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Campus Department of Education Office for Civil Rights Sexual Assault Sexual Harassment Title IX

New Title IX Proposal Will Obstruct Free Speech, Worsen Declines in College Enrollments

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Rebecca Stewart: 513-479-3335


New Title IX Proposal Will Obstruct Free Speech, Worsen Declines in College Enrollments

WASHINGTON / July 5, 2022 – The Title IX policy recently proposed by the U.S. Department of Education (1) seeks to dramatically expand the definition of sexual harassment, thereby curtailing free speech on campus. If enacted into law, the change is likely to exacerbate the worrisome 10-year decline in college enrollments.

On June 23, the Department of Education released a proposal to expand the definition of sexual harassment to be “conduct that is sufficiently severe or pervasive, that, based on the totality of the circumstances and evaluated subjectively and objectively, denies or limits a person’s ability to participate” in their education.

This broad definition means that any comment, gesture, or joke that is “subjectively” offensive could trigger a Title IX complaint, and is certain to curtail campus free speech. Several observers have issued statements strongly critical of the proposed definition:

Hans Bader: “The Biden administration’s proposed definition of sexual harassment disregards the Supreme Court’s Davis decision. It adopts a definition of harassment that is even broader in some respects than the broad harassment definition used in workplaces, which the Supreme Court rejected as impractical for schools.” (2)

Robby Soave: “legitimate classroom speech that was subjectively offensive and occurred repeatedly could now become a matter for the campus Title IX cop.” (3)

Independent Women’s Law Center: “Under the proposed rules, schools that do not crack down on ‘misgendering’ or the refusal to use preferred pronouns can have their federal funding revoked or be sued for monetary damages.” (4)

If the proposed changes go into effect, they will likely impact college enrollments, which have declined 13% over the past decade (5), with male students the hardest hit (6). The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center recently reported the alarming fact that “postsecondary institutions have lost nearly 1.3 million students since spring 2020.” (7)

To date, nine Congressional lawmakers, 61 organizations, and 41 commentators have gone on record in opposition to the Title IX proposal (8). SAVE urges college administrators who are concerned about falling student enrollments to speak out against the Title IX proposal.