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Title IX is being used to censor and threaten student journalists, press group says

The only defenders of this system? Those who profit

Would you believe that the federal government’s wacky reinterpretation of Title IX – to cover any speech or conduct that slightly offends even a single person – is going way beyond its intended targets of lecherous or boorish college men?

The Student Press Law Center’s latest Report features an in-depth examination of the far-reaching consequences of redefining “sexual harassment” as everything from “jokes” or “gestures” of a sexual nature to rating a student’s sexual activity, and how it’s endangering student media.

One of the more surprising consequences is that at least one large public university is actively hiding the locations of alleged sexual assaults – potentially endangering thousands of students – all in the name of Title IX.

The only person willing to defend this system in SPLC’s Report is, unsurprisingly, someone who profits directly from it.

It would ‘re-traumatize the victim’ to warn others?

Longtime College Fix readers will be familiar with some of the incidents laid out in the report, such as:

Michigan Tech, a public university, put its student humor publication The Daily Bull on probation for two years for advocating “criminal activity” – a satirical article about a guy being OK with women groping him – and made its staff attend a “cultural sensitivity” course.

MORE: Syracuse may ditch ‘kiss cam’ due to single complaint

The student government froze its funding until staffers went through another course, on “Title IX and cultural competency.” An administrator idiotically claimed that Title IX overruled the U.S. Constitution.

The University of Alaska-Fairbanks – again, a public university – puts its student newspaper and black female editor-in-chief through a yearlong investigation for an April Fools’ edition that featured an illustration of a vagina-shaped building. A university employee had filed a sexual harassment complaint. Let that sink in.

And proving yet again that administrators will answer a question that no one asked and hope that no one notices their misdirection, Central Michigan University has continually refused to disclose where students are most likely to be sexually attacked:

[Central Michigan Life Managing Editor Sydney Smith] said she has attempted for months get this information through the Clery Act — which requires all colleges receiving federal funding to keep and disclose information about crime on campus and its efforts to improve it — but was unsuccessful. …

MORE: Title IX trumps the Constitution – ergo, no satire

“Each time my requests were denied for the exact same reasons: invasion of privacy for those named in the report — even though I asked that the names be redacted — in violation of Title IX,” she said. “[CMU administrators] said that even though I wanted no names, someone could still ascertain and connect the dots to the person [through the locations] in the report.”

She said the university police told her that CMU would not allow the releasing of the locations of sexual assault under Title IX, and that publishing those locations may “re-traumatize the victim.”

Get ready for the feds to investigate your student paper

The cries for censorship of Yik Yak at the University of Mary Washington show the existential threat of Title IX as currently interpreted, according to Joan Bertin, executive director of the National Coalition Against Censorship:

She said if one student ”who is really pissed off about a gender-based article published in the student newspaper” files a complaint, the [federal Office for Civil Rights, or OCR] could begin an investigation and “set the stage” against student journalists.

It could only be a matter of time, Bertin said, before Title IX requires administrators to regulate college media, and some officials are already practicing this form of censorship.

The president of the College Media Association, Kelley Callaway, also faults OCR for vague definitions of “harassment” that put student journalists in the cross hairs: “I think we’re living in a world where if anything could possibly offend, there is this idea to eliminate it.”

MORE: Watch someone go to jail for telling jokes in new documentary

OCR claims that its fanciful guidance is “not intended” to squelch free expression, but ask any administrator off the record what they think and it’s likely to include the word “bull.”

Those who profit from OCR’s damned-if-you-d0, damned-if-you-don’t directives are less worried. Association of Title IX Administrators Executive Director Brett Sokolow, says the guidance is clear, and “coherence is available for administrators willing to seek it out.”

If only coherence were available to Title IX administrators and their gods of misery at OCR.

MORE: Feminists threaten university for not investigating ‘sexism’ on social media

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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.” He co-founded the alternative newspaper PUNCH and served as a reporter, editor and columnist for The Falcon at Seattle Pacific University.

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