Phi Beta Cons

Two Excellent Letters on an Excellent Op-ed on Title IX

On June 8, the Wall Street Journal ran an excellent op-ed by Jessica Gavora on the way Title IX has been transformed into a political weapon against men on American campuses. Yesterday’s paper ran two sharp letters commenting on her piece. I’m copying them in below. The first is by Bob Iosue, former president of York College, who has written for the Pope Center, showing that it is possible to keep college costs from skyrocketing, and the second by Hans Bader, an attorney with the Competitive Enterprise Institute, who regularly writes about the perverse actions taken by Department of Education bureaucrats.

We would be so much better off if the feds had never gotten into higher education where, under that thing called the Constitution, they have no business anyway. The letters:

Regarding Jessica Gavora’s “How Title IX Became a Political Weapon” (op-ed, June 8): Title IX was never conceived as a bludgeon to attack the very foundation of higher education. I was a young dean when Title IX was made operational in 1972. It had one purpose: to level the playing field for female and male students. Simply stated, if the college offered athletic scholarships, then they should be roughly equal in number or dollar value for male and female students. If the college didn’t offer any athletic scholarships, the opportunity to play college-level sports should be roughly equal between women’s and men’s various sports. Pretty direct.

Within three years, a female professor in the physical education department made a claim under Title IX that retirees should get the same monthly payout whether male or female. The counter argument was commonly understood to be that retirement funds were equal since all actuarial tables had males dying a couple of years before females so their monthly check had to be a few dollars higher, making the end financial payout equal. Against all odds, she won in court, and the use of Title IX began its unintended reach. I’m glad people such as Jessica Gavora see the danger of Title IX’s extended reach, along with our government’s desire to punish anyone who says anything that may make someone uncomfortable.

Robert V. Iosue, Ph.D.

York, Pa.

Ms. Gavora rightly criticizes the Education Department, where I used to work, for pressuring colleges to adopt unconstitutional speech codes in the name of fighting sexual harassment. It has disregarded many court rulings in doing so.

For example, the Education Department has wrongly ordered schools to regulate off-campus speech and conduct. That contributed to the harassment charges against Prof. Laura Kipnis, who was accused over a politically incorrect essay she wrote in the Chronicle of Higher Education and statements she made on Twitter. Court rulings like Roe v. Saint Louis University (2014) reject Title IX claims over off-campus conduct, but the Education Department ignores them. It also ignores court rulings like Klein v. Smith (1986) emphasizing that the First Amendment usually bars public schools from restricting off-campus speech. For example, the Education Department told schools to regulate comments “on the Internet” in an October 2010 letter. In 2014, it demanded that Harvard regulate off-campus conduct more.

The Education Department has also ignored the Supreme Court’s statement that speech in school must be “severe,” not just “pervasive,” to constitute “sexual harassment.”

Hans Bader

Competitive Enterprise Institute

Washington

George Leef is the director of research for the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy.

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