In response rape cover-ups at the University of Montana, the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice have introduced some troubling new ideas re: defining and dealing with sexual harassment on college campuses.
In a letter to the University, the agency proposed new student speech codes, intended to be ”a blueprint for colleges and universities throughout the country.” They include a bafflingly broad definition of sexual harassment that includes “any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature,” including speech (jokes, rumors, flirting, date requests)—regardless of whether an “objectively reasonable person” would judge that conduct offensive.
What’s worse, adopting this entirely subjective standard for defining sexual harassment will be required for all private and public universities that receive federal funding (nearly all of them).
I went on HuffPost Live yesterday evening—along with Greg Lukianoff, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, and The College Fix’s Nathan Hardan—to talk about the proposed blueprint. We all more or less agreed it’s absurd; an impediment to free inquiry on college campuses if not a downright violation of free speech rights; and a distraction from real and serious public safety issues (like high rates of rape and sexual assault) on campus that also seriously confounds and trivializes the issue of consent.