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College trustees group applauds criticism of Title IX enforcement

An organization made up of college trustees and alumni has praised recent criticism of the Education Department's overreach when enforcing anti-sex discrimination.

The American Council of Trustees and Alumni applauded a recent 56-page report from the American Association of University Professors that criticized the anti-sex discrimination statute known as Title IX. The statute has been used in recent years to force schools to abandon common sense and due process in the name of combating campus sexual assault and sexual harassment.

"Sexual assault is a crime and must be treated as a crime. But we agree with AAUP that the Department of Education has unconscionably conflated 'conduct and speech cases' in a way that has grossly expanded the intrusion of this unaccountable bureaucracy at the expense of faculty and student constitutional rights," ACTA wrote. "It's time that institutions — and their boards — fought back."

AAUP's report criticized the Education Department's Office for Civil Rights — which enforces Title IX — for its broad definition of "hostile environment," which now makes offending speech (not hate speech, just speech that offends) equal to sexual violence. The report also points out that OCR broadly defines sexual harassment and sexual assault, which has led to the belief that there's a national "epidemic" of sexual violence. This alleged epidemic has led to the evisceration of due process rights (and the complete acceptance of this evisceration) in order to solve the "problem."

And all these problems stem back to OCR's "guidance" documents that reinterpret Title IX to fit its agenda. These interpretations, especially one in 2011 that forced colleges to begin adjudicating felonies, did not go through the legally required notice-and-comment period. Those progressives and feminists (I repeat myself) have certainly accepted an "ends justify the means" mentality toward this hijacking of higher education; some level-headed legislators have not.

Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., has been one of the sharpest critics of OCR's tactics, and suggested that the reason OCR avoided the notice-and-comment period for the 2011 guidance document was to avoid the scrutiny it has received since. Such scrutiny ahead of time would have kept the new guidance from ever being adopted.

We're not dealing with the reality of this overreach. Students accused of sexual assault receive no meaningful due process and are assumed guilty until proven innocent (and even then, schools have no appetite to clear accused students). The accusation alone is often enough to destroy a student's life, and they carry the "rapist" label with them even if cleared).

Activists maintain that because accused students don't face jail, they don't need due process. But if someone is accused of what is essentially a crime — sexual assault — and the accusation and school finding carry the "rapist" label (hindering their future employment potential and branding them with the stigma for life), then they deserve due process.

An accusation cannot, and should not, equal guilt. But that is what is happening at college campuses across the country (and in the media). The current problem stems from OCR's expansion of Title IX, and it will take continued pressure from groups like AAUP and ACTA to find the solution.

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