Here we discuss a type of organizing that has followed in the wake of mass commenting efforts, focused on analyzing the content of comments and ensuring their due consideration. Our central example comes from the Department of Education’s recent notice of a proposed rulemaking (NPRM) regarding the meaning of Title IX for complaints of sexual harassment (an umbrella legal term that includes sexual violence). Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the activism around the ED’s interpretation of Title IX in the Obama years, the agency recorded over 124,000 comments—and spurred the creative cataloging initiative we spotlight here. By analyzing comments themselves, participants in this initiative seek to support public engagement with administrative law and vindicate the democratic values at the heart of notice-and-comment mandates.
In this anti-regulatory moment, notice-and-comment might seem a quaint artifact from a bygone age: with such meager regulatory output, especially aimed at industry, what is left to comment on? Instead, however, notice-and-comment has become a key tool of opponents of the current administration—a vehicle for mobilizing “grassroots experts” and enabling marginalized voices to speak against dehumanizing agency action.