Monday, October 26, 2015

Former ACLU President Denounces Obama Administration

The Obama administration is too extreme even for the ACLU. At least it is for former ACLU president Nadine Strossen.

When college campuses mandated the establishment of administrative kangaroo courts to deal with sexual harassment and rape accusations outside of normal judicial channels, in a way that deprived the accused of their right to due process, they were following a directive laid down by the Obama administration Department of Education.

Many law professors have objected strenuously, to little avail.

As for the current assault on free speech on campus, especially speech that would deal with sexual topics and with other potentially hurtful notions, Strossen denounces it as inimical to First Amendment rights. The bureaucrats of the Office of Civil Rights of the Obama administration’s Department of Education have chosen to take control of the marketplace of ideas, to the detriment of educators and students.

Strossen is not merely talking about the mania about trigger warnings. She is referring specifically to professors who have been fired or harassed for mentioning sexual topics in the classroom.

The Atlantic reports on Strossen’s speech:

Still, she [Strossen] laid most blame on the Office of Civil Rights. Due to its dubious legal interpretations and the coercive threat of colleges losing the federal funds that they’ve come to rely on, “campuses are pressured to punish as harassment any expression with any sexual content that anyone subjectively finds offensive no matter how unreasonably or irrationally. And the OCR explicitly rejected an objective ‘reasonable person’ standard, stating that expression will be harassing even if it is not offensive to an objectively reasonable person of the same gender in the same situation."

Here is the position Strossen took in her speech:

To say that we should be protected from any idea is the exact opposite of what the Supreme Court has held as the bedrock of our free speech system, namely that speech may never be suppressed because anyone has any negative reaction to its ideas, even the most vehemently negative reaction by even the vast majority of our fellow citizens. To be sure, speech may be suppressed if but only if it poses an imminent danger of concrete injury—for example, an intentional incitement of imminent violence. Short of such an extraordinary situation, Justice Brandeis eloquently explains why we must brave the discomforts and other potential downsides that are posed by speech whose ideals we consider evil and even incendiary. As he said, “fear of serious injury cannot alone justify suppression of free speech. Men feared witches and burned women.”

As you know, the first amendment does not protect against blackmail, conspiracy, libel, slander, defamation or incitement.

Strossen defines the limit, based on Supreme Court cases, not on Obama administration bureaucrats:

Here is how the Supreme Court defines it—not just anything that anyone considers unwelcome, subjectively, as the OCR would have it, but rather only unwelcome conduct that is targeted, discriminatory, and so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive—and that so undermines and detracts from the victim's educational experience—that the victims are effectively denied equal access to an institution's resources and opportunities.

So, we have an extremist administration that defies Supreme Court rulings in order to impose its radical agenda on America’s colleges and universities and to suppress unwelcome thoughts and ideas. And no one seems to be able to do anything about it.

1 comment:

Ares Olympus said...

re: So, we have an extremist administration that defies Supreme Court rulings in order to impose its radical agenda on America’s colleges and universities and to suppress unwelcome thoughts and ideas. And no one seems to be able to do anything about it.

I'd rather say this is all about unintended consequences than unhelp labels like "extremist administration".

We can hope voices like Nadine Strossen will be heeded eventually, and she and all the other lawyers have decade worth of "I told you so" rights when this disaster clears.

Prohibition took a decade to be undone, and left us with decades more of organized crime. Apparently the unintended consequences of "experiment" of Citizen's United ruling will also continue until the consequences can't be ignored.

Perhaps we should wish for a dictatorship, where one benevolent leader can just stand up and say "something is wrong", and instantly the best compromise can be found between competing interests.

And that seems to be where we're heading given the congress's inability to do anything. Perhaps if the house republicans could stop wasting time on Hillary's emails, they might look into the "Office of Civil Rights" decisions and force some accountability?

You'd think this issue would be a "softball" to the House republicans, but they're just too preoccupied with stopping Hillary and planning for her impeachment.