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President to President

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President to President
Molly Corbett Broad's weekly email newsletter to higher education leaders.

President to President, June 18-22, 2012

Vol. 13, No. 21

  • ​Little New Information on Student Loan, Immigration Issues
  • Higher Education Groups Request Clarification of Military, Veterans Education Principles of Excellence
  • ACE Board Approves Diversity Resolution
  • State Supreme Courts Rule on Student Records, Discipline Cases
  • IN BRIEF: NLRB to Review NYU Student Unionization Case; ACE Partners With CUPA-HR on Senior Leadership Study; ACE, Sloan Foundation Award Faculty Retirement Transition Grants

There is little new to report this week on some of the major issues I've discussed with you recently, most significantly the approaching deadline to freeze the interest rate on subsidized Stafford student loans for the coming year, and President Obama's plan to enact some provisions of the DREAM Act.

The president held a press event Thursday to call attention to the interest rate increase, which is now just eight days away. The House and Senate reportedly are close to an agreement on how to pay the $6 billion price tag, but full details are not yet available.

Meanwhile, the White House has released no further information on the plan to halt deportations of certain people under 30 who were illegally brought into the country as children. (See this FAQ from the National Immigration Law Center for what is currently known about the plan.) However, because this action is only temporary, next steps likely will have to await the outcome of the upcoming presidential election.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recently asked state-approving agencies to send a May 31, 2012, letter to education institutions approved for VA education benefits. The letter addresses the "Principles of Excellence for Educational Institutions Serving Service Members, Veterans, Spouses and Other Family Members" set forth in Executive Order 13607.

It asks the recipient institution to send an email to VA by June 30, 2012, with notice of the institution's intent to comply with the Principles by the end of academic year 2012-13. Institutions that notify VA of their intent to comply will be included on a list published on the GI Bill website. We understand that some institutions did not receive the May 31 letter, or that the letter may not have been addressed to the appropriate official. We urge you to confirm that the appropriate administrators at your institution are considering the May 31 letter.

We recently joined several other associations to provide comments on the Principles and the VA request. Our letter affirms our commitment to fostering service member- and veteran-friendly campuses and details aspects of the Principles about which we hope the federal agencies can provide further clarification. The letter expresses our concern that although the Principles are very broadly expressed, it is unclear how the agencies will construe them and what the practical ramifications will be.

An institution may want to consider whether to provide a statement to the effect that it intends to make a good faith effort to comply with the Principles pending clarifying guidance from the agencies. An institution may decide not to respond or to respond at a later date, perhaps when more in known about the meaning of the Principles. The government has identified no legal consequences for failing to respond by June 30.

The ACE Board of Directors met this week at our offices in Washington, DC, and on the agenda was a vote to approve a resolution to preserve, support and enhance diversity on college and university campuses.

This resolution, which was unanimously approved by the board, is especially timely because the Supreme Court is expected to decide in its coming term the first higher education affirmative action case to come before the court in a decade. Fisher v. University of Texas involves a challenge to consideration of race and ethnicity in admissions to the University of Texas at Austin. ACE expects to file an amicus brief in the case on behalf of higher education associations, advocating the educational benefits that come from student diversity and colleges' and universities' authority to advance their missions according to their respective judgments.

The resolution is available for your review here.

State supreme courts in Minnesota and Ohio this week announced decisions in two cases we have been watching closely, one dealing with academic codes of conduct and the other with student records privacy.

The Minnesota Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld a lower court decision in favor of the University of Minnesota (UMN) in the case Tatro v. the University of Minnesota. The case involves a student in UMN's mortuary science program who posted comments on her Facebook page that frightened her peers and professors. After a disciplinary hearing, the student was ultimately required to undergo a psychiatric evaluation, accept a failing grade for her anatomy lab course, take an ethics class and write a letter to a faculty member about the issue of respect in the profession of mortuary science. She in turn sued UMN, claiming infringement on her right to free speech.

ACE submitted a brief to the Minnesota Supreme Court in support of UMN, emphasizing the threatening nature of the student's Facebook posts and highlighting the university's desire to teach professional ethics in the field of mortuary science. The decision upheld the disciplinary measures taken by UMN, ruling that a university may regulate student speech that violates academic program rules as long as those rules are narrowly tailored and directly related to professional conduct standards.

Also this week, the Supreme Court of Ohio issued a ruling in favor of The Ohio State University (OSU) in its quest to protect student privacy in dealing with a request for information from ESPN. ACE submitted an amicus brief in this case as well.

After the 2010 college football season, OSU football players were found to have violated National Collegiate Athletic Association rules by trading memorabilia for tattoos, which ultimately led to the resignation of OSU's coach, sanctions against the team and a flood of information requests under Ohio's public records law. ESPN submitted multiple requests to OSU, and the university released much of the information. However, some requests were denied because they would have forced OSU to reveal private student records in violation of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). ESPN responded by asking the Ohio Supreme Court to require the university to divulge the student information.

In its ruling, the Ohio court pointed out that the university annually receives about 23 percent of its total operating dollars (more than $919 million) from federal funds, and therefore was "prohibited by FERPA from systematically releasing education records without parental consent." The court also rejected ESPN's argument that OSU improperly shielded some records under the guise of attorney-client privilege.

IN BRIEF

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) today granted a union's request to review a decision of the NLRB's acting regional director in the New York University graduate student case. The NLRB has requested parties file briefs on several questions, including whether the NLRB should modify or overrule an earlier decision regarding Brown University, which held that graduate student assistants do not have rights to unionize under the National Labor Relations Act. ACE will be submitting a brief.

ACE is partnering with CUPA-HR to conduct a new study of the senior leadership of American higher education. This study serves as a follow-up to the 2008 publication On the Pathway to the Presidency: Characteristics of Higher Education Senior Leadership. That report provided vital demographic information on individuals serving in positions that typically lead to the presidency. The survey is brief and asks only for information commonly found in campus human resource data systems. It will be open for data collection between June 26 and August 26. Email invitations to participate will be distributed to campus human resources offices on June 26. Both organizations are grateful to TIAA-CREF Institute for its generous support of this effort.

ACE and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation this week recognized 15 colleges and universities that demonstrate cutting-edge approaches to supporting faculty before, during and after their retirement transitions. Awardees will each receive $100,000 grants to accelerate innovative practices. (See the news release for a list of the awardees.) The institutions have demonstrated a best practice in three stages in culmination of faculty careers: the development of a legacy, the transition into retirement and the continuing involvement of faculty in the academic community post-retirement. My great thanks to Claire Van Ummersen, ACE senior advisor and project director, for her dedicated work on the issue of faculty retirement in general and on this effort in particular.

Molly Corbett Broad
President of ACE