Obama Administration Mandates Campus Speech Censorship: More
Basically, it defined as “sexual harassment” any speech that some person on campus finds “offensive.” Established law dictates that speech, to be considered “sexual harassment,” must be offensive to a “reasonable person of the same gender in the same situation.” The new definition means that anything that somebody takes offense at has to be considered “sexual harassment” notwithstanding that no reasonable person would consider it such.
The Federal government has tried to defend this policy, and it doing so has tripped all over itself.
In a form letter sent to people to write the Office for Civil Rights, the claim is made that:
Furthermore, as we have said in the past, OCR’s regulations and policies do not require or prescribe speech, conduct or harassment codes that impair the exercise of rights protected under the First Amendment.Then the letter tries to walk back the mandate, by explaining that:
Consistent with OCR’s previous, well-established guidance, the May 9 letter explains that “sexual harassment” is unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature but that sexual harassment is not prohibited by Title IX unless it creates a “hostile environment” — that is, unless the harassment is sufficiently severe, pervasive, or persistent such that it denies or limits the student’s ability to participate in or benefit from the school’s program.Note that “conduct” includes “verbal conduct” (speech).
And of course, what constitutes a “hostile environment” is entirely a matter of a student’s subjective response to speech he or she does not like.
Back in December, 2011, we were charged with “sexual harassment” by some prissy little feminist in our introductory American Government class because we debunked bogus rape statistics that feminist professors and activists are always touting.
She apparently felt the “environment” was “hostile” because she heard views expressed that were out of sync with her feminist worldview.
The explanation of the policy by the Office for Civil Rights actually makes clear that purely subjective offense is something that universities ought to punish:
Students will be allowed to bring complaints when they have been subjected to unwelcome sexual conduct, and the University will evaluate whether that harassment has created a hostile environment. Making this determination requires, as it has in the past, the University to examine both whether the conduct is objectively offensive and its subjective impact on an individual.So the “subjective impact” on the individual is sufficient for a finding of “sexual harassment.” Thus students who are intolerant of speech with which they disagree, and feel the speech is “hostile” have a right to have the university punish the speaker.
Marquette’s Non-ResponseWe queried Chris Miller, Vice President for Student Affairs, about this. He is out of the country, and gave us only a brief reply:
You are correct; we have no formal correspondence on it yet however I am in discussion with General Counsel on the matter. Let us try to connect upon my return.It would be nice to believe that Marquette (and lots of other universities) would challenge this is court. There is not a snowball’s chance in hell of that happening.
In the first place, there are a large number of administrators (largely in offices that have “diversity” in their names) and quite a large number of faculty who very much like the idea of silencing people who say politically incorrect things about sex and gender. To come out against these rules would inflame them, and start them declaring that Marquette is “soft on sexual harassment.”
Further, as the current scandals surrounding the IRS show, Federal bureaucrats (and especially the “civil rights” enforcers) are liberal, capable of being very vindictive, and capable of causing huge trouble for anybody whom they dislike.
So these rules (like the absurd “Dear Colleague” letter about sexual assault) will probably remain in place, at least until they victimize some student, faculty member or staff member who is defiant enough to challenge them in court.
It’s important to remember that these rules will never be enforced in a neutral and consistent way. They will only be used to punish speech offensive to the politically correct activists who dominate most college campuses.
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education notes, for example, that “The Vagina Monologues” could be outlawed for its lewd sexual content. That will never happen. “The Vagina Monologues” is an expression of politically correct feminism, and the socially conservative students who might object quickly learn that, on a modern college campus, they are to shut up and take what is imposed on them.
Likewise, we are very unlikely to ever be harmed by this rule, because (as Provost John Pauly learned the hard way) we can’t be harassed or bullied into silence.
A more likely outcome is that students will learn that any statements or expressions of opinion to which the campus feminists or the campus gay lobby object are voiced only at great personal risk.
And that, of course, would create the exact kind of campus that liberals and leftists want.