Volokh on FIRE’s Speech Code of the Month: University of Iowa
August 10, 2007
by Tara Sweeney
sexual harassment is not defined to include solely behavior targeted at the complainant. Nor is it limited to behavior in class or in university workplaces (where of course the professor and the supervisors may rightly constrain speech).Rather, it deliberately covers any place and context in the university. If someone puts up a sexually themed cartoon on his dorm room door (either “sexually graphic” or presumably including “sexual joke[s],” from the first quote), that’s a “red flag / harassing behavior.” Likewise, when someone tells a sexual joke in a cafeteria to his friends at your table (even if the last sentence of the first quote is part of the definition, assume the sexual joke is disrespectful to its subject, say Britney Spears), and you hear it but you don’t want to hear it, that’s sexual harassment, and apparently a university disciplinary matter. Likewise if he talks about his sexual experiences in a way that’s embarrassing to some other person, and you overhear (again, assume you’re sitting at the table with the people he’s talking to). And this at a university, where 18-to-21-year-olds live, socialize, and have sex with each other. Oy.