Nutty professor finally loses ‘rape culture’ claim about vagina-shaped building satire

February 22, 2014

A professor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks has finally lost her nutty, anti-First Amendment sexual harassment complaints against the school’s student newspaper for running a satirical piece about a vagina-shaped building and a straight news article concerning a Facebook page.

It only took almost a year.

Sine Anahita, a sociology professor and the coordinator of the school’s women and gender studies program, initially filed a sexual harassment complaint against the student paper, The Sun Star, in April 2013, reports the Student Press Law Center (SPLC).

The complaint stemmed from an April 1, 2013 article in the student rag — that particular day called The Fun Star — heralding the construction of the “Kameel Toi Henderson Building,” “a new building in the shape of a vagina.” (RELATED: Professor demands ‘rape culture’ investigation over satirical article touting vagina-shaped building)

Anahita did not find the article funny.

“[S]exual jokes, graphic displays of women’s genitals, and use of sexual slang creates a hostile environment because it comprises sexual harassment,” she sternly chastised.

The angry professor also sharply criticized an accompanying graphic — apparently taken from a PG-13 movie — for simulating “rape culture.”

The Sun Star journalist who wrote the April Fool’s piece, Lakeidra Chavis, is a female. She is also now the paper’s editor-in-chief.

A few days after filing her complaint about the April Fool’s Day piece, Anahita filed a second complaint alleging “hate speech” in an article about the UAF Confessions Facebook page.

School officials responded by saying the articles in The Sun Star were protected under the First Amendment. However, the professor persisted, filing a bizarre Title IX complaint. (Title IX prohibits sex discrimination at federally funded schools.)

The Title IX complaint set an independent review in motion. That review is now complete.

The external reviewers have dismissed all of Anahita’s claims, noting that press freedom exists at America’s public universities. The review also noted that Title IX — even Title IX — “allows a range of expression and conduct that some people will find offensive.”

Peter Bonilla, director at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), noted that the review took entirely too long.

“It was our position that the speech was so clearly protected by the First Amendment that any investigation done should be able to be completed very quickly,” he told the SPLC.

University of Alaska Fairbanks spokeswoman Marmian Grimes said the investigation took so long because the school insists on an exhaustive review of sexual discrimination allegations. (It’s not clear how the school’s diligence could have affected an independent review.)

Anahita (and every other party to the complaint) had until Feb. 5 to appeal the independent review. That date passed with no filings, so the case was terminated.

Chavis expressed relief.

“I’m glad it’s over,” the editor told the SPLC. “But I wish it didn’t take as long.”

Chavis also noted that Anahita’s complaints concerning vagina-shaped building jokes and stories about Facebook page comments “trivialize” genuine cases of sexual discrimination.

Anahita has only commented publicly about her complete loss in a blog entry. She asserted that FIRE has declared victory “in the patriarchal war against women,” according to the SPLC.

Schools: University of Alaska Fairbanks Cases: University of Alaska Fairbanks: Complaint Over Student Newspaper’s Articles Results in Months-Long Harassment Investigation