spirit, a new study by the American Association of University
Women found that "nearly two-thirds of college students experience
sexual harassment at some point during college." When you
consider what the AAUW's definition of sexual harassment is --
"unwanted or unwelcome sexual behavior that interferes with
your life'' -- it is surprising that the percentage is so low.
The study even lists "sexual comments, jokes, gestures or
looks" as "examples of different types of sexual harassment."
As the Philadelphia-based
group FIRE -- Foundation for Individual Rights in Education --
noted in a press release, the AAUW's definition risks "trivializing
actual harassment." Samantha Harris of FIRE noted, "If
I were someone who experienced real harassment, I wouldn't want
to be lumped in with people who heard a bad joke."
the federal government's definition: conduct "so severe,
persistent, or pervasive that it affects a student's ability to
participate in or benefit from an education program or activity,
or creates an intimidating, threatening or abusive education environment."
That definition puts the burden of proof on the accuser, where
alas, wasn't looking for severe or persistent. The study also
did not bother to distinguish between students and teachers. This
means that if a date became too aggressive -- that is, "touched,
grabbed or pinched in a sexual way" that was unwanted --
that could qualify as sexual harassment on campus, for the study's
he backed off. Barbara O'Connor, a professor of political communication
at California State University Sacramento, noted that she has
seen "enough serious cases to know (sexual harassment) exists.
You don't want to make it so silly that the serious ones don't
afraid that universities will use ratcheted-up sexual harassment
rules to stifle free speech. Ditto O'Connor, who noted, "It
would take all the fun out of life, if you couldn't have conversations."
"Harassment policies are frequently used to suppress any
speech that someone might find offensive." William Paterson
University of New Jersey reprimanded a graduate student and employee
who sent an e-mail to a professor in which he objected to a movie
about two aging lesbians -- he called them "perversions"
-- after the professor complained that she felt threatened by
the e-mail. In December, after FIRE got involved, the school revoked
the reprimand -- but the reprimand never should have happened.
study even listed someone calling you "gay or lesbian"
to be sexual harassment, if the words are unwanted. This should
scare you: 57 percent of students polled want their college to
set up an Internet site where they can make anonymous accusations
of sexual harassment. This reinforces the strong sense I get that
the AAUW doesn't think students have an obligation to fend for
are instilling students with the belief that they have an "absolute
right not to be offended," Harris noted -- which means that
when they graduate, "they're in for a rude awakening in the
also trivializes criminal behavior by lumping it into the sexual
harassment category. The study didn't refer to rape as sexual
harassment, but the AAUW released the study with a statement by
a student who said she had been raped. Rape -- that's a felony.
But she talked about it as if it were not a matter for the authorities,
but for her school's women's resource center, 24-hour-hotline
and free counseling.
noted, "There's a guy in all my classes who consistently
touches me in a sexual way that I really don't appreciate."
What is her major? Victimhood.