An article today in the Student Free Press discusses the Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act (the "Campus SaVE Act"), a proposed federal law currently pending in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. The act would codify some provisions of the April 4, 2011, Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (OCR) "Dear Colleague" letter with which FIRE has taken major issue because of its poor protections for student free speech and for the erosion of due process rights afforded students accused of sexual harassment and sexual violence.
Most interesting, though, was this quote from Wendy Murphy, an adjunct professor at New England Law – Boston and former prosecutor, who has filed complaints against a number of institutions alleging non-compliance with OCR regulations. When asked about the SaVE Act’s potential effects on free speech, she reportedly responded thusly:
[Murphy] noted that students could choose to attend universities that do not accept federal funds and are therefore exempt from complying with the bill.
"If they want to practice FREE-ER speech, they can choose to go to a different school where such rules are not in place," she wrote.
To FIRE’s knowledge, there are only two traditional (by which I mean not online-only) colleges in the entire country that do not receive any federal funds. Those are Hillsdale College in Michigan and Grove City College in Pennsylvania. All other four- and two-year institutions are subject to OCR’s regulations, making Murphy’s (perhaps intentionally flip) answer really no answer at all for the hundreds of thousands of students who enter college each year in the United States.
Suffice it to say that Murphy will have to try harder to rationalize the free speech and due process problems presented by the federal government’s recent efforts.