February 21, 2016

ABOUT TIME: GOP Senators Push Back on Campus PC.

A growing number of GOP lawmakers are expressing alarm about the Department of Education’s actions, cheered by the campus left, to curtail free speech and due process for college students. The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that the DOE is fielding tough questions from Kansas Sen. James Lankford about its order that colleges adopt a “preponderance of the evidence” standard in adjudicating sexual assault, and about its expansion of the definition of sexual harassment to include what many experts say is constitutionally protected speech. . . .

Lankford and Alexander aren’t even the two most well-known GOP lawmakers to clash with the Obama Administration on campus civil liberties: In 2013, Sen. John McCain sent a letter to Eric Holder arguing that the Administration’s “suggested disciplinary procedures are direct hindrances to students’ and teachers’ First Amendment rights,” and questioning whether it had the authority to impose them. (The Administration later backed off from the regulations at issue in that particular case).
We are glad to see that Congress is asserting is oversight powers in this way: Under President Obama, the heavily ideological Office for Civil Rights in Education has effectively gone rogue, unilaterally forcing hundreds of colleges to rewrite their rules of conduct while mostly avoiding accountability.

Still, Congress needs to do more. So far, the fierce debate over campus civil liberties has been handled almost entirely by the executive (which has almost always sided with the campus left) and the courts (which are modestly pushing back, at least at the state level). Congress must take a larger role in resolving these questions, and in particular, clarifying its expectations of both campuses and administrative agencies. While this may be a polarizing issue, its likely that at least some Democratic lawmakers would be unwilling to support the more radical initiatives of the Department of Education bureaucrats. After all, President Obama has himself spoken up for campus free speech, and even Sen. Bernie Sanders has suggested that progressives are approaching the sexual assault issue the wrong way.

Also, the GOP could do worse than to attack the “war on women” schtick by pointing out the very real war on college men.

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