George Will Brings Attention to Federal Speech Code 'Blueprint' in 'Washington Post'
May 26, 2013
by Susan Kruth
Writing in The Washington Post this weekend, George Will notes that with so many recent and prominent scandals involving the Executive Branch, not enough attention is being paid to the "assault on civil liberties by the misconceived Education Department's misnamed Office for Civil Rights."
In his article, Will reviews some critical points made recently by free speech advocates, particularly the fact that the "blueprint" letter permits schools to "tak[e] disciplinary action against the harasser" prior to determining whether a student is actually guilty of harassment. He also notes the government's "blurring the distinction between physical assaults and ... speech," as well as FIRE President Greg Lukianoff's observation that "sexual harassment" now includes "unwelcome" classroom lectures on books with sexual themes and even sex education. Will explains:
The Supreme Court has held that for speech or conduct in schools to lead to a successful sexual harassment lawsuit, it must be sufficiently severe and pervasive to create a hostile environment. And it must be "objectively offensive" to a reasonable person. But, [UCLA Law Professor Eugene] Volokh notes, the OCR-DOJ rules would mandate punishment for any individual's "conduct of a sexual nature," conduct "verbal, nonverbal or physical," that is not objectively offensive to a normal person.
"Most of academia's leadership is too invertebrate and too soggy with political correctness to fight the OCR-DOJ mischief," Will laments. "But someone will."
Indeed, FIRE will continue to fight until the Departments of Education and Justice clearly direct colleges to use a definition of "sexual harassment" that does not threaten free speech on campus.
Read the rest of Will's article in The Washington Post.