By the Back Door

How does the Federal government intrude itself into so much of our lives?  If one reads the Constitution, it would appear that Washington’s role is severely limited, but Congress and the bureaucracy have managed to extend their tentacles of control in ways not foreseen by our founding fathers. One way they achieve this is by a process of financial entrapment.

The following is an account of how our Washington bureaucracy attempted to dictate changes in the curriculum of a major university.  This happened many years ago, and in this instance they failed.  However, they usually succeed in forcing their will on an academic institution or other state and local entity through the power of the purse..

Congress extends money to American colleges and universities via a variety of programs.  Although these academic institutions receive most of their financial support from other sources, the Federal dollar is important to them, and they are anxious to ensure that it continues. 

Some years ago, bureaucrats in the DOJ decided to put pressure on the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, to expedite the process of racial desegregation.  They noted that at that time Chapel Hill’s student body had only ten percent blacks among its undergraduates.  The nearby North Carolina Central University in Durham had about ten percent whites.  Persons of any race were free to attend either university, but patterns of attendance fostered by years of past segregation were not easily changed.  Some clever lawyers in the DOJ had a bright idea.  Why not have North Carolina Central teach some popular courses in an important field of academics and insist that UNC, Chapel Hill no longer teach these courses?  This might have an immediate effect on a student’s choice of college, thereby increasing the number of whites attending the Durham school and blacks attending Chapel Hill.  When UNC did not go along with this idea, Washington threatened to force compliance by withholding Federal funds for research fellowships, etc.

DOJ’s attempt to pressure UNC Chapel Hill was countered by litigation on the part of the university, resulting in years of court proceedings.  Legal fees probably ran into millions of dollars. The university insisted that the content of a school’s curriculum was something for the academic institution to decide and not for outside interests to dictate.  To rule otherwise would lead to a loss of academic freedom.  The courts eventually agreed with this argument.  Finally, and reluctantly, the DOJ backed off.

The DOJ doesn’t often give up, and it has learned to use every financial lever available to achieve its purposes.  The case of Grove City College provides another example of Washington’s unending quest to extend its control.  The Federals insisted that this college, along with all others, submit reports proving  compliance with Title IX regulations and other anti-discrimination legislation.  Grove City has an excellent reputation.  It runs its sports programs fairly and is open to men and women of every ethnicity. The college insisted that it was compliant with Title IX, but it would not submit the reports since it did have the staffing needed for the analysis and excessive paperwork required by Federal regulations.  At that point the DOJ threatened to cut off any Federal funding.  Grove City said that it received no such funding, but DOJ reminded the school that some of its students attended college with assistance from Pell Grants and similar programs and that it would use those vehicles to force the college to comply.  In response, Grove City no longer accepts students receiving any sort of Federal assistance.  This way the college has managed to retain its independence.

Hillsdale College is another well-known academic institution that follows the same policy as Grove City.

Most universities and colleges simply comply.

Progressives are now trying another avenue to impose their will on public as well as some private primary and secondary schools.  The proposed Healthy Meals, Healthy Kids Act would fund free school meals for virtually all students, regardless of economic need, and use this as a lever to push far-left environmental, labor, and social justice policies..

What about non-profit primary or secondary schools (many church affiliated) that receive no Federal money?  Courts in California and Maryland recently held that tax-exempt status constitutes “federal financial assistance”, thus subjecting thousands of schools and other nonprofits to Title IX’s requirements for the first time. The courts’ rationale logically extends to additional federal laws and regulations, potentially magnifying the unfavorable impact of the courts’ decisions.  These court rulings will undoubtedly be appealed, but the eventual outcome remains in doubt.

The lure of Federal money is powerful, but never forget that every Federal grant comes with strings.  It seems now that even tax exempt status may make institutions vulnerable. Federal funding in any form opens the back door to Congressional and bureaucratic interference and possible control, and it applies in many other arenas of public life in addition to academia.  It has allowed the Federal government to expand its powers far beyond those limits imposed by the Constitution.

In the minds of the progressives, the growth of our central government is good. They apparently believe that all wisdom resides on the banks of the Potomac, especially in the progressive wing of the Democrat Party.  As for the Constitution, they say it was written by wealthy Northern businessmen and southern slaveholders and needs to be rewritten.  Until that happy time, they will simply work their way around it.  Funding is a way to that end..

Recently the Biden administration has adopted a more direct method to get around Constitutional restraints.  The President simply issues an executive order and dares anyone to challenge him.   With the DOJ and FBI backing him up, he often gets his way.

The Constitution as written and interpreted by our founding fathers is on life support.

Lord, help us!      

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