At Tarleton State University in Texas, a student journalist at the university paper reported on apparent unwanted advances by a professor towards a student. Her adviser – assistant professor and long-time journalist Dan Malone – was sanctioned by the university for running afoul of Title IX regulations at the school. That’s because according to the regulations, any alleged sexual harassment must be reported to university authorities first.

Title IX started as a way to end discrimination against women in sports at universities, but it now has become a framework for all sorts of administrative rules and regulations that universities are increasingly using to clamp down on free speech. Here’s a part of an article in Real Clear Investigations by Steve Miller:

Although Title IX requires schools to create their own policies guided by federal law, it gives them leeway in how they are shaped. This has led to a mish-mash of policies. “Some universities have chosen to remain silent on mandatory reporting,” said Jill Engle, a professor of clinical law at Penn State University and the author of a 2015 paper on mandatory reporting. Others have crafted their own approaches.

The University of Northern Iowa simply requires any employee who is “aware of” incidents involving harassment to report them, while students are “encouraged” to do so. At the University of Oregon, an employee is obligated to report an incident if he or she has “reportable evidence” of a problem. At Texas A&M, all employees must report “alleged or suspected” activity.

Administrative law – which is essentially what Title IX is – does not have the checks and balances of the Judiciary because it operates under the Executive as part of the administrative state where rules and regulations by the boatload are churned out continually. It is more quasi-judicial so the rights one has in the standard criminal or civil proceedings are not enjoyed here. They are far more conditional and therefore not really rights at all.

The solution to this seems to be what a Texas A&M (Tarleton is part of the A&M university system) spokesperson suggested:

A private sector journalist is one thing, but a university employee isn’t covered [by the state shield law. If someone wants an exception, he will probably have to get the law changed.

One can imagine the furious pushback should the GOP mention the possibility of modifying Title IX to avoid the spreading censorship on campuses across America. Perhaps it will take a centrist Democrat – a woman of course – to take that bull by the horns and amend Title IX. But that’s a long way off for now. Meanwhile, campus journalists be warned. Your rights to free speech do not exist as a university member. You may express yourself, but only as long as you ask permission from the proper university authorities. And they may very well say no.

Just one more example of how free expression is far more difficult at most of America’s universities and colleges than it is off campus. That might sound like a tiring conservative cliché, but it’s real and should be troubling to most of us.

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