Senator Lankford calls out DoE Office of Civil Rights, for harassing university general counsels with bullying “Dear Colleague” letters

TheFire has the news on the latest outbreak of campus incivility, here:

Senator Demands Answers from Department of Education About Controversial Mandates

January 7, 2016

WASHINGTON, January 7, 2016—In a letter sent today expressing “continued alarm” about the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR), United States Senator James Lankford demands answers from Acting Secretary of Education John B. King about the agency’s authority to impose controversial new mandates on colleges and universities that strip students of rights without congressional approval or even a chance for public notice and comment.

Issued in 2010 and 2011 under the guise of “Dear Colleague” letters, OCR’s mandates dictate how colleges and universities that accept federal funding—virtually every institution in the country—must respond to bullying and sexual misconduct in order to comply with federal anti-discrimination statutes like Title IX. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) and other civil liberties organizations have repeatedly criticized the letters for threatening freedom of expression and due process on campus by defining First Amendment-protected expression as “harassment” and mandating the use of the lowest standard of proof in sexual misconduct cases, among other requirements.

Senator Lankford notes that OCR’s letters “fail to point to precise governing statutory or regulatory language that support their sweeping policy change.”

“OCR has consistently avoided giving real answers to questions about its power to issue regulations outside the bounds of the law,” said Robert Shibley, FIRE’s executive director. “It cannot avoid accountability forever.”

Given the substantive mandates announced in OCR’s letters, Senator Lankford asks Acting Secretary King why the agency declined to submit them for public notice and comment, as required by the federal Administrative Procedure Act (APA). …

Among the rules promulgated by these letters is the mandatory reporting requirement that President Gottfredson imposed on the UO faculty by fiat. (Remember that online training? I didn’t think so).

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