"It is so broad that it turns every single student and every single faculty member on campus, at least arguably, into harassers," warns Greg Lukianoff, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE).
He’s talking about sweeping speech codes just imposed by the Departments of Justice and Education on virtually every college campus in the United States.
The new mandate was revealed in a letter from the DOJ and DOE to the University of Montana that states "sexual harassment should be more broadly defined as ‘any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature," including "verbal conduct." The new rules apply to all colleges and universities receiving any sort of federal money, including Pell grants, federally backed student loans, and more. The letter contends the conduct in question need not be offensive to an "objectively reasonable person of the same gender in the same situation." That means that there is effectively no check on what might count as harassment. Course materials, overheard comments, stupid jokes – it’s all potentially actionable.
Lukianoff, the author of Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate, hopes that "this is the last straw that causes the universities themselves to start pushing back against this ridiculous overregulation."
About 3 minutes.
Produced by Anthony L. Fisher. Interview by Matt Welch. Camera by Jim Epstein and Fisher.
Special thanks to the Museum of Sex, New York City.