‘Kissing Sounds’ and ‘Leering’ Considered Sexual Harassment at UWM

October 28, 2015

By Peter Hasson at Campus Reform

“Kissing sounds,” “leering,” and “invading someone’s personal space” all constitute as sexual harassment at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

According to the university website, “repeated ‘love’ letters,” “sexual comments about clothing or body parts,” “sexually oriented humor or language,” “leering or ogling,” “kissing sounds, whistling, [and] cat calls” are all examples of sexual harassment at the university.

“Providing lists of examples of harassment like this can serve to chill speech on campus, as many will look at the examples and either deduce that those things listed are simply forbidden, or that it is not worth the risk of having a complaint filed against them if someone is offended by their speech,” Ari Cohn, a lawyer with the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education told Campus Reform.

Cohn said that the guide “is potentially problematic” in its definition of sexual harassment. “Much speech that is constitutionally protected could be said to create an ‘offensive’ environment for someone who disagrees with the views being expressed,” he said. “The recent trend of claiming that words and ideas can make students ‘unsafe’ illustrates the likelihood that provisions such as these will be abused to shut down speech that some students merely find offensive.”

What’s more, UWM students are also prohibited from contacting anyone they do not know while using the internet. The university network use agreement warns students that they “may not write, talk or send mail to anyone [they] do not know or have a legitimate reason to contact.” The university also claims that “asking someone if they want to chat is not a legitimate reason to contact someone [students] don’t already know.”

“The prohibition against communicating with individuals you do not already know is a baffling prior restraint, and raises a question as to whether whoever wrote this policy is aware of how the Internet is most commonly used,” Cohn told Campus Reform. “Beyond its manifest absurdity, the policy is deeply problematic in that it grants university administrators the power to determine whether a reason to be contacting another person is ‘legitimate.’”

“That power is an invitation for viewpoint-based abuse, and is simply not within the university’s authority to decide on behalf of students,” Cohn continued. “Simply, UW-Milwaukee has no business policing who its students correspond with, and for what reasons.”

The university previously was the subject of controversy after Campus Reform broke the news that the phrase “politically correct” has been labeled as a “microaggression” as part of the school’s “Just Words?” campaign. The university also claimed that “third world,” “crazy,” “lame,” and “trash” were all “microaggressions.”

The policies were first noted on Twitter by user Adam Kissel, a senior program officer at the Charles Koch Foundation.

The university did not respond to Campus Reform’s request for comment.

Schools: University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee