The Intensification of #MeToo Threatens Fairness and Academic Freedom

History shows that lofty ideals predicated upon political utopianism and social egalitarianism often generate feel-good, do-bad policies that lead to disastrous outcomes. As Thomas Sowell has sharply observed, “[i]f there is anything worse than unfairness, it is make-believe fairness.”

The exhaustion of the #MeToo movement provides a case in point for the unintended consequences and feedback loops of feel-good, do-bad policies. In June 2022, the United States Department of Education (ED) proposed a series of regulatory changes to Title IX, among which schools receiving federal funding would be required to revamp the ways they investigate sexual harassment and other “sex-based conduct” even if the conduct occurs abroad.

Specifically, universities and colleges would be mandated to “adopt prompt and equitable grievance procedures” in responding to claims of sex discrimination. Students’ rights to a live hearing and defendants’ rights to cross-examination would be eliminated from the proposed equitable procedures. Guilt could be determined by a Title IX coordinator, a bureaucrat lacking legal training in most likely scenarios, based on the weak “preponderance of the evidence” standard.

Simply put, the federal government intends to roll back free speech and due process rights in sexual misconduct cases on college campuses, all in the name of protecting women who can also be biological males. The White House Office of Information and Regulatory will finalize these regulatory changes by the end of April, solidifying the political establishment’s heavyweight promotion of gender equity at the expense of fairness and transparency.

The gulf between the American public and woke elites willing to exchange freedom for control has broadened again. The truth of the matter is that the average American citizen rejects the proposal to sacrifice fair proceedings so that victims of sexual assault can be protected.

A newly-released poll commissioned by the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) in August 2023 finds that a supermajority of Americans supports campus due process rights. The survey, polling “a nationally representative probability sample of 1,032 adults ages 18-65,” shows the following results:

  • 74 percent of Americans agree with the idea, “The government should be equally concerned about protecting the rights of alleged victims of campus sexual misconduct and the rights of the accused students.”
  • 63 percent agreed with the statement, “Conducting interviews through written testimony is less insightful than conducting interviews in-person.”
  • 68 percent agreed with the statement, “Under Title IX, schools should be required to conduct a hearing where both the accused and accuser may hear and contest each other’s evidence, including their testimony.”
  • 79 percent agreed with the statement, “All students involved in sexual misconduct investigations should have the right to hire a lawyer to represent them during the investigation and hearing.”

FIRE Lead Counsel for Government Affairs Tyler Coward commented on the survey in an email interview:

Fair disciplinary proceedings, whether for students or faculty, help ensure the reliability of the outcome of hearings. Fair proceedings also protect academic freedom and expressive rights, especially when complaints are frivolous or retaliatory in motive—scholarship, classroom teaching, and research benefit when institutions maintain strong procedural safeguards.

Coward is right that “[S]cholarship, classroom teaching, and research” will be at stake if and when the proposed Title IX changes occur. The precarious business of academic freedom, which has been under attack as a result of ideological loyalty tests such as “diversity, equity, and inclusion” mandates and censorship, will be further stymied.

What would a “cisgender male” professor do if a “non-binary” student asks a probing academic question to which the scholarly answer is not affirmative? How can conservative students, who are in the minority, effectively engage with their progressive peers, who make up the majority, on controversial topics when a critical remark could potentially be misinterpreted as “sex-based discrimination?”

Without fair procedures, the marketplace of ideas will turn into an authoritarian space monopolized by woke ideas and political correctness. To this end, even the neo-Marxist critical theorist Michel Foucault had some stern words: “The intellectual was rejected and persecuted at the precise moment when the facts became incontrovertible, when it was forbidden to say that the emperor had no clothes.”

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One thought on “The Intensification of #MeToo Threatens Fairness and Academic Freedom”

  1. I fully agree with everything that Dr. Wu has stated above.

    However, I’m sad to say that it’s also completely irrelevant — the Title IX Coordinator is not going to have any more power than the Kangaroo Kort does now — reality is that it is all determined in advance by the Behavioral Intervention Team.

    In either case, a committee of mid-top level administrators will have already met in secret and already have decided the matter. And instead of the Kangaroo Kort being told what their decision will be, the Title IX woman will be told what her decision will be — it will be a distinction without a difference. It could be the football coach “making” the distinction and it will still be the same — the BIT has already made the decision for the institution.

    There may be rare example of someone so insignificant that the BIT doesn’t care and in that rare instance, a procedurally fairer hearing might be beneficial. But everything that Dr. Wu is worried about is already determined in the Star Chamber of the Behavioral Intervention Team and everything that follows is merely pro forma. They are show trials, nothing more…

    It’s the Behavioral Intervention Teams that we need to address….

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