Legal issues in academic affairs


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Legal issues in academic affairs

  1. 1. Sonia Dávila-Cosme
  2. 2. Objectives of the module:Train academic affairs staff in:• Legal issues that affect personnel and administrators• Institutional policies and procedures• Common practices in higher education institutions• Rights and protections for faculty and students
  3. 3. Introduction to the topic• Administrators must learn how to recognize and anticipate legal risks. Janosik (2004) explains that this can be done by “developing a sense for scanning the broad legal environment and being aware of legal issues in other parts of the education enterprise” (p. 401).• In academic affairs we have to recognize this risks in order to act in accordance to the law, and institutional policies and procedures.
  4. 4. Why do we need effective policies andprocedures?• To take well informed decisions• To inform faculty, staff and students about their due process rights• To avoid litigation• To promote a healthy campus environment• To assign responsibilities• To act in accordance to law
  5. 5. Legal Issues in Academic Affairs aremostly related to:• Non renewal of faculty contracts• Affirmative action• Academic Freedom• Sexual harassment• Due process rights• Non compliance with institutional procedures• Disciplinary actions
  6. 6. Preferred practices• Circulate extensively with the academic community faculty, student and employee rights, as well as their legal protections, and responsibilities.• Disseminate grievance procedures as well as any academic or administrative hearing process.• Consult with the legal advisor any aspect that is not considered on the norms and regulations of the institution.• Discuss the issue with your supervisor before taking any drastic measure.
  7. 7. Policies Institutional policies are used as guidelines for administrators. In academic affairs we work mostly with the following policies: ▫ Universities rules and regulations ▫ Faculty handbook ▫ Student handbook ▫ Human Resources Policy Manual ▫ Sexual harassment Policy ▫ Affirmative Action Policy ▫ Conflict of Interest Disclosure Policy ▫ Copyright Policy
  8. 8. Procedures Bryant (n. d.) explains that “procedures are the steps employees conduct in day-to-day operations to ensure that what they do reflects and supports existing policies” (par. 1). Some examples are: ▫ Grievance procedures for:  Sexual harassment  Administrative and academic hearings  Residence Life hearings  Discrimination claims ▫ Affirmative Action procedures (admissions and hiring) ▫ Selection of personnel ▫ Disciplinary actions
  9. 9. Designing effective policies andprocedures Zweig (1991) presents that “in spite of all a well designed company policy manual can do for employees and the firm that published and distribute it, it can also backfire” (p.252). Some of these problems are related to: ▫ The lack of information resulting in inconsistent decision making, management and confusion. ▫ Ambiguous statements resulting in multiple interpretations of what policies and procedures means.
  10. 10. (continuation)▫ Poorly worded provisions about who is in charge of company policies could draw in inconsistent treatment to employees.▫ “Lack of clear standards on how part-time and full- time employees are treated in the areas of benefits, vacation and sick leave accrual rates, and other matters could increase liability”(Zweig, 1991, p. 253)▫ Complex usage of words for describing the type of contracts, e.g. “permanent” instead of “regular”, this can be used for the employee to demonstrate a property interests on the job in the case of non renewal.
  11. 11. Rights and protections• Constitutional rights• Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e• Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA)• Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)• Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972• Equal Pay Act• Title 29 C.F.R. § 1604.11 on sexual harassment.
  12. 12. First Amendment• “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievance” (The Constitution of the United States, Amendment 1).
  13. 13. Academic Freedom “Academic Freedom describes a group of rights claimed by teachers—the right to study, to communicate ideas, and to publish the results of reflection and research without external restraints—in short, to assert the truth as they perceive it…. in the United States, in accordance with the individualistic bent of its constitutional law, the claim to academic freedom is usually associated with an individual teachers freedom from interference with the free play of the intellect” (Fellman, 2007, par.1).
  14. 14. Fourteenth Amendment• “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws” (The Constitution of the United States, Amendment 14).
  15. 15. Elements of procedural Due Process• Notice• Legal Right to a Hearing• Right to legal counsel• Evidence• Witnesses Vergon-Gibbs, n. d.
  16. 16. ReferencesBryant, B. (n. d.). What are the benefits of policies and procedures?Fellman, D. (2007). “Academic Freedom” , In Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. History: Government and Politics. Detroit: Gale Group.Janosik, S.M. (2004). Anticipating legal issues in higher education. Journal of Student Affairs Research and Practice, 42(4), 401-414.“The United States Constitution”. (1997). Retrieved from ( of Missouri St. Louis. (2002). Faculty rights, legal protections, obligations and discipline, In Faculty Handbook: University of Missouri- St. Louis. Retrieved from, A. (n. d.).Disciplinary sanctions and due process rights, In The Encyclopedia of Law and Higher Education. Retrieved from: rights.htmlZweig, M.C. (1991). Human resources management: the complete guidebook for design firms. New York: John Wiley & Sons.