In a new piece at Minding The Campus, writer Peter Wood takes issue with the new campus guidelines on sexual harassment.

Sexual Harassment — The Feds Go Way Too Far

In a letter dated May 9, the federal government dramatically expanded the definition of sexual harassment on campus. In the 31-page letter,  the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) in the U.S. Department of Education, informed the president of the University of Montana, Royce Engstrom, that they were “pleased to confirm the resolution” of an investigation into how the University had handled allegations of sexual misconduct.

The stately bureaucratic prose did not distract much from the main point: via this letter, the Executive Branch of the Federal Government was imposing a startling change.  Essentially it said that from now on the Feds would treat as “sexual harassment” any “unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature.” And it eliminated the requirement that actions or speech had to be “offensive” according to reasonable standards and objective evidence to be deemed actual “harassment.”


That’s a breathtakingly broad definition, and it didn’t take long for observers to draw out some of the implications. Greg Lukianoff, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education [FIRE], wrote in The Wall Street Journal that “an unsuccessful request for a date, or even assigning a potentially offensive book like Lolita would now be construed as harassment.”  Cathy Young, writing for Newsday, observed that the “federal civil rights officials seem concerned exclusively with the accuser’s rights.” Hans Bader, a lawyer for the Competitive Enterprise Institute, writing in The Chronicle of Higher Education, says the Department of Education’s “radical new position” could “redefine every flirtation and request to go out on a date as potential sexual harassment.”