Harassment

How Sexual Harassment Codes Threaten Academic Freedom

'Gender justice' warriors in the Department of Education are pushing campus officials too far.

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R Kurtz/Flickr

In its zeal to spread "gender justice," the Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights (OCR) threatens to stifle academic freedom and infantilize women, says feminist legal expert and New York Law School Professor Nadine Strossen. At a recent talk at Harvard's Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy, the former American Civil Liberties Union head warned that current campus policies to curb sexual harassment are overbroad and dangerous. And while "safety"-mongering students deserve some of the blame, bureaucrats are the biggest progenitors of this paranoid style in American academia. 

"By threatening to pull federal funds, the OCR has forced schools, even well-endowed schools like Harvard, to adopt sexual misconduct policies that violate many civil liberties," Strossen said.

Sexual misconduct is an umbrella term under which fall school rules against sexual assault, sexual harassment, intimate-partner violence, voyeurism, and stalking. While much of the recent focus in this realm has been on sexual violence, school sexual harassment policies also deserve some scrutiny. 

"Over the years, there have been many types of overly broad sexual harassment policies," explains Samantha Harris, director of policy research for the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). "FIRE has actually had some success in getting schools to roll these back over the years."

But in 2013, an OCR and Justice Department investigation into sexual misconduct at the University of Montana yielded "a findings letter which they made public and which they described as a blueprint for colleges and universities," says Harris. "And that blueprint contained a very broad definition of sexual harassment." 

As defined by the OCR, sexual harassment is "any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature." This leaves out two major elements of standard sexual harassment definitions: that the conduct be offensive to a "reasonable person," and that the conduct be severe and pervasive. Under the OCR definition, therefore, any mention of something sexual could be deemed sexual harassment if anyone at all takes offense.

In practice, this has resulted in colleges cracking down on professors and lecturers for offering even the mildest sexual content in their classrooms—even in courses specifically about sex. "Anecdotally, I see this current moral panic over sexual harassment … playing out more on the faculty side," says Harris. "We see a lot of faculty whose speech has been chilled." 

In her Harvard speech, Strossen laid out several recent examples of the "sexual harassment" that's been targeted by colleges:

The Naval War College placed a professor on administrative leave and demanded that he apologize because during a lecture that critically described Machiavelli's views about leadership he paraphrased Machiavelli's comments about raping the goddess Fortuna. In another example, the University of Denver suspended a tenured professor and found him guilty of sexual harassment for teaching about sexual topics in a graduate-level course in a course unit entitled Drugs and Sin in American Life From Masturbation and Prostitution to Alcohol and Drugs.

A sociology professor at Appalachian State University was suspended because she showed a documentary film that critically examined the adult film industry. A sociology professor at the University of Colorado was forced to retire early because of a class in her course on deviance in which volunteer student assistants played roles in a scripted skit about prostitution. A professor of English and Film Studies at San Bernardino Valley College was punished for requiring his class to write essays defining pornography. And yes, that was defining it, not defending it.

This summer, Louisiana State University fired a tenured professor of early childhood education who has received multiple teaching awards because she occasionally used vulgar language and humor about sex when she was teaching about sexuality and also to capture her student's attention. And I could go on.

As you can see, this overzealous enforcement of anti-harassment policies comes with serious academic freedom concerns. "Teachers at Harvard, alarmed by the policy's expansive scope, are jettisoning teaching tools that make any reference to human sexuality," writes Harvard Law Professor Janet Halley.

Halley and Strossen also worry that these problems are a step in the wrong direction for feminism, with Halley warning that "women's quest for sexual autonomy is undercut by protectionist images of our sexuality, mandatory reporter requirements, and the newly robust obligation of schools to pursue sexual harassment claims even when the alleged victims don't want them to." 

Strossen said "OCR's flawed sexual harassment concept reflects sexist stereotypes that are equally insulting to women and men. For women, it embodies the archaic, infantilizing notion that we're inherently demeaned by any expression with sexual content." She thinks the goal should be "that classical liberal concept of gender justice," with a focus of "liberation" and "liberty"—not that battle cry of today's campus feminists: safety. 

Alas, freedom from government offiicals and censorious administrators used to be the goal of progressive students; now they clamor for the state and the staff to step in. Freddie de Boer lamented this turn in a recent New York Times magazine piece, though he, too, places more blame on bureaucratic culture than some sort of uniquely sensitive student populace: 

If students have adopted a litigious approach to regulating campus life, they are only working within the culture that colleges have built for them. When your environment so deeply resembles a Fortune 500 company, it makes sense to take every complaint straight to H.R. I don't excuse students who so zealously pursue their vision of campus life that they file Title IX complaints against people whose opinions they don't like. But I recognize their behavior as a rational response within a bureaucracy. It's hard to blame people within a system — particularly people so young — who take advantage of structures they've been told exist to help them. The problem is that these structures exist for the institutions themselves, and thus the erosion of political freedom is ultimately a consequence of the institutions. When we identify students as the real threat to intellectual freedom on campus, we're almost always looking in the wrong place.

De Boer said he wishes that today's committed campus activists would "remember that the best legacy of student activism lies in shaking up administrators, not in making appeals to them." 

But college students today have no experience with and seemingly no knowledge about pre-liberalized campuses, official school policies that limited women and minorities, campus administrators colluding with law enforcement to suppress student activism…. And unlike boomers and Gen X, millennials tend to get along well with their parents and have little generalized anti-authority feels. From a certain millennial viewpoint, appealing to campus administrators and federal agents to solve social problems is a no brainer.

The good news is that these officials are certain to start cracking down on things that students do support, too—that's the nature of giving bureaucrats broad authority.

As more campus SlutWalk organizers get cited for sexual harassment (certainly someone must be offended by a parade of half naked people, no?) and pro-gay t-shirt slogans are deemed too offensive and anti-police speakers are kept off campus… well, at least we can hope that students activists will start to reconsider their tacks. I have much more optimism that the kids will come around than I do for fixing this mess with the Office of Civil Rights, which has only been increasing its micromanagement of campus sexual-misconduct policies in recent years. But perhaps the push-back from elite professors like Strossen and Halley signals the beginning of the demise of this OCR overreach?

NEXT: Will immigration lead to restrictions on gun rights?

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  1. At what point will schools with massive endowments wonder whether the federal teat is worth all the strings?

    1. The milk is far too sweet.

      They would have to either lower tuition (which lowers the perceived quality of the education and the prestige of the institution) or offer far more in the way of scholarship money which opens up a lot of scrutiny to how they are distributing it and hurts the bottom line.

      1. I don’t think it’s unthinkable for them to decide to take the plunge. Remember both these places are older than the United States itself and have massive institutional egos. At a certain point, they may decide the milk is just not sweet enough.

        1. But social cachet is more valuable than money to them. No one wants to the president of Harvard (or any big U) that stopped taking federal money so that it could stop worrying about sexual harassment and fuck over poor kids (which would 100% be the narrative, even with free tuition.)

          1. If they decide it’s going to make them look like the Ivy that gave so little shits because it was so venerable and rich, sure they’ll do it. The institutional ego in these places is mind-blowing. Now, they wouldn’t do it casually–there is a lot of dough involved–but personally I could easily see them doing it (and once one did, many would).

            1. Maybe, but it has got to hurt the bottom line much more than this. They are not rational economic actors. They don’t see hiring a bunch of compliance officers and sex police to be onerous regulation. As “non-profits” they see themselves as a twisted sort of jobs program.

              1. I think you underestimate the traditionalist and institutional impulses of places like Harvard and Yale. They absolutely do not see themselves as a twisted jobs program. They see themselves as the Oxford and Cambridge of the US. They are two of the oldest and most revered colleges in this country, and even in the world. That affects their behavior.

                1. Which is funny because the top tech schools in this country were indeed founded as a twisted jobs program (Cal-Poly, MIT, CMU).

                  1. Surely you meant to say CalTech, not Cal-Poly? (sometimes affectionately called “cow poly” for its ag school 🙂 )

                2. Harvard’s institutional ego is so large they think they are the elite branch of government.

                  Most of the people drawing paychecks from Harvard are are tenured faculty and unionized employees. Taking public money gets them a seat at the table of power. Taking that money doesn’t make them as subservient to power as one would think. And each little fiefdom within Harvard wants a share of the dough. Eventually new fiefdoms arise and some old ones lose out and eventually vanish.

            2. I think you have it backwards. It’s not even just about the money; these universities’ institutional egos are part of what drives them to compete so fiercely with each other to champion the ‘latest ideas.’ They’ll do everything they can to out-do each other in that respect, and so should the day come when flaying accused sexual harassers in front of the dean’s office becomes fashionable, they’ll do it even without the promise of federal funding.

              Honestly, I think the Department of Education just got ahead of the universities in the ‘fashionable ideas’ race; in fact, universities might have implemented some of the policies foisted upon them by the dept. of Education on their own if it weren’t legally risky, and the DoE’s actions just assured them that they can mistreat their student with impunity so long as it’s in the name of rape prevention.

              So no, the major colleges are not going to be ditching federal funding to avoid these draconian measures. Quite the opposite, from what we’ve seen of the people running the colleges and the student governments, they will be falling over each other to be the most compliant and draconian of them all.

    2. They probably wonder monthly. The calculus though is firmly on the Feds’ side. Cut off the grants and subsidies, and a college that now is forced to survive on voluntary tuition payments has to lay off about 80% of its administrative staff to avoid bankruptcy.

      1. “…forced to survive on voluntary tuition payments has to lay off about 80% of its administrative staff to avoid bankruptcy.”

        The single best thing that could happen.

    3. Do any of them have endowments massive enough to effectively make tuition free for everyone, for the rest of time? Or even interest-free? Alternately they’d need the balls to tell the public they were now only for rich kids.

      1. Harvard and Yale could both easily do it.* Quite a few others could with even a little belt-tightening.

        *As in the interest on their endowments far outstrips what they take in through tuition.

        1. Princeton provides a remarkably high level of scholarships as well. It frequently comes in as one of the most affordable schools in annual surveys.

        2. As in the interest on their endowments far outstrips what they take in through tuition.

          The problem with paying tuition out of endowment interest is that:

          1) A lot of the endowment is actually held in many different funds that were allocated for specific purposes by the original donors;

          2) Even if the average annual interest was something like 5%–which is pretty darn good in the long run–that is not much above inflation. The fund could lose real value over time if too much of the interest isn’t reinvested.

          3) It still might not be enough to cover the operating costs of the university. It looks like a lot of money in lump sum, but when you start spreading it out over all the faculty salaries, support staff salaries, maintenance costs, equipment costs, and other program expenses, it will get pretty thin.

      2. Cooper Union in NYC was famous for not charging tuition until last year.

    4. Harvard would meet that criteria, yet they seem to be embracing the federal sexual harassment standards.

      1. Indeed, it isn’t about the money; the money sweetens the deal, but they’d be embracing these standards even without the promise of money.

    5. Hugh your question assumes that the people running these colleges view these policies as a bad thing. They clearly don’t. The people who run these colleges agree with the DOE and are happy to implement this insanity.

      1. Being that power is an end, not a means, they have no reason to care about the content of the policy as long as it gives them more power.

        1. This is exactly why Epi is wrong above.

    6. All this talk of endowments and teats is making me uncomfortable and i’m calling the H&R Title IX officer.

      Robby!! they’re making innuendoes!!!

      1. I’d make an “overbroad” joke, but it’s not the 1940s. 😛

    7. You assume they oppose it. While I can’t imagine the boards are particularly happy about it, I don’t think that necessarily extends to either the faculty or, more importantly, the administrations that have effective control over the schools.

      A lot of this is straight out of the ideological playbook of the academic left. This is stuff they’ve argued for for, at this point, decades. Perhaps they’re a little offended at the suggestion that the rules be applied to them. But, I doubt you’d find a lot of people on the Harvard faculty who’d bat an eye at the suggestion that the world is set up as a patriarchy run by frat boys who oppress women and that the proper role of academia is to fight that. And from a self-interest standpoint, I could think of few if any approaches that would look more like a jobs program for college administrators.

      My guess is that none of this would transpire without the federal rules, as much as the faculties and administrations might wish to do it. The possibility of competition would make such a move borderline suicidal. But, if they can get the feds to mandate that possibility of competition away, it’s not something they would particularly object to.

  2. at least we can hope that students activists will start to reconsider their tacks

    False hope.

  3. And unlike boomers and Gen X, millennials tend to get along well with their parents and have little generalized anti-authority feels.

    Was 1984 actually a story about helicopter parenting?

    1. I don’t really see how not getting along with your parents has much correlation with being anti-authority. In fact, some of the worst authoritarian fucks I can think of had real mommy and daddy issues.

      1. Yeah, I doubt there is much correlation there. I’ve almost always gotten along great with my parents and had lots of anti-authority feels. Rebelling against the authorities in your own life doesn’t necessarily mean you are anti-authoritarian in general.

        1. Yes. And having neglectful or abusive parents is just as likely to cause someone to look for a replacement in the form of an authority figure as it is to cause them to reject authority.

        2. I’ve almost always gotten along great with my parents and had lots of anti-authority feels.

          Ditto. But of course, my parents were firmly anti-authority. Being raised by artists is not much different than being raised by wolves.

            1. That is frighteningly close to reality.

            2. I have a feeling the old men with candy are quite welcome in Squaresville.

        3. I get along fine with my parents, but then I’ve never really regarded them as authority figures.

      2. Besides, where do most of the policies come from? She almost makes it sound like administrators are being forced against their will to comply with the statist Millenial horde.

        1. Most students are not nuts and don’t agree with these policies. They don’t object because it is rarely worth it to fight city hall. In most cases it is easier to just go along and do what you have to do to get your degree and move on. These policies are coming from administrators and the lunatic fringe of the student body. I don’t believe they are indicative of what college age people actually believe.

          1. I agree. I think the generalizations are unfair.

          2. I would disagree that the students don’t agree. Most (many, I suppose, I don’t know most of them) are kids who went through high school worrying about having enough crap on their resume to impress college recruiters, and have the simple mindset of listening to the authoritah when it comes to toeing the line.

            They’re not nuts, but most aren’t objective thinkers who worry about the bigger picture. They’re swallowing the party line.

      3. Um…your parents are authorities. If you get along well with your parents, you are not anti-authority.

        1. Most people no longer view their parents as authority figures once they’ve left home

          1. Unless they have to make nice to stay on their insurance until 26 or beg rent money.

            1. Not to mention staying on the family mobile plan.

              1. Ah, family mobile. Could you imagine you parents getting your phone bill as an adult. I shudder to think it.

          2. Most people no longer view their parents as authority figures once they’ve left home

            Exactly. That’s what government is for. Government replaces your parents when you leave home. That’s why libertarians are like teenagers. They don’t want their parent-government telling them what to do. They actually want to be treated like adults. Can you imagine that? So immature.

          3. Seems like that takes it awfully easy on parents after they spend almost two decades routinely coercing you.

        2. I’m having trouble with this statement:

          And unlike boomers and Gen X, millennials tend to get along well with their parents and have little generalized anti-authority feels

          This sounds like an opinion, Elizabeth. I don’t see any evidence to back this up. Because I find this somewhat hard to believe. It doesn’t sound…normal.

          1. I’ve noticed it too. I know very few people under 30 who aren’t verging on creepy-close with their parents. (From my POV.)

            1. Anecdotal evidence is great, but man, this is one of those things that I wouldn’t even know how to start actually trying to measure “whether kids are closer to their parents today”. It’s absurdly subjective.

              1. It totally is subjective. I don’t even know what “closer to your parents” even means. I have known people who lived with their parents until their mid 20s who seemed completely emotionally cut off from them. I have known others who moved out of the house at 18 never to return that couldn’t go a day without talking to them and did not have a single aspect of their lives that didn’t involve their parents. Is the first “closer”? Well they lived with them didn’t they?

                And I wasn’t aware my generation didn’t get along with their parents. I have some who did not but most people I know did and do to one degree or another. The statement doesn’t make any sense to me at all.

                1. I don’t even know what “closer to your parents” even means.

                  I think it has to do with the trend for parents to be their kids’ best friends instead of acting like an authority figure. My wife is like that. I’m not.

                  1. You might be right on that. As a parent of a teenager I seem many other parents that want to be best friends and few that want to be parents. We are more parents (pretty strict on many things) than friends.

                    Think is, I remember when I was a teenager (a while ago). Most of my friends parents where their friends also. Mine were parents first.

                    Cycle perpetuates and gets worse.

              2. Of course, of course. I don’t know how to measure it either, but seriously… the “angry young man” I know, the punk kid, the rebellious kid? His mother comments on his Facebook everyday. And they are really sweet together. And he brought his father into meet me at work.

                They just don’t seem to violently wrench themselves away from their parents like our generation mostly seems to have done.

                Most of them are barely even cynical.

                1. The lack of cynicism and self-assertion is a bit troubling. But there are also a lot of good things about having a generally agreeably and friendly relationship with one’s parents.

                  1. But there are also a lot of good things about having a generally agreeably and friendly relationship with one’s parents.

                    I’m not saying it’s bad, just that I find it weird. I cheerfully admit the problem is probably on my end.

                2. Sugar Free,

                  I have told the story before about the woman my wife works with who does student relations at a medical school. She often has to deal with irrate parents. Parents of medical students in their mid 20s or older will call the med school like their kids are still in high school. It totally floored me when she told me that.

                  I think lot of what is going on is that kids are so over scheduled and over supervised, they don’t realize how great freedom is. When we were young everyone would have happily lived in a crappy apartment eating TV dinners every night rather than in luxury at our parents’ house because the pleasure of making your own rules was so much greater than living in a nice house. I am not sure as many kids today understand that.

                  1. I am not sure as many kids today understand that.

                    I think they’ve also been told they can’t or won’t ever have it. The doom and gloom about the economics facing millennials is almost at psychological war-ops levels at this point.

                    1. yeah but the doom and gloom of my childhood was nuclear war – where did that go? Oh wait, Iran, that’s rights.

                  2. I just can’t fathom that stuff. Like I said, I’ve always had a good, friendly relationship with my parents. And I even lived with them for a few years after college. But I would have been horrified to have them intercede on my behalf with a college professor.

                    1. I get along as well with my parents as I do with my kids. Sure there are plenty of things we disagree on, but we don’t get into fist fights over them. I understand that there are dysfunctional families, but I can’t believe they are the norm.

                    2. But I would have been horrified to have them intercede on my behalf with a college professor.

                      My mother wouldn’t have done it for me and my father would have known better. He stuck up for me when it really counted, of course.

                  3. When we were young everyone would have happily lived in a crappy apartment eating TV dinners every night rather than in luxury at our parents’ house because the pleasure of making your own rules was so much greater than living in a nice house.

                    Bingo. At least in the upper middle-class environment of my community, few children are in want of anything. Instead of working after school and during the summer, parents are toting their kids from activity to activity and enrolling them in summer sports camps, thespian clubs, and dance troupes, many that travel hundreds of miles on multiple weekends in order to compete. I heard one parent say that if the travel summer baseball season cost you $10K in fees and travel expenses, you were doing it cheap. So why would a kid raised in such an environment have any desire to leave? It’s like the rich version of the welfare dependence problem.

                    1. This is absolutely the case. I’m in the grampa stage but know a fair amount of younger parents and the time and money they spend on youth sports is staggering.

              3. I’d guess that it is true in some way or other. It does seem like attitudes about parenting have changed quite a bit. And I think a lot of it is good.

                But it is pretty impossible to actually measure.

            2. Just because my daughter knows what my erect penis looks like doesn’t mean that we’re creepy close. It just means that we’re a happy family.

            3. I know what you mean, but look more closely and those creepy-close relationships are often filled with bitterness and resentment. At least in my experience. It’s hard to have a good relationship with your parents if you can’t respect one another.

              1. What lap83 said. Nothing engenders bitterness quicker and easier than giving someone too much. The goods always come with strings and the person receiving such always ends up resenting it while the person giving never feels like they get enough respect in return.

          2. Take it for what it is. It was probably a hasty generalization.

            My observation is that youngs today are nowhere near as rebellious as the youngs of the past. I’d also say that teenager’s relationships with their parents were more contentious in the 60s-80s. I think what ENB did was sloppily relate the two, IOW anti authority stems from a contentious parent-child relationship. There is probably some overlap, but as many are pointing out, it’s purely notional.

            1. Maybe there is a genetic component as well, the “naturally” rebellious also rebel against having children as an expectation. The parents of millennials are generally the first generation to avoid having children as an obligation.

              Just spit-ballin’.

            2. My observation is that youngs today are nowhere near as rebellious as the youngs of the past.

              When parents try to be their kids’ friends rather than authority figures, there’s nothing to rebel against.

            3. How much of that though is because the rebellious and contentious parental relationship of the 60s-80s is the outlier and not Millenials having a “better” relationship with their parents? For a whole lot of human history it was the exception for families to widely disperse, not the norm.

              1. Fair enough.

                I’ll take pride in the fact, then, that the timeframe of my youth was the anomaly and the norm is to be authority worshiping cock gobblers.

        3. Your parents are only authorities to the extent that they assert authority over you and you submit to it. What kind of anarchist are you?

          1. Typically, rejecting parental authority will put you in the “do not get along” box.

            But sure if saying, “Fuck off, slaver,” means getting along, I’m down.

            1. That’s a pretty jaundiced perspective on parental relations. I mean there are definitely some parents out there who are authoritarian dickbag bullies, but people like that have no business getting laid in the first place, much less having kids.

              Most parents get along with their kids the same way most people get along with other people: by testing and negotiating boundaries.

        4. That doesn’t follow at all. If you get along with your parents you are not anti their authority. Nothing about respecting your parents precludes you from rejecting other authority.

          If you don’t get along with your parents it generally means either you or them or all three of you have real emotional issues. It says nothing about your propensity to respect authority.

          1. You do realize that society literally defines “lack of obedience to traditional authority figures” as “real emotional issues,” right?

            1. You do realize that your parents are the people who created you and raised you and there is a real human biological need to be accepted and loved by your parents and for parents to love their children? The parent child relationship is the most fundamental relationship in human existence. If that relationship is dysfunctional for whatever reason, one or both parties are going to have real emotional issues as a result.

              Seriously, Nikki, do you actually think you have some kind of duty to reject your parents’? If so, I really feel for your parents.

              1. But you haven’t met her parents. So how would you know?

                1. Haven’t you met her mom?

                  1. Well…obviously. Surprisingly, she wasn’t the worst. I think Nicole gets that from her dad.

                2. No I haven’t Episiarch. But whatever the state of her relationship with her parents, that doesn’t change the fact that your relationship with your parents is the most fundamental one of your life and it not being good is a sign that they or you have emotional issues not whether you respect authority.

              2. I think everyone has a duty to reject their parents, yes. There are biological drives to do a lot of bad shit, and creating a sentient being with whom you plan to have a lifelong involuntary relationship is one of them.

                Do my parents love me, or do they love the person they like to pretend I am? The person they set out to create before I was conceived?

                1. But the rejection is a normal part of growing up. At a certain point, you have to be off on your own and be your own person. That person is unlikely to be what they would prefer, just from probability. So, yeah, “duty” perhaps, but “fundamental to the process of attaining adulthood” is, I think, more central.

                  1. I agree old man. The nature of the relationship changes. If it is healthy, you move on and become an adult and are no longer dependent on them. Doing that doesn’t mean you don’t respect them or not get along with them. If you have a healthy relationship, it just means you become your own person without any issues or bitterness towards them.

                    1. There’s a spectrum of ways that happens, including bitterness and issues. And for some, that’s normal and healthy. But people are all different, so are families and family dynamics. At some point, the cord has to be cut, and that can happen gracefully or not. But it has to happen, otherwise, yeah, we ARE in unhealthy territory.

                      The important part is the cutting, not how much blood was spilled.

                    2. AT some point Old Man, you have to know and appreciate your parents as people and adults, flaws and all. That means appreciating the good parts about them and forgiving and understanding their flaws. Where people go wrong is they either never recognize the flaws and thus remain emotional children their entire lives or they can’t forgive and understand the flaws such they end up being bitter and angry.

                    3. I give you as contrast Nikki and me. Very different dynamics to our parental relationships and how each of us managed the process and aftermath of separation from our parents. But what’s in common is that we each successfully transitioned into adulthood, meaning our parents did their jobs properly (though she might need to look back when she’s my age to appreciate that).

                2. There are biological drives to do a lot of bad shit, and creating a sentient being with whom you plan to have a lifelong involuntary relationship is one of them.

                  If you thought that, you would kill yourself. You always have the power to opt out of the bargain. You didn’t ask to be born. That is very true. But nothing makes you continue to live, unless you are a very small child or in jail where you just physically are unable to end your life.

                  The fact that you haven’t ended your life says that you for whatever reason lack the will to do so. That lack of will and desire to continue to live precludes any conclusion that non-existence is better than existence. You lack the will to choose non existence because at some level you understand existence is better than non existence.

                  1. John, the literature on this is extensive. Regardless, I never said anything about life not being worth living. I said that parents create an involuntary relationship with their kids. The only thing that implies is that I would not have kids of my own.

                    1. “I said that parents create an involuntary relationship with their kids. The only thing that implies is that I would not have kids of my own.”

                      For your sake, or (also) for that of the “potential” kids? The creation of a human will can’t violate that will.

                      “Do my parents love me, or do they love the person they like to pretend I am? The person they set out to create before I was conceived?”

                      Is that part of why you don’t want kids?

                  2. John: “The fact that you haven’t ended your life says that you for whatever reason lack the will to do so. That lack of will and desire to continue to live precludes any conclusion that non-existence is better than existence. You lack the will to choose non existence because at some level you understand existence is better than non existence.”

                    You are wrong. Not choosing to kill oneself means that killing oneself is worse than existing. It does not mean that not-existing is worse than existing.
                    Apart from that, if your will isn’t entirely free, you may want to be dead, but be unable to kill yourself. Your “hedonistic balance” may be negative while there is nothing you can do about it. Whether nature tortures you and ties your will, or whether another person tortures you and ties your hands, the conclusion is not that existence is better than non-existence.

                3. I think everyone has a duty to reject their parents, yes. There are biological drives to do a lot of bad shit, and creating a sentient being with whom you plan to have a lifelong involuntary relationship is one of them.

                  Uhhhh, you may want to define the word ‘voluntary’ before you toss it around. The relationship I have with them is very voluntary. I won’t get locked in a cage if I don’t maintain good relations with them. All else being equal, I see no evidence that there is an anarchist duty to be dysfunctional with one’s family.

                  Don’t you also think there is some moral duty not to reproduce because the state exists or some such nonsense? These positions you take, seem to be drawn from your own fucked up childhood and/or psyche, rather than drawn from observations of society and human interaction in general.

                  1. At what point did you agree to have a relationship with your parents? Did you choose them?

                    1. At what point did you agree to have a relationship with your parents? Did you choose them?

                      At the point where I was free to leave their lives forever and chose not to because I care for them.

              3. You are supposed to hate (too strong a word?) your parents as a teenager. If you didn’t, you’d never leave the house.

                Oh, wait, that’s EXACTLY what we’re seeing.

                You leave because your parents are wrong…about everything and you can do everything much better if left to your own devices. Then, in your mid-20s you realize they were right about most things and you reconcile. (Of course, I’m generalizing.)

                1. This is pretty much the case with my brothers and I and the parents…teen and early 20’s conflict, then a truce.

                  Your second point is also spot on. All of our kids are around 30 and we laugh that none of them did anything close to the shit we did, mischief wise.

        5. I’m not entirely convinced. I don’t think getting along with your parents means that you never question their assertions of authority.

        6. Um, what? Not hating your parents is authoritarian? Are you a disciple of Stefan Molynieux, may I ask?

      4. I generally agree. That said, I think I get what Ms. Nolan-Brown is suggesting. And it’s not all wrong. Adolescent rebellion can often be a part of becoming a healthy, well-adjusted, adult. It’s sometimes part of the process of breaking out from being “Mommy and Daddy’s child” to being your own person. It doesn’t need to be part of the process, but it can be a healthy part of it, I suspect. And my guess is that a lot of people kind of get stuck in that process. Not surprisingly, it both gives them mommy and daddy issues and makes them authoritarian fucks.

        That’s just my $0.02.

    2. I would have to say that is one of the stupidest non-Bailey statements ever written by a Reason staffer.

  4. “By threatening to pull federal funds, the OCR has forced schools, even well-endowed schools like Harvard, to adopt sexual misconduct policies that violate many civil liberties,” Strossen said.

    Just lie back and think of England.

  5. So “sexual conduct” includes any mention of sex at all? What the fuck is wrong with people?

    1. Please come to my office after you finish your lecture.–Diversity officer

    2. The really crazy thing is that these same people would think an art project that portrayed gay sex or bestiality in some really vulgar way was fabulous. Their problem is not sex but straight sex. They really are insane.

      1. Did you RTFA?

        pro-gay t-shirt slogans are deemed too offensive

        Looks like any and all mentioning of sex is verboten, even gay sex.

        1. I stand corrected. I can’t explain these people. They are just fucking nuts.

          1. It’s about power. That’s all.

            1. Exactly. Lust for power manifests itself in a lot of insanity. The power-hungry will gladly peddle Slavery IS Freedom if enough people are willing to buy.

        2. pro-gay t-shirt slogans are deemed too offensive

          The linked article cites cases of this and they were in high schools, not colleges. I am not necessarily opposed to high schools banning “pro-gay t-shirts”.

          1. I bet they would never dream of doing that in college.

            1. I wouldn’t be so sure. When I attended Wesleyan (yes, that one that appears to have gone full retard now), there was an annual even where the campus gay activism group would go around doing “chalkings”, writing gay-positive (and often rather vulgar) stuff on the sidewalks around campus. Apparently that was banned a few years after I was there.

              1. I remember walking on my college campus around dawn for some reason, and I saw written in chalk on the sidewalk “Two Girls Kissed Here.” Then I saw two girls kiss each other and write on the sidewalk. They moved another twenty feet or so and did it again. Gotta have a hobby I guess. That was in the 90s. It’s probably banned now.

      2. Given some of the examples cited in the article, I’m not so sure it’s even that coherent. I think people do often shy away from criticizing things about gay sex for fear of being branded homophobic. But the problem here is more the ridiculous standards applied which basically allow a heckler’s veto anytime sex comes up.

        Wasn’t sexual harassment supposed to be about someone in a position of authority pressuring a subordinate to do something sexual, and things like that? Any unwanted sexual conduct is an absurd standard. How are you supposed to know whether or not it is wanted until you find out?

        1. Sexual harassment originally was about bosses and authority figures telling women to either give up the goods or get fired or flunked. Now the term means virtually nothing. It is just used to describe any opinion or expression that the powers that be want suppressed.

  6. IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH

  7. …even well-endowed schools like Harvard…

    Psssh. Everyone knows Harvard wears a push-up.

  8. This isn’t about sex.

    It’s about obtaining status as a victim.

    1. “…and the newly robust obligation of schools to pursue sexual harassment claims even when the alleged victims don’t want them to.

      Looks like it’s more about administrative power than victim status.

      1. That impetus came from somewhere. It’s all about not offending snowflakes and society has handed the snowflakes the power to impose their will on others. They aren’t really offended…they simply dig the power.

        Fuck every single one of these liberty hating shitbags.

      2. It’s not about the actual “victims;” it’s about the victim class. This is bigger than ‘mere’ individuals, understand?

    2. This isn’t about sex.

      It’s about obtaining status as a victim power.

      1. Apparently cultural mores are changing in such a way that obtaining status as a victim is an essential condition for gaining power. So hey, you’re both right.

        1. Oh, he’s totally right, but I wanted to make a rape joke.

        2. The ones who are wrong in this are the feminists who claim that rape is not about sex but about power. That’s like claiming that robbery is not about valuable things but about power. (Don’t get me wrong, power is an element of sex.)

          As for Frank’s point, that’s not accounted for in the text’s argumentation: not all women are infantilized by the law of sexual harassment and assault. They gain power, the option to threaten, to define, and to command.

  9. the University of Denver suspended a tenured professor and found him guilty of sexual harassment for teaching about sexual topics in a graduate-level course in a course unit entitled Drugs and Sin in American Life From Masturbation and Prostitution to Alcohol and Drugs.

    Uh, isn’t tenure specifically supposed to shield professors from this type of shit? Like, that’s exactly what it was created for? Is this actually end-running around tenure?

    1. You may have figured it out.

    2. That’s an interesting observation. I wonder if the administration was already looking for a way to get rid of some of these people who were inconveniently tenured.

    3. Tenure is designed to protect the freedom of speech of professors from political attack. You can have tenure and lose it for a number of things e.g. charging a professor with sexual harassment rather than questioning them over the content of the lecture. So, yes, this can be an end run around tenure.

      Not the same as harassment but my school just instituted on-line training to make us aware of rules/laws on sexual misconduct. The training video makes it very clear that, if someone is charged with sexual misconduct and there is not enough evidence for criminal charges but there is a 51% likelihood that the actions occurred then you will be terminated.

      1. So the idea is to render tenure effectively pointless, then? After all, if the definition of sexual harassment is loose and vague enough, anyone can be guilty of it if you want them to be, and politically inconvenient professors can be picked off for ostensibly non-political reasons.

    4. I was suspended and found guilty of sexual harassment for teaching electromagnetism.

      Then again, I can’t seem to do anything without there being a component of sexual harassment.

      1. (envisions rubbing coed’s sweaters vigorously and then making their hair float)

        1. Ah, you were in my class, then?

        2. Those soft fuzzy sweaters that are so magical to touch?

          1. Dude, ever since you sent me those pictures of you during Breast Awareness Month, I’ve been unable to sleep. I lay in bed with my blanket pulled over my head and spend the night whimpering.

          2. +1 Freeze Frame

    5. For the most part colleges want tenured professors. UD didn’t suspend a professor without being threatened with a lawsuit into doing it.

  10. How Sexual Harassment Codes Threaten Academic Freedom and have since they were first dreamed up.

  11. “And I could go on.”

    Go on…

  12. I was suspended and found guilty of sexual harassment for teaching electromagnetism.

    “Fucking magnets?”

    Where’s my safe space?

    1. “Favorite hobby: magnets.”

    2. There’s a Feynman story about that. Seriously.

  13. Elizabeth missed a really good example of this. Thanks to sexual harrassment concerns and such, they are no longer able to teach the law relating to rape in law school.

    http://www.newyorker.com/news/…..g-rape-law

    But my experience at Harvard over the past couple of years tells me that the environment for teaching rape law and other subjects involving gender and violence is changing. Students seem more anxious about classroom discussion, and about approaching the law of sexual violence in particular, than they have ever been in my eight years as a law professor. Student organizations representing women’s interests now routinely advise students that they should not feel pressured to attend or participate in class sessions that focus on the law of sexual violence, and which might therefore be traumatic. These organizations also ask criminal-law teachers to warn their classes that the rape-law unit might “trigger” traumatic memories. Individual students often ask teachers not to include the law of rape on exams for fear that the material would cause them to perform less well. One teacher I know was recently asked by a student not to use the word “violate” in class?as in “Does this conduct violate the law?”?because the word was triggering. Some students have even suggested that rape law should not be taught because of its potential to cause distress.

    1. So those students won’t be lawyers.

      1. Sadly, they will be lawyers. And will likely be out writing legislation and case law and making the rules in the future. If that doesn’t scare the hell out of you, it should.

        1. John, my first year law school criminal prof was a feminist.

          She spent several classes on rape. I noticed how she repeatedly referred to the victim as “she”. The victim was always a female.

          So, me being me, one day I bring up a hypothetical and I subtly, but not too subtly, refer to the victim in my hypothetical as “he”. In a class of 60 or so people, there were a handful who got it and smiled.

          The prof didn’t get it right away and finally realized what I had done. I had already developed a reputation for being a playful pain in the ass and she just glared at me for a couple of moments and moved on.

          Today, could you even do that? This was in the fall of 1986.

          1. Not so much about he versus she, but about whether requiring – even allowing – classes on rape discriminates against women.

            1. “classes on rape” so Warty is teaching, now?

              1. It’s a joint effort.

      2. That may be a net win for society of SJW s are too traumatized to even think about these things to become lawyers.

  14. Reason needs to strap on a vigorous sexual harassment code. Violators will be dealt with stiffly and with evermore escalating punishment until the perpetrator is laid out like a spent lover.

    1. Are you suggesting Reason erect new standards? That could be explosive.

      1. Yes, those standards need to be stretched to the limit.

        1. You know who else had a penis?

  15. How would ‘gender justice’ warriors even define justice if ‘gender’ is just a social construct?

    1. It’s like people who are really, really, really into LARPing… it might be totally made up, but it’s still the single most important thing the world.

      1. I love how they totally ignore how the feminist theories on gender totally preclude the existence of someone being transgender. If gender is a social construct, then it is impossible for someone to be born one gender or the other much less be born a different gender than their bodies.

        And they nearly always claim to be crude materialists and rationalists. Yet, the idea of their being such a thing as “transgendered” relies on a duelistic view of the mind and body so extreme that it borders on the supernatural. What the hell does it mean to have a brain that is different from your body? Your brain is part of your body. To say it can be of a different gender is to separate it from your body and make it into what amounts to a soul.

        1. I’ve seen one half-assed argument that the construct of gender is so powerful, it changes the brain. It was pitiful.

          1. Even if that were true, it would still preclude there being transgendered. So I am born as a “man” according to society. I am then subjected to the construct that is “male” and it changes my brain into it being a “male” one. If that is true, it would be impossible for me to have anything but whatever construct society enforced on me.

            They really are irrational. They are worse than the old communists. The communists were evil and wrong but they at least tried to come up with a consistent system.

    2. Well, in their minds justice is also socially constructed concept, which also explains a lot fo their behavior.

  16. So the Duke student who comaned about the explicit graphic novel given as a universal reading assignment for incoming students would have gotten further if he made a sexual harassment complaint? Some people said he should have just did the assignment be a use it was important to the learning experience yet here we see students getting a professor suspended for discussing Machiavelli’s metaphors.

  17. So you believe you can get, and even deserve “academic freedom” , in an “education system” [read; indoctrination system] funded via direct theft? Ho ho ho!

    Good luck with that matrix fantasy!
    **************************************
    Avast thar me mateys and landlubbers! “Welcome to the matrix” 🙂 .

    Do you want to be freer than you are now?

    If so, the first thing you need to understand is that _no-one_ can free you, except _YOU_.

    No politician will free you, nor anyone else.

    Meaning, if you want to be freer than you are right now you need to stop complaining about the government, and to stop fantasizing that some new, temporary, provisional head of what is essentially a 100% criminal organization is actually going to improve your life for you.

    Ain’t gonna happen!

    If you believe it can/will happen, then “the matrix” definitely “has” you” :-).

    Regards, onebornfree.
    Personal Freedom consulting:
    http://www.onebornfree.blogspot.com

    1. We want Anonbot back.

    2. I TRIED IT AND IT CURED MY DANDRUFF!! THANKS LIBERTARIAN PIRATE

    3. Wow, are the bots not drawing phrases from the headlines?

      Impressed by whoever decided to incorporate NLP software into spambots. Soon they’ll be writing the articles.

  18. “”Teachers at Harvard, alarmed by the policy’s expansive scope, are jettisoning teaching tools that make any reference to human sexuality,” writes Harvard Law Professor Janet Halley.”

    What are they calling male and female connectors nowadays?

    1. And what about gender changers?

    2. Luckily, this nonsense would never stand in the real world. I don’t even know how’d you describe, say plumbing parts, without using “male” and “female”.
      Incidentally, I once had a carpenter on my payroll who dressed like a woman (as much as you can on a job site, mostly hair and makeup and wearing pinks) and was pre-op. He made an exceptionally ugly woman. He also had a girlfriend. So, was the girlfriend a lesbian? Was he, like the old joke, a lesbian trapped in a man’s body?

    3. “Spouse A” and “Spouse B.”

  19. “Halley and Strossen also worry that these problems are a step in the wrong direction for feminism”

    The only *right* direction for feminism would be into the dustbin of history.

    1. feminism:female::Islamism:muslim

      1. Only with fewer beards.

        I hope.

        1. Same number of beards, just elsewhere on the body.

    2. So you’re saying that we should return to considering women the property of their fathers/husbands?

      1. Yes, except during exercise of the Droit du Seigneur of course.

      2. I think this is largely a myth and an insult to people who have actually been treated like property, aka slaves. Women were not all treated like slaves before the 1960s. Let’s be real

        1. Also I think many of the advancements among women we credit to feminism are just as much , if not more, thanks to the industrial revolution.

          1. An interesting time to look at. It’s not immediately apparent that women were worse off. Compare domestic work to work in mines, foundries, saw mills, and — much old industrial work was precarious. (As was sea trade.) Then there are all the wars. And voting often was resticted to ownership of land, which exluded many men (incidentally, having to risk their lives for their countries led to them getting the right to vote). Then dueling culture, which again put men’s lives at risk, not women’s. And “women and children first” was no empty phrase.

          2. Also I think many of the advancements among women we credit to feminism are just as much , if not more, thanks to the industrial revolution.

            And the pill.

          3. Actually probably entirely thanks to the industrial revolution. Case in point: who introduced all that legislation that gave women all the rights they have? Rich, patriarchal, misogynistic men. Why, because their hands were forced by a great Civil War? No. Out of the goodness of their hearts? Nope; because women were now more useful as workers than housewives, just as men were primarily useful as workers, and so they needed to be incorporated into the industrial economic system.

            Feminism did little at all. It was just a big party that followed rather than caused the actual social transformations, which resulted from economic and technological changes.

  20. OT – Over at the WSJ, there’s a column by Kim Strassel about Hillary’s lie about the YouTube video and how she knew it was a terrorist attack while it was still going on and not a reaction to the video. In the comments, their are people defending her saying that her lying was the right thing to do. Read the oldest comments first to see this. To read the column (behind a paywall) just Google the text below and you will get a workable link:

    Thanks to Hillary Clinton’s Benghazi testimony on Thursday, we now understand why the former secretary of state never wanted anyone to see her emails and why the State Department sat on documents. Turns out those emails and papers show that the Obama administration deliberately misled the nation about the deadly events in Libya on Sept.

  21. I doubt it. Halley apparently started pushing back years ago (~ Split Decision, Why and How to Take a Break From Feminism), and Strossen has been doing so for decades. Simple: read Daphne Patai’s Heterophobia (Little & Brown) – another very specific countermeasure – and observe the development.
    Moreover, consider the popular cyber violence stuff. It mimicks and parallels the approach to pornography. Of course Strossen has written about pornography, too (Defending Pornography), and that didn’t prevent the official take on it. The anchor point for all this appears to be MacKinnon theory of harassment, which is most of her theory of feminism. Her take on porn is unsurprising. (For all this, her Toward a Feminist Theory of the State, Harvard UP, is interesting to read.)

    1. I’m not sure I could bring myself to read a book written by MacKinnon; it is probably the closest I could get to the experience of a Jew reading Nazi propaganda. I can laugh at the articles and blurbs, 2 or 3 hundred pages of sustained lunacy by someone I know had enormous political clout? Ugh, couldn’t take it.

      There have been dissidents for quite a while; Patai was writing about this stuff in the ’90s I think. The Mackinnonites just rode right over them. Anyone who says ‘any minute now, the return to sensibility is going to start gaining ground’ is not sufficiently familiar with history.

      1. Any predictions as to the turning point, historically?

        Patai’s book was published by Rowman & Littlefield. My mistake.

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  23. Most are missing the real driver in this phenomenon: It typically costs a school or business half a million dollars to defend a sexual-harassment accusation, and that’s when you win!

    Furthermore, what will be considered “sexual harassment” itself is pretty much the opinion of the reviewing official — who MAY be a Demodonkey extremist or MAY be a Republicrat facilitator but WILL be unknown to the parties until long after the “offending” conduct has occurred.

    Under those conditions, and in the absence of determined opposition from civil-rights attorneys for the other side, a university (any university) is going to play safe and close to the vest.

    That certainly long has been the policy at Yale.

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