Obama OCR Moves to Deter Any Trump Reform

As the Obama administration draws to a close, opponents of campus due process have launched an aggressive public relations campaign on behalf of their agenda, lest change comes with a new regime in the White House.

The highest-profile effort came from Joe Biden, who penned an open letter to the presidents of the nation’s colleges and universities urging them to continue to meet the “epidemic” of campus sexual assault. (This is seemingly the only violent crime “epidemic” in American history in which law enforcement is to have little or no role.)

Perhaps the most striking item in Biden’s letter was his assertion that “twenty-two years ago, approximately 1 in every 5 women in college experienced rape or sexual assault. Today, the number is the same.” Setting aside the absurdity of the statistic (which would imply hundreds of thousands of unidentified victims annually, just among college students), this claim amounted to an admission that the admission’s war on campus due process has done nothing to lower the number of sexual assault victims—which, according to Biden, is at the “same” percentage as 1995.

The Vice President did not once mention due process or civil liberties in his letter.

As Biden released his letter, Democratic senators Bob Casey and Patty Murray pressed the incoming Trump administration to retain Obama’s interpretation that Title IX requires schools to use the lowest standard of proof in sexual assault cases, give sexual assault accusers the right to appeal not-guilty findings, and discourage procedures in which sexual assault accusers can be cross-examined about their allegations.

Portraying campuses in the midst of an unprecedented wave of violent crime, the senators contended that “campus sexual assault is a widespread problem affecting millions of college students across the nation.” The senators did not identify the source for their claim that “millions” of college students are affected by sexual assault. Nor did they explain why these “millions” of crime victims should not be an immediate priority of the nation’s police.

Accusers’ rights groups such as Know Your IX got into the act with a social media campaign demanding that incoming Education Secretary Betsy DeVos make no changes to the Obama administration’s Title IX policies. The implicit message: any effort to restore due process or a semblance of fairness to campus tribunals will be denounced as hostile to “survivors.”

But perhaps the most consequential move to retain the war on campus due process came outside of the public eye. On January 4, the Harvard Crimson broke the news that Harvard’s Title IX administrator, Mia Karvonides, was planning to depart her position abruptly. Karnovides had overseen one of the most unfair adjudication systems for campus sexual assault anywhere in the country.

Karnovides’ new position? Enforcement Director at the Office for Civil Rights (OCR), the agency that has served as the center of the war on campus due process during the Obama administration. Her starting date? January 18, or two days before Barack Obama leaves office. It seems unlikely that Karnovides would have accepted the new position if she lacked civil service protections.

The midnight appointment can only be interpreted as placing a key figure in the bureaucracy to disrupt any Trump administration effort to restore a sense of fairness to Title IX enforcement. Will the new administration respond?


  • KC Johnson

    KC Johnson is a history professor at Brooklyn College and the City University of New York Graduate Center. He is the author, along with Stuart Taylor, of The Campus Rape Frenzy: The Attack on Due Process at America's Universities.

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9 thoughts on “Obama OCR Moves to Deter Any Trump Reform

  1. If Karnovides is starting after the first of the year, she will be in her probationary period when Trump takes office and can be let go.

    1. She came to Harvard from Federal service. She may be able to return to Federal service without triggering a new probationary period. Presumably she would be coming back as Senior Executive Service, to try to match her pay at Harvard.

  2. Senators Casey’s reasoning sounds similar to that employed by Nancy Chi Cantalupo in a recent NYT point-counterpoint: “It makes no rational sense for schools to select an evidentiary standard of proof that makes it harder to comply with Title IX’s equality goals and increases their risk for costly liability.” Ms. Cantalupo seems to believe that only a conviction satisfies the goal of equity under Title IX, a remarkable conclusion. Someone should ask Ms. Cantalupo and Senator Casey what they think of the criminal justice system which uses an even high standard of proof than clear and convincing evidence, namely beyond a reasonable doubt.

  3. From Politico: “’Ms. DeVos must fully explain whether she supports the radical view that it should be more difficult for campus sexual assault victims to receive justice,’ said Sen. Bob Casey, (D-Pa.), a member of the HELP Committee.” This comment might make sense if every allegation were true. One also wonders whether or not Casey would find it even more “radical” that an accusation must be proven BARD in the criminal justice system.

  4. Despite numerous debunkings of the 1-in-5 statistic, VP Biden remains steadfast in reciting it through his last days in the executive branch. His devotion to this lie can be summed up in one word: ideological.

    “The Vice President did not once mention due process or civil liberties in his letter.” Not surprising. And such neglect of civil liberties isn’t limited to only adjudications of sexual assault. Look at how the Left revokes 1st Amendment rights on campuses:

    — denying freedom of assembly by disrupting or canceling venues for controverisal speakers
    — eroding freedom of speech through trigger warnings, micro-aggressions, and safe spaces.
    — denying freedom of conscience by forcing students pledge commitment to diversity
    — eroding freedom of association at Harvard by discriminating against students in certain “final clubs.”

    Yet, OCR has been remarkably apathetic to such civil rights violations.

  5. KC, I’m not up on the civil service protections but this doesn’t make sense. Normally presidential employees don’t have civil service protections unless they’re already protected by civil service, and they can still be kicked out of their job and sent back to the job they previously held. Also normally civil service protections don’t kick in until after the probationary period is over, and the probationary period lasts longer than 2 days. Maybe someone who knows more about this can explain it, but it doesn’t make sense to me.

  6. This is the biggest lie in the US. American Universities DO NOT have a rape percentage the same as South Sudan. This is TOTAL garbage. What has happened is the definition of sexual assault changed in Universities to include overhearing a dirty joke. Insane! Nothing to see here folks.

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