Feds reverse course on new campus speech restrictions

Tuesday, November 26, 2013
 | 
Bob Kellogg (OneNewsNow.com)

The Departments of Education and Justice have decided to back away from its highly controversial "blueprint" for defining sexual harassment on college campuses nationwide.

William Creeley of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) says last May the University of Montana, in a settlement agreement with the feds, was required to adopt a sexual harassment policy that was shockingly dangerous to free speech. That policy, he explains, broadly defined sexual harassment as "any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature" – including speech.

"Of course, if applied as the federal government wanted it to be applied, this would cover an immense array of protected speech under the First Amendment, rendering virtually every student and faculty member on campus guilty of sexual harassment," he tells OneNewsNow.

Creeley, FIRE's director of legal and public advocacy, says the pushback from the public against this impending policy was enormous.

Creeley

"As a result of that pushback, I think the policies installed eventually not only at the University of Montana, but also recently agreed to at the State University of New York system, indicate that the Department of Education and the Department of Justice have dialed back their previous requirements," he states.

Creeley says the Departments of Justice and Education had planned to implement this contentious policy on college and university campuses nationwide. And FIRE points out "serious" First Amendment and due process problems remain with the blueprint – such as student discipline and reporting of faculty names who don't attend training on the policies.

"A great deal of work remains to be done," Creeley concludes, "but advocates of free speech and academic freedom on campus should be cheered by this progress."

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