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Episode description:

Major universities are essentially huge businesses with massive infrastructure and numerous employees. They are large housing, food, athletic teams, and healthcare providers and are engaged in construction projects. All public and private roles within universities that receive federal funds are subject to government regulation with the same kinds of human resources problems as regular businesses. Legal issues besiege many universities; unlike corporations, which are used to a regulatory environment, universities are often not well equipped or staffed to address the myriad of legal issues they are facing now.

In this episode of Law, disrupted, John is joined by American lawyer and academic administrator Michael K. Young, and partner at Quinn Emanuel’s Los Angeles office, former Ambassador Crystal Nix-Hines. Together they discuss the legal issues surrounding higher education. 

Firstly, they discuss issues surrounding the changing landscape of universities’ role in protecting their students and what those institutions are doing to protect themselves from legal cases and liabilities they are sent. They briefly touch on the cases against Penn State regarding sexual harassment. Does the changing landscape raise questions about the fine line between universities’ duty to protect students on and off-campus incidents?

This issue leads to John asking whether the political sphere plays a role in this. Former Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, changed the law, shifting away from the law created by the Obama administration around sexual harassment, with universities highlighting concerns that Secretary DeVos’s standards made it more difficult for students to pursue claims against their alleged offenders.

Together they touch on the issues surrounding higher education and sports teams. Athletics budgets have been reduced in recent years, paired with the question of equality of opportunity for all genders, which has made it difficult to pinpoint what equality looks like from a legal point of view. 

They turn to legal issues surrounding diversity in admissions, and standardized tests, with litigation on this going back a decade. They discuss why the mission of equality is so vital to modern universities and consider the Supreme Court’s upcoming consideration of the lawsuits brought against the admissions policies of Harvard and the University of North Carolina. They debate whether the Supreme Court is likely to overturn or reaffirm its prior holding in Grutter v. Bollinger, which upheld the affirmative action admissions policy of the University of Michigan Law School. Will the Court decide that race cannot be considered a factor in admissions at all?

Finally, John wraps up the podcast by asking about the types of issues being litigated in universities right now, with the majority of claims coming from the COVID-19 pandemic; 370 suits against 200 universities as a result of universities shifting to remote learning during the pandemic lockdowns.


Created & produced by: Podcast Partners
Published: Jun 22 2022

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