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

President to President: Charitable Giving and the Fiscal Cliff, Republicans Introduce ACHIEVE Act

Vol. 13, No. 34

  • Higher Education Groups Urge Caution on Charitable Giving Deduction
  • Senate Republicans Introduce Version of DREAM Act
  • U.S. Supreme Court Hears Workplace Discrimination Case
  • CA Supreme Court Rules for USC in Breach of Research Contract Case
  • Issue Brief Explores African American, Hispanic Attainment Gaps
  • Register Now for ACE's 2013 Annual Meeting

The Obama administration and congressional Republicans this week continued to jockey on how to handle the tax side of the fiscal cliff debate. ACE and a coalition of higher education associations sent letters to the president and Congress before the Thanksgiving holiday, urging caution when considering changes to the charitable giving tax deduction as part of any deal.

Although there are a range of higher education-related tax incentives scheduled to expire at the end of the year, the charitable deduction is in the crosshairs right now as both Democrats and Republicans have broached capping such itemized deductions as a way to increase tax revenues. We plan on reiterating our support for extending the other expired or expiring tax provisions in our ongoing discussions with the administration and Congress.

Click here for more information and talking points about the importance of the charitable deduction to higher education.

Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) and Jon Kyl (R-AZ) on Tuesday formally rolled out the Republican version of the DREAM Act, which would grant legal status to some young undocumented immigrants who choose to continue their education or enter the military.

The primary difference between the Republican measure, known as the ACHIEVE Act, and the DREAM Act—which was killed by a Senate filibuster in December 2010—is that ACHIEVE does not provide a path to citizenship but instead grants "legal residency" (click here for a comparison of key provisions). However, since both senators are retiring at the end of this Congress, the bill is unlikely to move forward either in the lame-duck session or next year. It has already been rejected by members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments Monday in Vance v. Ball State University, a case that could decide who can be considered a "job supervisor" in a federal workplace discrimination lawsuit. The outcome could have significant ramifications for campuses as employers of more than 3 million workers in a wide variety of jobs.

The suit was filed by Ball State catering worker Maetta Vance, whose discrimination claim against the university was dismissed after a federal appeals court said her alleged harasser did not qualify as a supervisor. ACE and a coalition of higher education groups submitted an amicus brief to the Supreme Court in support of Ball State. The brief argued that the lower courts had reached the right result and suggested a definition of supervisor for Title VII purposes most appropriate in a higher education setting. Unusually, both sides in Monday's hearing agreed the appeals court used the wrong legal standard for defining a job supervisor, saying the lower court test was too limited and that a supervisor could also be someone with power to direct an employee's daily work activities.

The case will be decided by June 2013 when the Supreme Court's current term ends.

In good news for the University of Southern California (USC) and the higher education research community this week, the California Supreme Court ruled in favor of USC in a breach of research contract case.

Sargon Enterprises, Inc. v. USC dealt with speculation about profits Sargon might have lost when USC breached a research agreement with the dental-implant company. The state supreme court ruled that the lower court judge did not abuse his discretion in excluding expert testimony on behalf of Sargon. The company won a judgment for more than $400,000, but argued on appeal that the damages would have been substantially greater had the testimony been allowed.

ACE submitted an amicus brief in support of USC last December.

ACE released a new issue brief this week that sheds light on why certain racial and ethnic minorities—specifically African Americans and Hispanics—have lower levels of postsecondary degree attainment.

The Education Gap: Understanding African American and Hispanic Attainment Disparities in Higher Education examines the degree or certificate attainment of college freshmen from different racial and ethnic groups who have met nine conditions for academic success. The nine conditions were chosen because, unlike inherent traits such as being the first in the family to attend college or having a particular socioeconomic status, they can be influenced by deliberate efforts.

The brief, the first in a series of four on diversity and inclusion issues, is free to ACE member presidents. My thanks to the GE Foundation for its generous support of the series.

Lastly this week, I hope you all have marked your calendars to attend our Annual Meeting, which will be held March 2-5, 2013, in Washington, DC.

Federal policy is always a strong focus at our meetings, but even more so in the years it is held in Washington. We have much to discuss, with the elections over and a new Congress convening in January. We will offer a series of sessions as part of our exclusive programming for presidents and chancellors that will address public policy issues and feature ACE Senior Vice President Terry W. Hartle's take on the year ahead. For complete details and to register, see the Annual Meeting website.

Molly Corbett Broad
President of ACE