New regulations from the U. S. Department of Education (DOE) are threatening to cripple the First Amendment on American college campuses.
Accuracy in Academia has signed onto a letter that the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE ) is sending to the agency. “The May 9, 2013, findings letter and resolution agreement concluding the joint investigation by the Departments of Justice and Education into the University of Montana’s response to allegations of student sexual misconduct present a grave threat to freedom of expression, academic freedom, and due process on campus,” the letter reads. “Because the findings letter characterizes the resolution agreement and its supporting legal analysis as ‘a blueprint for colleges and
universities throughout the country,’ this threat endangers student and faculty speech at every college and university receiving federal funding nationwide—indeed, at virtually every American institution of higher education.”
The letter is going to Anurima Bhargava, Chief of the Educational Opportunities Section of the Civil Rights Division at the Justice Department and Seth Galanter, the
Acting Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights in the Office for Civil Rights at DOE. “The blueprint mandates the adoption of a shockingly broad definition of sexual harassment: ‘any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature,’ including ‘verbal conduct,’” the letter notes “The vast reach of this definition is further extended by the blueprint’s explicit rejection of an objective, ‘reasonable person’ standard.”
For example, the letter notes, “The threat to free expression and academic freedom is obvious; per the blueprint’s definition, a classroom discussion of Lolita, a campus reading of Allen Ginsberg’s ‘Howl,’ a dorm-room viewing of a Sarah Silverman comedy routine, or a cafeteria debate about same-sex marriage will each constitute ‘sexual harassment’ if a single student is made uncomfortable. This untenable result is plainly unconstitutional and sharply at odds with the United States Supreme Court’s famous conception of the American college campus as being ‘peculiarly the “marketplace of ideas.’”
Malcolm A. Kline is the Executive Director of Accuracy in Academia.
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