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Campus Kangaroo Courts
The Faculty Backlash Continues

U.S. college students have been disappointingly passive in the face of assaults on free speech and due process on college campuses over the last two years, but their professors have shown somewhat more spine: the American Association of University Professors, the faculty of Harvard Law School, and new faculty organizations like Heterodox Academy have all spoken out against regulations that suppress basic freedoms on campus.

This week, still more faculty added their voices to the chorus. From an open letter, signed by 21 distinguished law professors from Stanford, Harvard, NYU, George Washington, and other institutions, condemning the federal government’s role in the campus civil liberties crackdown:

[The Office of Civil Rights in Education] has unlawfully expanded the nature and scope of institutions’ responsibility to address sexual harassment, thereby compelling institutions to choose between fundamental fairness for students and their continued acceptance of federal funding. […]

In the wake of these directives and enforcement actions, many universities feel obligated to investigate virtually any allegation of harassment, regardless of its objective merit. These complaints are often cloaked in language such as “micro-aggressions” or a “lack of safe space.” By virtue of their vague and subjective nature, these allegations are not amenable to being disproven in any legal sense. In an attempt to forestall such complaints, many colleges have established so-called “free speech zones” and implemented speech codes banning words presumed to be offensive.

The signatories note that Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights in Education has routinely exceeded its authority, rewriting sexual harassment law without legislative approval, and forcing universities to investigate or punish students and faculty for what is in many cases innocuous conduct. (This is the same agency that just last week unilaterally ordered all K-12 schools in the country to create transgender bathroom policies). Meanwhile, Congress has more-or-less given the OCR free rein, with some members grumbling and holding superficial hearings, but never actually clarifying the limits of the agency’s executive powers. Until one of the many several lawsuits against the OCR makes its way through the courts, we can expect it to continue down its current path—especially under a Hillary Clinton administration that is eager to curry favor with campus left-wing activists.

President Obama, to his great credit, has repeatedly condemned the trend toward ideological intolerance on college campuses. So why is his administration seemingly doing all it can to encourage it? The president—a former law professor himself—should listen to the complaints raised in the open letter, and instruct his Department of Education to back off.

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  • kingschitz

    STEM spending gets the big bucks these days. So what’s a poor Studies department, which produces no employable products, to do?

    Simple. Collaborate with the Fed-Ed, create a rape crisis, and then, quite literally, follow the money.

  • DiogenesDespairs

    Concerning Obama’s reaction: You watch people’s actions to see who they are. You listen to what they say to learn what they want to appear to be.

    “If you want your free speech, you can keep your free speech.”

    • ValleyBargue

      ” You watch people’s actions to see who they are. You listen to what they say to learn what they want to appear to be.”

      100% spot on.

      • Angel Martin

        yup! the best way to determine what a politician is all about is to watch TV with the sound off.

        • Matt B

          In Obama’s case that would be condescension and boredom.

  • Andrew Allison

    Do you seriously mean to suggest that there’s any question as to whether institutions will choose fundamental fairness for students over continued federal funding? Higher education is corrupt to its core.

  • Blackbeard

    At last some liberals are beginning to see the monster they created. It’s too late.

    The revolution always eats its own.

  • Beauceron

    Screw the professoriate.

    They made this fetid bed, they can sleep in it.

    They are not interested in fairness or scholarship, or intellectualism. They are just worried that they’ll be eaten by the monster they created. If these idiotic students hadn’t turned on the professors and the university administration and instead kept their fire focused on the outside world, do you think for a moment these professors would be taking any action at all? No. They would be encouraging it.

    Let the professors be eaten, let the universities burn. Only until the academe is a smoldering ash heap can something rise from it.

  • seattleoutcast

    “The signatories note that Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights in Education has routinely exceeded its authority, rewriting sexual harassment law without legislative approval, and forcing universities to investigate or punish students and faculty for what is in many cases innocuous conduct. ”

    But I imagine that is A-OK with some people, as the end justifies the means.

  • wri

    Why did it take such egregiously unlawful government action to get them out of their chairs? Political correctness has been eroding academic and constitutional values for decades. I suspect it is true they perceived the monster had become a threat to the professors themselves, so it was time to abandon the go-along-to-get-along approach.

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