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colleges and universities

The internet has lit up with the story of the 20-year-old, 92-lb. history major who says she’s been battling the Yale administration over its pressure on her to eat more. [New Haven Register]. Although much of the press coverage seems unaware of the issue, it would not be surprising if changing legal pressures on universities played a role here. Efforts both regulatory and liability-driven have been under way to hold universities accountable for not preventing student suicides, and as a result, many campuses have seen a shift toward more interventionist, rules-driven policies designed to show that the institution was not standing idly by when it knew or had reason to know of early signs of self-harm. (Our file on the topic goes back a decade.) If the list of self-harm behaviors includes eating disorders, you might have a formula for interventions in which very skinny students are placed under pressure to prove they are not anorexic. Evaluating cases like the current one, of course, is difficult for outsiders because of HIPAA and other privacy laws which broadly prohibit the sharing of health-related information, even on topics of public concern.

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When is it considered a success to generate more complaints against one’s own organization? When you’re a newly assembled Title IX team, in this case installed at the University of North Carolina following pressure from federal regulators and students. [Harry Painter, Pope Center] Our previous coverage of the Department of Education/Department of Justice “blueprint” on campus harassment and sexual misconduct allegations is here.

Not so smart?

by Walter Olson on April 5, 2014

Northwestern athletes’ “college football participation = paid work to be governed by labor laws” argument may boomerang with a whopping tax bill [TaxProf, Bleacher Report on NLRB giving nod to idea]

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Olympia, Wash.: “A community college says it’s the pride of their automotive technology program: a rare Dodge Viper donated to their school worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.” It’s believed to be the fourth one off the assembly line. But now Chrysler has “ordered the destruction of their entire educational Viper fleet.” It seems that while the prototypes were never meant to be driven on public roads, “two of them somehow got out and into accidents, costing Chrysler’s parent company millions of dollars.” Things might be different if our law respected a sale or other contractual agreement between Chrysler and the school as reason to release the manufacturer from a suit filed by an injured third party. But it doesn’t. Chrysler’s deadline for ordering the cars crushed has now passed; no word at present as to whether any of the cars have been reprieved or otherwise survived. [KING, AutoWeek, Tacoma News Tribune, Motor Trend]

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Food roundup

by Walter Olson on March 17, 2014

  • Warnings dismissed at time: FDA rules implementing FSMA (Food Safety Modernization Act) of 2011 imperil practices common to organic, small growers, “such as using house-made fertilizers and irrigating from creeks” [Los Angeles Times] Oh, how D.C.’s “public-interest” establishment and its co-thinkers in the press jeered when we and others tried to raise such concerns before the bill passed!
  • Related: pursuit of locally grown/artisanal meat options collides with USDA regs that put squeeze on small slaughterhouses, overbroad recalls also a problem [Baylen Linnekin, earlier here, here, and here]
  • “America’s Obesity Problem: Legal Mechanisms for Prevention,” Duke Law School conference I spoke at (but did not write a paper for) last year, now online [Duke Forum for Law and Social Change].
  • Related: “Wellness programs addressing obesity could lead to litigation, lawyers say” [ABA Journal]
  • Looser regulation of microbrewing has already proved boon to Maryland, lawmakers now consider extending it further [Beth Rodgers, Frederick News-Post]
  • “Bill introduced to undo California’s ‘glove law’ for food preparers” [KPCC; earlier]
  • Sorry, I’ll stay home and thumb through old cookbooks instead: recent American Studies Association Food Studies Caucus program included “Food, Debt, and the Anti-Capitalist Imagination,” “Archives of Domesticity and Dissent: Cookbooks, Cooking Culture, and the Limits of Culinary Exchange,” and “Pedagogies of Food and Eating: Teaching Debt, Dissent, and Identity through Food” [Mary Grabar, Pope Center on "food studies" fad]

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Schools roundup

by Walter Olson on March 11, 2014

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Fraternities and liability

by Walter Olson on February 23, 2014

Caitlin Flanagan’s piece in The Atlantic is getting quite a build-up, but Glenn Reynolds concludes that “overall … [it] doesn’t deliver insight commensurate with its length.”

Worst of the Harvard Crimson

by Walter Olson on February 20, 2014

Yes, that article decrying academic freedom is just as bad as you’ve heard.

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Schools roundup

by Walter Olson on February 14, 2014

  • “Attorney parents of ‘mathlete’ lose again in legal battle over right to select son’s algebra teacher” [Martha Neil, ABA Journal, earlier]
  • One reason NYC doesn’t close schools amid brutal winter storms? They’ve got a food program to run [Business Insider; James Panero, NYDN]
  • Should Gov. Deval Patrick, CNN host Piers Morgan apologize to townspeople of Lunenburg, Mass.? [Chuck Ross, The Federalist]
  • Kansas school-finance suit tests whether litigators can end-run elected officials on taxes and spending [WSJ, compare Colorado]
  • Lenore Skenazy (who’ll speak at Cato Mar. 6) on the Wellesley “Sleepwalker” sculpture flap: “Once we equate making people feel bad with actually attacking them, free expression is basically obsolete” [WSJ]
  • “School Found Liable After Child Sneaks Onto Roof And Falls” [Erik Magraken; British Columbia, Canada]
  • National Research Council issues report on Institutional Review Boards (IRBs) [Zachary Schrag first, second, third, fourth posts]
  • Vergara v. California: notwithstanding the hoopla, bringing more lawsuits might actually not be the best way to save American education [Andrew Coulson]

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“…is sufficient to establish the defendant’s guilt” [James Taranto on campus assault regulations, the federal influence on which we have discussed often in this space, e.g. here, here, and here] More: Greenfield.

Related: “More grotesque sex hearings at Yale” [KC Johnson, Minding the Campus]

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“California regulator seeks to shut down ‘learn to code’ bootcamps” [Venture Beat]

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January 17 roundup

by Walter Olson on January 17, 2014

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Sue ‘em all: “Eighty-six current and former members of a Yale University fraternity are being sued over a deadly tailgating crash at the 2011 Yale-Harvard football game. … [Lawyers] say insurance for the national Sigma Phi Epsilon organization doesn’t cover the local chapter, so they have to sue the local fraternity and its members.” That’s “have to” in the sense of “can obtain more money if they.” [Associated Press]

Schools roundup

by Walter Olson on December 27, 2013

  • Following outcry, Ohio lawmaker drops proposal to license homeschool parents [Jason Bedrick/Cato, sequel]
  • In Colorado U. crackdown on professor’s deviance course, university retracts claim that professor needed to clear controversial teaching with institutional review board [Inside Higher Ed, Zachary Schrag and sequel, background on IRBs]
  • The purely fictional, entirely bloodless “assassin” game — which I remember was played in my own high school years ago without anyone worrying — now seems to be controversial in suburban D.C. because School Violence and Think of the Children. [Washington Post; Bedrick, Cato on pretend "arrow" zero-tolerance case]
  • After son’s death, Ontario mom urges schools to let asthmatic kids carry inhalers [CBC, Bedrick]
  • Cathy Young on how the forces of unanimity police discussions of “rape culture” [Minding the Campus]
  • Kansas regents forbid faculty/staff to post social media content contrary to best interest of university [WaPo]
  • Don’t forget to stop home some time: more public schools serving dinner as well as breakfast and lunch [Future of Capitalism]

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Schools roundup

by Walter Olson on December 2, 2013

  • Organizers of college conference on “intersection of health, humanities and disabilities” forget to make it accessible [Inside Higher Ed]
  • Law forbade disclosure re: sex offender classmate, now Seattle schools are paying assault victim $700,000 [KIRO]
  • Update: Lehigh U. student who sued over C+ grade won’t get a new trial, judge rules [Allentown Morning Call, earlier]
  • U.K.: “Refusal to allow your child to attend this trip will result in a Racial Discrimination note being attached to your child’s education record…” [Althouse]
  • Truly awful idea SCOTUS has helped us dodge so far: constitutional right to education [Andrew Sullivan]
  • Washington Monthly interviews Zach Schrag on institutional review boards (IRBs) [earlier here and here];
  • Oldie but goodie: dissent from Second Circuit chief judge Dennis Jacobs on College of Staten Island student politics complaint [Husain v. Springer, alternate]

From FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education), on a controversy we’ve followed closely over the course of the year:

The federal government is backing away from the nationwide “blueprint” for campus speech restrictions issued this May by the Departments of Education and Justice. The agencies’ settlement with the University of Montana sought to impose new, unconstitutional speech restrictions, due process abuses, and an overbroad definition of sexual harassment and proclaimed the agreement to be “a blueprint for colleges and universities throughout the country.”

But in a letter sent last week to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), the new head of the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR), Catherine Lhamon, said that “the agreement in the Montana case represents the resolution of that particular case and not OCR or DOJ policy.”

FIRE adds that the Department’s recent actions in cases involving public colleges no longer insist on “the worst features of the Montana settlement.”

“…because housing officer didn’t report alleged domestic abuse” [ABA Journal]

Schools roundup

by Walter Olson on October 17, 2013

  • Opponents, including U.S. Department of Justice, go after school choice programs in court [Jason Bedrick, more]
  • Study finds bullying programs may have opposite from intended effect. Why, next they’ll tell us D.A.R.E. is a flop at curbing drug use. Oh wait [CBS Dallas]
  • National Association of the Deaf files lawsuit against Maryland, seeking captioning at sporting events [WaPo]
  • “NYC will spend $29 million on salaries, benefits of educators it can’t fire” [NY Daily News] [NY Times]
  • Gotta-cover-yourself incident and accident reports clog the classroom day with paper [Ted Frank, Point of Law]
  • “IRBs and mission creep” [Dave Hoffman, Prawfs, earlier]
  • Boy who drew cartoonish bomb at home suspended, reinstated [Fox Carolina, Free-Range Kids]

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