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Handling Tough Economic Times

NEA’s 27th annual higher education conference focused on the importance of the Association’s higher ed members staying politically active.

Some 375 NEA higher education members, national officers, and guests convened in Portland, Oregon March 27-29 for NEA’s 27th annual higher education conference—The Seamless Web of Education.

The gathering began with the pre-conference Leadership Day—“Leading in Tough Economic Times,” in which higher ed staff and leaders discussed how to ensure that higher education was fully included in the federal stimulus money coming to the states. In an array of conference sessions, participants expanded on the idea of the “seamless web” and emphasized the importance of members being politically involved.

This year’s conference benefited from the support of the Oregon Education Association, which provided presenters, moderators, session organizers, and attendees. OEA even recruited a group of AFT colleagues at Portland Community College to attend.

NEA and The Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) have formally agreed to work together to promote a strong public education agenda. The organizations signed a Memorandum of Understanding, committing to collaborate on major gatherings and to offer technical assistance and resources through their respective advocacy programs. NEA Vice President Lily Eskelsen has been appointed to the HACU Hispanic Serving School Districts Advisory Council, a group charged with developing an advocacy agenda for HSSDs.

The U.S. Supreme Court recently handed down favorable rulings in two sexual harassment cases, Fitzgerald v. Barnstable School Committee and Crawford v. Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, that will impact higher education. In both cases, NEA signed onto amicus briefs in support of the plaintiffs.

In Fitzgerald, the Court unanimously ruled that a student could sue school districts for sexual harassment both under Title IX, the federal law that prohibits sexual discrimination by schools and colleges and universities, and under the Equal Protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

In Crawford, a female employee cooperated with an internal investigation about workplace sexual harassment and was fired because of her testimony. A lower court ruled that, because the woman herself had not filed a harassment charge, the anti-retaliation provisions of Title VII did not apply. The Supreme Court unanimously reversed, holding that she was the victim of illegal retaliation.

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