Campus Free Speech

American Association of University Professors Comes Out Swinging Against Title IX Inquisition

The federal government is chilling speech, professors say.



An influential academic freedom organization has published a devastating critique of federal sexual harassment policies that are chilling speech on college campuses and trampling students' due process rights. 

The American Association of University Professors believes that the Education Department's Office for Civil Rights is interpreting Title IX—the federal law ensuring gender equality in higher education funding—far too broadly, resulting in mass deprivation of students' free expression and due process rights. A draft of the organization's new report on the subject, "The History, Uses, and Abuses of Title IX," is available here. From the report: 

Title IX's track record has proven to be uneven. Success stories about compelling universities to address problems of sexual assault, such as those recounted by student campus groups,3 are matched by reported cases in which university administrators fail to punish gross and repeated sexual harassment, or where Title IX administrators from the Department of Education and within the university overreach and seek to punish protected academic speech. These cases have compromised the realization of meaningful educational goals that enable the creation of sexually safe campuses; they also have upended due process rights and shared governance in unprecedented ways. 

The full report in worth looking over. It's a very thorough and powerful exploration of how the current Title IX regime is chilling protected speech and damaging academic freedom. The AAUP cites several such cases that Reason has covered, including the censorship controversies that involved Laura KipnisTeresa Buchanan, and Alice Dreger

In an interview with Reason, the AAUP's Anita Levy said the organization's members—university professors—are increasingly vocal about their dislike of Title IX. 

"We had been receiving a lot of inquiries and complaints from faculty members about Title IX enforcement on campuses," she said. 

Levy blamed administrators for meekly submitting to the dictates of the federal government without stopping to ask whether Title IX really compels universities to take such drastic measures to combat harassment. 

"Through an abundance of caution, administrations on university campuses have really been going overboard, and totally cutting the faculty out of the process," she said. 

This report is just a draft: after a public comment period, it will go to a committee for review and approval. I hope the AAUP doesn't revise it too much—it's a really excellent treatment of the subject. 

For more on this subject, read Elizabeth Nolan Brown's review of "The Sex Bureaucracy," a new paper by Harvard University Law professors Jeannie Suk and Jacob Gersen.