Steve McDonald


Steven J. McDonald has been RISD’s General Counsel since 2002.  In that role, Steve is RISD’s primary legal counsel and manages its legal affairs, providing legal services to its trustees, administrators, faculty, staff, student leaders, and affiliated entities in connection with their activities on behalf of the institution.  For the decade before he came to RISD, Steve served as Associate Legal Counsel at The Ohio State University.  He began his legal career at Jones, Day, Reavis & Pogue, where among other things he successfully represented CompuServe in Cubby v. CompuServe, the first online libel case.  He also has taught at Ohio State’s College of Law and at Capital University Law School.

An active participant in the higher education legal community, Steve is a past member of the Board of Directors of the National Association of College and University Attorneys (NACUA), the editor of its The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act:  A Legal Compendium, a founder of its NACUANOTES legal information service, and a regular leader or member of its committees.  In 2007, NACUA named him a Fellow in recognition of his “extensive scholarship in higher education law over an extended period of time.”  In 2016, NACUA granted him its Distinguished Service Award for “extraordinary service both to NACUA and to institutions of higher learning over an extended period of time.”  He also presents and writes frequently on issues of higher education law; he has spoken at ACE, AGB, CUPA-HR, EDUCAUSE, IAPP, NACUA, NACUBO, NASAD, NASPA, URMIA, United Educators, and other programs, as well as at the Stetson, University of Vermont, and Valencia higher education legal issues conferences, and his articles have appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Inside Higher Education, and other publications.  

Steve received his A.B. in political science from Duke University and his J.D. from the Yale Law School.  In State, ex rel. Thomas v. The Ohio State University, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that he really is a lawyer.

EDUCAUSE Publications

  • FERPA Allows More Than You May Realize
    • Briefs, Case Studies, Papers, Reports
    • Author

    "Recent campus incidents have highlighted the importance of effective communication among administrators, faculty, and staff, as well as between campus representatives and students, families, and surrounding communities.

EDUCAUSE Presentations