IX: It's the little-known Roman numeral that has completely changed students' lives on college campuses with respect to free speech, due process, and even sex. Thanks to the federal government's increasingly broad interpretation of its power to regulate expression under anti-harassment law, college students and faculty members face new challenges to their rights each and every day.
But in a recent column for The Daily Beast, I note that students are resisting the Title IX Inquisition by filing lawsuits against their universities. And in four recent cases, the students scored important victories:
A male student scored a major victory in his lawsuit against the University of Southern California, which kicked him off campus for a remarkable non-crime: failing to de-escalate an orgy. This was a crazy case, and the decision in his favor impugns not just USC, but the federal government's entire strategy to combat rape by making colleges deal with it.
Over the past five years, the Obama administration's Education Department has instructed universities to take sexual harassment and violence more seriously as part of their obligation to obey Title IX, a little-known gender equality law. While that all may sound like a good thing, the policies universities have been forced to put in place are shockingly illiberal, leading to routine violations of students' due process rights, their right to free expression, and even their right to sleep together.
As I've mentioned on this blog, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education is now seeking a student who would be willing to sue the Office for Civil Rights—the Title IX compliance agency—for exceeding its authority:
Justin Dillon, a partner with the law firm Kaiser, LeGrand & Dillon and an expert on campus legal issues, is deeply concerned about OCR's guidance.
"Title IX is being used as an excuse to regulate everything from how college students talk about having sex to how they actually have sex," wrote Dillon in an email to The Daily Beast. "Title IX is being turned into a speech code, which is something it was never intended to be."
The situation has become so dire that Dillon's firm, in partnership with the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, is now seeking a client to sue OCR. Their hope is that a court might eventually rein in the rogue agency and correct its reckless interpretation of Title IX.
In the meantime, the lines separating protected speech from illegal harassment and messy sexual encounters from sexual assault have become a whole lot blurrier—to the great detriment of the quality of life for many college students.