FIRE Sends Open Letter to OCR on Sexual Harassment, NAS Co-Signs

Glenn Ricketts

As if on cue from my post yesterday, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has sent an open letter on sexual harassment to Russlyn Ali, Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights in the US Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights. OCR is charged with enforcing federal civil rights laws as they apply to colleges and universities receiving federal funds, and that includes just about all of them. We’re happy to be one of FIRE’s cosigners.

The letter requests that Ali resolve the bewildering confusion with respect to what constitutes “sexual harassment” among students (not between students and teachers or professors) at educational institutions. That’s been a problem for quite some time, as our 1993 statement on the subject confirms. As we saw yesterday, the folks at UC/Chico seriously believed that the idea extended to professors who make use of the generic “he” or “his” in their classrooms. I still can’t quite believe that this really happened.

Anyway, as the best solution, FIRE urges the assistant secretary to adhere to the clear standard enunciated in the US Supreme Court’s ruling in Davis v. Monroe County Board of Education, (1999). Under the Davis test, “harassment” consists of behavior that is so “severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive” that it interferes with a victim’s “educational experience.”

No definition can ever be perfect in this area, but you’d have to agree that it’s a vast improvement over the one at Chico State and hundreds of other campuses. I hope that Assistant Secretary Ali is persuaded as well.

  • Share

Most Commented

May 7, 2024


Creating Students, Not Activists

The mobs desecrating the American flag, smashing windows, chanting genocidal slogans—this always was the end game of the advocates of the right to protest, action civics, student activ......

March 9, 2024


A Portrait of Claireve Grandjouan

Claireve Grandjouan, when I knew her, was Head of the Classics Department at Hunter College, and that year gave a three-hour Friday evening class in Egyptian archaeology....

April 20, 2024


The Academic's Roadmap

By all means, pursue your noble dream of improving the condition of humanity through your research and teaching. Could I do it all again, I would, but I would do things very differently....

Most Read

May 15, 2015


Where Did We Get the Idea That Only White People Can Be Racist?

A look at the double standard that has arisen regarding racism, illustrated recently by the reaction to a black professor's biased comments on Twitter....

October 12, 2010


Ask a Scholar: What is the True Definition of Latino?

What does it mean to be Latino? Are only Latin American people Latino, or does the term apply to anyone whose language derived from Latin?...

September 21, 2010


Ask a Scholar: What Does YHWH Elohim Mean?

A reader asks, "If Elohim refers to multiple 'gods,' then Yhwh Elohim really means Lord of Gods...the one of many, right?" A Hebrew expert answers....