EDUC517 - Ethics, Law, and Policies in Higher Education

Course Details

Course Code: EDUC517 Course ID: 5056 Credit Hours: 3 Level: Graduate

This course will examine ethical and legal issues relevant to higher education institutions and the campus policies commonly in place to address them. Key legal cases, statutes, and constitutional laws will be reviewed and students will use case studies to explore how campus leaders have upheld these decisions and, in some cases, responded to crises. (Prerequisites: EDUC511 and either SAHE510 or ADHE601)

Course Schedule

Registration Dates Course Dates Start Month Session Weeks
05/29/2023 - 11/03/2023 11/06/2023 - 12/31/2023 November Fall 2023 Session I 8 Week session
07/31/2023 - 12/29/2023 01/01/2024 - 02/25/2024 January Winter 2024 Session B 8 Week session
09/25/2023 - 03/01/2024 03/04/2024 - 04/28/2024 March Winter 2024 Session D 8 Week session

Current Syllabi

After successfully completing this course, you will be able to:

  1. Evaluate technical terms, facts, and principles as related to the legal system and how they influence the operations of higher education institutions.
  2. Explain the issues involved in legal and policy decisions, and in terms of ethics.
  3. Recommend ethical solutions to resolve conflicts and dilemmas facing higher education professionals
  4. Analyze legal and policy issues in higher education, especially through a social justice lens.
  5. Assess key court rulings, laws, and policies that establish legal parameters in higher education.
  6. Explain the concept of "state action" between public and private institutions.

This course addresses professional competency areas for Student Affairs educators established by the American College Personnel Association (ACPA) and the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) as well as the standards established by the Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education (CAS).

The sets of standards are based on the following organization: ACPA/NASPA Standards

2018 ACPA & NASPA Professional Competency Standards

1. Personal and Ethical Foundations

  • Involves the knowledge, skills, and dispositions to develop and maintain integrity in one’s life and work; this includes thoughtful development, critique, and adherence to a holistic and comprehensive standard of ethics and commitment to one’s own wellness and growth. Personal and ethical foundations are aligned because integrity has an internal locus informed by a combination of external ethical guidelines, an internal voice of care, and our own lived experiences. Our personal and ethical foundations grow through a process of curiosity, refection, and self-authorship.

2. Values, Philosophy, and History

  • Involves knowledge, skills, and dispositions that connect the history, philosophy, and values of the student affairs profession to one’s current professional practice. This competency area embodies the foundations of the profession from which current and future research, scholarship, and practice will change and grow. The commitment to demonstrating this competency area ensures that our present and future practices are informed by an understanding of the profession’s history, philosophy, and values.

3. Assessment, Evaluation, and Research

  • Focuses on the ability to design, conduct, critique, and use various assessment, evaluation, and research methodologies and the results obtained from them, to utilize assessment, evaluation, and research processes and their results to inform practices and to shape the political and ethical climate surrounding assessment, evaluation, and research AER processes and uses in higher education.

4. Law, Policy, and Governance

  • Includes the knowledge, skills, and dispositions relating to policy development processes used in various contexts, the application of legal constructs, compliance/policy issues, and the understanding of governance structures and their impact on one’s professional practice.

5. Organizational and Human Resources

  • Includes knowledge, skills, and dispositions used in the management of institutional human capital, financial, and physical resources. This competency area recognizes that student affairs professionals bring personal strengths and grow as managers through challenging themselves to build new skills in the selection, supervision, motivation, and formal evaluation of staff; resolution of conflict; management of the politics of organizational discourse; and the effective application of strategies and techniques associated with financial resources, facilities management, fundraising, technology, crisis management, risk management and sustainable resources.

6. Leadership

  • Addresses the knowledge, skills, and dispositions required of a leader, with or without positional authority. Leadership involves both the individual role of a leader and the leadership process of individuals working together to envision, plan, and affect change in organizations and respond to broad-based constituencies and issues. This can include working with students, student affairs colleagues, faculty, and community members.

7. Social Justice and Inclusion

  • While there are many conceptions of social justice and inclusion in various contexts, for the purposes of this competency area, it is defined here as both a process and a goal which includes the knowledge, skills, and dispositions needed to create learning environments that foster equitable participation of all groups while seeking to address and acknowledge issues of oppression, privilege, and power. This competency involves student affairs educators who have a sense of their own agency and social responsibility that includes others, their community, and the larger global context. Student affairs educators may incorporate social justice and inclusion competencies into their practice through seeking to meet the needs of all groups, equitably distributing resources, raising social consciousness, and repairing past and current harms on campus communities.

8. Student Learning and Development

  • Addresses the concepts and principles of student development and learning theory. This includes the ability to apply theory to improve and inform student affairs and teaching practice.

9. Technology

  • Focuses on the use of digital tools, resources, and technologies for the advancement of student learning, development, and success as well as the improved performance of student affairs professionals. Included within this area are knowledge, skills, and dispositions that lead to the generation of digital literacy and digital citizenship within communities of students, student affairs professionals, faculty members, and colleges and universities as a whole.

10. Advising and Supporting

  • Addresses the knowledge, skills, and dispositions related to providing advising and support to individuals and groups through direction, feedback, critique, referral, and guidance. Through developing advising and supporting strategies that take into account self-knowledge and the needs of others, we play critical roles in advancing the holistic wellness of ourselves, our students, and our colleagues.

Ethical Case Study (CO3, CO5)

A case study associated with an ethical dilemma in higher education will be provided. Students will identify the ethical issues inherent in the case studies, the applicable professional standards involved, and use an ethical decision making model in resolving the dilemmas. This Case Study Assignment will be presented in an APA style paper (minimum of 5 pages, 1500 words, not counting Title page and References page; no Abstract is required) and is due on Sunday of Week 2 by 11:55 ET. See associated rubric for clarity on grading values.

Social Justice Interview (CO2, CO3, CO4, CO5)

Interview a leader in a higher education institution, such as a dean, department chair, program chair, vice chancellor, chancellor, director of student services, etc. Create a series of interview questions that address a social justice issue on campus that requires ethical decision-making on the part of the leader. In your interview summary, use a case or law that supports the leader’s decision. Use the Case Study Template to provide the case/law details and add the Template as an appendix to your paper. Make your appointments early as the assignment is due in week 4. See associated rubric for clarity on grading values.

Final Paper and Presentation – Two-part assignment.

Part 1 – Research and Analysis Paper (CO1, CO2, CO5, CO6)

This 8-10 page research paper (2,500+ words minimum, not counting Title Page, References, and Abstract) will provide students with the opportunity to develop and demonstrate an understanding of legal implications of administrative decisions in higher education. The paper’s topic must concern a legal issue or a policy affecting Higher Education Administration or Student Affairs in a specified context, whether a public or private institution. The paper should state the topic, summarize relevant statutory, case, or administrative law and/or policy, highlight any ethical issues involved, and evaluate how the law and higher education policy should determine the resolution or impact of the topic. Research sources should include law review articles, case law, policy documents and higher educational administration literature. Use APA format (include an abstract). This assignment is due at the end of week 7, and a date set for the presentation of the paper (Part 2) must be set for week 8. See associated rubric for clarity on grading values.

Part 2 – Presentation of Research and Analysis (CO1, CO2, CO5, CO6)

Prepare a 20+ slide PowerPoint presentation that summarizes the essential elements of your research and Analysis paper from week 7. The presentation will be given in a live Adobe Connect or Zoom session pre-arranged with the instructor to be held during the final week of the course. Present the most important aspects of the topic and how it is being applied to campuses. References should be listed on the final slide and appropriate citations (APA) should be included throughout the presentation. NOTE: The date and time of the presentation should be agreed upon with the professor prior to the end of week 7 in order to advise/invite other students to attend as they are able. (The Instructor may elect to record the presentations and post them in the classroom.) See associated rubric for clarity on grading values.

NOTE: Each part of the two-part assignment will be graded separately using separate rubrics. See associated rubric for clarity on grading values for each part.

Forums: Please join the forums each week. Note that there are TWO required forums most of the weeks of this course! Students must post an initial reply to each forum and reply to at least 2 other students for each Forum. This means that each "two-forum week" you should have 2 initial posts and 4 responsive posts, and for each "one-forum week" you should have 1 initial post and 2 responsive posts.. Replies must be posted in the week due and replies after the end of each week will not be graded. The Forums are for student interaction and input should be submitted before the week ends in order to fully participate in the discussions. Students should demonstrate their own knowledge in the forums and avoid copying and pasting from websites. Please observe specific directions as given for each forum.


  • Post the initial response to each forum by 11:55pm, ET, Wednesday.
  • Initial responses should be no less than 250 words.
  • Initial responses are to be original in content and demonstrate a thorough analysis of the topic.
  • Reply to at least 2 of your classmates in each forum by 11:55pm, ET, Sunday.
  • Replies to classmates should be no less than 100 words.
  • Responses to classmates are significant to advance the forum.
  • All forums can be accessed in the Forums section of the course.

Grade Instruments

% of Final Grade

Weekly forum discussions


Ethical Case Study


Leader Interview


Research Paper (part 1)


Research Presentation (part 2)




The success of this course depends on your ability to read the assigned readings closely, think carefully about the points raised or ignored by authors, and bring to the group your questions and concerns about their theses and positions. Prior to each new week in the class, please review announcements and lessons. Having prepared and read the required readings prior to class ensures your productive participation.

We should work to achieve conversational exchanges with each other through Forums and emails, constructively challenging each other to think broadly and critically about ideas or assertions posed by the readings.

In all participation and assignments I am looking for evidence of:

  • Demonstration of substantial knowledge and higher order thinking and analytic skills and application of facts, concepts, terms, and processes learned/read/discussed;
  • Critical contemplation, e.g., "grapple" with issues and topics;
  • Appropriate use of knowledge learned;
  • Imaginative thinking and responses to challenges/problems/issues;
  • Exploring underlying assumptions about the lifelong value of education and schooling;
  • Clarity of expression and logical connection among ideas expressed;
  • Writing that reflects precise and concise thinking;
  • Excellent grammar, syntax, and spelling.
NameGrade %
Discussions 30.00%
W1: Introduction Discussion 3.33%
W1: Law and Policy; Judicial Precedence 3.33%
W2: Church and State; Ethical Decision-Making 3.33%
W3: Freedom of Speech on Campus? Employment Rights of Teachers? 3.33%
W4: Classroom Technology and Ethical Decision-Making; FERPA 3.33%
W5: Higher Education in the News 3.33%
W6: Two Scenarios: Negligence and Privacy in Higher Education 3.33%
W7: Legal Ethical Differences in Public Private Institutions 3.33%
W8: Presenting Findings from your Literature Review 3.33%
Wk 4: Leader Interview 10.00%
Week Four: Social Justice Interview 10.00%
Wk 5: Ethical Case Study 20.00%
Week Five: Case Study 20.00%
Wk 7: Research Paper 25.00%
Week Seven: Research and Analysis Part 1 Final Paper 25.00%
Wk 8: Research Presentation 15.00%
Week Eight: Research and Analysis Part 2 - Presentation 15.00%

Previous Syllabi

Not current for future courses.