Feds Push Insane New Speech Codes!

"It is so broad that it turns every single student and every single faculty member on campus, at least arguably, into harassers," warns Greg Lukianoff, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE).

He's talking about sweeping speech codes just imposed by the Departments of Justice and Education on virtually every college campus in the United States.

The new mandate was revealed in a letter from the DOJ and DOE to the University of Montana that states "sexual harassment should be more broadly defined as 'any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature," including "verbal conduct." The new rules apply to all colleges and universities receiving any sort of federal money, including Pell grants, federally backed student loans, and more. The letter contends the conduct in question need not be offensive to an "objectively reasonable person of the same gender in the same situation." That means that there is effectively no check on what might count as harassment. Course materials, overheard comments, stupid jokes - it's all potentially actionable.

Lukianoff, the author of Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate, hopes that "this is the last straw that causes the universities themselves to start pushing back against this ridiculous overregulation."

About 3 minutes.

Produced by Anthony L. Fisher. Interview by Matt Welch. Camera by Jim Epstein and Fisher.

Special thanks to the Museum of Sex, New York City.

Scroll down for downloadable versions and subscribe to Reason TV's YouTube Channel to receive authomatic updates when new material goes live.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • $park¥||

    That means that there is effectively no check on what might count as harassment. Course materials, overheard comments, stupid jokes - it's all potentially actionable.

    That's one way to prepare students for a job in corporate America.

  • SQRLSY One||

    Citizen, what is your PROBLEM?!?! Here you are, in a utopian democracy where the voters, the politicians, and all the experts of expertology have all agreed on what all, exactly, is bad words, bad behavior, bad food, bad drugs, bad thoughts, and bad stuff-and-stuff, and have prohibited ALL that bad stuff… You are not in FAVOR of BAD stuff, now, ARE you, Citizen!??!?! If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime, now, Citizen! And we have ALSO done you a favor and MANDATED all the GOOD words, behavior, food, drugs, thoughts, and stuff-and-stuff! So you can be FREE, and no longer be troubled to bother and think about what all is good and bad! Democracy is GRAND, Citizen, now go off and be HAPPY! … We Scienfoologists have perfected the Art and Science and Religion of Loving right back, a Government Almighty that LOVES us ALL!!! Don’t worry, be HAPPY! To learn more about Scienfoology, see http://www.churchofsqrls.com/ .

  • Reard1978||

    Start working at home with Google! It’s by-far the best job Ive had. Last Wednesday I got a brand new BMW since getting a check for $6474 this - 4 weeks past. I began this 8-months ago and immediately was bringin home at least $77 per hour. I work through this link, www.Mojo50.com

  • Sevo||

    Harrassment!

  • Brutus||

    It's just like rape, isn't it?

  • Tim||

    "Don't you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it. Every concept that can ever be needed, will be expressed by exactly one word, with its meaning rigidly defined and all its subsidiary meanings rubbed out and forgotten."

  • NeonCat||

    "I respectfully and non-sexually admire Big Brother."

  • $park¥||

    "non-sexually"

    Looks like someone needs to go through reeducation again.

  • NeonCat||

    I know I'm not sexy enough for Big Brother! (sob)

  • $park¥||

    "I respect and unsexcrimewise doublepluslike Big Brother."

  • circadia||

    marklar

  • Tim||

    Sticks and Stones may break my bones but words will get you fired.

  • Skomoroh||

    The criminalization of normal male behavior.

    As for universities stopping this, forget it. The universities are full of feminists or those who are afraid of feminists. Those academics who think this goes too far will look for the courts to fix it and that is a crap shoot at best.

  • Doctor Whom||

    The criminalization of normal male behavior.

    A feature, not a bug.

    At the same time, radfems squawk about their right to express their ideas freely on campus. I once very easily got one of them to admit that she didn't see the point of not being a moralizing hypocrite.

  • Pigoutultra||

    I remember once at a bus stop with my friends I told a joke and to my surprise someone I wasn't even talking to said to me that they were offended. I told them I didn't give a shit and they told me that was harassment.

  • Death Rock and Skull||

    You should have then told them to stick a fist dildo up their ass.

  • Rufus J. Firefly||

    Loons are everywhere. The trick is to not give them any access to power. Unfortunately, our laws seem to be set up to do exactly that. For example, that twit could in theory take you to court and win!

    Quebec has created language laws in a way such that citizens lecture other citizens on speaking French. They're empowered to do so because of repressive laws that pit one community against another. It's heinous to anyone with a modicum of respect for free citizens. It's so absurd that a friend of mine was talking to his dog in a park in English and was told by another person to speak French to his own dog.

    A respectable, honest, and mature society would simply ignore cunts like the one you described and social-trolls like I just spoke about.

    Alas, we have a bunch of spineless pieces of shits representing us.

  • effinayright||

    I'm wondering how the DOJ can unilaterally broaden the plain meaning of statutes.

    Any lawyers want to comment?

  • Whahappan?||

    Fuck you, that's how.

  • JJK||

    ^This

  • heart_of_flint||

    The DOJ can do as it likes until someone stops them. The president could prevent the change in policy because he basically is in charge of the DOJ. Congress could clarify the underlying statutes and impeach any president who refused to implement them. Otherwise, it's up to a lawsuit claiming the agency is exceeding the scope of its statutory authority, or more likely that the law is unconstitutional.

  • ||

    "It's so absurd that a friend of mine was talking to his dog in a park in English and was told by another person to speak French to his own dog."

    I hope he smiled and replied "Va t'empaler encule"

  • Rufus J. Firefly||

    Oh, your French is too proper. Quebec likes 'twang.'

    He told her to fuck off. En anglais.

    A former PQ politician - Bernard Landry - pulled the same shit in an English-speaking part of town and was summarily told to eat shit. Yet, the clown speaks Spanish. What a bunch of insecure nut jobs.

  • Bill Dalasio||

    Maybe we should stop looking for fundies under the bed. I'm really starting to doubt the usefulness of the classic definition of libertarian as fiscally conservative and socially liberal. Socially liberal? That would sadly imply that we support this sort of garbage. It certainly well isn't the social conservatives pushing it. Increasingly, with obvious exceptions, I'm starting to think my SOCIAL rights and liberties might be better safeguarded by evangelical conservatives than by progressives. Has anyone here run across any socons pushing this draconian a measure of social control? I sure haven't. Most of the ones I've talked to (granted over the internet) are just paranoid about having secularism pushed on them and theirs. Maybe its the fact that I live in Manhattan and don't run across some critical mass of socons.
    Any thoughts?

  • Bill Dalasio||

    I'll caveat my own comments by noting that I tend to think a libertarian society would be pretty socially conservative in the Andy Griffith Show sense. Without the state intervening to protect people from their vices, they'll tend to want to avoid them.

  • Rufus J. Firefly||

    Well, it's an interesting take I've also flirted with. The one I like to point out whenever progressives go off on corporations stealing and ruining their lives, is that the government has much more of a direct (and sometimes negative) impact on us - taxes, regulations etc.

    When I look at my paycheck, investments and other taxes I pay, it's the government that's eroding my wealth. Not fucking Wal-Mart.

  • Bill Dalasio||

    Oh, the more fun one is when you explain what I just noted to socons. Every now and then, you see the tumblers click and they get it: "Wait, we don't need to make it a law...."

  • Death Rock and Skull||

    Socially liberal used to mean something different than it does now. Today's "liberals" are not actually liberal at all about anything.

  • sasob||

    They seem to be pretty liberal with other people's money, property, and liberty.

  • Bill Dalasio||

    That's entirely my point. The "socially liberal" reference is an anachronism. Progressives aren't liberal in the sense that the reference was coined.

  • joebanana||

    That's what a tyrannical government does. A corporation isn't a person, government doesn't have intelligence, if you call a dogs tail a leg, it's still a tail. Our government is criminally insane.

  • Sevo||

    OK, but what does this: "A corporation isn't a person," have to do with anything?

  • Cervantes||

    Nothing at all, as far as I can tell.

  • GLK||

    Actually, the legal definition of a Corporation is, that it is indeed "a person." The larger question is, what kind of person? Please watch the excellent Documentary, "The Corporation" to find out.

  • Richard Fitzwell||

    Grade school standards come to college:

    ‘He…he…..called me…..a ………pooooopy face!’

    Anything for the government to increase the number of 'victims' to 'help'

  • DarrenM||

    ‘He…he…..called me…..a ………pooooopy face!’

    College Debating 101.

  • Logical 1||

    An except from the "letter" (actually a 20 page legal brief with citations and footnotes) from DOJ/DOE:

    "The Resolution Agreement (the “Agreement”) reflects the collaborative efforts of the University and the United States to identify reforms that will assist the University’s ongoing efforts to prevent sexual assault and harassment and improve its responses to reports of such misconduct in compliance with Title IX and Title IV. The Agreement will serve as a blueprint for colleges and universities throughout the country to protect students from sexual harassment and assault."

    If I were a student at Univ of Montana I would feel so safe knowing the school has this agreement on file because apparently it can prevent rape and sexual harassment - how cool!

  • M Scott Eiland||

    Here's hoping that F.I.R.E. still has game, because a large collection of totalitarian idiots need to be beaten down in the courts 90s style, or made to back down before it gets to that point.

  • coolaero||

    I feel like Big Brother is Guilty of Sexual-harassment, because he's always fucking' with Me.

Click here to follow Reason on Instagram

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Progressive Puritans: From e-cigs to sex classifieds, the once transgressive left wants to criminalize fun.
  • Port Authoritarians: Chris Christie’s Bridgegate scandal
  • The Menace of Secret Government: Obama’s proposed intelligence reforms don’t safeguard civil liberties

SUBSCRIBE