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Law and Ethics in Academic and Student Affairs: Developing an Institutional Approach

Check out our 2024 book!

We understand that law and ethics are not everyone’s favorite topics. We get it. We want this book to be practical and maybe even enjoyable. We are storytellers and have incorporated stories about our experiences to explain concepts and share our perspectives. Our goal is for our stories to help you understand, and we hope our stories provoke you to reflect on your stories, experiences, and expertise.

We are proud of this work. It can stand alone to guide critical thinking, strategic planning, training, and professional development. This book also works in conjunction with more traditional law texts. At a time when students are often worried about doing things the “right way” (as if there were one “right way”), we offer strategies focused on utilizing critical thinking and our Institutional Intelligence Model to understand position and context.

Law is constantly changing and is interpreted differently from campus to campus based on institutional culture and history. This text provides higher education practitioners with tools to anticipate practical and responsible action, engaging readers in anticipatory and reflective practice. In this text, Boettcher and Salinas introduce the Institutional Intelligence Model, a helpful framework that guides practitioners in examining a wide variety of campus issues. Throughout the book, readers can explore perspectives from current practitioners and utilize case studies to examine specific topics, including admissions, academics, student living, confidential resources, and graduate student experiences. By using the strategies in this book, practitioners will be equipped to successfully navigate legal and ethical issues on their campuses. This text is ideal for graduate students, student and academic affairs professionals, and those in leadership positions responsible for working with and supporting students and staff teams.


I am thankful that Michelle invited me to be part of this book. In our first conversation about this critical project, I remember Michelle describing the idea of this book and her teaching experiences. Through this initial conversation, I understood that her concept of it depends is true in student affairs and higher education. It depends can be the answer to many questions. However, its purpose is not to answer or avoid answering a question but to help us stop and inspire us to think, analyze, and strategically consider how our decisions connect to law and ethics. Law and ethics impact our decision-making within student affairs, higher education, and beyond.

The concept of it depends is centered on my thinking and doing. For example, as a Multicultural Liaison Officer at Iowa State University, I learned that when I thought about what programming I would develop, my response was, “It depends.” It depended on student and faculty needs and wants. What I was able to do also depended on budgets and discussions with my supervisor or colleagues. Even when I planned diversity presentations, the audience informed me how I approached the work. It depended on the people, topic or case, location, and situation. This book will provide critical questions and scenarios for you to think about, analyze, and strategically consider. This text will move you from just responding with “It depends” to figuring out what things affect your decision in preparation for action.

It depends is a concept that creates opportunities for us to think, do, and feel about legal and ethical issues in student affairs and higher education. Nevertheless, law and ethics inform where we start with the concept of it depends. The law and ethics around us and our experiences inform how we think about factors in future situations. Like law and ethics, who we are and how we engage depend on history, geography, identity, and culture—and

law and ethics are part of each. All of this affects how we understand the world.

For example, during my elementary and middle school years in Mexico, I learned that there are six continents in the world: Asia, Africa, America, Australia, Antarctica, and Europe. Then, in high school in the United States, I re-learned that there are seven continents: Asia, Africa, North America, South America, Australia, Antarctica, and Europe. In Mexico, America is one continent, but in the U.S., it is two. In comparison, other textbooks for people in other countries might not consider Antarctica a continent. So, how many continents are in the world? Again, it depends on where you went to school, where you learned, who taught you, who wrote the textbooks, and a variety of other points.

As an associate professor of higher education leadership at Florida Atlantic University, I find that law and ethics play a significant role in my courses. I have learned that our understanding of higher education, student affairs, and academic affairs most often comes from our own college experiences and through positions that we hold or have held at colleges or universities. Although this is a great starting point, the field of higher education—past, present, and future—is vast and complex and goes beyond our individual experiences.

As presented in Chapters 2 and 3, the law has dictated much of the history of higher education. However, the historical perspectives of higher education are told and examined in various ways that impact how we think about and analyze college and university settings. Therefore, I hope this book provides a new perspective for you as a reader, a new way to view and question the history of student affairs and higher education.

Because when you think about what you know and the actions you might take in a situation, it depends on how you learned, with whom you engaged, and where you attended school. What you bring through identity, experience, and training also affects how you will make decisions in your job. Throughout this book, we provide critical scenarios that will engage

you in different ways of strategically thinking, analyzing, and planning within higher education’s ever-changing context now and in the future.

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