From FIRE, more on that Office of Civil Rights “blueprint”

by Walter Olson on July 16, 2013

At the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, Greg Lukianoff offers “Four Key Points About Free Speech and the Feds’ ‘Blueprint’“. He notes that overbroad notions of harassment have been the key driver of university speech codes and disciplinary action against dissenting and unpopular speakers, that DoJ and ED lack credibility in their new claim that the rules are only meant to encourage reporting as distinct from discipline, and that the implications go far beyond sexually oriented speech or flirtation to include wide swaths of controversial speech having nothing to do with sex. More: “OCR Descends into Self-Parody in Front of Incredulous College Lawyers” [Robert Shibley, FIRE; Chronicle of Higher Education] and Sen. John McCain demands answers.

Separately, FIRE has kind words for my new Commentary article on this controversy:

In the July/August issue of Commentary, Cato Institute Senior Fellow Walter Olson puts the Departments of Education (ED) and Justice’s (DOJ’s) May 9 Title IX compliance “blueprint” in its historical context and emphasizes several of its alarming repercussions….

Olson continues, explaining that the purported distinction between reporting speech and punishing speech under OCR’s definition of harassment is negated by other troubling side effects of the blueprint:

This is a distinction without a difference. To begin with, the process itself amounts to punishment: Once people realize that a certain type of joke or gossip can get them summoned involuntarily into a grievance process of indefinite length and destination, many will get the message and shut up. Second, in defining such speech as harassment while claiming the intent is merely to record and document but not to suppress it, OCR is departing from the commonly shared meaning of the word harassment as something objectionable that should be stopped.

It’s also covered in Italian-language ThinkNews (“il magazine ‘Commentary’, uno dei più prestigiosi mensili di analisi della vita americana.”) Earlier here, etc.

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1 Greg Lukianoff 07.16.13 at 6:50 pm

Thank you for covering this, Walter. You and your readers should check out the coalition letter we sent today to DOJ/ED.

http://thefire.org/article/16050.html

Just a sampling of the groups that joined: Electronic Frontier Foundation, Goldwater Institute, National Coalition Against Censorship, Rutherford Institute, Students For Liberty, Student Press Law Center, Woodhull Sexual Freedom Alliance

Also, Steve Pinker and Nadine Strossen, just to name two of the individual signers.

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