Book Reviews

Book by: William A. Kaplin and Barbara A. Lee
Review by: Michelle M. White
Department of Academic & Student Development
Millersville University


Today’s college campuses present a multitude of ever-present challenges for student affairs professionals, including advisers, with issues involving institutional policy, but with increasing frequency legal implications. The authors recognize this complex nature and this book is dedicated to all those members of the academy, and particularly to all those student affairs administrators, who in numerous and varied ways have helped to raise this book and its predecessor, The Law of Higher Education, from their origins through their later editions and to all those members of our academy who face the great challenges of law and policy that will shape higher education’s future.

The challenges for student affairs professionals are often difficult and multifaceted, and may arise on a daily basis in the course of performing their institutional responsibilities. The legal questions regarding students that arise may involve alleged disciplinary or academic misconduct and many other issues on campus. Legal issues regarding students can even arise before they arrive on campus. For example, issues concerning admissions decisions, financial aid decisions, post-admission requests for accommodations for students with disabilities, and requests regarding housing accommodations. In addition, legal issues can arise even after students graduate; issues concerning the maintenance of education records of graduates, defaults on the repayment of student loans, and the revocation of a degree due to belatedly discovered behavioral or academic misconduct.        To meet such challenges, student affairs professionals must have a sound knowledge of the pertinent legal landscape, an understanding of the relationship between law and institutional policy, and good working relationships with legal counsel. The components of the book are well written, carefully edited and organized into five parts: (1) Perspectives and Foundations; (2) The College, Its Governing Board, and Its Employees; (3) The College and Its Students; (4)The College and Its Student Organizations; and (5) The College and the Outside World. Each of the fifteen chapters is divided into sections and subsections, each with its own title. This second edition of A Legal Guide for Student Affairs Professionals is designed to assist professionals in developing and maintaining these capabilities and using them to the benefit of their institutions and the students who attend them. This edition addresses the range of student affairs professionals – from vice presidents to deans to directors to entry-level staff. Likewise, this edition covers all of postsecondary education – from the large state university to the small private liberal arts college, from the graduate and professional school to the community college and vocational or technical institution, and from the traditional campus-based program to the innovative off-campus or distance learning program.

To serve its purpose, the book organizes and conceptualizes the plethora of legal considerations pertinent to student affairs administration. The major strength of the book provides foundational knowledge about the American legal system as it applies to postsecondary education, analyzes legal developments, identifies trends and tracks their implications for academic institutions, and provides practical planning suggestions. The book also recommends numerous resources for further information and research. The text avoids legal jargon and technicalities when possible and explains them when they are used. Finally, there is a new bibliography, both in the text and in the Selected Annotated Bibliographies at the end of each chapter. Readers can use the listed books, articles, reports, web sites, and other sources to extend the discussion of particular issues presented in the chapter, to explore issues not treated in the chapter, to obtain additional practical guidance in dealing with the chapter’s issues, and to discover resources for research.

The legal analyses throughout this book, and the various practical suggestions, are not adapted to the law of any particular start or to the circumstances prevailing at any particular postsecondary institution. The book is not a substitute for the advice of legal counsel, nor a substitute for further research into the particular legal authorities and factual circumstances that pertain to each legal problem that an institution, student affairs professional, or student may face. Nor is the book necessarily the latest word on the law. The authors urge student affairs professionals (and their legal counsel) to keep abreast of ongoing developments concerning the issues in this book. Although new resources for staying up to date are regularly introduced, the total volume of law to keep track of continues to grow. Keeping abreast of pertinent legal developments continues to be a formidable challenge. To assist readers with this task, a web site is maintained (www.nacua.org/publications/lohe), hosted by the National Association of College and University Attorneys (NACUA), Washington, D.C. and posting new developments.

The overall goal for this multifaceted resource is to enhance the capacities of student affairs professionals to integrate legal considerations into their daily responsibilities, to promote effective relationships between administrators, particularly student affairs administrators, and the institution’s legal counsel, to facilitate understanding of the relationship between law and policy, and to provide a base for the continuing debate concerning law’s role on campus. In conclusion, the challenge of this age is not to remove the law from the campus or to marginalize it. The law is here to stay, and it will continue to play a major role in student affairs and campus affairs generally.  The challenge is for law and higher education to accommodate one another, preserving the best values of each for the mutual benefit of both. Just as academia benefits from the understanding and respect of the legal community, so law benefits from the understanding and respect of academia. The book is an outstanding tool and resource in any professional’s library and I highly recommend it.


A Legal Guide for Student Affairs Professionals (2nd ed.) (2009). Book by William A. Kaplin and Barbara A. Lee. Review by Michelle M. White. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley. 2128 pp., $350.00 (Hardback). ISBN 978-0-470-43393-5






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