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AAUP Renews Criticism of Education Dept.’s Sexual-Harassment Guidance

The American Association of University Professors has amplified its criticism of the U.S. Education Department’s guidance, issued in April, on how colleges should handle allegations of sexual harassment and sexual violence. In a letter to the department’s Office for Civil Rights, the association says that the guidance, by adopting a lower threshold for adjudication of such cases—a “preponderance of the evidence” rather than the harder-to-demonstrate “clear and convincing evidence”—makes it more likely that faculty members will be unfairly accused and found guilty, their careers ruined.

The complaint echoes critics, such as the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, who have weighed in since the guidance was issued. The AAUP also criticized the guidance last month as a potential violation of due process.

The new letter, which applauds the broader principle of attacking gender inequality in American education, also says that the guidance could violate the academic freedom of instructors in courses on sex and sexuality, who could fall victim to unjust accusations simply because of what they teach. “What might be offensive or uncomfortable to some students,” the letter says, “may also be necessary for their education.”

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