Literature Professor Unveils Brand New ‘Blueprint’-Compliant Syllabus

June 5, 2013

As Torch readers know, the Departments of Education and Justice have established a new "blueprint" for sexual harassment policies on college campuses nationwide, eliminating the requirement that sexual harassment be objectively offensive and instead defining it as simply "any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature," including speech.  Not wanting to be "labeled a sexual harasser by the Department of Education," Georgia Perimeter College professor Rob Jenkins shared with The Chronicle of Higher Education his plans to revise his Intro to Lit syllabus in order to comply with the mandate. Now that "the DOE has apparently decided that the ‘reasonable person’ test no longer applies," Jenkins notes that quite a few classic works of literature will have to be cut from the line-up, including: Hamlet, by William Shakespeare. As everyone knows, Shakespeare was a dirty old man, unless of course he was actually a woman. In Hamlet, the prince suspects that his mother and his uncle had an affair before conspiring to murder his father. That’s not just adultery; it smacks of incest, for gosh sakes. "Wild Nights, Wild Nights!," by Emily Dickinson. Speaking of female sexuality, do we really want young people contemplating some 19th-century poet’s love life, whether real or imaginary? Do we want them grappling with the imagery inherent in a line like "might I but moor tonight in thee"? The DOE apparently doesn’t, and that’s enough for me. "Hills Like White Elephants," by Ernest Hemingway. I almost left this story in, because it’s a little hard to figure out at first what the two main characters are talking about. But once students understand that the young woman in the story is probably pregnant-out of wedlock, no less-and that the man is trying to persuade her to get an abortion, you can be sure that at least one person in the class will be offended. On second thought, Jenkins writes, maybe he shouldn’t get into the risky medium of literature at all. Reruns of The Andy Griffith Show seem safer.   One might say that Jenkins’ new course outline should serve as a "blueprint" for professors throughout the country to protect students from being offended by hearing or thinking about sex, ever—and to protect Jenkins’ fellow faculty members from facing sexual harassment charges for teaching with questionable materials like those listed above. With these simple changes to the syllabus, Jenkins and other professors following his handy blueprint just might be able to achieve the Department of Education’s vision of an offense-free environment for students who just don’t feel comfortable with "unwelcome" things like the First Amendment on campus. Read the rest of Jenkins’ insightful plans at The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Cases:  Departments of Education and Justice: National “Blueprint” for Unconstitutional Speech Codes