Faculty Group Criticizes AAUP Report on Title IX

April 15, 2016

A group of professors known as Faculty Against Rape has deep concerns about the American Association of University Professors’ recent draft report arguing that some interpretations and applications of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prevents sex-based discrimination in education, threaten academic freedom. “As it stands, we are troubled by much of the framing, content, unrepresentative nature of, and failures of accuracy within, the draft report,” reads an open letter from the group to the AAUP.

“The overall impression given by the report is that the Department of Education’s Office [for] Civil Rights is ‘overreaching’ in its mandated mission of providing guidance to universities and ‘abusing’ Title IX; this, despite the fact that there is broad underreporting of campus sexual assault by universities,” the letter says. “While we would ordinarily join with the AAUP in resisting the corporatization of institutions of higher learning, we are deeply concerned that the AAUP’s analysis of this issue as it pertains to Title IX, by pitting student concerns for campus safety against faculty interests, reinforces the symptoms instead of addresses the problem.”

Faculty Against Rape says it does support the report’s recommendation for more funding for programs and departments that “analyze how sex, gender, power and advantage operate,” but it requests that AAUP not release draft reports to the media before seeking broader input from its members and subject matter experts. It also includes a number of suggestions for improving the report, including by ceasing -- in the group’s view -- to conflate “the actions of the [civil rights office] with specific university actions in a few specific cases, while ironically, ignoring the much more frequent retaliation against students, staff and faculty as sexual assault survivors, allies and advocates.”

Faculty Against Rape plans on sending its letter to AAUP today. Risa Lieberwitz, a professor of law at Cornell University and chair of the AAUP report committee, said via email, "We welcome all comments on the AAUP draft report and will carefully consider those submitted by [Faculty Against Rape]. As the AAUP draft report explains, universities should effectively address and prevent problems of sexual harassment while fully protecting academic freedom and due process. We do not argue that speech can never create a hostile environment, nor that all speech is protected, only that matters of speech in the university always require attention to academic freedom. The report criticizes both the OCR and university administrations for failing to adequately protect academic freedom and due process. The report also offers recommendations for developing, through shared governance, fair and effective policies that pertain to sexual harassment."

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