Culture

Title IX for Campus Conservatives

(Dreamstime image: Nikola Hristovski)
Bring college Republicans out of the closest.

On American college campuses, conservatives are an ill-treated minority. They try to invite conservative speakers to campus, and the speakers are banned; two weeks ago, DePaul University banned conservative speaker and writer Ben Shapiro. Sometimes the college conservatives themselves are banned; UC Irvine banned the their college-Republicans after they invited conservative writer and speaker Milo Yiannopoulos. When schools allow the speaking engagements to proceed, they are frequently met with vicious protests — of the sort that have followed free-speech feminist Christina Hoff Sommers around the country for the last few months. Or the speakers are met with denunciations from college bigwigs, as in the recent case of a Virginia Tech students’ invitation to eminent political scientist Charles Murray: VT president Tim Sands attacked Murray’s “largely discredited work” — which Murray’s work certainly isn’t — and accused him of helping to justify racism and eugenics.

Or sometimes the attacks on campus conservatives are more direct, like cancelling conservatives’ event room reservations at the last minute, refusing to find substitute rooms, or substituting rooms that are almost comically too small — as NYU did to the college Republicans when I was an undergraduate there a few years ago. Sometimes the attacks are more direct still: Just before cancelling Shapiro’s appearance, DePaul banned the college Republicans’ anti-abortion “Unborn Lives Matter” campaign, comparing the slogan to “a noose — a powerful symbol of violence and hatred — outside a residence hall.”

DePaul, like NYU, is a private institution and is, of course, entitled to censor whatever it wants. Since it’s a private institution, you would think DePaul would also be free to spend money on whatever athletic programs it chooses to. Not so, says Title IX: DePaul takes public funds, therefore it is required to adhere to certain federal guidelines.

Title IX, which has most notably been used to force schools to spend the same on female athletics as they do on male, says simply:

No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.

Imagine substituting the phrase “on the basis of political affiliation” to “on the basis of sex.”

DePaul, or any other university that receives public money for sports or anything else, might just as well be subjected to a version of Title IX requiring equal opportunity for, and investment in, members of every political party which has, say, 15 percent support nationally (the debate threshold). Universities receiving public assistance could be instructed to make sure that the activities of both Democratic and Republican students receive equal space, money, and consideration. And all the administrative law and legal recourse that has expanded Title IX over the years could be applied to the new Title IX as well.

(Perhaps, by the same token, universities should be required to spend equally on politically left-wing and right-wing courses, to guarantee equality in the schools’ curricula. Perhaps universities should be required to hire an equal number of Democratic and Republican faculty, and perhaps they should be required to have “safe spaces” for both liberal and conservative ideologies, one with coloring books and anti-Trump counseling, the other with banned books and job applications.)

A Title IX for conservatives would be perfectly legal: The public can attach any stipulation it wants to the money it offers to private institutions; the institutions are free to either accept the stipulations or reject both the stipulations and the money. It is a purely voluntary process. That’s the way Title IX works.

#related#Of course, you could say that no private university should pressured to support or proffer any ideology against its will. That’s true. In fact, the government should never try to force any private institution to do anything it doesn’t want to; objectionable action by private institutions should be punished by the market. But so long as the government does try to force its morality on groups of private citizens, the Right should use a new Title IX as an opportunity to a) throw a lifeline to closet campus conservatives and b) teach a valuable lesson in the folly of public subsidy.

When the Left screams blue murder, the Right can remind it of its periodic efforts to impose the “fairness doctrine” on conservative radio, mandating equal airtime for leftists. When the Left tries to repeal or overturn the new Title IX, the Right can join in by trying to repeal and overturn the old Title IX — and every other regulatory instance of behavior modification.

Either way, conservatives win.

Josh Gelernter — Josh Gelernter is a weekly columnist for NRO, and a frequent contributor to The Weekly Standard.

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