FIRE President Greg Lukianoff and a broad coalition of organizations, First Amendment experts, and civil libertarians sent an open letter to the Department of Education (ED) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) urging the retraction of the controversial “blueprint” for campus sexual harassment policies that threatens student and faculty rights.
Some of the impressive signatories include the Electronic Frontier Foundation, American Council of Trustees and Alumni, Goldwater Institute, National Coalition Against Censorship, Rutherford Institute, Students For Liberty, Student Press Law Center, Woodhull Sexual Freedom Alliance, professors Steven Pinker, Nadine Strossen, Cary Nelson, Michael McConnell, and journalists Nat Hentoff and Wendy Kaminer.
The open letter warns:
The blueprint mandates a shockingly broad definition of sexual harassment—“any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature,” including “verbal conduct”—and rejects the inclusion of a “reasonable person” standard, endangering academic freedom and freedom of expression on campus. The blueprint also requires university employees to report protected speech for mandatory investigation, allows for punishment before the completion of an investigation, and instructs [universities] to keep records of the names of all students and faculty accused of “sexual harassment,” even if no wrongdoing is found.
The “blueprint” mandates a definition of harassment even more expansive than those that have plagued college campuses for decades. In Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate, Greg details how these codes stifle speech, promote groupthink, and encourage self-censorship. This “blueprint” does that and more; it places an enormous administrative burden on universities, curbs academic freedom, and mandates vague conduct standards that the Supreme Court has already determined to be unconstitutional. In doing so, the “blueprint” magnifies the dangers presented in Unlearning Liberty—a scenario that is alarming for students, professors, and broader society.
View the open letter here and learn more about the dangers of the mandate by reading Greg’s Four Key Points About Free Speech and the Feds’ ‘Blueprint.’