by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
George Leef’s latest Martin Center column highlights the negative impact of federal Title IX requirements on college campus free speech.
Over the years, federal courts have expanded and contorted the meaning of Title IX. By late 2018, it means, according to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, that a college or university violates Title IX unless it goes so far as to shut down an off-campus social media platform that it does not control because some people (who might or might not be students) are using it to communicate nasty messages about a feminist group.
In short, Title IX now requires schools to mount a frontal assault on the First Amendment if some students complain that they’re subject to “discrimination” because people are saying things they dislike.
The case in question is Feminist Majority Foundation v. University of Mary Washington (UMW). It began in 2014 when UMW’s student senate voted in favor of allowing male-only fraternities. Members of Feminists United (FU) at the school argued against that decision in a subsequent campus meeting and continued to do so on Yik Yak, a now-defunct social media app. Yik Yak allowed its users to post anonymous messages (“yaks”) within a limited geographical range and some of them expressed strong, offensive, criticism of FU. …
… The essence of the Fourth Circuit’s decision was its view that UMW could have exercised “substantial control” over the harassers (which it assumed were mostly UMW students even though that couldn’t be proved) and the context in which the harassment occurred. The majority held that because the university could have blocked campus access to Yik Yak and could have taken additional steps (such as holding a mandatory student assembly and/or requiring anti-sexual harassment training for students), it had apparently been indifferent to the harassment of FU members. Therefore, the case should not have been dismissed.