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Trump Officials Promise Changes to College Sex- and Speech-Policing Agency

Citing a backlog of complaints, the Title IX enforcement office pledges to prioritize case resolution over fishing expeditions.

Lawyer Gloria Allred walks with several of the students behind a 2013 Title IX complaint filed with the Office for Civil Rights against the University of ConnecticutDouglas Healey/Polaris/NewscomUnder Barack Obama, the U.S. Department of Education drastically ramped up its attention to sex, speech, and social relations on college campuses—a move that mired college students, staff, and faculty in an inscrutable and labyrinthine system of federal investigations but failed to produce noticeable progress in students feeling fairly treated by the process. Now Trump administration officials are promising to refocus the department's Office for Civil Rights (OCR), the agency responsible for regulating anti-discrimination policy in education.

OCR is "committed to discontinuing the legally dubious practice of issuing subregulatory guidance that is then treated through enforcement as binding mandates," Candice Jackson, acting head of the office, told the National Association of College and University Attorneys (NACUA) last week.

During the Obama administration OCR, had a propensity for issuing "Dear Colleague" letters that casually defined things like sexual assault, sexual harassment, and gender in terms that created serious confusion and pressure at schools.

At the NACUA meeting, Jackson said her office would refrain from imposing new regulations on schools without going through the established federal rulemaking process. She also promised not to shirk OCR's mission of making sure schools that receive federal funding do not discriminate against students based on sex, gender, race, religion, etc., nor tolerate an environment that's hostile or unsafe for them because of these things. It's under this umbrella that OCR oversees schools' handling of campus sexual assault.

"We're charged by Congress with a specific mission: to enforce the civil rights guaranteed to our nation's students by certain civil rights laws, and we are fulfilling that charge," Jackson said, according to a report from Inside Higher Ed. "For those in the press and my friends with other political perspectives who have been expressing fear that...OCR is scaling back or retreating from civil rights, that's just not the case."

How true this is or remains we shall see, but there's certainly room to scale back on OCR's bureaucratic excesses without sacrificing student rights or safety. In fact, for all of the Obama-era OCR's grand moves, it made little dent in investigating allegations of systemic bad actors in academia, leaving behind a backlog of cases. OCR "processing times have skyrocketed in recent years and the case backlog has just exploded," Department of Education Press Secretary Elizabeth Hill said in a recent statement.

Jackson accused Obama's OCR of taking a "gotcha" approach that treated "every complaint as a fishing expedition through which our field investigators have been told to keep searching until you find a violation rather than go where the evidence takes them."

Previous OCR head Catherine Lhamon insists the "fishing" accusation is false. "OCR's charge from Congress is that it must act whenever it has information that civil rights may be violated," Lhamon tells Inside Higher Ed, "and if one student has been harmed, it's incumbent on OCR to look to see if there's another student who is similarly situated."

Justified by congressional mandate or not, this approach led to lengthy investigations with slow resolutions—a situation understandably frustrating and frightening both to those facing allegations of misconduct and to victims of sexual assault and harassment. It's also an asinine way to keep students safe from any potential serial predators. What the approach did wonders for is snowballing investigations that picked up ever more (and more minor) potential perps along the way, since simply talking or writing about a Title IX inquiry can get a student or professor accused of violating Title IX policies.

"I've heard from activists on all sides that they no longer recommend going to OCR because the long investigations mean that an OCR complaint is virtually worthless in terms of actually correcting a violation for a complainant," Jackson told the NACUA assembly last week.

Last month, an internal Department of Education memo obtained by ProPublica outlined plans to end OCR's former policy of having certain types of civil rights complaints automatically trigger broader investigations.* "Effective immediately, there is no mandate that any one type of complaint is automatically treated differently than any other type of complaint with respect to the scope of the investigation, the type of amount of data needed to conduct the investigation, or the amount or type of review or oversight needed over the investiation by Headquarters," says the memo, signed by Jackson.

"There is no longer a 'one size fits all' approach to the investigation of any category of complaints," the memo says. This means "that OCR will only apply a 'systemic' or 'class-action' approach where the individual complaint allegations themselves raise systemic or class-wide issues or the investigative team determines a systemic approach is warranted." The shift, the document explains, was designed to "clear backlogs and resolve complaints within a reasonable time-frame."

As far as previous guidance given to schools goes, Jackson was "non-committal" on the agency's plans, according to Inside Higher Ed reporter Doug Lederman:

She stopped short of vowing to withdraw the most contentious recent guidance, the 2011 Dear Colleague letter regarding Title IX and sexual assault, though Jackson suggested that the agency might engage in negotiated rule making to do "what should have been done the first time around": seek input from a variety of parties to decide on a fair system for all parties.

Jackson was also noncommittal about whether the agency would reconsider the standard of proof that colleges must meet in their sexual misconduct disciplinary proceedings.

The 2011 letter suggested a "preponderance of evidence" standard, rather than the tougher "clear and convincing" evidence standard, for campus sexual assault and harassment adjudications. "It is unavoidable that OCR will take a position" on this going forward, said Jackson, but what that position will be is still "actively under consideration."

* Correction: The memo was not issued "earlier this month" but in June.

Photo Credit: Douglas Healey/Polaris/Newscom

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  • Rhywun||

    I will never understand why a college campus is some magical place where laws don't apply in the normal way any more.

  • timbo||

    It is a magical place. You can get thousands of dollars handed to you with no direction as to how to spend and no collateral given for said money. You can then party your ass off, learn about unicorns and man-bear-pig for 5 years, then return from said utopia to a world that sucks and is less colorful.

    It has all of the calling cards of a theme park.

  • ||

    It has all of the calling cards of a theme park.

    I don't know what theme parks you go to, but 1-in-5 seems low. Sad.

  • Zeb||

    When was it decided that colleges are "in loco parentis" for their adult students? I think that's been around for a long time and is the basis for a lot of this nonsense.

    Seems to me a residential college should be no more responsible for the conduct of their tenants than any other landlord is.

  • Rhywun||

    When was it decided that colleges are "in loco parentis" for their adult students?

    I considered that as I was writing but rejected it for being ludicrous and improbable.

  • Zeb||

    I'm pretty sure it's actually a real thing. Unless SugarFree misled me (which is quite possible, but he does seem to know what he's talking about on that subject).

  • ||

    When was it decided that colleges are "in loco parentis" for their adult students? I think that's been around for a long time and is the basis for a lot of this nonsense.

    Around the time they established their HR departments.

  • timbo||

    The university systems should completely give in to the SJW psycho horde and abolish title IV altogether. In principle, title IV embodies a segregation of male and female.

    We should have unisex everything in college. No more women's sports. Women can try our for and receive scholarships only if they make the team. Since women are equals in every way/shape/form/, they can clearly make the football team and draw as many fans to watch basketball.
    Let the courts decide possible criminal indictments of rape. But, in reality, there can be no rape because woman are as strong as men. Isn't rape, after all, an appropriation of some sort because it implies that some guy finds a woman attractive.

  • Bra Ket||

    "Under Barack Obama, the U.S. Department of Education drastically ramped up its attention to sex, speech, and social relations on college campuses..."

    Geez very first line. How about a trigger warning next time.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    Backlog of Complaints was my nickname in college.

  • Crusty Juggler > You||

    "OCR's charge from Congress is that it must act whenever it has information that civil rights may be violated," Lhamon tells Inside Higher Ed, "and if one student has been harmed, it's incumbent on OCR to look to see if there's another student who is similarly situated

    Jeepers.

    . "Effective immediately, there is no mandate that any one type of complaint is automatically treated differently than any other type of complaint with respect to the scope of the investigation, the type of amount of data needed to conduct the investigation, or the amount or type of review or oversight needed over the investiation by Headquarters," says the memo, signed by Jackson.

    This is analogous to Holder's memo discouraging medical marijuana investigations.

  • TW||

    Which means it can be reversed by the next administration just as easily. If you want to legalize marijuana, you need to change federal law which means getting a bill through Congress that the President will sign. Same thing if you want to end the abuse of due process rights for students that are happening under Title IX.

  • Crusty Juggler > You||

    Am I the only one who finds Gloria Allred's fierce determination in the fight against of inequality to be utterly arousing?

  • timbo||

    I know she does.

    2 of those 5 in that pic are arousing.

  • Quo Usque Tandem||

    Nos. 1 and 4 attire themselves so just to get your reaction, and then use it as proof of what a pig you are.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    Those aren't the ones timbo was talking about.

  • Quo Usque Tandem||

    Well those are my choices and I'm standing by it, boots and all.

  • timbo||

    L to R: 1 and 4 agreed.
    And yes, women are to wear things that make them look sexy then get outraged when a man finds them sexy enough to ogle at.

    I think it was Chris Rock who said they shouldn't wear there whore outfits if they don't want to be looked upon as whores.
    The world is a tough place.

  • Zeb||

    Well, I don't look at anyone as a whore unless I know that they regularly have sex for money. But I will say that if you are going to dress all sexy, expect to get attention from people you might not want attention from.

  • Crusty Juggler > You||

    But I will say that if you are going to dress all sexy, expect to get attention from people you might not want attention from.

    This is why I stopped wearing leggings.

  • Quo Usque Tandem||

    "Regularly have sex for money." Is there an occupational threshold for that, say more than 60% of the time makes them a whore? But they are not a whore if they only take money once in a wile?

    And I'm changing my name to Puss in Boots while I'm at it.

  • timbo||

    They say all of em have a price. Some just require large diamond rings and a nice house/car.

    Now that is sexism. These b*tches got to look for the real thing for once. .

  • Quo Usque Tandem||

    Reminds me of a brilliant friend I had in high school, I'm pretty sure his IQ was around 160; the guy could do everything from play writing to quantum physics [he went on to be a petro-chemical engineer because it paid more than being a physicist]. In addition to getting published in a porn mag while still in high school, he wrote a piece called "There's No Love, Only Prostitution." Pretty much what you just said.

  • Zeb||

    I've done a lot of residential electrical work, occasionally for money, but I don't go around calling myself an electrician.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    #1 and 4 aren't wearing ho outfits. That should be required workplace attire.

  • Crusty Juggler > You||

    I regret my earlier comment, because I didn't realize it would inspire boot-shaming.

    I will not let it stand!

  • timbo||

    I though it was "hiring a scandalous, scumbag venomous man hating she-beast" shaming.

  • Quo Usque Tandem||

  • Quo Usque Tandem||

    That picture is just as I pictured them to be. The sort you do not want deciding your fate as a male anything.

  • Rhywun||

    Those boots were made for tearing down the patriarchy.

  • SQRLSY One||

    Those boots were made for forcing all men to cut off their penises in order to fend off rape accusations.

    Also their ears, fingers, tongues, and hemorrhoids, and more, for the same reason, 'cause some people can get kinda kinky, ya know...

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Win

  • Juice||

    It's the boots, isn't it?

  • Zeb||

    How is there no alt-text on that picture?

  • Libertarian||

    Reason is digging a hole just like CNN?

  • Quo Usque Tandem||

    "and if one student has been harmed, it's incumbent on OCR to look to see if there's another student who is similarly situated." Nope, absolutely no fishing in that statement.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Does Allred travel with a victim posse?

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Hey, has tReason covered this?

    Austria has deployed armoured vehicles close to its border with Italy and will send up to 750 soldiers to block any migrants trying to head north, the government announced.

    The move reflects deep concern in Vienna and elsewhere in Europe over the huge number of asylum seekers who continue to cross the Mediterranean from Libya – so far this year more than 85,000 have been rescued and brought to Italy.

    But it prompted a rebuke from Rome, with the Italian foreign ministry summoning Austria's ambassador to explain the beefing up of border security. Italy has warned in the past that such measures would contravene EU rules on free movement.
  • timbo||

    Were this to be recorded history of a different time, the last year or two could be misconstrued as a crusade.

  • Rhywun||

    Italy has warned in the past that such measures would contravene EU rules on free movement.

    Translation: We don't want 'em either.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    It's exactly this. It contravenes Italy's ability to offload the fuck out of them elsewhere.

  • BYODB||

    That's my interpretation. I imagine the Vatican might have something to say about the surrounding country suddenly being far less Catholic and far more 'death to Catholics'.

  • DenverJ||

    Huh, in the past, Austria and Italy usually cooperated re armored vehicles, borders, and such.

  • Libertarian||

    You'd think there would be cooperation within the EU (maybe there is, I don't know). That is, you would think a land locked EU member state would help a Mediterranean state when it comes to controlling immigration from the south.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    They are helping them out.

  • Libertarian||

    Thank god there are people like you to help out lazy people like me.

  • Libertarian||

    Can't wait for PM links.

    Gun Store Advertises With Cardboard Gun Sign – People Triggered, Call Cops, Media

    "It kind of frustrated me that somebody would call [the police] and make a false statement like that, knowing that it is a cardboard sign that is very flimsy," he said.

    According to the ABC report, Von said the police asked him to stop or change the sign and after he refused, the police left.


    http://www.cnsnews.com/blog/an.....cops-media

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    In defense of the cops, they were trying to protect themselves from retards.

  • Zeb||

    You mean that's not really a 6 foot long AR-15?

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    It's super thin, though.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    Have you ever gotten a papercut from cardboard? That shit hurts.

  • Dillinger||

    scars too.

  • Libertarian||

    "Under Barack Obama, the U.S. Department of Education drastically ramped up its attention to sex, speech, and social relations on college campuses . . ."

    I guess this is in the Constitution, right next to "free health care is a right."

  • Dillinger||

    chick on the left's kinda hot.

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