Monday, June 17, 2019

The College Freedom of Association Act

As reported in the Crimson last week, two Harvard alums, Ruben Gallego and Elise Stefanik, have been joined by 12 other members of congress in putting forward an amendment by that name to the Higher Education Act. The group includes seven Republicans and seven Democrats. The text is given below; a nicely formatted version is downloadable here or can be viewed on the web here along with other information about the bill.

I will have more to say about this bill at some point, but it looks like the drafters have done a good job not only lining up broad support but anticipating (in the "Rules of Construction") needed carve-outs of importance to religious institutions, for example.

[Congressional Bills 116th Congress]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office]
[H.R. 3128 Introduced in House (IH)]

  1st Session
                                H. R. 3128

    To amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to uphold freedom of 
            association protections, and for other purposes.



                              June 5, 2019

Mr. Gallego (for himself, Ms. Stefanik, Mr. Stivers, Mrs. Murphy, Mrs. 
   Brooks of Indiana, Mr. Gottheimer, Mr. Shimkus, Mr. Cleaver, Mrs. 
Kirkpatrick, Ms. Kendra S. Horn of Oklahoma, Mrs. Lawrence, Ms. Fudge, 
  Mr. Byrne, and Mr. Hudson) introduced the following bill; which was 
            referred to the Committee on Education and Labor


                                 A BILL

    To amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to uphold freedom of 
            association protections, and for other purposes.

    Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the 
United States of America in Congress assembled,


    This Act may be cited as the ``Collegiate Freedom of Association 


    (a) Findings.--Congress finds the following:
            (1) Single-sex social organizations, including sororities, 
        fraternities, and private social clubs, have existed at 
        institutions of higher education for over 200 years, where they 
        have played, and should continue to play, unique roles in the 
        development of young women and men by creating sisterhoods and 
        brotherhoods that foster leadership, promote academic 
        achievement, and encourage civic and campus involvement through 
        philanthropic activities.
            (2) The freedom of association--that is, the freedom of 
        joining, assembling, and residing with others--is protected 
        under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution, 
        and allows individuals to create spaces that are safe, 
        welcoming, empowering, enabling, uninhibited, and free.
            (3) Single-sex social sororities, fraternities, and private 
        social clubs meet the requirements for intimate and expressive 
        associations protected by the freedom of association because 
        they are small and selective, are bound together by friendship, 
        common interests, and common purpose, and create safe and 
        empowering spaces for their members.
            (4) Some institutions of higher education, which stand in 
        positions of power and authority over their students, have 
        increasingly sought to eliminate or restrict access to single-
        sex social organizations, which are designed to nurture, lift, 
        and empower students.
            (5) While the history of equal access in higher education 
        includes discriminatory actions taken on the basis of race, 
        religion, national origin, and sex by students, faculty, staff, 
        and social organizations, many members of these same groups 
        have taken, and continue to take actions to make the higher 
        education community more open and inclusive to all.
            (6) While sex discrimination remains a serious problem in 
        our society, allowing institutions of higher education to 
        sanction members of sororities, fraternities, and private 
        social clubs based solely on the single-sex status of the 
        organization that the student belongs to will not solve these 
        problems, is counterproductive, and violates an individual's 
        constitutional right to freedom of association.
    (b) Purposes.--The purposes of this Act are as follows:
            (1) Protect any student in a single-sex social organization 
        or any single-sex social organization from any adverse action 
        by an institution of higher education based solely on the 
        membership practice of such organization of limiting membership 
        to only individuals of one sex.
            (2) Ensure any student in a single-sex social organization 
        or any single-sex social organization is treated equitably in 
        comparison to students at an institution of higher education 
        who do not participate in single-sex social organizations, or 
        other social organizations at an institution of higher 
        education that are not single-sex.
            (3) Protect the rights of students to freely associate with 
        and participate in social organizations, including single-sex 
        social organizations.


    Part B of title I of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 
1011 et seq.) is amended by adding at the end the following:


    ``(a) Upholding Freedom of Association Protections.--Any student 
(or group of students) enrolled in an institution of higher education 
            ``(1) have a right to form or apply to join any social 
        organization, including any single-sex social organization; and
            ``(2) if selected for membership by any social 
        organization, have a right to join such social organization and 
        participate in such social organization.
    ``(b) Non-Retaliation Against Members of Single-Sex Social 
Organizations.--An institution of higher education that receives funds 
under this Act shall not--
            ``(1) take any action to require or coerce a student or 
        social organization to waive the rights of the student or 
        organization, respectively, under this section;
            ``(2) take any adverse action against a student who is a 
        member of a single-sex social organization, or a single-sex 
        social organization, based solely on the membership practice of 
        such organization of limiting membership to only individuals of 
        one sex; or
            ``(3) impose a recruitment restriction (including a 
        recruitment restriction relating to the schedule for membership 
        recruitment) on a single-sex social organization recognized by 
        the institution, which is not imposed upon other student 
        organizations by the institution, unless the organization and 
        the institution have entered into a mutually agreed-upon 
        written agreement that allows the institution to impose such 
    ``(c) Rules of Construction.--Nothing in this section shall--
            ``(1) require an institution of higher education to 
        officially recognize, or enter into a mutually agreed-upon 
        written agreement with, a social organization (such as a social 
        organization whose purpose is incompatible with the religious 
        or cultural mission of the institution of higher education);
            ``(2) prohibit an institution of higher education from 
        taking an adverse action, which is not based solely on the 
        membership practice of a social organization of limiting 
        membership to only individuals of one sex, against a student 
        who joins such social organization or such social 
                    ``(A) whose purpose is incompatible with the 
                religious or cultural mission of the institution of 
                higher education; or
                    ``(B) for another reason (such as academic or 
                nonacademic misconduct);
            ``(3) subject to subsection (b)(3), prevent a social 
        organization from regulating its own membership;
            ``(4) inhibit the ability of the faculty of an institution 
        of higher education to express an opinion (either individually 
        or collectively) on a single-sex social organization, or 
        otherwise inhibit the academic freedom of such faculty to 
        research, write, or publish material on such an organization; 
            ``(5) create enforceable rights against a social 
        organization or against an institution of higher education due 
        to the decision of such social organization to deny membership 
        to an individual student.
    ``(d) Definitions.--In this section:
            ``(1) Adverse action.--The term `adverse action' includes 
        the following with respect to a single-sex social organization 
        or a member of such organization:
                    ``(A) Expulsion, suspension, probation, censure, 
                condemnation, reprimand, or any other disciplinary, 
                coercive, or sanction taken by an institution of higher 
                education or administrative unit of such institution.
                    ``(B) An oral or written warning with respect to an 
                action described in subparagraph (A) made by an 
                official of an institution of higher education acting 
                in the official capacity of the official.
                    ``(C) An action to deny participation in any 
                education program or activity, including the 
                withholding of any rights, privileges, or 
                    ``(D) An action to withhold, in whole or in part, 
                any financial assistance (including scholarships and on 
                campus employment), or denying the opportunity to apply 
                for financial assistance, a scholarship, a graduate 
                fellowship, or on-campus employment.
                    ``(E) An action to deny or restrict access to on-
                campus housing.
                    ``(F) An action to deny any certification, 
                endorsement, or letter of recommendation that may be 
                required by a student's current or future employer, a 
                government agency, a licensing board, an institution of 
                higher education, a scholarship program, or a graduate 
                fellowship to which the student seeks to apply.
                    ``(G) An action to deny participation in any sports 
                team, club, or other student organization, including a 
                denial of any leadership position in any sports team, 
                club, or other student organization.
                    ``(H) An action to withdraw official recognition by 
                an institution of higher education.
                    ``(I) An action to require any student to certify 
                that such student is not a member of a single-sex 
                social organization or to disclose the student's 
                membership in a single-sex social organization.
                    ``(J) An action by an institution of higher 
                education to interject its own criteria into the 
                membership practices of the organization in any manner 
                that conflicts with the rights of such organization 
                under title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (20 
                U.S.C. 1681 et seq.) or this section.
                    ``(K) An action to impose any operational policy or 
                restriction that is in violation of this section.
            ``(2) Single-sex social organization.--The term `single-sex 
        social organization' means--
                    ``(A) a social fraternity or sorority that is an 
                organization described in section 501(c) of the 
                Internal Revenue Code of 1986 which is exempt from 
                taxation under section 501(a) of such Code, the active 
                membership of which consists primarily of students in 
                attendance at an institution of higher education;
                    ``(B) the Young Men's Christian Association, Young 
                Women's Christian Association, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, 
                Camp Fire Girls, and voluntary youth service 
                organizations which are so exempt, the membership of 
                which has traditionally been limited to persons of one 
                sex and principally to persons of less than nineteen 
                years of age; or
                    ``(C) a single-sex private social club (including 
                an independent organization located off-campus) that 
                consists primarily of students or alumni of an 
                institution of higher education.''.

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