Contact: Chris Perry
Title IX Over-Reach: Leading Law Professors Issue Call to Rein in Federal Office for Civil Rights
WASHINGTON / May 16, 2016 – Professors from leading law schools have signed an Open Letter deploring the erosion of free speech and due process on campus. The Letter calls on the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) to cease its unlawful practice of issuing binding policy directives that do not comply with review-and-comment requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act. The Open Letter is believed to be the first time that professors from numerous law schools, as a group, have publicly chastised the federal Office for Civil Rights.
The co-signers include faculty members from Harvard Law School, Stanford University, University of Pennsylvania, George Washington University, University of Wisconsin, New York University, University of Miami, Touro Law School, University of San Diego, and other schools.
The Open Letter traces the evolution of the OCR policy directives that purport to interpret Title IX, the federal law that was enacted in 1972 to bar sex discrimination in schools. The OCR mandates have had the effect of broadening, weakening, and eventually negating the Supreme Court’s definition of sexual harassment. In Davis v. Monroe, the High Court defined sexual harassment in schools as conduct that is “severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive.” Over the course of time, the OCR has expanded that pivotal definition to encompass conduct that is severe, pervasive, OR subjectively offensive.
In a 2013 ruling, the OCR mandated that the University of Montana change its definition of sexual harassment to include “any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature,” including verbal comments. This has had the effect of pressuring universities to establish speech codes and free-speech zones. The Open Letter also recounts the effects of OCR policy mandates on due process protections for students accused of sexual assault.
The professors’ statement makes recommendations to clarify the legal status of OCR directives, reinvigorate free speech, and restore due process.
“The federal Office for Civil Rights has ignored constitutional law, judicial precedent, and Administrative Procedure Act requirements by issuing numerous directives, and then enforcing these directives by means of onerous investigations and accompanying threats to withhold federal funding. The OCR has brazenly nullified the Supreme Court definition of campus sexual harassment,” the professors warn. “These unlawful actions have led to pervasive and severe infringements of free speech rights and due process protections at colleges and universities across the country.”
The Open Letter can be viewed here: http://www.saveservices.org/wp-content/uploads/Law-Professor-Open-Letter-May-16-2016.pdf The Letter remains open for additional co-signers.
SAVE is working for evidence-based, constitutionally sound solutions to campus sexual assault: www.saveservices.org