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The hickey police: Petition asks lawmakers to ‘rein in’ agency that micromanages campus sex

Give your girlfriend a hickey, get expelled.

The fact that this outlandish scenario is the subject of a federal lawsuit shows what’s wrong with the federal Office for Civil Rights (OCR), according to a new petition to Congress.

The petition asks the leaders of the Senate committee that oversees the Department of Education to “rein in” its civil-rights unit, whose guidance documents for the past several years have forced colleges to treat subjectively offensive speech as sexual harassment and eliminate due process for accused students.

MORE: Student athlete expelled over a hickey

As the faces of its campaign, the due-process group Stop Abusive and Violent Environments highlights two victims of Title IX overreach: Northwestern University Prof. Laura Kipnis and Colorado State University-Pueblo student athlete Grant Neal.

ocr-kipnis-neal-due-process-petition.ChangeDOTorg.screenshot

Kipnis was investigated by her university after writing about the “sexual paranoia” taking over campuses like hers; two students complained that the Kipnis essay discouraged rape victims from coming forward. Neal’s consensual sexual relationship was transformed into rape by a third party who saw the hickey on his girlfriend’s neck.

MORE: Prof who wrote ‘sexual paranoia’ essay beats Title IX witch hunt

The petition calls for Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Patty Murray, D-Wash., to use the planned reauthorization of the Higher Education Act this year to rein in OCR. Among other groups, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education has also asked lawmakers not to reward OCR’s overreach with bigger budgets:

What advocates for increasing OCR’s budget ignore is the near-certainty that OCR’s caseload is so large precisely because it has stretched the definitions of sexual assault and harassment beyond their lawful and plain meanings. If OCR is so overwhelmed, perhaps it should stop encouraging people to file complaints over clearly protected speech.

Though Alexander has repeatedly criticized Education for exceeding its statutory authority via guidance documents, he told The Washington Post in February that the committee “should be able to do some work” in a bipartisan fashion on “campus safety and sexual assault.”

The most bipartisan bill related to campus sexual assault in either house of Congress is the pro-accuser Campus Accountability and Safety Act.

Read the petition and the FIRE post.

MORE: Senator shreds top bureaucrat for lawless overreach

MORE: Due process questions stump rape-culture zealots

MORE: Official admits he can’t legally force sex rules on colleges

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Greg spent several years as a technology policy reporter and editor for Warren Communications News in Washington, D.C., and guest host on C-SPAN’s “The Communicators.” Previously he led media and public relations at Seattle’s Discovery Institute, a free-market think tank. Greg is developing a Web series about a college newspaper, COPY, whose pilot episode was a semifinalist in the TV category for the Scriptapalooza competition in 2012. He graduated in 2001 with a B.A. from Seattle Pacific University, where he co-founded the alternative newspaper PUNCH and served as a reporter, editor and columnist for The Falcon.

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