How Obama Could Still Fix the Campus Free Speech Problem

It's not too late to rein in OCR.

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Obama
Screenshot via Rutgers

During his commencement address at Rutgers University on Sunday, President Obama once again complained that "fragile" students shouldn't silence speakers with whom they disagree. 

"I believe that is misguided," he said. 

This isn't the first time Obama has levelled such a criticism. But it's difficult to take him at his word—to believe that he cares so much about free speech on college campuses—when his own Department of Education has played a pivotal role in empowering easily-offended students to censor their opponents and beseech university administrators to help them. 

Since 2011, ED's Office for Civil Rights has broadly interpreted a federal anti-harassment statute—Title IX—as requiring colleges to investigate the claims of students and faculty who claim to be victims of sexual harassment. OCR has defined sexual harassment in subjective terms, meaning that seemingly harmless—and constitutionally protected—kinds of expression can result in Title IX claims. And OCR has required that adjudication of sexual assault disputes use a preponderance of the evidence standard: a travesty for due process on campus. 

It's no accident that students have been increasingly successful at shutting down their opponents in the last five years. It's no surprise that the illiberal left has grown bolder on campus. Federal policy has aided the censors at every turn. 

On Monday, 21 law professors representing several different universities penned a letter to the government accusing OCR of exceeding its authority. 

"Through a series of subsequent directives and enforcement actions, OCR has steadily expanded the definition of sexual harassment and imposed a growing range of responsibilities on colleges to curb such conduct," wrote the professors. "As a result, free speech and due process on campus are now imperiled." 

Does Obama understand that his own government is responsible for the safe-space phenomenon he frequently decries? Is he aware that under Assistant Secretary Catherine Lhamon, OCR has violated the free speech and due process rights of countless students? 

We may never know. But if Obama is aware, and he actually does care about free speech on campus, he still has time left in his presidency to do something about it. The president needs to rein in Lhamon and remind OCR that administrative guidance does not supersede the Constitution. Obama should should instruct his Education Department to inform universities that their federal funding is not at risk—or better yet, that their federal funding is only at risk if they violate students' free speech and due process rights. 

Unless and until Obama brings OCR in line with his stated commitment to free speech, said commitment remains hollow. 

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    1. Robby is being a bit disingenuous here. No one is arguing that people should be prevented from politely expressing an opposing view. That’s not the problem that the OCR has been confronting. The problem is the lack of civility that has been taking over our campuses. It starts with a little trigger-speech, then a little micro-aggression, then some of the baser instincts reveal themselves even in the classroom?and before you know it they’re trolling the net and mocking distinguished academic department chairmen with illegally deadpan “satirical” hoaxes. Would Robby dare to defend the outrageous “First Amendment dissent” of a single, isolated, liberal judge in America’s leading criminal “satire” case? See the documentation at:

      http://raphaelgolbtrial.wordpress.com/

  3. Congress could just defund the OCR, or am I missing something?

    1. Yeah, that would work. I think that counts as a Brer Rabbit moment.

      “Whatever you do, Republicans, don’t you dare try to defund the office of civil rights. Anything but that!”

      1. I never did get that story. Why didn’t the fox just go “okay rabbit” and chomp down on its neck?

        1. You are the guy who wonder’s why they don’t just use the transporters to send bombs to the enemy ships in Start Trek, instead of firing lasers and such, aren’t you?

          1. Weaponized use of transporter tech only comes into play after both vessels have lost shields*, but it would be just as effective to dematerialize parts of the enemy vessel and scatter them instead of transporting bombs over. Though one could design a dematerilization torpedo which can be fired when the attacking ship is still defended. They would do the same thing, but not expose oneself to counterattack by similar means.

            And seriously, the unwillingess to weaponize the available technology is just un-human in character. Especially when there have been several wars in living memory.

            *using the stock vessels from the IP in question.

            1. Though in theory the yield on such a device will not be as good as the stock ‘it goes boom’ bombs because of the size of the power supply available.

          2. Oh, please. Everyone knows that transporter beams can’t penetrate shields.

            1. Didn’t you try to modulate the main emitter array using tachyon pulses?

              It’s like I’m surrounded by idiots.

              1. Lee, that security bug got patched out three seasons ago.

            2. Not everyone. Some of the writers kept forgetting that fact.

              1. I knew you nerds were my peeps. Maybe tomorrow we can discuss which is the worse desecration, the prequels, Aliens 3 and Prometheus or the Matrix sequels.

                1. I knew you nerds were my peeps. Maybe tomorrow we can discuss which is the worse desecration, the prequels, Aliens 3 and Prometheus or the Matrix sequels.

                  Why do you speak of things that do not exist?

                  1. Can we add the Highlander sequels to the list of things that don’t exist? There should have been only One.
                    *Disclaimer: I enjoyed some of the TV series.

                    1. The Simpsons got cancelled in 1999

                2. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

                  1. The only crystal skull I’ve heard of contains Vodka. I’ve not opened it, so I don’t know if it’s any good.

                  2. Next up;

                    Indiana Jones and the hoveround wheelchair.

                    1. Absolute truth:
                      As I posted that, I wanted to put something about “those rumored sequels” or some such, but thought it might be too wordy and ruin the joke. I also though I should add Crystal Skull, but said “screw it” and hit submit.

                      Holy crap, libertarian nerds are predictable.

                    2. Well of course. Us libertarians take great pride in our predictability. Why should our tastes in movies that were probably made before some of us were born be any less predictable?

                      Unless, of course, your not really a libertarian. Hm.

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    2. What part of herpaderp NOTHING LEFT TO CUT!!! do you not understand?

  4. Does Obama understand that his own government is responsible for the safe-space phenomenon he frequently decries?

    He doesn’t know about anything his admin is doing until he sees it on the news. You see, everyone is out to sabotage his gloriousness cuz he’s (half) black, or some such.

    1. “He doesn’t know about anything his admin is doing until he sees it on the news”

      And even after he finds out he can’t do anything about it because he is an outsider and totally blameless for anything the administration does – or rather anything that is deemed negative that it does.

      On the other hand Obama personally gets 100% of the credit for anything that happens in the country that is deemed good (such as low gas prices) regardless of whether the administration had anything to do with it or not or even if the administration’s actions were actually counterproductive to the outcome.

      1. Elections have consequences!!!

  5. In the “holy crap, these idiots are tone deaf” department: in an article linked on drudge, the FEC has called in Homeland Security to investigate “death threats” after vice-chair Ann Ravel penned a memo recommending that the commission look into further regulating speech on the internet.

    “Die, fascist, die!” one anonymous person wrote to Ravel in an email reviewed by the Center for Public Integrity.
    “Hope you have a heart attack,” read another email.
    “Go fall down about ten flights of stairs,” yet another person wrote.
    Other threats, while less overt, are equally disquieting.
    “Best to be careful what you ask for. You will more than likely find the ‘Nazi’ scenario showing its ugly head,” one wrote to Ravel, who is Jewish.
    “Keep it up, and the pitchforks will come out and then you and your ilk will have no place to hide and the People will have their justice,” promised another.

    Some of the other commissioners are super-duper upset. She claims she doesn’t want censorship – she just wants to regulate speech on the internet as it relates to elections. You know….. censorship.

    So she blames Goodman, who was the former chairman who called her out on FOX and said it was the specter of review boards regulating the internet.

    What he had to say in response to these “threats”, after the break:

    1. So here comes tone deaf, part deux:

      “Unfortunately, too many people believe that the way to counter speech with which they disagree is to censor or threaten the speaker,” Goodman wrote. “The appropriate way to challenge an idea one disagrees with is to debate the idea on the merits. Commissioner Ravel’s formidable voice on regulatory issues should not be diminished by inappropriate threats or censorship.”

      Uh, yeah. Saying “die, you fascist Nazi” in response to a proposal to regulate speech on the internet is exactly like censorship. Because random people on the internet have the power to censor federal government officials.

      And this was the guy who was on the side of not regulating the internet further.

      These guys haven’t a clue about free speech. Their response to the Federalist papers would have been to have Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay drawn and quartered. They are super-concerned about anonymous speech on the internet, after all.

      1. The threat of a regulatory reach into the internet comes with implied violence. If you do not comply with their new rules, what happens? That people are reacting with outrage is not surprising at all because this threatens to touch every user of the internet.

        I’ve always said that the regulatory state depends on business to act as a firewall between the government’s demands and the people affected. Most people do not know how much they are being regulated because they never see the lost opportunities. When the government starts to take actions that touch closer to actual voters, the equation changes and they get blowback.

        Simply put, the Federal Election Commission exists for the sole purpose of regulating/suppressing speech and ensuring the continued dominance of the two-party system. The Republicans and Democrats will engage in minor squabbles over the details but when push comes to shove, they will always support each other rather than risk the rise of a competitive third party.

    2. if those are the overt ones, then she didn’t receive any death threats.

  6. Does Obama understand that his own government is responsible for the safe-space phenomenon he frequently decries?

    Of course he does. And isn’t it nice to ignore this in order to achieve his desired aim but have deniability? “STOP HITTING YOURSELF!”

  7. I guess his pen ran out of ink, and his cell phone batteries are dead?

  8. Robby, another ignorant piece about Obama’s “love” of free speech.

    It is his God damned administration, if he doesn’t know what it’s doing he is incompetent, if he does know what it’s doing he is evil.

    Do we have any proof, any proof at all that this asshole lies to the American people in his speeches?

    Yes we most certainly do. His actually great speech from the 2004 Democratic convention is one of the greatest lies ever told. Every goddamn thing he said in that speech was 180 degrees opposed to what he has actually done as president. Because a deciever is what Obama is.

    That you harbor even the slimmest chance he’s being truthful makes you a total rube.

    1. Pretty much, yeah. There’s a real whiff of “If only the Czar knew!” to this piece. “Does Obama know what his OCR has been up to?” Well, yeah, that’s why his administration systematically hired only lefty activist lawyers for OCR.

    2. Let’s add “if you like your plan,” the Iran nuclear deal, and his deeply held belief that marriage is a sacred bond between one man and one woman, to the list of flagrant lies.

      I wish, just once, an interviewer would call him out on it. “Mr. President, is it your belief that it is perfectly acceptable to lie to the American public about your true intentions when you think they won’t like what you say? Why should we believe a word that comes out of your mouth, given your history?”

  9. Obama talks in nuances, not principles. He’s saying only that people shouldn’t block compartmentalized and controlled little speaking engagements from members of the political class, just because they disagree. It’s a nuanced little “free speech zone” in the PC movement he is asking for, not the hope and change you’re projecting onto his words. That’s the game he always plays on people.

    He is clearly still fine with the entire spectrum of other abuses involved in his administration and by PC generally, until he proves otherwise.

  10. Jeezus on a biscuit, Robby, just stop. Obama has no desire to “fix” anything about free speech on college campuses or anywhere else. What he said at Rutgers is meaningless as it flies in the face of 7+ years of action. Stop carrying his water.

    1. Yep, he has no intention of ‘fixing’ this problem. He created the problem directly and deliberately. He considers that the ‘fix’. Show me a lefty that doesnt hate free speech and I will show you someone who isnt a lefty.

      Can anyone think of anything that POS has done that was not a ‘fuck you’ to this country?

      1. He flew to Pakistan and killed Osama bin Laden with his bare hands. And he personally bestowed health-care upon 15 million people, one at a time

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  13. I’m pretty sure in his mind Obama has “fixed” the “free speech” “problem”. Or if he hasn’t completely “fixed” it, he has done the best he can.

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  15. The article reads, “Since 2011, ED’s Office for Civil Rights has broadly interpreted a federal anti-harassment statute?Title IX?as requiring colleges to investigate the claims of students and faculty who claim to be victims of sexual harassment.” Title IX is NOT an anti-harassment statute, and it is a grave disservice to refer to it as one. It is an anti-discrimination statute, and its intent is to prevent discrimination on the basis of sex by educational institutions receiving federal money. The Obama regime has transformed it into an all-purpose club to punish people on university campuses who say or do anything that goes against proggie (“progressive”) identity politics.

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  23. Title IX has been so over used for trivia by the overly entitled, and now overly fragile, that it is almost not worth the cost of attending most colleges. It was originally intended to provide school sponsored sports teams for women with equal monies with the monies used to support school sponsored men’s sports teams. Now it is extreme. Nobody has taken it on in the courts to limit its definition. Its now in that state of interpretation that the ADA was when the courts finally stopped the abuse by saying flatly that to have a real actually limiting disability to gain accommodation. But it is still over used, for example, seats in the showers at our martial arts schools. You have to be a very physically capable to train effectively in martial arts. Anyway, why would people take on the heavy financial burden to support a student at college when that student is seemingly not a serious student but spends most of their time protesting minor imagined slights. College student activists are majoring in the minors, because when they are faced with supporting themselves they will not be coddled in the work place. Their high maintenance requirements on the college campus are actually grounds for expulsion, or at least suspension.

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