The Departments of Justice and Education have leveled breathtakingly unconstitutional speech codes on basically every college and university campus in the US. All colleges and universities are affected.
Higher institutions are supposed to be bastions of freedom, a place where ideas are shared, discussed and evaluated. That is under threat.
You are no longer allowed to speak freely if someone says your speech is sexually offensive, no matter how unreasonable they are being.
In 2011, the DOE (Department of Education) obliterated due process rights for students accused of sexual harassment on college campuses. They have now mandated such broad speech codes in relation to sexual harassment that it is impossible to not violate them.
The government is taking an axe to the 1st Amendment.
It started with The University of Montana which had cases of assault that the DOJ and DOE decided to use as an opportunity to redefine “harassment.”
The DOJ/DOE sent a letter to the University of Montana that set these new harassment rules in motion.
They stated that the “Agreement will serve as a blueprint for colleges and universities throughout the country to protect students from sexual harassment and assault.” Their footnotes makes it clear that every institution that takes one dollar in funding will be affected.
The letter said that “sexual harassment should be more broadly defined as “unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature and can include unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal, nonverbal, or physical conduct of a sexual nature, such as sexual assault or acts of sexual violence.” (on p.4) By including verbal, they are including any speech!
On page 8, they state that “sexual harassment should be more broadly defined as “any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature.”
On p.9, it states that objectively offensive has been used as a factor in determining if a hostile environment has been created but that is not the standard to determine whether conduct was ‘unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature’ and therefore constitutes ‘sexual harassment.’”
In other words, the conduct, which includes speech, does not have to meet any standard of reasonableness. It simply has to be unwelcome conduct for any reason.
This is very different from past definitions which stated that harassment must go beyond words, views, symbols or thoughts.
Sexual jokes, sexual topics, requests for dates and flirtation all now fall under “unwelcome” if some unreasonable person decides they are offended.
The letter also mandates a micromanaged approach to every minute aspect of harassment policies and their implementation. It makes universities fully responsible for any possible case of harassment. They even make the institutions of higher learning responsible for off-campus harassment.
The government is completely out-of-control!
In July 2012, FIRE beat back Indiana University Southeast’s efforts to establish free speech zones.
Read the full story about this latest attack on free speech at FIRE – Foundation for Individual Rights in Education
The 31-page letter can be read on this link.