First Amendment victories: The Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) has convinced the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and Virginia Tech (VT) to modify policies that could be used to violate students' First Amendment rights. The VT policy denied faith-based student groups the right to apply for student fee funding for religious activities. The UCLA policy required fliers posted on campus to be free of any material that tended to promote "demeaning social stereotypes based on race, ethnicity, culture, gender, or sexual orientation." ADF attorneys contended the policy was too broad and vague.
In letters sent to school officials in April, the ADF requested changes to both policies without having to go to court. The letters are part of a nationwide campaign to stamp out unconstitutional policies governing speech, protest activities and campus religious organizations at public universities. Lawyers have a list of more than 160 schools with objectionable policies. They launched their campaign by sending letters to 40 schools in 23 states. UCLA and VT are the largest schools to respond to the requests so far.
Arbitrary evaluation criteria: Just days after the government released a report criticizing for-profit schools for not meeting new educational quality benchmarks, a federal judge struck down the tests regulators used in their evaluations. Judge Rudolph Contreras ruled that the U.S. Department of Education didn't adequately justify its requirement that at least 35 percent of graduates from for-profit schools must be repaying their student loans. The other two tests in the "gainful employment" rules measure debt to income ratios. Although Contreras found only one of the rules "arbitrary," he negated the whole process because the three were "intertwined."
For-profit schools no longer have to track or report the gainful employment statistics, but government regulators likely will come up with another set of regulations soon. Contreras ruled that the government was within its rights to try to address the educational quality of for-profit schools, which have endured criticism for graduating students with lots of debt and, in some cases, few job prospects.
Status denied: The Israeli government has denied full university status to a school in the West Bank settlement of Ariel. The school had become a symbol of the fight between those who want to see settlements expanded and those who want to pull out of Palestinian territories as part of peace negotiations. Settlers had hoped giving Ariel University Center full recognition would give added credibility to both the settlement and the school. Many thought government officials shared their view.
In recent years, Israel has expanded Ariel with new home developments, a sports complex and the university. But a coalition of Israeli university professors opposed the move, saying it would hurt the country's standing in academic circles. Israeli universities already face an international academic boycott because of the country's ongoing fight with the Palestinians over land and sovereignty. The government will reconsider the school's request for full recognition again next year.