The crackdown on college grievance procedures by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) paved the way for such developments as the administrative panic at the University of Virginia following Rolling Stone’s bogus assault article. I’ve got some thoughts at Cato about how the OCR crackdown grows out of a type of federal agency power grab — rule by “Dear Colleague” letter, sometimes known as sub-regulatory guidance or stealth regulation — that did not begin with this issue. As federal agencies have learned how to wield broad regulatory power without having to go through the formal regulatory process with its legal protections for affected parties, the courts have begun to apply skeptical scrutiny — which could open up one avenue of challenging the federal guidelines. Earlier on subregulatory guidance/stealth regulation here, here, etc. More: related from John Graham and James Broughel, Mercatus.
“Complaints of discrimination to the [Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights] have soared from 6,364 in fiscal 2009 to a record of 9,989 in the most recent fiscal year.” [Lyndsey Layton, Washington Post] Most notable sentence concerning that surging caseload: “Two individuals were responsible for filing more than 1,700 of those allegations of [education] sex discrimination.”
Related: how OCR acquires and uses financial leverage over academia [Hans Bader, CEI via Amy Alkon (“a bigger threat to innocent students is the massive financial risk colleges face if they do not swiftly expel accused students … Moreover, even when no court would award damages, OCR will. It has recently given itself the power to award monetary damages against colleges, even in situations where the Supreme Court’s Davis decision says damages would be inappropriate under the Constitution’s spending clause.”)]
- Has it gotten too easy to breach the ordinary protections of academic freedom by charging that research is unethical? [Alice Dreger, Retraction Watch; The Guardian with more on complaints against University of Queensland economist over Brisbane, Australia bus study]
- “Good reformist energy in NYC to decriminalize student misbehavior. Big, unreported obstacle? School security guards are all NYPD personnel.” [Chase Madar on Twitter]
- “What is Obama’s big idea regarding day care? Well, to make it even more expensive” [Nick Gillespie citing Abby Schachter]
- “Why no one, but no one, trusts a campus sexual assault proceeding.” [Judith Shulevitz; Volokh (16 Penn Law profs)] Remarkable story of student investigated because he reminded woman of man who had attacked her thousands of miles away [Janet Halley/Harvard Law Review, see text between footnotes 23 and 24 near end, but interesting throughout] Two views of new advocacy film The Hunting Ground [David Edelstein, New York; Lizzie Crocker, Daily Beast]
- We never followed up at the time on what happened in the 2008 Billy Wolfe bullying story out of Fayetteville, Ark., but suffice it to say it’s not flattering to New York Times coverage [Eighth Circuit 2011 opinion; earlier here, here, and here]
- Quaker schools in United Kingdom resist mandate that all schools teach “fundamental British values” [Guardian] Non-Oxbridge universities to be brought into line rather sharply on teach-against-terror agenda [Chris Bertram, Crooked Timber]
- How does your pension compare? “Nearly 5,000 [New York] teachers cashing in on six-figure pensions” [New York Post]
- “Teacher keeps job despite ‘unsatisfactory’ rating 6 years in a row” [New York Post; and one reaction that speaks volumes about attitudes at Media Matters for America]
- Cathy Young interviewed the accused (cleared by university and police) in Columbia “mattress” case and reports on the message traffic between him and accuser [The Daily Beast; Daniel Garisto, Columbia Daily Spectator (“we, the members of the campus media, failed specifically with Sulkowicz’s story by not being thorough and impartial” in part because of social pressure against pro-due-process viewpoints)]
- Redouble whippings till morale improves: Obama seeks big hike in Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (OCR) budget [Robby Soave, Chronicle of Higher Education, Hans Bader] Theory assigns big role to OCR: “the resurgence of P.C. has actually been orchestrated from the top down.” [Jason Willick, Stanford Political Journal]
- Faculties have resigned governance questions to “University Life” bureaus, which often place less value on academic freedom [Todd Zywicki, Pope Center] “Graduate school eliminates use of titles like ‘Mr.’ and ‘Ms.’ in salutations and correspondence” [Alexandra Zimmern, The College Fix on CUNY Graduate Center]
- NLRB ropes religious institutions’ faculty into federal labor law regime [Joseph Knippenberg, Law and Liberty, parts one, two]
- “Students of ‘predatory’ school to get loan forgiveness” [Miami Herald, Everest U.]
- When researchers interview jihadis, should they get a “project funded by the U.S. Department of Defense” disclaimer/warning under human-subjects-protection rules? [IRB Blog]
- Illinois school district warns parents that in doing investigations under new cyber-bullying law it may require students to hand over their Facebook passwords [Vice Motherboard; earlier on “cyber-bullying”]
- Powerful, from Christina Hoff Sommers: how a shoddy NPR / Center for Public Integrity campus-rape study fueled legal fury of Department of Education’s Civil Rights Division [The Daily Beast; more, Bader] Nancy Gertner, retired federal judge and prominent progressive voice, on due process for college accused [American Prospect] Questions for New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand [KC Johnson, Minding the Campus]
- Smith College: “the word crazy was censored from the transcript, replaced with the term ‘ableist slur.'” [Kevin Cullen, Boston Globe]
- “Community College Courtesy of the Federal Taxpayer? No Thanks” [Neal McCluskey, Arnold Kling]
- “Families Of Two Newtown Victims Sue Town And School Board” [CBS Connecticut via Skenazy; recently on suits against gun businesses]
- More coverage of open records requests as way to go after ideologically disliked professors [Inside Higher Ed, our take last month]
- Washington Post piece went viral, but it’s dead wrong: “No, A Majority of US Public School Students are Not In Poverty” [Alex Tabarrok] Look, a not-yet-published paper that claims to confirm something many of us want dearly to believe about school finance. But will it have the staying power of Prof. Hanushek’s? [WaPo “WonkBlog”]
- Many states have liberalized rules on family homeschooling, now comes the backlash from proponents of tighter regulation [NY Times]
- Kansas Supreme Court decrees higher school spending, estimated taxpayer cost upwards of $500 million [Greg Weiner, Law and Liberty, Wichita Eagle; earlier] After all, judicially directed school munificence worked so well in nearby Kansas City, Missouri [via @David_Boaz]
- Scaring ourselves to death: the insanity of school active shooter drills [Radley Balko]
- University of Virginia’s resistance to assault hoax weaker than Duke’s, possibly because pressure on skeptics to shut up has intensified [KC Johnson/Stuart Taylor, Jr./Real Clear Politics] Hans Bader on curious provisions of feds’ settlement with Harvard [Examiner, earlier]
- “Oklahoma court declines to order [high school] football game replayed for blown call” [Paul Cassell, more]
- Ohio judge rules principals, superintendent open to being sued personally over school shooting [Insurance Journal]
- “Wow. How fun is this? A merry go round welded stationary. So kids don’t get hurt. Way to go, New York!” [Lenore Skenazy]
The university has capitulated to U.S. Department of Education demands that it water down due process protections for accused students and faculty [celebratory ED press release]. That’s a sign of the “madness” afoot on campus at the moment, says Prof. Elizabeth Bartholet [WSJ Law Blog] With 27 other Harvard law professors, Bartholet had signed a letter calling for the defense of procedural fairness in disciplinary complaints under Title IX, which at this rate might as well have been shouted into the wind.
KC Johnson has a more detailed analysis of the settlement agreement at Minding the Campus. Sample excerpt:
As has occurred in previous settlements with SUNY and SMU, OCR also inserted an ex post facto review of cases from the past two academic years, ordering the law school to reinvestigate sexual assault claims (under the new, lower threshold) and to provide “any additional remedies necessary.” Will previously acquitted students now be branded rapists?
A considerable portion of the resolution agreement, however, amounted to little more than OCR lashing out at the Harvard Law professors, and reminding the law faculty who now has the power in campus due process debates….
That’s National Public Radio, summarizing a new report from the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics that tells a very different story from the “1 in 5” campus sexual assault slogan heard from the White House on down. Earlier here, etc.
P.S. Cato has now posted my Commentary article from last year on federal pressure for universities to reduce the procedural rights of accused students and faculty.
A question of consent: “The case has produced no evidence thus far that the couple’s love faded, that Donna failed to recognize her husband or that she asked that he not touch her, said Rayhons’ son Dale Rayhons, a paramedic and the family’s unofficial spokesman.” Mrs. Rayhons, who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, is dead now and can’t testify. “In interviews, Rayhons said his life and reputation are already ruined. … He says he’s most distraught about being kept from Donna during the last weeks of her life.” [Bryan Gruley, Bloomberg, via @amyalkon] (& Scott Greenfield, Eugene Volokh)