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10 Important Court Cases in College History


Most people don't think of colleges as litigious or important in the legal world, but the fact is that important court cases sometimes find their start in colleges. From affirmative action to the Fourteenth Amendment, colleges have had their part in major court case decisions in history. Here, we'll take a look at 10 of the most important ones that made it all the way to the Supreme Court.

  1. Dartmouth College v. Woodward: Dartmouth College v. Woodward considered whether a state legislature could change the charter of a college. The case determined whether Dartmouth would stay private or be forced to become a state school, changing the duties of the trustees and how they were selected. The court sided with Dartmouth, allowing the school to continue as a private college, as the school's original charter was a contract between the King of England and the trustees of Dartmouth.
  2. Berea College v. Kentucky: Berea College v. Kentucky paved the way for determining that segregated educational facilities were unconstitutional. Berea College educated African American and white students together, but the newly passed Day Law in Kentucky prohibited educating the two different groups together. The US Supreme Court upheld states' rights to prohibit private educational institutions chartered as corporations from admitting black and white students together. Although the decision stood, Associate Justice John Marshall Harlan wrote a strongly worded dissent. The Day Law was eventually amended to allow voluntary integration.
  3. Board of Regents of State Colleges v. Roth: David Roth was hired as an assistant professor for a term of one academic year, and after the term, was informed he wouldn't be rehired for an additional year. Roth wanted a reason, or a method for review or appeal, but none was given, so he brought an action to the Federal District Court. Roth believed that his Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated, which acts as a safeguard of security interests that a person has acquired. The US Supreme Court determined that Roth's Fourteenth Amendment rights were not violated, as he was not deprived of liberty or property, and was not precluded from obtaining other employment.
  4. Board of Trustees of the University of Alabama v. Garrett: Plaintiffs Milton Ash and Patricia Garrett were both disabled employees of the University of Alabama school system who had been discriminated against. They filed a suit for damages in violation of Title I of the ADA. Although the university did violate their rights, the Supreme Court determined that the Eleventh Amendment did not allow for state employees to recover money damages from the state's failure to comply with Title I in federal court. The court was split 5-4 on this decision, and dissenting opinions concluded that providing states with special protection is not in the spirit of the Fourteenth Amendment.
  5. Cannon v. University of Chicago: Geraldine Cannon sued the University of Chicago for being denied admission based on her sex. She determined a cause of action under Title IX, but the title did not grant a private right of action. The case considered whether or not Congress intended for a private remedy in Title IX. The US Supreme Court determined that a private remedy was necessary, but noted that this source of financial liability could be bad for universities.
  6. Grove City College v. Bell: Title IX only applies to colleges and universities that receive federal funds, so private schools were largely excused from its rules, as they refused direct federal funding. Grove City College v. Bell considered whether Title IX could be applied to private schools where a large number of students received federally funded scholarships. The court held that Title IX could be applied in this situation, but only in the school's financial aid department. Grove City declined all federal aid, and established a loan program with PNC Bank instead.
  7. Mississippi University for Women v. Hogan: Mississippi University for Women v. Hogan challenged the idea that a university could uphold a single-sex admissions policy. A man, Joe Hogan, was denied admission to the MUW nursing school, and filed an action claiming his Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated under the Equal Protection Clause. The Supreme Court decided 5-4 that this policy was in violation, and MUW's student body is now approximately 15% male.
  8. Regents of the University of California v. Bakke: This case questioned whether a quota system based on race was constitutional, as schools including the University of California worked to promote diversity in the classroom. The Supreme Court determined that a quota based on race alone would actually be discrimination itself, and that a plus factor or other affirmative action system would be more appropriate.
  9. Rosenberger v. University of Virginia: The University of Virginia withheld funding to a religious magazine, deeming it necessary to avoid violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The US Supreme Court determined that this action violates the First Amendment guarantee of free speech, and that funds must be distributed equally among secular and religious publications within the University.
  10. In-state tuition for illegal immigrants: This current case will determine whether federal immigration law is violated by tuition breaks for illegal immigrants. California has a policy of allowing illegal immigrants who graduate from state high schools to pay in-state college tuition. The California Supreme Court upheld the policy last year, but it is being challenged in the US Supreme Court.

June 27th, 2011 written by Staff Writers

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