In this question, Cape Code says:

I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it's about the legalese of a specific geographic region and not about academia.

The comment has, at the time of writing, 11 upvotes.The same can be said of any other legal related question. So, should we close all legal related questions as too localised?


I think it is not too localised. The particular example is regulated by US federal law, which makes it exactly as specific to a specific geographic location as "How does the US admission to PhD students work?", and less localised than anything tagged with, for example, Germany.

Laws provide a framework we have to work in, and set limits, duties, and rights in the academic practice that academics should be aware of (or may wonder about).

As long as the question doesn't require a lawyer familiar with the specifics of the case, I think it can stay.

Furthermore, even if the jurisdiction is not the same as mine, many countries' laws mirror each other, so knowing how things are in another place may help me find out how they are in mine.

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    How is US less localized than Germany? Because it has more inhabitants? Where's your cut-off? – Raphael Oct 6 '16 at 21:15
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    "knowing how things are in another place may help me find out how they are in mine" -- not in any reliable way. The only important thing is to notice that the issue is a legal one, and then check your local laws. – Raphael Oct 6 '16 at 21:15
  • @Raphael my point is that there should be no cut off. – Davidmh Oct 7 '16 at 5:29
  • @Raphael one cannot reliably assume the laws are the same, but knowing how things are elsewhere can point me in the right direction. If something is explicitly forbidden in Germany by university regulations, probably my best bet in Sweden is to look up my university's regulations, before checking the law. – Davidmh Oct 7 '16 at 5:35
  • @Davidmh: Admittedly, your answer currently reads very much as if there were a cut-off. Essentially, the first paragraph says "Questions tagged United-States are less localized than questions tagged Germany.", which does evoke the question why the restriction to one particular country makes a question less localized than a restriction to another particular country. Always assuming you would tag the question How does the US admission to PhD students work? as United-States, which seems entirely appropriate given the question title. – O. R. Mapper Oct 17 '16 at 8:45

One of the reasons for which I voted to close this question and similar ones as off-topic is that I believe their off-topicness makes them not useful.

Apparently the OP wanted to advertise her/his self-answer but I doubt that this person or anyone else on this site is qualified to answer in a useful way. Besides, and especially in the American legal system, I think it's probably impossible to answer in a definite manner. Such questions about "rights to this and that" are typically controversial and not answerable outside a formal legal procedure.

So what would a random user benefit from another random user claiming that that this law grants them the right to something? Imagine I asked about students' right re concealed carry of firearms on campuses in the US. I could easily post my own answer citing constitutional articles and laws and claim either that students have that right, or not. It would be useless.

However, questions that are related to legal issue but really ask about what is the practice and reasonable expectations one can have in an academic setting are on topic.

I think this quote form another thread summarized that sentiment quite appropriately:

Most legal-issues questions on Academia.SE are not about the law per se, but rather about the de facto interaction of academic standards and practices with issues regarding the law. That sort of thing is completely within scope of this site.

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    1. Can you point us to a page or paragraph in the OCR documents I linked to that you found unclear or ambiguous? 2. Please understand, for a transgender student to file an OCR complaint does not involve a "lawsuit". 3. Did you really find the three OCR documents I pointed to unhelpful regarding "practice and reasonable expectations one can have in an academic setting"? I learned a great deal from reading them. My Q&A were designed to share this information with people in the front lines in colleges and universities. I hope this information will be helpful. – aparente001 Oct 6 '16 at 4:38
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    @aparente001 it's irrelevant what I find ambiguous or not. I don't disagree with you or the content of your post I just don't find it a good fit for this site. A blog would be a better venue maybe. – Cape Code Oct 6 '16 at 5:28
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    @CapeCode Are you saying that the question "What are the de facto standards and practices that an academic should maintain with regards to complying with federally protected legal rights of transgender students re gender pronouns?" would be on topic, but "What federally protected legal rights does a transgender student in the U.S. have re gender pronouns used in referring to the student?" is not? -- Can't we assume that the "with respect to academics" bit is automatically implied by posting to this site, or do questioners really have to play "Simon Says" with their wording? – R.M. Oct 6 '16 at 16:47
  • @R.M. Yes de facto practice and standards specifically in academic settings is interesting and could benefit from first hand experience from users of this site. Legal disputes not so much. A lot of things are "federally protected" or state law but still not enforced within academia: think of labor laws or copyright. – Cape Code Oct 9 '16 at 6:56
  • @R.M. As for the tone of your comment, that's precisely the kind of thing I'd like to avoid by closing political posts. – Cape Code Oct 9 '16 at 6:58
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    @CapeCode I'm sorry, I'm still confused by your response. What is the distinction you see between the two question? What makes one acceptable and the other not? To me the core question is pretty much the same. I can't see how sticking "What are the de facto standards and practices that an academic should maintain ..." at the front of the question suddenly turns it from unacceptable to acceptable. Hence the "Simon Says" reference: it's effectively the same question, but a special phrasing suddenly makes it acceptable? I'm trying to see where your distinction lies. – R.M. Oct 9 '16 at 18:54
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    @CapeCode By the way, my "tone", if any, is entirely due to frustration about arbitrary requirements on people asking questions. It has nothing to do with the content of the question, political or otherwise. I'd use the same "tone" in a discussion about a question on library policy. -- Also, it looks like you might be moving the goalposts: legal is distinct from political. Is your objection here because it's a legal question, or because it's a political post? – R.M. Oct 9 '16 at 19:03

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