The NIRSA Policy & Legislation Committee was put in place to provide members with information about policies that may affect their campuses. It has also been a voice for campus recreation during discussions around policies that affect higher education. Our main goal is to keep membership apprised of what is happening in higher education. One recent example is the FLSA overtime rules that caused a stir on so many of our campuses this past year.
The implementation of these types of policies and regulations affect most, if not all, of our campus communities and NIRSA members need help navigating best practices for campus recreation.
The NIRSA Policy & Legislation Committee has been an active voice raising concerns related to campus-recreation-specific issues. An example of this was providing support for an opioid abuse bill that was introduced in the House; the bill would provide grant money to programs committed to helping reduce the use of opioids among young people.
As a part of a higher education consortium, we have contributed to conversations regarding the new ACA and FLSA regulations, voicing concerns about these regulations as they relate to student and professional employees within campus recreation.
The Policy & Legislation Committee has provided guidance to NIRSA members when possible, and opened conversations when we were unsure of ourselves. This committee is meant to be a voice for NIRSA members while connecting to policy and legislation concerns within higher education organizations.
During this past year, the Policy & Legislation Committee monitored several laws. We are an active part of the Student Affairs in Higher Education Consortium (SAHEC). We are also part of the National Coalition for Promoting Physical Activity (NCPPA). Both groups work with policy that may affect higher education—more specifically, campus recreation. Monthly, we met to review websites and relevant articles pertaining to policy that may affect our areas—everything from marijuana legislation to freedom of speech on campuses.
This year was very interesting as the election year made for a lot of unknowns. While there continues to be ambiguity on many things that are connected to the U.S. Federal Government, the Committee wants to let NIRSA members know where we’ve been focusing in this past year.
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)
The overtime rule as it was written originally would have changed salary levels for many employees as well as changed job classifications. While this law has not passed in its original form, and continues to be tied up in court proceedings, many universities moved forward with implementing the changes they had determined would be the best response to this law.
There were no consistent answers to how this was handled. Some universities simply reclassified their staff, others increased salaries above the threshold to avoid overtime issues, and others reduced contracts. The impacts of this legislation won’t be easily answered, and the Policy & Legislation Committee continues to encourage NIRSA members to consult with their university’s human resource department to receive the best guidance based on how their campus is interpreting the law.
The Student and Student Athlete Opioid Misuse Prevention Act
The Committee was consulted regarding NIRSA’s signing on as a supporter of the Student and Student Athlete Opioid Misuse Prevention Act (S.786), a bill seeking $10 million in grant funding to help augment/support proactive and preventative programs and trainings for youth and college students. After reading through the bill and having questions answered about its specificity to college students— and, more pointedly, recreation—we were satisfied that this was something NIRSA should support.
Affordable Care Act
We continue to monitor the discussion around the Affordable Care Act and how it could affect our campuses and higher education in general.
The Policy & Legislation Committee monitored discussions about concussion protocols and laws. While no mandates have been put into place, there has been a great deal of discussion around best practices. This will continue to be something NIRSA discusses, but we feel the Committee is not the appropriate group to monitor this issue.
It would be difficult to put into place a policy that would be impossible for some campuses to adhere to due to limited resources. The policy championed by some would also contradict possible state laws and university policies. There needs to be further discussion about best practices and recommendations for concussion protocols, but the Policy & Legislation Committee recognizes that these conversations currently fall outside the scope of the Committee’s charges.
Transgender students and their participation in sports, as well as the North Carolina transgender bathroom bill and how it affected us as an Association, were issues we monitored closely. Transgender rights continue to be up for discussion from a legislative standpoint and will continue to be monitored as we see how it travels through the law-making process.
Gun legislation is an area where we had very little movement this past year. There are several states that are moving to an open carry law and there continues to be discussion regarding how this will affect our campuses. Many states have stalled legislation on their senate or house floors. We continue to monitor changes made and will be sure to communicate these changes to the membership as we become aware of them.
International students and the “Muslim Ban” continue to be topics of discussion and issues related to diversity and inclusion. How this ban affects international students continues to be complex and the policies related to this issue are complicated; however; the committee will continue to monitor federal and state movement on these laws to inform the membership regarding how it might affect their campuses.
Personal Health Investment Today (PHIT) Act
We continue to be supporters of the Personal Health Investment Today (PHIT) Act. NIRSA signed on as a supporter in 2013; the bill was just reintroduced into the House and Senate on March 1, 2017.
The Policy & Legislation Committee welcomes feedback from the membership about areas of policy or legislation where you would like us to investigate further. The Committee would also like to hear from the membership about the issues that affect you and how we can help funnel information that may be helpful as you work on your campuses.