We seem to have a very inconsistent policy with respect to questions on legal issues related to academia.
I am not referring to questions asking for legal advice for a particular situation (these would certainly be off topic as "too localized" or "seeks advice for a very specific situation, so that only someone close to the situation can give an objectively correct answer.") I am referring to questions asking more generally, "Is [specific behavior related to academia] legal?" or "What are the legal issues surrounding [some academic behavior]?"
At the same time, we've closed questions that seem just like those, for being off topic as legal questions. For example,
- Are there any laws against professors publishing scientific papers without acknowledging student's contributions?
- Panelist hacks my system during a defense, is this legal? (this was closed, then reopened after it was changed from "legal" to "ethical")
In both of these examples, the behavior in question is clearly related to academia. The close reason for the first one also mentions that it is a hypothetical question; but we don't generally close hypothetical questions if they are perfectly feasible, as this one is. So the issue appears to be that it asks about legal issues.
Inconsistency like this is bad; it makes it difficult for new users to understand whether their question is on topic, and it makes it difficult for not-so-new users to judge when to vote to close. I would therefore like to raise this issue for community discussion:
Are questions on legal issues related to academia on topic?