“It’s for the victims!”

This rationale is often the impetus for liberty-crushing rules. Allie Grasgreen of Inside Higher Ed has details on push-back from institutions whose administrators are evaluating the implications of applying the new sexual harassment prevention rules under Title IX, which have been strongly condemned by free speech advocates.

[Education Department Office of Civil Rights] OCR’s insistence that colleges require a lower standard of evidence in adjudicating cases than “beyond a reasonable doubt,” which some institutions had used previously, is one particularly controversial decree. OCR mandates a “more likely than not” standard — in other words, a panel need only be 50.1 percent sure a crime was committed in order to punish a perpetrator. Another point of contention is OCR’s saying a college can take action against an alleged perpetrator before hearing his side of the story.

But, Armstrong acknowledged, colleges don’t have a lot of leeway when it comes to resisting OCR’s orders.

“Every complaint is so important for those people,” he said. “But as higher education continues on, it’s all about accountability, and with this issue, the colleges are certainly going to be afraid to defend themselves or contend otherwise or argue the law when they know the federal government does have the ability to pull their aid.”

One case that continues to unfold is last month’s settlement agreement with the University of Montana, which OCR called a “blueprint” for colleges nationwide. The settlement requires the institution to take more than three dozen actions to comply with Title IX, including conducting annual campus climate surveys and ensuring any information about sex-based harassment is reported to the Title IX coordinator within 24 hours, regardless of whether a complaint has been filed.

Civil liberties advocates that were also heavily critical of OCR’s position on the standard of evidence have waged war on the Montana settlement, with the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education leading the way. FIRE and others, including the American Association of University Professors, have said OCR’s stance threatens the due process rights of alleged perpetrators…..

“The blueprint requires public universities to choose between the newly mandated definition of sexual harassment and upholding students’ First Amendment rights,” Samantha Harris, an attorney and director of speech code research at FIRE, wrote in an op-ed. “If universities want to remain able to fulfill their core missions, it is time for administrators to begin pushing back against the ever-increasing demands of the Education Department. No one disputes the importance of preventing sex discrimination on campus, but doing so need not consume so many resources that it interferes with universities’ ability to carry out their core educational functions, nor can it require universities to violate their students’ First Amendment rights.”