I went into the Navy not too long after the notorious Tailhook scandal. As a result, I spent a lot of time learning about sexual harassment. In particular, what was and what wasn’t harassment. For example, we were told that complimenting a woman on her hairstyle might make her feel uncomfortable, but it isn’t necessarily harassment. Asking her for oral sex in exchange for getting her out of a duty assignment, however, is.
In this day and age, however, it appears that it takes far less to warrant an investigation for sexual harassment. From The College Fix:
A male professor who underwent a yearlong Title IX investigation claims that “professional disagreements” with female colleagues have been redefined as sexual harassment.
But J. Martin Rochester doesn’t blame the University of Missouri-St. Louis’s Title IX staffers. In a post for the Martin Center for Academic Renewal, the international relations professor said they were “merely creatures of the system that the Obama Administration created.”
Rochester told The College Fix he’s still teaching at UMSL and “publishing scholarship,” though he never did learn the exact allegations against him or receive a final report that formally cleared his name.
Laura Kipnis, a film studies professor at Northwestern University, has faced multiple inquiries over the past two years in response to her writing on “sexual paranoia” on campus, most recently this summer.
Rochester’s situation “seems similar” to hers, Kipnis told The Fix in an email, in that “people [are] employing the Title IX process to punish other people for expressing views they don’t like.”
Title IX has been used as a bludgeon to silence opponents whenever possible, and that’s why the Friday announcement by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is so welcome to those of us who closely follow such things.
While much of the focus on Title IX has been on rape allegations, the same “Dear Colleague” letter also defined sexual harassment as any comment that is “unwelcome.” Well, I think we can all see how disagreeing with someone would be unwelcome.
Rochester should never have had to deal with an investigation over something as ridiculous as a disagreement, regardless of what the disagreement was over. That is not and never has been sexual harassment and the fact that someone wanted to claim it was is a sad commentary on discourse in the 21st century.
Ordinarily, I’d ask, “What’s next?” Then I’d provide some semi-snarky examples that probably already happened to some poor bastard we just haven’t heard about yet.
Today, I don’t really have to. Not if colleges do as they’re supposed to, at least.
It’s kind of a good feeling.