rusq: Vol. 50 Issue 2: p. 188
Sources: Encyclopedia of Law and Higher Education
Sara Anne Hook

Sara Anne Hook, Professor, Indiana University, Indianapolis, Indiana

Encyclopedia of Law and Higher Education is a nicely organized, beautifully produced single-volume work that responds to a noticeable gap in the literature on this important and timely topic. Although there has not been as much litigation in higher education law as in K–12 education, there are a number of legal issues that confront faculty members, administrators, parents, and students at colleges and universities on a regular basis on such varied topics as academic freedom, due process, religious activities, employee rights, diversity, and privacy, to name but a few. Most attorneys are not familiar with the law as it applies to higher education and may be surprised to learn of the considerable deference that courts give to decisions it believes are the purview of academe. As indicated in the introduction, the Encyclopedia of Law and Higher Education “is intended to serve as a comprehensive source on the law of higher education for undergraduate and graduate students, educators, legal practitioners, and general readers concerned with this central area of public life” (xvii). The volume fulfills this purpose admirably, giving just enough information for a solid overview of a particular topic, punctuated by excerpts of the thirty most influential cases to the law of higher education. The editor has impressive credentials that make him particularly well suited for his role in preparing this volume, and the advisory and editorial board members and contributors represent an interesting mix of faculty members and practitioners from a number of universities, schools, and law firms.

The organization of Encyclopedia of Law and Higher Education is typical of most works of its kind, with the majority of its pages devoted to entries arranged in alphabetical order. There is a short table of contents, an alphabetical list of entries, and a reader’s guide at the beginning of the volume. The reader’s guide is particularly helpful because it arranges the entries into eleven categories so that relevant material is easily located. The first category in the reader’s guide is a list of major cases that are included in the volume, also divided into categories. The introduction provides a brief history of the law related to higher education and advocates that law school students, educators, and policy makers look to the past, present, and future to craft sound educational policies. A two-page description of how to work with legal materials is also helpful, particularly the section that explains the elements of a legal citation. The volume ends with a standard index.

Individual entries within the Encyclopedia of Law and Higher Education are concise and clearly written with a minimum of legal terminology. Entries for court cases include a summary of the facts and ruling along with a brief excerpt from the case. “See also” references are provided with the entries, along with short lists of citations to cases and statutes and to additional reading material. Even though the entries were written by a number of different contributors, the writing style, organization, and flow are consistent throughout the volume and the text is accessible to readers who do not have a legal background. The Encyclopedia of Law and Higher Education also fills a gap in the book literature (as opposed to law review and journal articles). A search of WorldCat revealed very little that both is current and encompasses the entire body of work on the law in higher education. Many of the books that are available are either focused on a particular issue within the topic, such as sexual harassment, or are more in the style of a typical law school textbook, consisting primarily of the full or partial text of legal cases with minimal commentary or background information. An encyclopedia that provides a comprehensive treatment of law and higher education will be a welcome addition to the field.

Encyclopedia of Law and Higher Education would be an appropriate purchase for academic and public libraries as well as for nonprofit organizations and agencies that serve higher education constituencies. It would also be a useful addition for libraries in law firms. As faculty members, staff members, students, and others connected with higher education begin to assert their rights with greater frequency, it may no longer be unusual for a lawyer to be asked to represent someone seeking redress against a college or university or for a law firm to be in the role of advisor or outside counsel for the institution’s own legal department. The cost of the volume is more than reasonable, and it is also available as an electronic book.

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