The academic world is not the quiet, simple place that it once was. The wider world has impinged on the ivory tower in numerous ways. The range and complexity of issues facing a college administrator has grown dramatically. Today, a college must deal with campus security, web-based challenges to privacy, growing plagiarism, mental health issues, budgetary pressures, and a host of other increasingly complex issues.
Wyche’s education practice has given us great experience in the wide range of unique issues faced by institutions of higher learning. We have handled matters as varied as student discipline and honor code issues; disclosure of educational records under FERPA; bond issues for private colleges; faculty handbooks and tenure disputes; establishing policies on intellectual property ownership as between faculty, students, and the institutions; review of corporate charters and compliance with IRS nonprofit regulations; executive compensation plans; endowment-related matters; faculty and staff employment contracts, disputes, and litigation; Title IX compliance; and contracting with college vendors.
A number of our established practice areas are central to our services to colleges and universities, including employment, intellectual property, technology, securities, and trusts and estates. The sample engagements below illustrate the breadth of the issues we have addressed.
- Filed an amicus curiae with the SC Court of Appeals and successfully argued that courts should not interfere in core academic decisions by schools, resulting in reversal of a lower court decision.
- Represented multiple private colleges as borrower’s counsel in the issuance of bonds under the South Carolina Educational Facilities Authority Act for Private Nonprofit Institutions of Higher Learning. Issuances on which we worked last year totaled over $44 million. Our lawyers have worked closely with one private, liberal arts college in the development of an intellectual property policy. Given the importance of encouraging academic creativity and expansion and increasing value of intellectual property, it was important to strike an appropriate balance between the rights of the faculty and the college.
- Obtained a summary judgment for a college and its academic dean in a lawsuit filed by an ROTC instructor alleging wrongful discharge.
- Appellate counsel for the League of Women Voters and the South Carolina State Conference of the NAACP in the landmark equitable school funding case.
Education Policy Consulting
Wyche is prepared to counsel clients through any public policy issues regarding education on a state, regional, or national level. Inez Tenenbaum leads Wyche’s Education Policy Consulting practice, and draws on her experience as South Carolina Superintendent of Education to navigate complex issues.
As superintendent, Inez focused her administration on six key initiatives to fuel education progress in South Carolina:
- Raising the academic bar and embracing accountability for student academic progress.
- Improving teacher quality.
- Providing quality early childhood education for all children.
- Supporting strong and effective school leadership.
- Promoting safe and healthy schools.
- Increasing parent and community involvement.
- Under Inez’s leadership, the South Carolina General Assembly approved a $750 million school bond for K-12 school construction and renovation, with local districts leveraging the bond amount to raise the total to $1.75 billion.
During Inez’s tenure, South Carolina’s Performance on the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) showed top rankings for improvement:
- Math, Grade 4—number 1 in the nation
- Math, Grade 8—number 1 in the nation
- Science, Grade 4—number 1 in the nation
- Science, Grade 8—number 3 in the nation
At the end of Inez’s tenure in that office, South Carolina was a leader in the nation in education improvement. Standard & Poor’s identified South Carolina as an “outperformer” on NAEP for consistently achieving above the statistical expectations, and the state’s SAT scores increased 34 points over the eight years, the largest such gain in the nation.