Kenneth Marcus has a history of opposing affirmative action and attacking the First Amendment rights of Israel critics. https://t.co/D8p8B2PXK4— Palestine Legal (@pal_legal) January 11, 2018
A man with a shameful history of rescinding civil rights protections for women, racial minorities, members of the LGBT community, and students could possibly be confirmed by the Senate to oversee civil rights at the Department of Education.
Kenneth Marcus was nominated by President Donald Trump to a position in the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education. Although a Senate committee approved his appointment this week, sending consideration to the full Senate, the vote was along party lines, with all Republicans voting for and all Democrats voting against his appointment.
There’s a good reason Democrats on the committee voted the way they did. Marcus’ record of civil rights work — or rather, his record in attacking the rights of others — dates back to the administration of President George W. Bush. During that time, Marcus served as the staff director for the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.
While working with the commission, Marcus made several questionable recommendations. Among them, he suggested that law schools no longer be required to improve diversity standards as part of their accreditation. The commission also failed to address the problem of access to voting machines in many predominantly black neighborhoods in Ohio.
In addition to recommending rolling back protections for minorities, Marcus also opposed efforts of the civil rights commission to include protections for LGBTQ rights.
And there’s reason to believe that he may do more harm if given the chance; during Senate testimony, Marcus indicated he agreed with Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ moves to curtail sexual assault protections as outlined under Title IX, including rescinding protections for accusers of abuse.
Issues with Marcus don’t stop there — a vehement defender of Israel, Marcus has made many efforts to limit free speech rights of students on campuses across the country if their commentaries or protests are critical of the Jewish state. Marcus has gone so far as to lobby for legislation that is so vague it would prevent students from voicing their dissent to Israeli policies.
“Marcus has pioneered a legal strategy of abusing civil rights laws to chill the speech activities and violate the civil rights of students who advocate for Palestinian rights,” Palestine Legal staff attorney Rahul Saksena said in a statement. “... senators have a duty to stand up for students across the country,” and the full Senate should “reject this dangerous nomination.”
Indeed, they should. Marcus has demonstrated, for several years, his dedication to dismantle, not protect, civil rights protections for students and other Americans. His appointment would be another step backward in the already tumultuous and at times racist Trump administration.
The person who should sit in the position Marcus aims to hold should be someone who is thinking of ways to expand civil rights for students, not curtail or otherwise restrict them. Dissidence must be respected, and campuses must respect the rights of minorities to have their say within them. With Marcus in charge, it’s questionable whether those protections would remain in place.