Like most good lawyers, I would maintain that, “It depends.” Contract Law: Institutions have been making publication – initially through bound library copy (and interlibrary loan), then microfilm/microfiche, and now website – a degree requirement. Let’s look at the applicable standards: The first standard that applies is conscionability: Is the requirement that students publish their dissertations conscionable?
There are two components to conscionability: substantive and procedural.
Rob has worked in higher education administration in both the US and abroad for over 25 years, and is licensed to practice law in New York and California.
As a doctoral student who practiced law before returning to graduate school to pursue an Ed.
The other applicable legal analysis is whether publication is part of the agreed upon exchange between the doctoral student and the institution.
I am not trying to be facetious when I opine that the agreed upon exchange in higher education is essentially payment for degree. If a court were to decide that published dissertations had at least some value to institutions, and graduate tuitions should be reduced accordingly, what value would institutions be willing to assign in order to be able to require publication? Based upon my experience in higher education administration, I would argue that institutions would not be willing to forego any revenue in this case, even if a court decided that there had to be some value assigned.Academe is conditioned to public dissemination of doctoral dissertations, and this justification from the website of the University of Michigan’s Rackham Graduate School is typical: century, a central purpose of doctoral education has been to prepare students to make significant scholarly contributions to knowledge.The dissertation is submitted as public evidence of your scholarly accomplishment meriting the conferral of the doctoral degree.Consider institutions that require their doctoral students to have dissertations reviewed by professional editors – selected by the institutions, but paid for by the students – before mandatory submission to Pro Quest.The latent rationale is to ensure that the institutions are being well represented online.D., I will admit that I have a different perspective than most of my peers on legal issues.So imagine my surprise when I was told that I was required to enter into a contract with a third party business, Pro Quest, and submit my dissertation for publication on their website as a requirement of obtaining my degree.Hence, said student is more ready and able to enter the world of academic publishing.I do not believe that this rationale is more than a pretense.Now that we have dealt with the legal stuff, let’s look at the moral (the right thing to do) and public policy considerations (the principles upon which our laws are based), which I believe are just as important.Is the requirement that graduate students publish their dissertations a defensible position from an individual rights perspective?