In a press release Oklahoma Wesleyan University announced that it has joined with FIRE to challenge the legality of the campus sexual assault Dear Colleague Letters (DCLs) that have been issued by the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.
As noted in the press release Oklahoma Wesleyan is the first institution of higher education to file a legal action to challenge OCR on the basis of the legality of the mandates contained in the DCLs. The central issue is whether the mandates contained in the DCLs were essentially substantive new rules that should have gone through the notice and comment process required by the Administrative Practices Act (APA), or whether they were merely interpretative statements by OCR about already existing Title IX regulations and thus were not required to undergo to the APA’s review process.
This issue of the legality of aspects of the OCR’s guidance letters have been a bit of a backstory to OCR’s campus sexual assault initiatives. To date, one of the higher profile instances that highlighted this controversy was the exchange of letters between Senator James Lankford and OCR. My review of Senator Lankford’s request to OCR and OCR’s response to Senator Lankford’s request were reviewed in earlier posts that I wrote.
This is a bold step by Oklahoma Wesleyan University and it bears watching to see what results from this action.