Edinboro University of Pennsylvania Hides its Sexual Harassment Policy
December 1, 2008
Last December, Edinboro University of Pennsylvania earned a red-light rating from FIRE for its sexual harassment policy, which unconstitutionally prohibits any "comments about an individual's body, sexually degrading words to describe an individual, offensive comments, off-color language or jokes, innuendos and sexually suggestive objects, books, magazines, photographs, cartoons or pictures."
Since that time, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit—which includes all of Pennsylvania—ruled that Temple University's former sexual harassment policy was unconstitutional. That ruling called into question the constitutionality of speech codes at universities across Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware—including at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania. In fact, Edinboro was one of twenty public universities in the Third Circuit that received a warning letter from FIRE in September 2008, advising it to abandon its unconstitutional speech codes in the wake of the Third Circuit's decision in DeJohn v. Temple University.
Last week, when FIRE conducted its annual review of Edinboro's policies for Spotlight, our speech codes database, we found that Edinboro has password-protected its sexual harassment policy, making it almost impossible to find by prospective students, their parents, and the general public. Try to get the policy from the page named "Sexual Harassment and Related Unprofessional Conduct" and you'll be asked for a password, too. Try to get the policy from The Office of Social Equity and you'll get an error message. Fortunately, you can still find it on the old website of the President's Commission on the Status of Women, but you have to know where to look ahead of time, because the current version of the website shows that the policy is "restricted" and, again, you need a password to get to it.
Now, we cannot be certain of the precise catalyst for the sudden veil of secrecy at Edinboro—all we know for sure is that Edinboro took this action sometime between December 10, 2007 (when FIRE last updated Edinboro's Spotlight entry) and today. But whatever the reason, it does not look good for the university. Edinboro cannot skirt its obligations under DeJohn by simply hiding its policy from the public; the truth will come out, and if Edinboro is still violating its students' constitutional rights in direct violation of a federal court decision, there will be consequences.