Invoking Title IX, that law of so many uses, some identity advocates are demanding that colleges curtail student access to the chat service Yik Yak, popular for anonymous chatter on campus. While the press routinely portrays Yik Yak as a sump of digital hostility, Virginia Postrel found something quite different when she went on. “On a routine basis, the app grownups love to demonize is much friendlier than the Twitter and Facebook feeds I read daily. For reasons built into its structure, Yik Yak offers fewer rewards for mean, grouchy, tribal, and polarizing posts and more for those that are supportive, funny, inquisitive, and community-building.” Its anonymity “creates a place of support and solidarity amid academic and social struggles” [Bloomberg View, earlier here and here; related, New York Times]
After the Feminist Majority Foundation promoted a Title IX complaint against the University of Mary Washington, primarily based on the public Virginia university’s failure to crack down harder on student use of the independent Yik Yak social media gossip platform, UMW President Richard Hurley in June wrote an unapologetic letter crisply refuting many of the group’s contentions. What do you think happened next? Sponsors amended their complaint to allege that Hurley’s letter itself constituted unlawful retaliation against persons invoking Title IX protection. “The [U.S. Department of Education’s] Office for Civil Rights announced its intent to investigate the university this month.” And now a group of 72 women’s and civil rights organizations, including the respectable American Association of University Women and Leadership Conference for Civil Rights, have “announced a campaign to enlist the federal government in pressuring colleges to protect students from harassment via anonymous social-media applications like Yik Yak.” [Eugene Volokh; Hans Bader; Chronicle of Higher Education; Fredericksburg, Va. Free Lance-Star (Hurley letter)] One thing’s for sure, someone is retaliating against something.
More: Eugene Volokh is out with a don’t-miss followup post analyzing the FMF complaints in much more depth, and noting that Hurley is being charged with retaliation for “engaging in normal public debate”:
Readers might recall the recent attempt to use Title IX to shut down critical speech as retaliation, in the Northwestern University / Prof. Laura Kipnis controversy…. This complaint is yet another such attempt.
The Feminist Majority Foundation, though a publisher of a magazine [Ms.], doesn’t seem to care much about the First Amendment rights of students, or of accused university officials. Its complaint goes far beyond constitutionally unprotected and rightly punishable speech, such as true threats of violence.
Instead, it faults the university for not stopping criticism of feminist arguments and feminist arguers, whether vulgar criticism or other criticism. It faults the university for speaking out, without vulgarities or epithets, in its own defense. And the premise of the complaint thus seems to be that one side of a debate has the right to speak — to condemn and to accuse — but the federal government should step in to stop the other side from responding.
The Yik Yak app is gone, but it leaves behind an important pending Fourth Circuit case on the First Amendment limits of Title IX [Ilya Shapiro on Cato amicus brief in Feminist Majority Foundation v. University of Mary Washington]
- Many elements of First Amendment doctrine are applicable not at all to private universities and only in substantially modified form to public campuses. True enough, but few go as far in arguing this as does Yale’s Robert Post [Vox, Erwin Chemerinsky response, Will Creeley (FIRE) response, Post response to Creeley]
- Rundown of shout-downs: state representative kept from speaking at Texas Southern’s Thurgood Marshall Law School [Caron/TaxProf, Greenfield] University of Oregon president’s annual state-of-university speech [Oregonian] Pro-Trump hecklers shout down California Attorney General, assembly majority leader at Whittier College [Adam Steinbaugh, FIRE] College Republicans disrupted at UC Santa Cruz, not for inviting someone controversial, just for being them [Celine Ryan/Campus Reform, John Sexton/HotAir]
- Threats of violence against journal editors are one way to get a retraction [Sara Hebel/Chronicle of Higher Education, Jerry Coyne, Oliver Traldi, Quillette (Bruce Gilley, “Case for Colonialism” paper)]
- “New policy authorizes University of Wisconsin to expel students for repeatedly disrupting speakers” [ABA Journal] Will the new rules themselves improperly restrict speech? [Howard Wasserman, Joe Cohn/FIRE first and second posts]
- Debate over proposal by Rep. Anthony Brown (D-Md.) to prohibit “hate speech” on campus [Andrew King vs. Chris Seaton, Simple Justice]
- Federal court agrees that Title IX does not oblige university to ban (now-defunct) student gossip anonymous messaging app Yik Yak [Adam Steinbaugh, FIRE]
- New college freshmen show scant knowledge about or commitment to free speech. How’d that happen? [Howard Gillman and Erwin Chemerinsky, L.A. Times via Josh Blackman] New Gallup survey of students on campus speech [Knight Foundation and report] Greg Lukianoff (FIRE) interviewed [Fault Lines]
- Senior Ohio State administrator coolly advises protesters that not retreating from their “occupied space” will involve getting arrested and expelled [Eric Owens, Daily Caller]
- Mizzou’s chief diversity officer asked university administration to assist protesters with logistics. And it did. [Jillian Kay Melchior, Heat Street]
- No, the regents of a public university should not be saying that “anti-Zionism” has “no place at the University of California.” [Eugene Volokh]
- “In Her Own Words: Laura Kipnis’ ‘Title IX Inquisition’ at Northwestern” [FIRE interview, earlier] Title IX complainant at U.Va.: that mural must go [Charlotte Allen, IWF]
- National Coalition Against Censorship, AAUP, FIRE, and Student Press Law Center voice opposition to calls to ban anonymous speech apps such as Yik Yak on campus [NCAC, College Fix, earlier]
- Understanding the liberal-conservative gap on what “free expression” means [Ronald K. L. Collins]
- Foes of Yik Yak “want universities to ban the very app that gives marginalized students a voice on campus” [Amanda Hess, earlier] No-platforming: “It is an anti-Enlightenment movement.” [Claire Lehmann on Germaine Greer case] At UCLA, administrators and activists are attacking the core right to free speech [Conor Friedersdorf]
- “If you know what you’re doing, you bring in the litigators before you start running your mouth.” [Popehat on game developer’s lawsuit threats, language]
- “Climate change, Galileo, and our modern Inquisition” [Edward Dougherty, Public Discourse/MercatorNet on climate RICO] “Veteran campaigner Bill McKibben and Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders demand the Obama administration launch a criminal investigation [over Exxon’s allegedly improper issue advocacy]… victory over deniers and climate criminals is always just around the corner” [Holman Jenkins, Jr., WSJ, paywall]
- In Denmark, courage of cartoon editors belatedly recognized, yet fear governs press [Jacob Mchangama, Politico Europe]
- Federal judge: First Amendment forbids Kentucky officials to shut down parenting column written by N.C. psychologist on grounds that it constitutes practice of psychology in Kentucky without a license [Caleb Trotter, Pacific Legal Foundation]
- “To Tweet or Not to Tweet: How FDA Social Media Guidelines Violate the First Amendment” [Kirby Griffis and Tamara Fishman Barago, Washington Legal Foundation]
- After collapse of Rolling Stone article on alleged University of Virginia gang rape, who might prevail in a libel suit against whom? [Volokh] Someone with much to answer for: UVa president Teresa Sullivan [Glenn Reynolds]
- Much-discussed Judith Shulevitz piece on campus climate [New York Times] John McWhorter challenges the White Privilege 101 curriculum [The Daily Beast]
- Ithaca College gets in the swing of the federal guidance with its own anonymous microaggression snitchline [Greg Lukianoff]
- Lawyer for University of Rochester “Demands Yik Yak Take Down Posts, Turn Over User Info” [Tim Cushing, TechDirt]
- Academic-purity group backed by Greenpeace and AFT urges activists to “expose and undermine” professors and campus research centers that work against “progressive values.” [Kim Strassel, WSJ; related earlier] (& welcome Instapundit readers)
- NLRB decision in Pacific Lutheran University case could menace private colleges by herding more faculty into unions [Charles Baird, Pope Center]
- University of Texas still covertly doing race preferences, and SCOTUS should step in, argues Cato brief [Ilya Shapiro] Related: “U. of Texas’ Chief Might Have Exposed Its Admissions Policy to New Supreme Court Challenge” [Chronicle of Higher Education] University of Texas and legislature “Just Keep Digging That Wallace Hall Hole Deeper for Themselves” [Dallas Observer]
- Fourth Circuit: Title IX may oblige universities to take action against outside social media sites whose content is said to create hostile environment. By blocking student access to them? [Samantha Harris, FIRE, Eugene Volokh, Robby Soave on University of Mary Washington ruling]
- Return of the loyalty oath? Some senior academics speak out against required faculty diversity statements and pledges, at the University of California [Stephen Bainbridge, Nick Wolfinger, John McGinnis, Law and Liberty] and Harvard [Colleen Flaherty, Inside Higher Ed, Jeffrey Flier, Times Higher Education]
- Speech codes and “The Coddling of the American Mind”: Greg Lukianoff and Adam Goldstein guestblog at Volokh Conspiracy [series: first, second, third, fourth, fifth]
- “OCR’s use of overly broad anti-Semitism definition threatens student and faculty speech” [Zach Greenberg, FIRE] University of Washington lecturer publishes article on sex differences in pursuit of computer careers, it’s cited as gender harassment as part of successful push for training and curriculum review [Stuart Reges, Quillette] Update on “Fourth floor, ladies’ lingerie” joke episode [Katherine Mangan, Chronicle of Higher Education, earlier]
- Bias response teams are benign-sounding way to police speech [Dan E. Way, Martin Center] Prescribed first-year programs do much to bend the assumptions surrounding what can be safely said [John Tierney, City Journal] Artists’ intent was to challenge Confederate imagery, but some students were offended, so down it went [Inside Higher Ed: Scott Jaschik and Emily Chamlee-Wright and Sarah Skwire]
- Speech First, recently formed nonprofit group, sues University of Texas over speech policies [Phil Prazan, KXAN, Washington Examiner: Lauren Cooley and Grant Addison]
The makers of the controversial advocacy film on sexual assault, “The Hunting Ground,” have suggested that by criticizing the film as unfair, Harvard law professors might be creating a hostile environment at their school, which itself might violate Title IX [Samantha Harris, FIRE; The Crimson; Paul Horwitz and Howard Wasserman, PrawfsBlawg; compare recent University of Mary Washington case, in which dean was said to violate Title IX by talking back publicly against accusations]
Jeannie Suk, one of the Harvard professors who has criticized the film, now has an important piece in the New Yorker. One reason we should pay attention to the piece is that its author might soon be silenced, depending on what her institution sees as its Title IX obligations:
This is a piece on a subject about which I may soon be prevented from publishing, depending on how events unfold….If, as the filmmakers suggest, the professors’ statement about the film has created a hostile environment at the school, then, under Title IX, the professors should be investigated and potentially disciplined.
At least for now, though, Professor Suk can speak out:
Fair process for investigating sexual-misconduct cases, for which I, along with many of my colleagues, have fought, in effect violates the tenet that you must always believe the accuser. Fair process must be open to the possibility that either side might turn out to be correct. If the process is not at least open to both possibilities, we might as well put sexual-misconduct cases through no process at all.
Moreover, she points out, an “always believe” premise in the end undercuts the cause of vindicating true accusations:
“always believe” unwittingly renders the stakes of each individual case impossibly high, by linking the veracity of any one claim to the veracity of all claims…. The imperative to act as though every accusation must be true—when we all know some number will not be—harms the over-all credibility of sexual assault claims….equating critique with a hostile environment is neither safe nor helpful for victims.