Betsy DeVos Names First Amendment Crusader to Prominent Higher Ed Role

Adam Kissel has a history of advocating for free speech and due process.


Adam Kissel

In what might indicate a significant shift in federal priorities for college oversight, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has picked a civil libertarian activist as deputy assistant secretary for higher education programs.

Adam Kissel served for five years at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), an organization devoted to trying to preserve free speech and due process on college campuses. FIRE has long battled campus censorship efforts. It has also opposed colleges' turn toward internal disciplinary methods that do not have much respect for due process or for students' rights to defend themselves against claims of sexual misconduct. Those methods were encouraged by the Obama-era Department of Education, so Kissel's appointment may be a sign of a significant shift.

Kissel left FIRE in 2012 and went to work for the Charles Koch Foundation. Picking him for her team suggests that DeVos has an interest in civil liberties on campus. Maybe she should think about ways to encourage her boss in the White House to show more interest in off-campus freedoms.

To read more about Kissel, go here. To see an outraged response by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Washington), who apparently objects to using the same legal standards to prove sexual misconduct in college courts and in ordinary courts, go here.