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Miller Canfield’s higher education team follows an interdisciplinary approach to help our clients fulfill their mission while minimizing litigation risk and remaining compliant with the multitude of regulations that affect institutions of higher education.

We represent public and private not for profit institutions, for-profit education providers, education and athletic associations and educational foundations on a wide range of matters. Our work includes project-oriented work such a financing of major improvements and resolving significant litigation as well as providing day to day general counsel services. We always keep in mind the complex regulatory framework in which our clients operate as well as the unique mission values of each of our higher education clients. 

Recently we have assisted institutions of higher education with regard to:

CORPORATE AND FINANCE 

  • Formation and accreditation of new institutions and affiliates
  • Governance matters, including drafting and interpretation of Board and Faculty By-Laws and Handbooks
  • Structuring tax-exempt and tax-advantaged financing programs
  • Tax audits and advice
  • Real estate transactions
  • Contract negotiation and review

LABOR AND EMPLOYMENT 

  • Counselling and litigation to resolve faculty, student and staff claims under Title IX, Title VII, Title VI, ADA, FMLA, contract and state law
  • Tenure termination proceedings, both internal and external litigation
  • Response to faculty and staff union organizing
  • Negotiation of collective bargaining agreements with faculty and staff
  • Negotiation of senior administrator employment, compensation and severance agreements
  • Policy development and training regarding all of the above

DISPUTE RESOLUTION

  • Investigation and resolution of whistleblower/qui tam claims
  • Class action defense including claims by disgruntled students/alumni and employees

TECHNOLOGY AND PRIVACY

  • Policy and procedure development to clarify ownership of intellectual property rights
  • Review of sponsored research agreements
  • FERPA/HIPAA/FOIA compliance as applied to electronic records and email

REGULATORY AND COMPLIANCE 

  • VAWA, Cleary, Title IV compliance programs
  • Resolve OCR investigations
  • Investigation and resolution of alleged NCAA by-law infractions
  • Open Meetings Act

Collective Bargaining

Negotiated an initial collective bargaining agreement between a community college and its part-time faculty. 

Negotiated successor collective bargaining agreements between a university and its faculty union. 

Negotiated initial and successor collective bargaining agreements between a university and its teaching assistants union. 

Negotiated initial and successor collective bargaining agreements between several universities and their AFSCME (dining, custodial, grounds, maintenance, etc.) employees.

Free Speech

Represented Northern Michigan University in this First Amendment student press case. The plaintiff, a former journalistic advisor, was terminated by the paper's board of directors. She claimed she was fired in retaliation for her encouragement of the student editors to investigate and publish unfavorable stories about the school administration, and sought an injunction prohibiting her termination. The court denied the injunction. Reed v. Neiheisel, 2015 WL 42493130 (W.D. Mich. 2015). 

Investigations

Conducted an extensive investigation following a public allegation that a softball coach for a major university had intentionally thrown at a play during practice in retaliation for the player’s complaints about the team.

Litigation Procedure

In Hyde v. University of Michigan Board of Regents, 226 Mich App 511 (1998), the Michigan Court of Appeals agreed that an employee who refused to produce his medical records, asserting the physician-patient privilege, could not then seek to recover emotional distress damages.

Private University Tenure

In Branham v. Thomas M. Cooley Law School, 689 F.3d 558 (6th Cir. 2012), obtained a successful result in first private university tenure case, establishing that tenure does not grant any right to continued employment or a removal procedure beyond that provided by contract.