Washington Monthly - September/October 2015 - 68

WHAT WENT WRONG WITH TITLE IX? The Obama administration rolled out some good regulations on sexual assault and harassment. Then it forgot to explain them to colleges. I n response to alarming statistics indicating that sexual violence is widespread at colleges and universities-and growing pressure from activists to do something about it-the Obama administration's Department of Education has taken aggressive steps to enforce Title IX of the Education Amendments against sexual harassment and violence on campus. And if press reports and the chatter of professors and administrators are to be believed, the results have been disastrous: students accused of rape being tried by kangaroo courts; a prominent feminist professor subject to interrogation by lawyers for writing an op-ed criticizing new restrictions on sex between teachers and students; and even a tenured professor being fired for saying "Fuck no" in class. Another example of well-intentioned government regulation gone horribly awry! 68 September/October 2015 But the story is not so simple. To blame are two bureaucracies, one at the federal level, the other within individual colleges and universities, each emphasizing compliance over communication and common sense. Universities, perhaps stung by being called out on their prior inaction, overreached by allowing a class of professional campus administrators, insulated from the classroom, to pursue a maximally risk-averse strategy that went way beyond what the federal government was calling for and that put important values of academic freedom and fair process at risk on their campuses. At the same time, regulators in Obama's Department of Education failed to do the early outreach that would have allowed them to see this overreaction coming, and compounded that mistake by failing to emphasize the limits as well as the requirements of Title IX. By so doing the department has BLOOMBERG By Samuel R. Bagenstos

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