Wednesday, September 30, 2015

"Mankind," "Chairman" and "Freshman" are all taboo words in the world of gender studies.

If a student uses them she or he is liable to be admonished.

This drives some conservatives nutty.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

My October and November Webinars are now available for registration

October 7th - Castagnera's Labor and Employment   Law Update

October 22nd - Cheating & Plagiarism

October 29th - Student Disciplinary Policies

November 18th - Maintaining Student Records

November 19th - Students with Disabilities

Read more here:

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

"Five to one, baby. One in five. No one here gets out alive." --- The Doors

One in five has been the claim made by crusaders against sexual assault.  Now a new survey by the American Association of Universities says that the figure is more like one in four.  That is, the number of college students reporting themselves to be victims of sexual assault. 

The survey stirred controversy before it ever got underway and it is stirring up still more now that the results have been announced.

Campaigners against campus sexual assault complain that the data should not be aggregated, but should be released on a campus by campus or college by college breakdown.

Opponents complain that:

1.  The definition of sexual assault is too broad.

2.  Not enough experts were involved in the study.

3.  The sample is flawed.

Without doubt, the survey will keep the controversy over the DOE's crusade at center stage in higher education for the foreseeable future.

Monday, September 14, 2015

House of Representatives Committee on Education and the Workforce is considering a bill that would require alleged rape victims to go to the police...

... or else, the college couldn't punish the accused. 

Naturally, the bill's critics claim that, if enacted, the measure would chill victims' willingness to come forward.   They have a point.

On the other hand, along lines that I have argued repeatedly in this space, the proposal might be a step in the right direction, moving the sexual-assault pendulum closer to being back in balance.

Since President Obama's speech in June 2014, calling for an end to sexual assaults on college campuses and the DOE's subsequent crusade to put that mandate into effect, a number of abuses have become apparent to those of us in the legal community who care about due process of law:

1.  Labeling the accuser "the victim" from the get-go immediately creates a presumption of guilt, rather than innocence, with respect to the accused.

2.  The typical standard for determining guilt --- more likely than not --- is a far cry from "beyond a resonable doubt."

3.  When the case is close, adjudicators are 'more likely than not' to side with "the victim" and dismiss or suspend the accused, rather than risk liability by leaving a potential repeat offender at large on the campus.

Of course, the worst case of all was the Rolling Stone debacle at the University of Virginia, where the magazine decided to allow the "victim" to tell her side of the story, while honoring her request that its reporter not even contact the accused frat boys.  Several lawsuits against the magazine have resulted from that travesty of journalistic integrity.

What should we learn from it?  Well, perhaps that an accuser who is unwilling to avail herself of the criminal justice system ought to be viewed with extreme caution. Yes, as critics of the proposed legislation correctly contend, it's darn tough for a rape victim to deal with the scrutiny that will result from a criminal complaint.  But isn't that precisely the point?  If the defendant is going to be branded as a sex offender for the rest of his young life, shouldn't the evidence against him meet the higher standard required by the law?

And let's not be naive.  Even though the worst that can happen to the accused in a college adjudication is expulsion, the stigma of "sex offender" is branded on that student's forehead for keeps.  That's why so many of these young men are subsequently suing their institutions:

To my mind, only when you have already embraced the presumption that the accuser is always a victim do you value her potential discomfort over the devastating harm that an incorrect finding of guilt under the "more likely than not"  standard against the accused can visit upon him.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Echoes of the Obamacare "mandate" debate.

This writer argues that college us not a commodity.

This brings to my mind the argument raised by the government in defending the Obamacare mandate, namely, that health care is not a commodity analogous to other things on which one might spend money.  Thus, the counter-argument, that we might one day be ordered by Congress to "buy broccoli" was not a valid fear.

You may recall that the Supremes rejected that argument, holding that the Congressional commerce-clause power did not extend to mandating the purchase of health insurance.  However, Chief Justice Roberts retrieved the mandate by finding that it was a tax that could be enacted by the Congress under its Constitutional taxing power.

In point of fact, I think the government's argument that health care is special has greater validity than the Court was prepared to afford it.

I also am sympathetic with this writer's point of view.  Consumerism now permeates higher education, as  students and parents increasingly act as if they are buying a credential and nothing more.  One might well wince when hearing students referred to as customers.

We pass judgment on these so-called customers at the application stage and throughout their college careers.  When they fall short of expectations, we suspend and dismiss them, in essence refusing to sell them the product they covet.  If not unique in the world of commerce, it must come close.

And we in higher ed serve a broader role, educating citizens and conducting research for the benefit of the nation and its people as a whole.  That's why we are either state supported or at least tax exempt... because in return for these advantages, we  provide vital service to the state and society.

That's why, as I have argued repeatedly in this space.  there is no legitimate place for for-profit corporations in higher ed.  Not because they so often engage in fraud;  this is being successfully attacked by the DOE and DOJ.  Not because they are low quality; frankly not all of them are.  No... they have no place because they are selling commodities for profits, while we public and non-profit privates are not.  This distinction will became even more stark if the Clinton plan for free community college and debt-free public four-year education becomes the reality.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Is competency based credentialling the next big thing in higher education?

Some 600 schools, said to be developing such programs, apparently think so. 

What's the down side?

Well, for universities that make most of their money selling credits, rooms and meal plans, this could cut into their budgets even more than what's happening in private-sector higher ed right now.

But maybe we are talking about a population that is of non-traditional age and unlikely to become campus-dwelling full-time students anyway.

 The US high school graduation rate hit a record high of 81 % last year.
Many crowed about that.  But are you kidding?  That means 19% of our young people didn't get high school diplomas on time.

Less than 30% of the US adult population has a bachelor's degree... which I would argue is the functional equivalent of a high school diploma 100 or even 50 years ago.

So, if credentialing via competency is a way to improve those numbers, and if the process is legit, I'm on board.


Tuesday, September 8, 2015

A for-profit college in Kentucky will pay students $1.4 million dollars in damages for alleged fraud.

The students via the state attorney general accused the college of overstating its job-placement track record when it recruited them.

Kentucky's AG brought the suit on their behalf.

A few years ago, there was a rash of cases brought by law school alums making similar claims.  Most of these cases were tossed out, although one such suit against Delaware's Widener Law School survived the motion to dismiss.

Students and grads trying to establish fraud in admissions advertising have an uphill fight at best.  That's why this settlement seems to me to be a significant sign that the fraud-in-the-inducement theory isn't the dead letter we might have thought it was, where inflated job-placement claims are concerned.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Register now for my 9/17 webinar on "The Marijuana Revolution"

Marijuana Revolution: How Higher Education Is Adjusting to a Shifting Landscape


Date: 9/17/2015, 1 PM Eastern
Duration: Scheduled for 90 minutes including question and answer session.
Presenter(s): James Ottavio Castagnera, Ph.D. and attorney at law
Price: $299.00 webinar, $349.00 CD, $399.00 webinar and CD. Each option may be viewed by an unlimited number of attendees in one room using one unique login. CD includes full audio presentation, question and answer session and presentation slides.
Who Should Attend? College and university administrators, department chairs, legal counsel
Best For: Higher education
Attitudes and laws relating to the use of marijuana for both recreational and medicinal purposes are changing around the country, leaving college administrators questioning whether the time has come to reconsider their institutions' policies and practices concerning marijuana use by their students. The changing marijuana landscape that college and university administrators see is characterized by a new reality which includes:
  • Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia, which currently have laws legalizing marijuana
  • A handful of states that have already legalized the recreational use of marijuana
  • Decriminalization of the possession of small amounts of marijuana by a growing number of states and municipalities
  • Nearly two-dozen states, which have medical marijuana laws allowing for the limited use of marijuana
  • Courts that have begun wrestling with what all these new laws may in fact mean
  • Last, but hardly least, the U.S. Department of Justice, which has issued a series of memoranda outlining its revamped approach to enforcement of federal drug laws where marijuana is concerned.
How should colleges and universities respond to this revolution? Should they be reexamining their drug and alcohol policies? Should student marijuana use be treated the same as alcohol violations or as a federal crime? Does the Americans with Disabilities Act impact how to deal with students with disabilities, who may wish to use medicinal marijuana? What role do FERPA and the Clery Act play in the mix?
Please join Dr. James Ottavio Castagnera as he offers guidance on these and other questions that university administrators need to consider when reviewing their policies and practices concerning the student use of marijuana. In addition Dr. Castagnera will also examine the myths and realities of drug-driving, the academic impact of marijuana use, medical effects and health impacts, and the relationship between recreational use and drug-dealing on our campuses.


Just a sampling of what this webinar will cover:
  • The states that have legalized marijuana for recreational use and/or medical use; and what these new laws really mean
  • A review of the current policies of the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Education
  • How the Americans with Disabilities Act figures into the equation
  • Consideration of what happened to the Drug Free Workplace Act
  • Evolving university policies in states that have legalized recreational marijuana use; in states that have legalized medical use; in states with no legalization
  • Safety and health issues involving marijuana use including: drug driving; campus drug dealing and related crimes; health & medical effects; academic impacts
  • FERPA and parental notification issues
  • CLERY Act implications


Your conference leader for “Marijuana Revolution: How Higher Education Is Adjusting to a Shifting Landscape” is Dr. James Ottavio Castagnera. Dr. Castagnera holds a law degree and a Ph.D. in American studies from Case Western Reserve University. Jim brings three decades of experience in higher education to this webinar. Prior to law school he served Case Western Reserve as director of university communication. He went on to teach as a full-time faculty member at the University of Texas-Austin and the Widener University Law School, and as a lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania, Wharton Business School. Currently, and for the past 19 years, he has been Rider University’s associate provost and legal counsel. His diverse duties include risk management, regulatory matters, faculty and student disciplinary cases, international student and study abroad programs, intellectual property, litigation management, governance and institutional policies. He is the author of 19 books, including the Handbook for Student Law for Higher Education Administrators (Peter Lang, 2010, revised edition 2014).
His teaching experience includes continuing legal education courses, webinars and presentations at numerous national forums, including the Annual Conference of the National Center for the Study of Collective Bargaining in Higher Education and the Annual Homeland Defense and Security Higher Education Summit sponsored by the Naval Postgraduate School. QUALITY COMMITMENT

EducationAdminWebAdvisor, a division of DKG Media, LP, wants you to be satisfied with your webinar. If this webinar does not meet your expectations, email us at


EducationAdminWebAdvisor certificates of participation are available to everyone completing this webinar.

College education is a major issue in the looming national elections, and Denver is carving its own path to solving tuition costs.

As the three Democratic front runners all propose to provide free community college and debt-free public four-year educations, the Colorado city will be offering voters the chance to enact a modest tax that is intended to raise $10 million a year in scholarship funds.  Eligible students could qualify for up to $4000 a year under the proposal, if it's passed next year.

Education — Civil Rights of the 21st Century

By James Castagnera

From John McCain’s acceptance speech, the line that stuck out for me was, “Education is the civil rights issue of the 21st century.”
He went on to explain that for him that meant offering parents and students a choice among public, private and charter schools. That choice, of course, only has meaning if parents and students have a variety of schools from which to choose and the financial ability to buy into their schools of choice. More broadly, while the GOP presidential candidate is right about education’s central significance in the new century, his simplistic solution hardly scratches the surface.
In many major cities, high school graduation rates hover around 50%. In a few they dip below the .500 mark. This dismal fact ensures the perpetuation of what Karl Marx called the lumpenproletariat, which is to say, the ragged or rabble lower class. And this, in its turn, ensures perpetuation of the drug wars, gang wars and random killings that characterize our inner cities.
Meanwhile out in the land of suburban sprawl, teen obesity, drug and alcohol abuse, and the random shootings that periodically plague our schools all suggest that affluence alone does not ensure successful students. Taken in this context, the issue of education expands to include family issues, such as divorce rates.
Labor policy, likewise, must be included in the mix. One of the great ironies of our new century is that, while millionaire professional athletes have strong labor unions, workers on the bottom rungs of our economy are often as exploited as their 19th century counterparts. Labor organizations, such as the Service Employees International Union, have a hard time organizing these folks, given the lopsided way in which our National Labor Relations Act is interpreted by the federal courts and bureaucrats. Union prevention and union busting are only another cost of doing business for many major corporations, which also outsource what were once the better-paying positions to Asian and Latin American sweatshops.
Immigration policy also must be addressed in any comprehensive approach to American education. The Supreme Court has said that the children of illegal aliens are entitled to attend public schools. The law remains unsettled as to whether or not such students are also entitled to attend public colleges and universities and, if so, whether they are also entitled to in-state residents’ tuition breaks.
More broadly, are immigrants filling jobs that Americans don’t want to do? Or are Americans declining those jobs because of the low wages, lack of benefits, and miserable working conditions? The use of immigrant labor, legal and illegal, at the bottom of the economic barrel perpetuates the conditions that make these jobs unattractive to anyone but immigrant and migrant workers.
Last but not least is the rising cost of a college education. Too many of our young people are graduating with “mortgages” on their diplomas. Inefficiencies plague the higher education industry. Despite being the only major sector of the economy that can call on its past customers —- its alumni—to continue supporting its operations, and despite substantial gifts and grants from donors and foundations, higher education’s tuition rates continue to outpace inflation significantly. Thus, the proliferation of large student-loan debts.
Yes, Sen. McCain (and Sen. Obama), “Education IS the civil rights issue of the 2ist century.” And it is a complex issue, entangled with equally complex and challenging issues of family, labor, and immigration policy.

From The Progressive Populist, October 1, 2008

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Is the entire Southern Hemisphere planning to emigrate to the Northern Hemisphere?

Sometimes it sure looks like it:

And, if so, should the United States and Europe allow that to happen?

James Ottavio Castagnera: This Is Not Your Grandpa’s America, So Get Over It

 0  0  0 

This may sound a little nasty… but the dumbest reason I’ve heard for legalizing the 11 million illegal aliens in the U.S. is “My grandparents got to come here. These people deserve the same chance.” I’ve heard that a lot lately. So let’s follow the logic of this notion and see where it leads us.
My Italian grandparents came here just about a century ago. My grandmother gave birth to 16 kids. Gee, wouldn’t it be great if every illegal-alien family currently in the U.S. had 16 kids? Since the Supreme Court already ruled 20 years ago that the children of illegals are entitled to a K-12 public education, our school districts would experience a spectacular increase in classroom diversity. Since we lack a national “English-only” law, the classroom teachers would no-doubt embrace the challenge of mainstreaming these kids under the “No Child Left Behind” Act. My senior-citizen neighbors --- many of whom already are struggling to pay their school taxes --- will undoubtedly grin and bear the added burden.
Once all these kids are educated and grown, half could stay at home to help their parents on the family farm while the other half could pack up their Conestoga wagons and head west to… whoops, I just remembered: The U.S. Interior Department declared the American frontier officially closed in 1896.
Just four years later in 1900 the U.S. Census counted 76,212,168 inhabitants in the U.S.A. In 2000 the Bureau counted 281,421,906 souls in America. That’s about 3.7 times as many people as a century earlier. This single fact might make a difference in some folks’ thinking.
Professor Marshall McLuhan, the Sixties media guru best remembered for “the media is the message,” also said that we lived (mentally) in “Bonanza-land.” Readers with a touch of gray at their temples will remember the popular weekly Western “Bonanza.” Younger eyes can take a gander at the retro-website They’re all there: Ben, big daddy and “the soul of Ponderosa,” the family’s mega-ranch; Adam, the wise-beyond-his-years eldest brother; Little Joe, the hot youngest brother, played by teen idol Michael Landon; and, Hoss, the lovable, lumbering family idiot, reminiscent of Lenny in “Of Mice and Men.”
My favorite from among the quotes posted on the “Bonanza” site is this Ben Cartwright profundity: "Well maybe I've never been to Heaven, and maybe I'm never going to get the chance, but Heaven is going to have to go some to beat the thousand square miles of the Ponderosa."
According to McLuhan (a Canadian), we Americans were driving down the road of life, looking into our rearview mirrors, where we saw the four Cartwright men riding side-by-side straight out of our TV screens. If the prophet of pop-culture could come back to 21 st century America, his opinion probably wouldn’t change. Just look at what we’re driving these days: Ford Mustangs, Jeep Cherokees, Dodge Dakotas, Honda Ridgelines (Motor Trend’s 2006 truck of the year, by the way), Hyundai Santa Fe’s and Tucsons.
The trouble is that, when we take our eyes away from that rearview mirror and stare out the front windshield, most of us never see the Ponderosa unrolling in front of us. More likely, we’re looking at the latest housing development, cheek-to-jowl with the newest strip mall, both of which we have plenty of time to ponder, because they’ve entailed the installation of yet another set of traffic lights. Or we may be gazing at yet another inner-city neighborhood, rundown and cluttered with trash.
Warm-hearted souls, who favor an open-door policy, ought to ask which Americans benefit and who loses, when our borders are left wide open and laws against hiring illegals go essentially un-enforced. Businesses wishing to keep their labor cost low are the big winners. Despite all the folklore that illegal aliens take jobs no American citizens want, our poorest citizens --- who, under current welfare rules, must enter the workforce --- suffer from illegal competition.
Bill Fletcher, former education director of the AFL-CIO and currently president of TransAfrica Forum, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit, in 2004 told the Pacific News Service, “It's like an urban legend, which sees competition taking place everywhere. If African Americans were moving from lower to higher level jobs, there would be no reason for fear. But that's not the case." Black workers are not the only ones trapped in temporary, low-paying, no-benefit jobs, he added.
No, folks, this is not Bonanza-land. This isn’t your grandpa’s America. Get your eyes off that rearview mirror. Get over it.
- See more at:

Scott Walker as Jeremy Bentham

The Chronicle of Higher Education today characterizes the Wisconsin governor, who dropped out of college in 1990 to take a job, as a utilitarian with no appreciation for the more profound purposes of a college education and the mission of a great university.
This is a picture of Bentham's "auto-icon."  It's his skeleton, tucked into a stuffed suit and preserved in a cabinet at a university in London, where the board of governors trots it out every year for an annual meeting.  He is recorded in the minutes as present but not participating.  His actual preserved head used to a part of the auto-icon.  But students kept desecrating it in grotesque ways.  So now, if memory serves me, the head is wax.

Bentham believed that everything came down to a scale of pain versus pleasure.  As much as any 19th century thinker, he has influenced our notions of justice in America.  But, like the governor's notions of what a university's mission ought to be, Bentham's Utilitarianism fails to account for the sublime and the subtle in human behavior and human values.

While we educators absolutely must (1) graduate more students from our colleges and (2) make sure these grads get gainful employment, we also must (3) educate critical thinkers and thoughtful engaged citizens.

Our graduates must have more in their heads than wax.  They must be more than auto-icons in the workforce.  The alternative is the tyranny of the wealthy and powerful.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Chimps ain't people, New York Courts conclude.

September 1, 2015

New York's Highest Court Deals Serious Blow to Chimpanzee "Personhood" Movement

Earlier today, the New York Court of Appeals, the state's highest court, declined to hear appeals brought forward by animal rights lawyer Stephen Wise and the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP).

Previous attempts by Wise and NhRP to seek a writ of habeas corpus for privately-owned chimpanzees had failed in lower courts. Wise argued that chimpanzees were denied their basic legal rights, comparing them to slaves and prisoners.  Previously, three justices in a midlevel court denied legal standing for chimpanzees by saying the animals "cannot bear any legal duties, submit to societal responsibilities or be held legally accountable for their actions."  Most recently, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Barbara Jaffee noted in Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP) v. Stanley that, "Animals… are accorded no legal rights beyond being guaranteed the right to be free from physical abuse and other mistreatment.” 

To read more about today's developments, please see the coverage by  U.S. News & World Report and ABC News

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My September Higher-Education Webinars are open for registration now:

September 10th - Complying with student-record requirements

September 17th-  The "Marijuana Revolution" and how it's affecting our campuses

September 24th -  Student Handbooks: Vital Management Tools

Register via my website:

"Faculty on the Front Lines"

That's the title of this Chronicle of Higher Education article: 

The gist of the piece is that faculty must be able to deal with students with psychological problems, who are becoming more and more common on our campuses.

That's only a small part of the challenge to faculty today.   Besides "garden variety" psychological baggage brought to campus by "traditional" students, veterans pose even greater risks and challenges, when they suffer from PTSD.

And then there is the rankling issue of whether faculty should be deemed "responsible employees" under universities' sexual-assault policies, or whether they can deal confidentially with alleged victims who seek their counsel.  Most universities seem to be opting for treating them as responsible employees with an obligation to report such revelations forward to management.  The AAUP and other faculty organizations and advocates seem to think otherwise.

All in all, faculty face daunting obligations that far exceed the traditional duty of conveying their scholarly wisdom in front of the class.