- In cases of alleged harassment, the protections of the First Amendment must be considered if issues of speech or expression are involved. Free speech rights apply in the classroom (e.g., classroom lectures and discussions) and in all other education programs and activities of public colleges and universities (e.g., public meetings and speakers on campus; campus debates, school plays and other cultural events; and student newspapers, journals, and other publications). In addition, First Amendment rights apply to the speech of students and faculty members.
- Title IX is intended to protect individuals from sex discrimination, not to regulate the content of speech. The US Department of Education recognizes that the offensiveness of a particular expression as perceived by some individuals, standing alone, is not a legally sufficient basis to establish a sexually hostile environment under Title IX. In order to establish a violation of Title IX, the harassment must be sufficiently serious to deny or limit a a person's employment or ability to participate in or benefit from an education program.
- Moreover, in regulating the conduct of its students and its faculty to prevent or redress discrimination prohibited by Title IX (e.g., in responding to harassment that is sufficiently serious as to create a hostile environment), an institution must formulate, interpret, and apply its rules so as to protect academic freedom and free speech rights. For instance, while the First Amendment may prohibit a college or university from restricting the right of students to express opinions about one sex that may be considered derogatory, the institution can take steps to denounce those opinions and ensure that competing views are heard.
When the alleged discrimination/harassment takes place in an instructional setting and the accused believes the allegation of discrimination/harassment infringes upon academic freedom, the Deputy Title IX Coordinator for Faculty will be consulted. This Deputy Coordinator will have access to all pertinent information regarding the investigation to assure due regard for academic freedom. The Deputy Coordinator or the Title IX Coordinator will address concerns about the investigation process with the investigator as necessary.