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The feds are once again pushing an unconstitutional definition of harassment on universities. The latest push, coming in the form of a “findings letter” issued to the University of New Mexico, is all the more concerning because it’s coming directly from the Department of Justice. Universities are forced to choose between adopting a wildly unconstitutional definition of harassment or face the possibility of losing their federal funding and the wrath of the DOJ.
As FIRE writes in our new press release:
The shockingly broad conception of sexual harassment mandated by DOJ all but guarantees that colleges and universities nationwide will subject students and faculty to months-long investigations—or worse—for protected speech. In recent years, unjust “sexual harassment” investigations into protected student and faculty speech have generated national headlines and widespread concern. Examples include:
- Northwestern University Professor Laura Kipnis was investigated for months for writing a newspaper article questioning “sexual paranoia” on campus and how Title IX investigations are conducted.
- Syracuse University law student Len Audaer was investigated for harassment for comedic articles he posted on a satirical law school blog patterned after The Onion.
- A female student at the University of Oregon was investigated and charged with harassment and four other charges for jokingly yelling “I hit it first” out a window at a couple.
- The Sun Star, a student newspaper at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, was investigated for nearly a year for an April Fools’ Day issue of the newspaper and for reporting on hateful messages posted to an anonymous “UAF Confessions” Facebook page.
- And just two weeks ago, a police officer at the University of Delaware ordered students to censor a “free speech ball”—put up as part of a demonstration in favor of free speech—because it had the word “penis” and an accompanying drawing on it, claiming that it could violate the university’s sexual misconduct policy.
The feds’ expansion of anti-discrimination law at the expense of the First Amendment has been going on in different forms for years, and it’s time that university presidents and elected officials put a stop to it. Please read more about this at thefire.org (We will be writing a lot more about this in coming days) and ask that your representatives and alma maters finally fight back against this executive overreach.