Legal Issues in the Community College Spring 2004
This issue will help college leaders inform themselves about legal issues that threaten institutional stability and effectiveness today. Across the nation, community colleges are being sued with increasing frequency over a variety of issues. Officials are confronted with a multitude of federal statutes and court rulings that have made governance and administration more complex and legalistic than ever before. Special-interest groups, like teachers' unions and taxpayers' associations, are increasingly involved in governing board elections, creating volatile situations for presidents. Consequently, caution is a watchword among many leaders. This situation does nothing to foster the teamwork that is essential in quality institutions. Community colleges exist in a highly litigious society, and their leaders are confronted with numerous legal issues as they carry out assigned duties. Some of those issues are not new to postsecondary education. Examples include governing board relations, academic freedom and tenure, collective bargaining, and employment issues.
Other issues newer to the community college include student rights, codes of conduct, accommodation of disabled students, campus safety, distance education, intellectual property rights, and risk management. Community college leaders must find ways to resolve or mitigate these and other issues if their colleges are to continue providing exemplary services to students. This is the 125th issue of the quarterly higher education journal New Directions for Community Colleges.