Until the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) stops infringing on the First Amendment and rolling back due process protections, the agency should not receive any budget increases.
Tomorrow, the House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on the omnibus spending bill to authorize federal appropriations for the new year. In a disappointing development, buried in the text of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016 is an appropriation for OCR in the amount of $107 million—a $5 million increase from last year’s budget of $102 million.
FIRE has long criticized OCR for mandating that institutions of higher education redefine sexual harassment in a manner that violates the First Amendment and for demanding that they deprive students accused of sexual assault on campus of important due process protections. Compounding the problem, OCR has consistently skirted Congressional oversight by bypassing the notice-and-comment process. This process is required under the Administrative Procedure Act before an agency like OCR can impose new mandatory rules.
With its current budget, OCR’s actions have caused real harm to real students on campus, who are being punished in kangaroo campus courts under overbroad definitions of sexual harassment, with few, if any, rights. Until this stops, OCR shouldn’t receive more funding. And unless Congress holds OCR accountable, we should expect more of the same behavior.
We urge FIRE supporters who agree to contact their members of Congress today.