FIRE, Hans Bader, Eugene Volokh and other free speech advocates are sounding the alarm about remarkable and extreme guidelines on university discipline emanating from the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division and Education Department Office of Civil Rights. I’ve got more details at Cato at Liberty. Earlier here, here, etc.
“Unsubstantiated accusations against my son by a former girlfriend landed him before a nightmarish college tribunal.” Washington has recently made things worse, through Department of Education regulations that force colleges to jettison protections for the accused such as requirements that misdeeds be proved through at least “clear and convincing” evidence. [Judith Grossman, WSJ; earlier here, here, here, here, here, here, here, etc.] More: Scott Greenfield.
In an effort to reduce possible exposure to harassment claims, employers have occasionally adopted “anti-fraternization” policies that prohibit some types of contact between employees, as by prohibiting male and female employees from being alone together behind closed doors. It has long been predicted that such policies might themselves generate worker discontent and result in litigation. Now a woman is suing Dallas-based law firm Scheef & Stone LLP alleging, among other things, that its former anti-fraternization rules kept female employees from developing mentor relationships and resulted in their being marginalized in the workplace. [Courthouse News via Becket Adams, The Blaze]
There’s nothing new about the impulse to call in the cops against wolves, mashers, and fresh guys on street corners and public conveyances [Alexis Coe, The Atlantic]:
As early as 1897, Missouri representative Prichard B. Hoot introduced a bill that sought to regulate flirting on trains, but the endeavor ultimately proved unsuccessful. That same year, Senator James G. McCune recommended Virginia make flirting a misdemeanor; like his earlier proposal to outlaw football, this bill did not come to fruition.
A former Bethlehem, Pa. city employee who “was charged with and ultimately pled guilty to harassment” after persistently bothering an ex-girlfriend co-worker has lost his wrongful-termination suit against the city, with the Third Circuit upholding its dismissal on summary judgment. [Eric B. Meyer]
Harassment complaints filed by men are on the rise, up from 9 percent to 16 percent over the past two decades, according to the EEOC. Now male employees at the Department of Homeland Security have filed a complaint saying they were subjected to a hostile environment under female management. Alison Yarrow of Newsweek/Daily Beast has a new report that quotes me on several points.
A Minnesota man named Aaron (no relation) Olson has met with no success in legal efforts to force his uncle to remove “innocuous [but surely awkward] family photographs” with snarky captions. [Christopher Danzig, Above the Law; Venkat Balasubramani/TMLB]
Is life at the university fairer under the new sex-complaint procedures mandated by the federal Department of Education? Don’t ask the New York Times [Peter Berkowitz via Ann Althouse] More: Kathleen Parker, WaPo; Brisbane/NYT via Romenesko.
I joined the radio host yesterday evening to talk about how sexual harassment law works in practice, in light of the reports that presidential candidate Herman Cain was a target in two employee actions alleging “inappropriate” conduct. More on the “hostile environment” branch of harassment law here.
Cynical? Even more so than usual? The Harvard lawprof lays out a theory that ex-IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn and his accuser share an interest in cooperating to foil prosecutor Cy Vance [Newsweek]
Federal regulators and private complainants step up pressure for tougher university disciplinary action against offensive males — and speech-related offenses will be very much under scrutiny. [Greg Lukianoff/Daily Caller, Harvey Silverglate and Kyle Smeallie/Minding the Campus, Caroline May/Daily Caller]
More: The Yale Alumni Magazine notes that DKE (Delta Kappa Epsilon) brought the University “bad publicity.” And Dave Zincavage has been blogging critically about the affair. Further: Scott Greenfield.
A fraternity has already apologized for its role in loutish public expressions, but that isn’t nearly enough for some complainants who’ve initiated an investigation by the Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights that puts Yale at risk of losing its $500 million in federal funding if it isn’t sufficiently cooperative. Peter Berkowitz in the Wall Street Journal:
That Yale finds itself under pressure from the government, in the face of stupid frat-boy initiation rituals obviously designed to humiliate the pledges themselves, dramatizes how far government and higher education have drifted from the principles of freedom. … What is really at stake in the current investigation of Yale is the proper mission of the university. The complainants, not a few university administrators and faculty, and powerful forces at work in the Department of Education seem to think that one of a university’s top priorities is policing students’ opinions and utterances to ensure that they adopt government-approved ideas about sexual relations. That priority can’t be reconciled with the imperatives of a liberal education.
If a letter just sent to alumni by Yale President Richard Levin is any indication, the university may not intend to put up much of a public stand on behalf of its autonomy of governance, the toleration granted even some offensive utterances in a community of unbridled expression, or the importance of due process for students accused of wrongdoing. Indeed, Levin’s letter does not make even the tamest and most tentative attempt to argue that anything about the OCR complaint is legally erroneous or worth resisting. The full text of the letter follows: [click to continue…]