Free Minds & Free Markets

What Else Was Going on in That Retracted Title IX Stalking Story?

Yes, National Review blew the story. But there were still problems with this case.

Mizzoustannate / Wikimedia CommonsNational Review has retracted an article it ran last week. The piece claimed the University of Missouri had disciplined a male student, Jeremy Rowles, for seeking a date with a significantly smaller female student, Annalise Breaux. In the university's view, Rowle's size meant that he "was perceived as having power over her," wrote NR.

As many complained, the article omitted details that complicated the picture. Rowles is currently suing Mizzou for wrongfully suspending him; according to his own version of events, he had taken increasingly elaborate steps to woo Breaux, even though she had clearly communicated her lack of interest. Eventually, she complained to her supervisors at the Mizzou Rec Center that his written declaration of love had made her feel uncomfortable. This complaint was referred to the university's Title IX office, which handles sexual misconduct, and administrators eventually found Rowles guilty of sexual harassment and stalking.

NR's post has been criticized by other conservative news sites: The Daily Caller brands it "fake news," and The Daily Wire says the issues at stake had been misrepresented. NR sensibly withdrew the report, noting that "the male student had made repeated, unwelcome advances toward the female student and was found in violation of Title IX for stalking her."

BuzzFeed News' Tyler Kingkade, who reports on campus sexual misconduct issues, describes the mistake as a "classic example of how inaccurate some of the Title IX coverage is when done by people who don't bother doing their own reporting" and called out other outlets for doing the same, including The Daily Mail and The Daily Wire.

But the Daily Wire piece didn't claim that Rowles' size was the reason he got kicked off campus. Reporter Ashe Schow merely noted that a Mizzou administrator, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Cathy Scroggs, had claimed Rowles' "power" over Breaux could perhaps be due in part to his stature. This detail comes from Rowles' recent motion for summary judgment, which cites remarks made by Mizzou administrators in a deposition. According to the motion, Scroggs said the following:

Interviewer: The allegations against Jeremy Rowles, do you believe that they've satisfied subsection 1 of sexual harassment?

Scroggs: I think he was perceived as having power over her.

Interviewer: And what was the nature of his power over her? Was it just his size?

Scroggs: His physical size.

Interviewer: OK. So, this part 1 doesn't require him to be a teacher. When it says person of authority, it doesn't mean, like, teacher or boss?

Scroggs: Well, I suppose it could; but in this case, no, I didn't interpret it that way.

The "part 1" referred to above is the university's sexual harassment policy, which defines sexual harassment in part as "unwelcome sexual advances or requests for sexual activity by a person or persons in a position of power or authority to another person." It would seem obvious, then, that Scroggs did believe Rowles's size could give him power over her. This strikes me as notable: As far as I am aware, power imbalance typically refers to the nature of a relationship—teacher and student, for instance—rather than a person's intimidating size.

Mizzou's policy also defines sexual harassment as "other unwelcome verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when...such conduct creates a hostile environment by being sufficiently severe or pervasive and objectively offensive that it interferes with, limits or denies the ability of an individual to participate in or benefit from education programs or activities or employment access, benefits, or opportunities." (Emphasis mine.) This was the basis upon which Rowles was found guilty of sexual harassment, according to his own version of events.

Rowles "violated the sexual harassment policy by engaging in unwelcome verbal and physical conduct of a sexual nature towards [Breaux] and that...created a hostile environment by being sufficiently pervasive that it interfered with her ability to do her job," wrote Ellen Eardley, the administrator who initially found Rowles responsible.

But according to the deposition, Eardley and Scroggs have somewhat different understandings of this definition. This matters, since Scroggs reviewed Rowles' appeal of Eardley's initial decision and reached the same result, though she reduced his suspension from four years to two. Eardley believed that hostile environment harassment needed to satisfy one of two criteria: 1) severe, or 2) pervasive and objectively offensive. But in Scroggs' view, harassment needed to satisfy only one of the following three criteria: 1) severe, 2) pervasive, or 3) objectively offensive. This is an important difference: If Rowles' conduct was pervasive—a point he essentially conceded, as he had made overtures more than once—but not severe or objectively offensive, he would be guilty under Scroggs' definition, but not guilty under Eardley's.

Rowles was also found responsible for stalking. For what it's worth, the university defines stalking as "following or engaging in a course or conduct on the basis of sex with no legitimate purpose that puts another person reasonably in fear for his or her safety or would cause a reasonable person under the circumstances to be frightened, intimidated or emotionally distressed." Rowles disputes that his actions meet this definition, because Breaux did not claim he had done any of these things, but rather that he made her "uncomfortable." Whether a reasonable person would have found his behavior frightening, intimidating, or distressing is beyond the scope of this post, since the document under review here—Rowles' motion—presents the facts in the light most favorable to Rowles.

Based on Rowles' own characterization of what happened, I do not blame Breaux for seeking help. But when the people with the authority to make life-altering judgments like banning a student from campus don't have clear and consistent definitions for terms like power imbalance, hostile environment, and stalking, we should be concerned that such decisions are being made fairly. That holds true even if the initial outrage-bait headline was wrong.

Photo Credit: stannate / Wikimedia Commons

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  • colorblindkid||

    It's astonishing how, when it comes to these kinds of things on college campuses, all the people who would scream about racism and how this white girl only thought this was stalking because the guy was black take the opposite view.

    But only when it happens on college campuses. If this was just some white girl accusing a black guy of stalking her, it would be making the news, regardless of actual merit or facts, as an example of white racism.

  • colorblindkid||

    And if it did turn out that the white girl had good reason to fear him for reasons other than him being black, the rest of the media sure wouldn't retract the story like NR did.

  • SIV||

    As best I could tell, Kat Timpf sloppily wrote an article gleaned from KC Johnson's twitter posts and was too inept and/or lazy to properly clarify or defend it.

  • retiredfire||

    Timpf is a notorious air-head and is regarded as such by the intelligent readers of that site.
    No one takes her articles seriously.
    As a regular visitor there, I didn't even know what this article, on REASON, was referring to, since I give a pass on anything she writes.

  • Earth Skeptic||

    Is that like using the Willie Horton technique for liberal causes?

  • TuIpa||

    In this thread Fagammammon proves he doesn't understand the difference between the judgement of scoldong someone and a simple observation!

  • SIV||

    Your colleague went all Carolyn Bryant over this.

  • $park¥ The Misanthrope||

    And you went all Mr Poopypants over that.

  • TuIpa||

    And you are once again scolding someone.

  • Agammamon||

    And you are once again doing the very thing you're complaining about someone else doing.

  • TuIpa||

    Nope! I was simply observing that je does it.

    That isn't scolding Mr. too stupid to realize your gotcha wasn't one.

  • TuIpa||

    I was waiting for someone stupid to come along and mistake observing for scolding like you did!!

    Thanks for making it easy!!!

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    It's embarrassing.

  • Ken Shultz||

    The point that First Amendment protections for romantic speech don't disappear because the speech in question makes someone feel uncomfortable really shouldn't be lost here.

    "Congress shall make no law . . . "

    Does this implementation of Title IX fail the test of the First Amendment or doesn't it?

    If the University is punishing this guy because of his speech, then the only justification is that he violated someone's rights with his speech. That needs to be determined by a jury in criminal court. After all, the First Amendment doesn't protect violating other peple's rights with speech any more than the Second Amendment protects violating someone's rights with a gun. Juries are charged with making those determinations beyond a reasonable doubt.

    If no one's rights were violated, then the object of this guy's affection might seek a remedy in civil court, where she should be entitled to whatever relief the law allows so long as a majority of the jury finds it appropriate.

    Regardless, First Amendment protections aren't suspended because someone feels uncomfortable.

  • Earth Skeptic||

    You're so cute. Of course speech should be restricted if it makes somebody uncomfortable. And so should history. In fact the very existence of some people or ideas should be restricted.

  • mpercy||

    Your use of the phrase "You're so cute." made me uncomfortable.

  • newshutz||

    You're sounds too close to "Yewer" a derogatory name for the Yewish people. It is insensitive to use that contraction.

  • Wizard4169||

    When did "essentially started" become the new spambot catchphrase?

  • A Lady of Reason||

    The Left gets loonier by the minute! Watch out larger guys!

  • Rich||

    Scroggs: I think he was perceived as having power over her.

    Interviewer: And what was the nature of his power over her? Was it just his size?

    Scroggs: His physical size.

    S: I think she was perceived as having power over him.

    I: And what was the nature of her power over him? Was it just her "charms"?

    S: Her physical "charms".

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    I was imagining her with itty bitty titties. This changes everything.

  • Quo Usque Tandem||

    Ok; there's matters of sexual harassment, quid pro quo, and hostile environment that is well defined for a workplace.

    For college campuses, it's all about intersectionality.

    Normal, in the hierarchy of the oppressed, black trumps white, but female trumps male. Add to that a disparity of size and equate size with power and the ability to intimidate. then my pair of female and trumps your black.

    I'm thinking we could make a card game out of this?

  • Quo Usque Tandem||

    ...pair of female and little

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    I hope someone is working on some Sovietesque Oppression Calculator that can derive the relative standing of any two individuals so we can finally have fair comparisons of who is right and who is wrong.

  • Quo Usque Tandem||

    We can develop a board game; now what to name it?

    Let's call it OUTRAGE! The game that let's you settle your scores

  • $park¥ The Misanthrope||

    I would throw money at that in a second.

  • Quo Usque Tandem||

    There could be a "chance" deck [as in a guy was in your room last night and now you own him] and an "inter-sectionality deck that would allow you to trump one level of oppression toward getting your way

  • TuIpa||

    You'd have to have some first.

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    And how many sets of rules would you need for this game?

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    None. You make it up as you go along.

  • mpercy||

    And they don't have to be consistent or even make any sense!

  • Earth Skeptic||

    And it needs to be a phone app that can use a quick photo taken of the contestants.

  • Trainer||

    There were three classes in the Soviet Union- First was The State, then the people who use the state for power and finally the people the state uses. All this other crap is just a tool to confuse and divide everyone so we can get a Sovietesque Government. Then we go right back to the three classes and if won't be able to complain about it.

  • Tony||

    Male anglerfish are orders of magnitude smaller than female anglerfish, and they latch themselves to the female to fertilize eggs and then die so that she gets all the food. Now that is a power imbalance.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    The most upsetting thing is the weird anglerfish style vore fiction people write for that exact scenario.

  • gaoxiaen||

    The male anglerfish dies when the female dies.

  • Dadlobby||

    Femi-marxist SJW's have used the "intimidating size" argument to foster a view of males as the aggressor in all situations. It started in the DV response as often BOTH parties were subjected to mandatory arrest so the theory of "primary aggressor" was used to justify arresting only one party, and primary aggressor was defined in part as "the larger or taller person". In other words, big men scare little women except when little women choose the man, the preference being for taller men. Gynocentric men bad, women good. And the vague definitions are now working against justice both ways regardless of fact.

  • Jerryskids||

    Guess which formerly respected news and opinion websites are now running clickbait headlines! Number 3 will shock you!

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    SIV posted yesterday that Reason is 21 actually.

  • Crusty Juggler||

    Interviewer: And what was the nature of his power over her? Was it just his size?

    Scroggs: His physical size.


  • BestUsedCarSales||

    I'm happy you clearly have the day off as you bless us with your presence.

    If only X would return... then it would be a true Christmas miracle.

  • Earth Skeptic||

    Cue the porno music.

  • MaleMatters||

    This may explain why Rowles was so persistent:

    "How We Waded Into The Sexual Harassment Quagmire -- And How to Wade Out: One Man's View" http://malemattersusa.wordpres.....-quagmire/

  • Crusty Juggler||


  • Quo Usque Tandem||

    "Young attractive women may represent no more than 20 percent of the entire female workforce (my wild guess), or about 13.2 million. But they may account for 80 percent, or almost 2 million, of the 2.4 million harassed. "

    Classic Pareto Principle. The 80/20 rule works every time.

  • flyfishnevada||

    Damn sizeists, always looking down on small people...get it, see what I did there?

  • E Blackadder||

    This is another illustration of why we should not allow non-lawyers to apply legal terminology. The university policy misstates the legal standard for a "hostile environment." The conduct must be objectively severe or objectively pervasive. Being "objectively offensive" is not merely an alternative basis for finding a hostile environment to exist; it is a necessary requirement of a hostile environment. If the university punished a student because another student found his conduct to be subjectively "severe" or "pervasive," they misapplied the law.

    I strongly suspect that most of the absurd stories we read along these lines comes from non-lawyers trying to play lawyer and having no freaking idea what they are doing.

  • Dillinger||

    NR sucks. not surprised they've gone fake news.

    using TitleIX to curb speech is a 1A violation.

  • Wizard4169||

    NR pretty much went into the crapper after Bill died.

  • Dillinger||


  • n00bdragon||

    Step 1: Redefine the term "position of power" from its logical and well understood meaning so that it can be generally applied to everyone with a "privilege".
    Step 2: Redefine the term "harassment" to fit any singular instance of displeasure someone causes the Chosen People (all harassment by men against women is already automatically sexual).
    Now you can go full crazy town.

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    It seems to me that the core problem here is that the Campus authority, probably out of intellectual flabbiness, used the tired old buzzwords instead of a much clearer statement like "He has been expelled for repeatedly not listening to the word 'No'.

  • TuIpa||

    You're a fucking customer, start acting like one. Seek out an alternative education provider while suing for breach of contract.

    Stop pretending college matters this much.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    I liked this story better the first time I read it, when it was Of Mice and Men.

  • Larvell Blanks||

    "the document under review here—Rowles' motion—presents the facts in the light most favorable to Rowles"

    That's the opposite of how summary judgment works. If it's his motion for summary judgment, it presents the evidence in the light most favorable to the other party.

  • Marshal||

    What this story shows is that Title IX means whatever the Title IX department needs it to mean to justify the desired ruling. It's completely irrelevant that the guy did something more than what the standard requires. The standard is the issue.


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