The Department of Education, like the IRS, is a beneficent and benevolent bureaucracy which only has our best interests at heart and which is in no way political, has decided that all colleges shall hew to a new “blueprint for colleges and universities throughout the country to protect students from sexual harassment and assault” (via Legal Insurrection, via FIRE).
The DOE was reviewing the sexual harassment policies of the University of Montana (why? why not!) and came across policy 406.5.1 (which is not to be confused with policy 406.4.1) and didn’t like what it saw. In a letter written to UM, the DOE said:
This policy provides examples of unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature but then states that “[w]hether conduct is sufficiently offensive to constitute sexual harassment is determined from the perspective of an objectively reasonable person of the same gender in the same situation.” Whether conduct is objectively offensive is a factor used to determine if a hostile environment has been created, but it is not the standard to determine whether conduct was “unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature” and therefore constitutes “sexual harassment.”
The “standard” is whatever upsets is “malicious harassment.” The DOE further worries that UM doesn’t comprehend “that a single instance of sexual assault can constitute a hostile environment” (emphasis added). All it takes is one football player leering at one cheerleader before a fell “hostile environment” exists.
Apparently the way the SH procedure at UM works is like this. Suppose a male football player notices a female cheerleader and, as she walks by, says “Hey, cutie.” The cheerleader, a Wymyn’s Studies major, will of course consider this a form of violent sexual attack. The seriousness of this charge is really all that is needed to convict the football player, but at the insistence of DOE lawyers, what now has to happen is that the college has to find an “objectively reasonable person of the same gender” and recreate the “same situation”.
In other words, a new girl has to parade in front of the football player to see if her trawling has an effect. To be fair, she also has to wear the cheerleader’s outfit, else the situation cannot be said to have a proper control. If in this reenactment the new short-skirted cutie also feels “objectified”, why then the boy is to be pilloried at once. But what if instead she and the boy end up at Applebees sharing a dessert for two?
In that case, I suggest the original complainant be forced to undergo mandatory and extensive sensitivity training, which includes watching the movie Brian’s Song so that she can understand men have feelings too (but only about sports).
Actually, if we may inject a serious statistical point, just one new cutie would not constitute a sufficient sample. No. There would have to be at least twenty or so recreations before we could be certain if an “objectively reasonable person of the same gender in the same situation” felt attacked or not.
FIRE is upset with these new almost-regulations. It’s hard to see why. They ought to be embraced (to keep with the naughty metaphors). If it really is “sexual assault” or “harassment” whenever anybody takes offense at whatever does not tickle their fancy, then that is exactly what people should do. Take offense.
Kids with a sense of logic (and humor) ought to, say, file sexual harassment charges over the text which appears in course catalogs. Have you see these lately? They have passages that would make Hugh Hefner blush.
What about all those posters advertising yet another “daring” performance of the Vagina Monologues? (Note to university females: we understand you have vaginas. Congratulations. Now maybe we can go back to Shakespeare?) And what of the hook-up culture that is allowed, countenanced, encouraged by campus Presidents? Harassment! Hostile environment!
File formal complaints against the administrators, gang, not against the professors. It is the Deans, Associate Deans, Assistant Deans, Senior Vice Presidents, Vice Presidents, Directors, Assistant Directors, and on and on and on—these creatures regularly outnumber teachers—who are responsible for the offensive material which positively drenches college campuses and which create such horrifying environments.
This isn’t a joke: do this. Immediately press charges against senior administrators, and then press more charges. When they complain, press more charges, and tell them it is your right not to be offended. They cannot but agree.