PRESS RELEASE

Contact: Teri Stoddard
Telephone: 301-801-0608
Email: tstoddard@saveservices.org

Honor Independence Day by Demanding Govt. Bureaucrats Restore Freedom of Speech on College Campuses, SAVE Says

WASHINGTON / July 1, 2013 – During the days leading up to our annual Independence Day festivities, the non-profit group SAVE is calling on Americans to demand the U.S. Department of Justice to restore freedom of speech on college campuses.

On May 9, 2013 the U.S. Department of Justice reached a Settlement Agreement with the University of Montana. The Agreement expands the definition of sexual harassment to encompass any unwelcome conduct, including speech, of a sexual nature. “Unwelcome” would now be judged by a student’s subjective feelings, not by an objective “reasonable person” standard.

The Agreement specifies that its broad new definitions and procedures are intended to be used as a “blueprint” by other colleges. The policy thus applies to all faculty members and the 21 million undergraduate and graduate students at all universities receiving federal funding, and represents a national campus speech code, SAVE believes.

The May 9 policy has triggered controversy and spirited protest. To date, over 100 editorials have been published opposing the federal mandate: http://www.saveservices.org/camp/ded-directive/ded-editorials/.

Elected officials have expressed reservations, as well. In a June 26 letter to the Department of Justice, Arizona senator John McCain charged the DOJ’s new policy threatens free speech and raises “great concerns about the security of constitutional rights.” http://www.mccain.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=PressOffice.PressReleases&ContentRecord_id=818fd6f0-b009-240c-b963-7b7bb47f03fb

The McCain letter highlights examples how the DOJ directive could impair First Amendment rights: A student asking another student on a date; a professor assigning an English literature book that contains sexual allusions; or a student listening to music that contains content of a sexual nature overheard by others.

“Independence Day is about recalling and recommitting ourselves to the Founding Principles of our nation,” explains SAVE spokesperson Sheryle Hutter. “If Americans don’t speak out now in defense of freedom of speech on campus, then how will our freedoms be protected the next time a clueless government bureaucrat comes along?”

The May 9 policy comes on top of a controversial 2011 Dept. of Education mandate requiring colleges to use the weakest preponderance-of-evidence standard in handling allegations of sexual assault and curtail other due process protections. More information on the effort to restore free speech on college campuses can be seen here: http://www.saveservices.org/camp/free-speech/  

Stop Abusive and Violent Environments is a victim-advocacy organization working for evidence-based solutions to domestic violence and sexual assault.