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Higher Education Watch
The Federal Speech Police Are at It Again

In a 2013, the Office for Civil Rights in Education—a federal agency formally charged with protecting students from unlawful harassment, but which appears to have effectively gone rogue under new, far-left leadership over the last five years—declared that universities needed to investigate and possibly punish students for making comments that other students find “unwelcome,” even if those comments were protected by the First Amendment.

The OCR’s “blueprint” sparked outrage among civil liberties groups, and among some lawmakers, including Senator John McCain, who charged that the organization was exceeding its statutory authority by compelling universities to regulate speech on their campuses. The backlash was sufficiently intense that, after several months, the OCR backed off. But now, inexplicably, the organization has apparently reimposed the speech restrictions it abandoned under pressure three years ago. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education reports:

The Department of Justice now interprets Title IX to require colleges and universities to violate the First Amendment.

In an April 22 findings letter concluding its investigation into the University of New Mexico’s policies and practices regarding sex discrimination, the Department of Justice (DOJ) found the university improperly defined sexual harassment. DOJ flatly declared that “[u]nwelcome conduct of a sexual nature”—including “verbal conduct”—is sexual harassment “regardless of whether it causes a hostile environment or is quid pro quo.”

To comply with Title IX, DOJ states that a college or university “carries the responsibility to investigate” all speech of a sexual nature that someone subjectively finds unwelcome, even if that speech is protected by the First Amendment or an institution’s promises of free speech.

This brazen and unexpected move by the OCR comes only a few months after skeptical Senators held hearings scrutinizing the organization’s unilateral changes to campus disciplinary policies, and less than a month after the American Association of University Professors released an extensive report arguing that the growing campus sex bureaucracy is infringing on academic freedom.

The OCR bureaucrats seem to be girding for a fight, and it seems unlikely that they will retreat this time without being forced to do so. The prospects for a shift in OCR policy are grim under a Hillary Clinton administration, which will be eager to win over a lukewarm campus Left. And litigation against the OCR—currently in its early stages—will likely take years before reaching a final conclusion. It’s time for lawmakers to take this problem seriously, and consider passing legislation clarifying the limits of the OCR’s power, and affirming that Title IX does not supersede the First Amendment.

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  • Andrew Allison

    A really good argument for starving the beast which our government has become.

    • Dusty Thompson

      Ill assume youre totally ignorant about the last 8 years of Quantitative Easing>? When this Govt can just print up a few hundred Trillion dollars then those DOLLARS are worthless and makes everything you own worthless. This Govt will never allow itself to starve. It will force all of the rest of us to starve long before they do.

  • Beauceron

    And so the “progressives” progress– towards what increasingly appears to be a bullying tyranny of social justice warriors that disregards laws and rights.

    • Dusty Thompson

      Liberalism is a cult whose mysticism transcends reason.

  • Fat_Man

    “It’s time for lawmakers … passing legislation”

    The Democrats will do everything in their power to resist this legislation. Civil Rights, even this demented nonsense, are sacred to them. If Hillary is elected, and the Dems take control of the Senate, which is the way to bet right now, there will be nothing holding the SJWs in the OCR back. Nothing.

  • gabrielsyme

    And under a Hillary presidency, the Supreme Court will have a nice majority who will invariably arrive at the “progressive” outcome regardless of the Constitution. Farewell, freedom.

    • BillPrep

      how did it work for you with the ‘conservative’ majority? seems we already got to where we are now with all them ‘cons’ on the bench. so really, beyond being able to say ‘NO, my team is better’, what do you really gain or lose with a prog supreme?

      • CosmotKat

        All the “cons” on the bench were typically fair minded people and they kept the rule of law in mind on all decisions. The progs on the other hand never break from their ideological biases.

        • BillPrep

          and you still ended up with ‘obamacare’ being the law of the land…

          ‘fair minded’, maybe we define it differently.

          • CosmotKat

            How can fair ever be interpreted differently when it’s honest and truthful?

          • BillPrep

            ‘fair’ or ‘fair minded’?

            it is ‘fair’ to want everyone to have access to medical care (not insurance, with no Drs and exorbitant fees), some might even call it a ‘right’ (but I wont delve there). is it ‘fair minded’ to go about it the way the supremes did?

          • CosmotKat

            It should not have been something the supreme court would have needed to adjudicate, but after all this has been the age of Obama and he cannot lead nor can he work with anyone beyond his inner circle. Having said that I understand and share your angst, but my point is that you will never get a fair minded left wing supreme court judge. I did not like Robert’s decision, but I also know that had this been up to Sotomayor, Kagan, Ginsburg or Breyer there would have been no consideration of the rule of law. At least Robert’s grappled with the rule of law. The Democrat appointees are in capable of abiding by the rule of law they are guided by ideology and empathy.

    • Jim__L

      It hasn’t come to pass yet.

      • gabrielsyme

        Let me be clear: liberal ideology is inherently dismissive of any and all procedural safeguards and institutions. What it wants, it wants by any available means.

        • Jim__L

          I’m toying with the idea that that might be a compelling reason to vote Trump — getting everyone on board with the idea of procedural safeguards and institutions would be worth whatever damage he might try.

  • Blackbeard

    Welcome to the future. Hillary will make this worse and whoever follows Hillary, and remember Bernie has overwhelming support among the young, will be even worse. And this won’t be limited to universities, or to just sexual matters. Already we see them working to silence dissenters on climate change.

    A Dark Age is coming.

    • Dusty Thompson

      Americas second Civil War is coming and that is what America needs.

      • f1b0nacc1

        Visit a country that is going through a civil war before spouting such nonsense. I don’t like the left any more than you do (possibly less), but to suggest that anything other than destruction, misery, and despair would come out of a civil war is exactly the sort of thing one would expect from the left….

        Don’t you know any better?

        • Jim__L

          The Civil War is about the only “good war” to the left because, you know, slaves and stuff.

          • f1b0nacc1

            Interesting….since the party of slavery was the Democrats

        • Dale Fayda

          It doesn’t have to be as drastic as you describe. Secession by single state or by a group(s) of states may come unilaterally and swiftly and I fail to imagine a scenario where a prolonged, concerted military effort would be mounted by whoever is running the Federal Govn’t at the time to bring it/them back into the fold. The seemingly monolithic Soviet Union feel apart in a matter of months with relatively little bloodshed and what there was of armed conflict took place on its periphery, in the non-Russian areas. A similar development in the US would create significant economic disruption and population dislocation, but it would probably be short-lived.

          • f1b0nacc1

            Remember I was replying to a fool who suggested that a civil war would be a good thing, what you are describing would be rather different. However…the scenario you describe sounds exactly like what the Confederates suggested would happen prior to the opening guns of the Civil War, they were wrong and the result was 600,000 dead and uncounted wealth destroyed. The fall of the Soviet Union was a ‘quiet’ collapse for their neighbors….the destruction and warfare inside those old borders continues to this day and it was and is hardly quiet.

            This is devoutly not to be wished for, and certainly not to be blithely discussed as a positive thing. I am NOT accusing you of this (unless you are using two handles online), but even so, I think you are dangerously naive about the potential consequences of such an action.

  • dwk67

    Yet another argument for moving the whole of the education system into an online environment. People have largely become utterly insufferable arse-holes and cannot tolerate any differences in publicly expressed opinions, while simultaneously espousing the wonders of diversity to establish their liberal bona fides. The only way people can truly insulate themselves from differing views is to remain alone in their own respective bubbles. How odd, that tolerance of others ultimately requires isolation from others. What spoiled babies we’ve become….

    • Dusty Thompson

      This entire Federal “education system” is unconstitutional and for that we should HANG THEM ALL.

    • Jim__L

      I think there may be a disconnect between Millennials and everyone else about “offensive speech”.

      Suppose when Millennials think “offensive speech”, they think about hardcore Internet flamewar rants. But when (today’s Leftist) politicians write laws against that sort of thing, the laws end up written that they capture the (Leftist) politicians’ favorite enemies without really addressing the problem (Internet incivility) the Millennials are reacting against.

      It’s a basic political ploy. The worst part is, whatever good intentions these young’uns had are being twisted and weaponized into another destructive inter-generational war, a la the ’60s.

      I’m beginning to wonder if this is actually a battlefield of a new Cold War.

  • Anthony

    “The only necessary condition for centralizing public power in a democratic society is to love equality or to make a show of loving it….” Don’t let him have or be more than me – city-journal.org/html/end-democracy-america-14332.html

    • Jim__L

      (By the way, dear reader, the article Anthony cites in his post above is a wonderful article on Alexis de Tocqueville’s “Democracy in America”, talking about what our culture used to be like. His brief blurb by no means does the article justice, and all people of good will should wish that he would present them more fully in his commentary. I’d also like to thank him for introducing this link more than usual.)

      • Anthony

        Please inform without attachment and editorializing – as quote Res ipsa loquitur.

  • Dusty Thompson

    Not Tar and Feathers. A ditch and some LIME.

    • Jim__L

      Very tempting, but please remember, while there’s a whole list of people without whom the country would be a better place, it would not be better off if they were actually murdered.

  • CosmotKat

    “the American Association of University Professors released an extensive report arguing that the growing campus sex bureaucracy is infringing on academic freedom.”

    Is there such a thing as academic freedom? If so, why do most of these professors seek to silence the few who lean right? It seems like there is a bit of hypocrisy taking place in the academy.

  • chicagoxile

    FIFY: The Democrat Speech Police Are at It Again

  • Bob Parkman

    Tar and feathers. Then fire the bastards.

  • SupplyGuy

    What they need to do is just do away w/ the Civil Rights division. It’s time to acknowledge that you’ve overcome. Now move on and enjoy your life and quit being so bitter about what happened a hundred years ago.

  • N.I. Silver

    The Dept. of Justice writes menacing letters to university administrators, with the salutation “Dear Colleague.” The Feds might write to the student complainants, who fancy themselves victims, using the salutation, “Dear Collicky.”

  • richard40

    “affirming that Title IX does not supersede the First Amendment.”
    Yes, but not just the 1st amendment, but the due process amendments as well, like the 4th and 5th, which are routinely violated at OCR direction, on these campus rape accusation hearings.

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