Late August and early September bring recent high school graduates, bright and eager, to campuses around the country. Carefully planned orientation sessions will impress upon freshmen the paramount importance of sensitivity, of avoiding offensive words and ideas, and—notwithstanding that in recent years approximately 55% of matriculating freshmen nationally have been female—the urgency of maintaining a campus atmosphere friendly to women.
But parents who might expect this orientation to include an introduction to the moral and political purposes of liberal education—including respect for liberty of thought and discussion, and due process of law—will be sorely disappointed.
The neglect at freshmen orientation of the aim of liberal education and how it undergirds and is undergirded by the principles of freedom is not an accident. It is emblematic of college as a whole. Our universities impair liberal education not only by what they teach and do not teach in classrooms but also by the illiberal rules they promulgate to regulate speech and conduct outside of class.
The Obama administration has aggravated the problem. On April 4, Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Russlynn Ali, head of the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR), distributed a 19-page "Dear Colleague" letter to "provide recipients with information to assist them in meeting their obligations."
At the cost of losing federal funding—on which all major institutions of higher education have grown dependent—colleges and universities are obliged under Title IX of the Civil Rights Act (which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex) to thoroughly investigate all allegations of sexual harassment and sexual assault on campus, including the felony of rape. They are also obliged, according to Ms. Ali, to curtail due process rights of the accused.