit institution, exempting it from filing a form that the College claims burdens free exercise of its religion. Regulations promulgated under the Affordable Care Act require certain employer group health insurance plans to cover FDA-approved contraceptive services (77 Fed. Reg. 8725 (2012)). Religious employers may opt out of the mandate by filing a self-certification form enabling insurance issuers or third-party administrators, rather than the employers themselves, to provide contraceptive coverage for their employees. Wheaton filed suit against the Secretary of Health and Human Services, asserting that completing the form would make it complicit in the provision of contraceptive coverage in violation of its religious beliefs, and sought a preliminary injunction against federal enforcement of the requirement pending resolution of its legal challenge. The Court issued the injunction, noting that nothing in the interim order would affect the ability of Wheaton's employees to obtain, without cost, the full range of FDA-approved contraceptive services. The Court also noted that, even if the obligations of the insurance issuer and third-party administer depend on their receipt of notice that the employer objects to the contraceptive coverage requirement, Wheaton has already given notice to the federal government. The government may rely on that notice to facilitate the provision of full contraceptive coverage.
An Albany County, New York, cyberbullying ordinance prohibiting "any act of communicating or causing a communication to be sent by mechanical or electronic means . . . disseminating embarrassing or sexually explicit photographs; disseminating private, personal, false or sexual information, or sending hate mail, with no legitimate . . . purpose, with the intent . . . to inflict significant emotional harm on another person" is an unconstitutional violation of free speech. The New York State Court of Appeals found that the ordinance goes beyond prohibiting acts popularly understood as cyberbullying to forbid various constitutionally-protected modes of expression. It thus held the ordinance to be overbroad and facially invalid under the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment.
The civility clause contained within the University of South Dakota's (USD) employment policy is not facially void for vagueness or impermissibly vague as applied to the petitioner's conduct relating to an email he sent calling his supervisor a "lieing [sic], back-stabbing sneak." The clause states, "Faculty members are responsible for discharging their instructional, scholarly and service duties civilly, constructively and in an informed manner." Petitioner Christopher Keating filed suit against the University and several of its employees, alleging that the non-renewal of his contract in light of the email violated a variety of constitutional provisions. The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals held that because the civility clause "articulates a . . . comprehensive set of expectations that, taken together, provides employees meaningful notice of the conduct required by the policy," it is not facially unconstitutional. In reference to Keating's conduct, the Eighth Circuit upheld USD's decision not to renew Keating's contract because he reasonably should have recognized that the language he used in the email, combined with his express refusal to comply with a direction from his supervisor, ran afoul of the civility clause requirements. It therefore reversed the district court's grant of declaratory relief in favor of Keating.
New Title IX policy and procedures to prevent sexual harassment and sexual violence were issued by Harvard University. The rules are intended to instill greater consistency in responding to reports of assaults across all thirteen of Harvard's schools, which have traditionally had autonomy in methods of investigating reports. Changes include establishing a new Office for Sexual and Gender-Based Dispute Resolution; hiring trained, expert investigators to run the office; and adopting a "preponderance of the evidence" standard of proof to determine whether a sexual assault or harassment occurred.
Plaintiff Linda Finke, a former dean of the College of Health and Human Services at Indiana University Purdue University-Fort Wayne (IPFW), claimed that the defendants discriminated against her on the basis of her sex by demoting her from her position as dean and paying her less than similarly-situated male employees. The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana held that the fact that the only female dean was demoted by leaders consisting entirely of males was not enough to establish discriminatory animus and that, to the contrary, the record was "replete with" evidence showing that Finke was not meeting IPFW's legitimate work expectations, including student grievance complaints and generally negative feedback that she received from colleagues during her tenure. On the wage discrimination claim, the Court held that even if Finke could establish a prima facie case, IPFW had proffered a bona fide, gender-neutral reason for paying her less than male deans: the fact that it relied on data that determine the marketplace values of skills to determine its deans' salaries, and that the data set salaries of deans in nursing programs lower than those of deans in other programs.
Two reports assessing the results of faculty climate surveys at the University of Michigan (UM) were released. The surveys were administered in 2001, 2006, and 2012 to assess the work environment for women and minority faculty members in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields, as well as the faculty in general, as part of UM's ADVANCE Institutional Transformation grant program. While the 2001 survey documented a relatively more negative work environment for female and minority faculty members, and the 2006 survey report showed little overall improvement, the 2012 survey data indicated that faculty members report statistically significant gains in the general climate and climate for diversity in their departments.
Chiropractic college violated state and federal disability laws when it failed to provide a reasonable accommodation—a sighted reader to assist in examinations and certain modifications to practical examinations—for a student with a visual disability. The student, Aaron Cannon, filed a complaint with the Davenport Civil Rights Commission after withdrawing from petitioner Palmer College of Chiropractic (Palmer)'s graduate program when conversations with Palmer officials suggested that the College was either unwilling or unable to provide the requested accommodations. While the Commission found that Palmer had discriminated against Cannon on the basis of his blindness, the district court determined that Cannon's suggested accommodations would have required the College to fundamentally alter its curriculum. On appeal, the Iowa Supreme Court reversed, finding that the fact that Palmer's previously-granted accommodations to blind students and that other institutions have successfully granted similar accommodations, constituted persuasive evidence that the requested accommodation did not fundamentally alter the institution's curriculum. Therefore, the Court affirmed the Commission's findings and application of the relevant law.
Dear Colleague Letter from the Department of Education describing requirements for high school completion documentation and providing guidance on FAFSA verification requirements. The Letter indicates that in order for a state-approved test to meet the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) documentation requirement necessary to demonstrate that certain applicants have received a high school diploma or its equivalent, the test transcript must either indicate that the state has determined that the results meet its high school equivalency requirements or that the final score is a passing score. The Letter also provides institutions with additional guidance on some of the verification items and acceptable documentation for the 2015-2016 award year.
Annual Notice issued by the Department of Education on the interest rates of federal student loans disbursed under the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program from July 1, 2014 through June 30, 2015. The interest rate calculations are made based on formulas provided by Section 455(b) of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 1087e(b)). The interest rate determination for new loans differ from year to year based on these formulas, but the loans will have a fixed interest rate for the life of the loan.
Questions & Answers published by the American Council on Education (ACE) and the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO) to help institutions understand the Department of Defense's newest Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) regarding its tuition assistance program. On May 15, the Department published its final rules in the Federal Register, which included the newest version of its MOU. Colleges and universities are required to sign the MOU by July 23 if they wish to participate in the program.
Statement issued by Cedarville University announcing a successful resolution between the University and the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights (OCR) Region XV on a Title IX complaint filed in May 2013. The complaint alleged that the University did not have a Title IX Coordinator or "prompt and equitable grievance procedures" to address sex-based discrimination. Based on its investigation, OCR concluded that the University had designated an individual to investigate sexual harassment complaints but that it had not identified this individual as the Title IX Coordinator or published her contact information. OCR also found that Cedarville had the required policies and procedures, but they were not readily available to students and employees at the time the complaint was filed. The University has voluntarily taken steps to address these issues in accordance with OCR's Manual.
Bill introduced by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) to reauthorize the Higher Education Act of 1965 and intended to increase college affordability, help ease existing student loan debt burdens, improve institutional accountability to students and taxpayers, and to help students make informed decisions about enrolling in higher education. Some of the specific provisions include creating a State-Federal College Affordability Partnership to increase state investment in public higher education while lowering costs of tuition; reinstating year-round Pell Grants; strengthening student loan servicing standards; streamlining loan repayment plans; automatically enrolling severely delinquent borrowers into income-based repayment plans; and allowing private student loans to be discharged in bankruptcy. Senator Harkin calls the proposal a "discussion draft" and has announced that he will be accepting comments from the public on the draft through 5pm on August 29 at the email: HEAA2014@help.senate.gov.
Bill approved by a vote of 95-3 in the U.S. Senate. The bill is designed to streamline the nation's workforce development system and to evaluate all federal job training programs through a standard set of outcome measures. It would also preserve a seat for two-year institutions on local workforce investment boards, eliminate "sequence of service" rules, and allow local workforce boards to train students by entering into contracts with community colleges. The Senate's passage of the bill comes on the heels of a bipartisan agreement that was reached earlier in May.
Letter from the American Council on Education (ACE) to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) regarding sexual assault on campus. The letter describes the efforts of colleges and universities to address the problem and details certain difficulties that institutions are facing in light of the policies and procedures issued by the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights. ACE concludes its letter by providing six recommended steps for Congress to take that would assist institutions in reducing incidents of sexual assault and facilitating institutional responses to reports of such incidents.
Bill to consolidate education tax benefits approved by a party-line vote of 22-13 in the House Ways and Means Committee. The bill would amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to combine the Hope Credit, the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC), the Lifetime Learning Credit (LLC), and the tuition deduction into a single, permanent tax credit. It would also reduce the allowable amount of such credit based on the taxpayer's modified adjusted gross income and allow for an exclusion from gross income for amounts received as a Federal Pell Grant. Representatives Diane Black (R-TN) and Danny Davis (D-IL) are co-sponsoring the bill.
Law signed by North Carolina Governor Pat McCory to allow religious and political student organizations at state public institutions of higher education, including community colleges, to limit leadership roles to students committed to the group's mission or faith. The law prohibits institutions from denying recognition or funding to student organizations exercising this right.
Decision from the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME) following a reconsideration hearing that affirms its previous decision to place Baylor College of Medicine on probation. The letter outlines fourteen areas of concern, which focus primarily on administrative processes and procedures. Citations include a need for improved assessments of medical student skills and achievement; more institutional responsibility for the overall design, management, and evaluation of the curriculum; improved specifications of policies regarding final admissions responsibility and admissions committee conflicts of interest; and clarification of policies involving faculty appointment, promotion, and dismissal. In response, the College must develop and submit an action plan in conjunction with the Secretariat by December 1, 2014, which will be reviewed by the LCME in February 2015.