Oklahoma Wesleyan: Why We’re Suing the Obama Administration Over Title IX

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By Everett Piper | 12:01 am, September 6, 2016
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Two years ago this month, President Obama spoke about how lives are “suddenly shattered by an act of sexual violence” and how “the trauma, the terror can shadow you long after one horrible attack.”

As the president of Oklahoma Wesleyan, I’m deeply concerned about the devastation caused by sexual violence, especially on so many campuses across the land. That’s why we’re the first and only institution suing the Obama administration over its directives about how universities should address sexual harassment and assault.

Its Title IX mandate compromises the work of local law enforcement, circumvents the legal process, and, perhaps most important, violates the privacy of the young women who have given us their trust.

In 2011, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights presumed to redefine a 1972 law known as Title IX, originally created to prevent sex-based discrimination on campus. Under the auspices of a punitive “Dear Colleague letter,” the Department of Education is now forcing colleges to compromise the criminal investigation process by requiring us to convene a campus committee of faculty, staff and students to adjudicate allegations of sexual harassment and assault.

As a college president, I believe this directive violates not only due process but also our students’ basic constitutional rights. Under these new “guidelines” students also lose their right to privacy and, in some cases, even the right to representation.

Victims of sexual harassment and assault have the right to secure the unimpeded assistance from professional police without the investigation being compromised by an untrained committee of peers and faculty.

But instead of encouraging students to avail themselves of the established legal process, the Obama administration has mandated universities convene a committee of amateurs to look into allegations of sex crimes. That contravenes the confidentiality and professional protocols of a criminal investigation.

Such a circumvention of the law inordinately endangers a female student’s privacy and has a chilling effect on her willingness to even report the crime.

Why would a young woman come forward with something as personal as sexual assault if she now knows that her privacy is going to be violated in front of a kangaroo court of peers and professors who are not experts in the law?

Not only does the Obama administration’s Title IX mandate create incentives against reporting sexual violence; the directive itself violates the law.

It is but one more example of bureaucratic fiat where unelected political appointees apparently think they can impose new and onerous regulations on the American people without going through the legislative process as our Constitution requires.

The Department of Education is ignoring and circumventing Congress—an overreach that’s especially inappropriate, given the gravity of the crime at stake.

While we fully support Title IX as it was written and passed in 1972, the officials at the Department of Education unfortunately have taken it upon themselves to implement an unrelated social agenda, using Title IX to coerce and intimidate schools into compliance.

One final word: We believe this mandate also violates our religious freedom, for it suggests that Oklahoma Wesleyan University—an explicitly Christian institution—must begin teaching seminars on how to engage in behaviors on our campus that are antithetical to our mission and moral code.

Particularly, the Department of Education is requiring universities to conduct seminars on how to have consensual sex without legal consequence. But when our students choose Oklahoma Wesleyan, they do so precisely because we are an unapologetically Christian university. Before enrolling, all of our students voluntarily sign an honor code committing to not have any unbiblical sex. Following the Obama administration’s directives would result in the university teaching our students how to do the very thing they have just given their word they will not do.

We are concerned for the moral character of our community and determined to guard and protect our mission. We refuse to accept any government intrusion that would require Oklahoma Wesleyan to teach the antithesis of our Christian beliefs and code of conduct.

For the integrity of the law, for the mission of our university—and especially for the sake of our young women—Oklahoma Wesleyan filed a lawsuit last month, sponsored by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), the nation’s leading advocate for civil liberties on campus.

Our individual freedoms and liberties, endowed to us by God and enshrined in our Constitution, are too important to be infringed upon by a misguided and counterproductive bureaucratic mandate.

— Everett Piper is the president of Oklahoma Wesleyan University.