Phi Beta Cons

DOE Wishes Weasel Words Will Work Wonders

In response to the uproar caused by free-speech advocates such as FIRE’s Robert Shibley, Greg Lukianoff, and Harvey Silverglate over an amazingly expansive definition of sexual harassment in a ruling issued May 9 concerning events at the University of Montana, the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights has just issued another statement best described as “damage control” or even “weasel words.”

FIRE quickly issued a comeback, including some choice words from Lukianoff:

“The Office for Civil Rights’ weak attempt to walk back its disastrous May 9 letter is too little, too late,” said FIRE President Greg Lukianoff. “OCR’s belated lip service to freedom of expression following a national firestorm of criticism is hardly sufficient to undo the damage of a 47-page ‘blueprint’ that doesn’t once mention the First Amendment or freedom of speech. FIRE calls on OCR to immediately issue a swift and detailed retraction and clarification to every college and university in the country.”  

“OCR argues that a broad definition of sexual harassment encourages reporting, but mandating that state and private employees must report protected expression to authorities as ‘harassment’ is no more acceptable than requiring the reporting of ‘unpatriotic’ speech as treason,” Lukianoff continued. “In just over two years, OCR has reduced due process protections for students accused of serious misconduct, issued dangerously vague guidance on ‘bullying,’ and is now mandating a definition of sexual harassment that will render virtually every student and faculty member guilty of harassment. The agency is out of control. OCR must reverse its attack on student and faculty rights before it is forced to do so by courts, legislators, and universities themselves.”  


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