mead cohen berger shevtsova garfinkle michta grygiel blankenhorn
Campus Kangaroo Courts
GOP Senators Push Back on Campus PC

A growing number of GOP lawmakers are expressing alarm about the Department of Education’s actions, cheered by the campus left, to curtail free speech and due process for college students. The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that the DOE is fielding tough questions from Kansas Sen. James Lankford about its order that colleges adopt a “preponderance of the evidence” standard in adjudicating sexual assault, and about its expansion of the definition of sexual harassment to include what many experts say is constitutionally protected speech:

He [Lankford] said the department’s 2010 guidance letter dealing with sexual harassment and its 2011 guidance letter on sexual violence have been decried by “legal scholars and academics across the political spectrum” as pressuring colleges to take steps that threaten students’ free-speech and due-process rights.

Similar concerns were raised last year by Sen. Lamar Alexander, a Tennessee Republican who is chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.

Lankford and Alexander aren’t even the two most well-known GOP lawmakers to clash with the Obama Administration on campus civil liberties: In 2013, Sen. John McCain sent a letter to Eric Holder arguing that the Administration’s “suggested disciplinary procedures are direct hindrances to students’ and teachers’ First Amendment rights,” and questioning whether it had the authority to impose them. (The Administration later backed off from the regulations at issue in that particular case).

We are glad to see that Congress is asserting is oversight powers in this way: Under President Obama, the heavily ideological Office for Civil Rights in Education has effectively gone rogue, unilaterally forcing hundreds of colleges to rewrite their rules of conduct while mostly avoiding accountability.

Still, Congress needs to do more. So far, the fierce debate over campus civil liberties has been handled almost entirely by the executive (which has almost always sided with the campus left) and the courts (which are modestly pushing back, at least at the state level). Congress must take a larger role in resolving these questions, and in particular, clarifying its expectations of both campuses and administrative agencies. While this may be a polarizing issue, its likely that at least some Democratic lawmakers would be unwilling to support the more radical initiatives of the Department of Education bureaucrats. After all, President Obama has himself spoken up for campus free speech, and even Sen. Bernie Sanders has suggested that progressives are approaching the sexual assault issue the wrong way.

Features Icon
Features
show comments
  • Beauceron

    Given the Left’s control of the education and media complexes, I have little hope that politicians on the right will, or even can, do anything meaningful about it. The media gives the Left more power than that in the hands of politicians.

    “pressuring colleges to take steps that threaten students’ free-speech and due-process rights”

    Not “students.” Men. This does not affect women (other than that it gives them an inordinate aount of power over men in social interactions), and, frankly, given the power of the BLM movement on campuses, it will not affect black or latino men. If there was even a modicum of honesty and fairness left in the media (and there certainly isn’t at the Chronicle) that would read “pressuring colleges to take steps that threaten white and asian male students’ free-speech and due-process rights.”

  • Fat_Man

    I think that it would be easy to propose legislation to tackle this problem. Congress should adopt a Bill of Rights for students at all public colleges and universities and at any private schools that accept Federal or State funds. The law should include at least the following:

    First Amendment: Freedom of speech and of the press; the right to peaceably assemble.
    Second Amendment: Right to keep and bear arms subject only to general State laws.
    Fourth Amendment: No unreasonable searches or seizures.
    Fifth Amendment: Due process, high burden of proof, no self incrimination.
    Sixth Amendment: The right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial tribunal;
    The right to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation;
    The right to hear the witnesses against him in person and to cross-examine them;
    The right to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and
    The right to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.

    The Federal and State courts must be given jurisdiction over violations of these rights, and college administrators must be personally liable for violations of these rights. The law must state that the rights conferred shall be interpreted in the same way that federal and State constitutional rights are interpreted. Students whose rights are violated must receive damages and attorney’s fees, both for the court case and for any college disciplinary proceedings.

    • Blackbeard

      Not only is this never going to happen, the momentum is, in fact, going in the other direction. Several states (New York, California, perhaps others.) are moving to adopt the “yes means yes” standard not only in academic proceedings but also as a matter of criminal law. And I doubt the Supreme Court, soon to have a permanent 5-4 liberal majority, is going to help.

  • Robert Burke

    Why not defund Progressive Worldview education in K-12, university, and law and J-schools? Replace with Western Enlightenment.

    Proposed: Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment and support of the anti-religion of Progressivism, and shall make no funding of Progressive education, nor shall it fund Progressive training in government, military or any other agency… since Progressivism is at eternal, deceitful, hidden war with individual rights, with life, with liberty, with happiness, with logic, with truth, with economy and with laws.

  • David Hall

    Senator Lankford is from Oklahoma, not Kansas

  • Jim__L

    “even Sen. Bernie Sanders has suggested that progressives are approaching the sexual assault issue the wrong way.”

    A rational person could prefer Sanders to Clinton, even if that person were to the right of both.

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2016 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service