Campus Free Speech

CUNY Prof Accused of Sexual Harassment Because His Syllabus Says Effort Is 10% of Grade

Kneel before the Director of Diversity Investigations and Title IX Enforcement.


Gabriel Liendo

A professor at the City University of New York's Brooklyn College was ordered to make changes to his syllabus because it amounted to sexual harassment.

The professor, David Seidemann has refused to comply, and for good reason.

According to Seidemann, a university administrator expressed three grievances about the syllabus. First, and most quizzically, the grading portion of the syllabus suggests sexual harassment. It reads, "Class deportment, effort etc……. 10% (applied only to select students when appropriate)."

That's it. That's sexual harassment, Seidemann's department chair claimed.

Why? No one explained it to him. I gather that the "effort, etc…" was taken the wrong way: a completely unreasonable person could presume Seidemann was suggesting that sexual favors would boost the grades of "select students."

But you would have to be really uncharitable to read it like that. You would have to be looking for a reason to be offended.

Seidemann told me in an email that his department chair said "the 10% section could be construed as a prelude to sexual harassment," and had to be changed at once.

This order apparently came from the Director of Diversity Investigations and Title IX Enforcement. In the course of Seidemann's interactions with the director, he realized something quite stunning: there was no record of anyone actually complaining about the syllabus. The university had apparently launched this investigation on its own.

Seidemann was also initially in trouble for writing in his syllabus, "This classroom is an 'unsafe space' for those uncomfortable with viewpoints with which they may disagree: all constitutionally protected speech is welcome." But the director eventually conceded this was fine.

The bigger issue was triangles. Yes, triangles. Seidemann has a habit of using them instead of quotation marks "when referring to foolish PC terms," he wrote.

"The triangles were the problem," Seidemann said, recalling his department chair's words.

The professor refused to meet with the Director of Diversity Investigations, preferring to talk via email so that the conversation could be documented. This eventually caused the director to abandon the investigation: the matter is now officially closed, according to Seidemann.

The professor is pleased with the result, but little else.

"I got zero information from the college administration about the complaint, investigation, and findings," he said. "CUNY is a First Amendment and due process free zone."

College administrators apparently think Title IX gives them the power to force professors to revise completely harmless provisions in their syllabi.