Currently this week in my spare time, I’m reviewing the textbook and class materials that I’ve read for my Legal, Ethical and Policy Issues class. I have to admit, and I’ve tweeted this, “in some ways legal issues in higher education reminds me of a minefield”…they are everywhere. Sometimes they are preventable, but many times they just explode.
Legal, ethical and policy issues have definitely grown in higher education in the past few decades and as we move forward, I can only see it becoming more intense and more complex. Unfortunately, the need to “cover your butt” and “safeguard the university” is becoming more common conversation topics on campuses.
Reading through some of the cases, I have to wonder if all of these statutes and policies, are ensuring higher education’s survival or hindering the accomplishment of attaining a degree. On one hand, it is providing safeguards and rights for all individuals to attain an education, and participate in the college experience, yet on the other hand it has little forgiveness in human error (criminal offenses excluded) and lacks the flexibility of serving needed populations.
As an individual who has been in the field prior to attending graduate school, I can see many areas where such policy is necessary, and I can also see where it seems to be counterproductive to the goals and desired outcomes that we, as student affairs professionals, are trying to attain with/for our students.
The need for legal teams and counsel offices in higher education have legitimate reasons; crimes, academic dishonesty, and misuse of the university system (in cases of suspension or expulsion). However, at this point in time, I feel that much of the reason for the need of such offices and staff is ultimately rooted in the the fact that the American society has become too sue-happy (new word…yay!). It’s all thanks yo the fact that people are all self-serving, they want a quick payout, revenge is a popular motivation, and basic accountability is becoming a less desired characteristic in people (easier to blame someone else).
So, perhaps an end-result answer to the larger picture of the growing higher education minefield is not to add more statutes and policies, but perhaps begin to re-examine the basics of society and its virtues, ethics and priorities, and get them back on track. If we can get the basics of society back on track, would we really need such policies and statutes?
This is just a short and simple thought, and figured I’d document my ponderings for the next 2 weeks as I delve into Higher Education Law and Policy, and see where it all may end up.
Until next time!