No Sex Talk, Please, We're the University of Iowa:

From Iowa's sexual harassment policy, which covers student-student interactions and not just employment:

Sexual harassment occurs when somebody says or does something sexually related that you don't want them to say or do, regardless of who it is. For example:

* Talking about their sexual experiences.
* Asking you to talk about yours.
* Telling sexual jokes, innuendoes, and stories, or comments (about your clothes or body, or someone else's)....

Sexual Harassers

Sexual harassers can include (but aren't limited to) professors, teaching assistants, research assistants, supervisors, co-workers, classmates, other students, acquaintances, friends, partners, dates, and strangers....

What makes someone a sexual harasser isn't based on what they do for a living, their status as a high profile person, or where they hang out. What makes someone a sexual harasser is behavior, (including words and actions) that uses sex to be disrespectful, hurtful, embarrassing, humiliating, intimidating or frightening to you or another person....

It's not clear whether the last quoted sentence modifies the definition that I quote at the outset, but even if it does, consider how strikingly broad this rule is, both from its text and from the examples given:
Examples Red Flags / Harassing Behavior ...

* Somebody puts up sexually graphic posters, magazines, screensavers, web pages, and/or emails where you can see them....

So (as is usual) 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.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (which passed along the pointer to the page) points out that there's also another, much narrower, definition elsewhere in Iowa's materials. But, as FIRE points out, "students at the University of Iowa are now forced to guess -- under threat of punishment -- which definition the university will choose to enforce." That's hardly proper in any circumstances, but especially when one of the definitions is so laughably broad.

I can't imagine classroom hypotheticals not falling within that broad definition.
8.10.2007 1:44pm
Houston Lawyer:
One man's free speech is another's sexual harrassment. A gay pride parade in and of itself would constitute sexual harrassment under this definition to anyone who was offended by it. So would ads for the Vagina Monologues. Yet, somehow I don't believe that the University will be enforcing the code against these groups.
8.10.2007 1:44pm
Is this the same University of Iowa that decided students had no right to complain about being forced to watch foreign-language kiddie porn in the classroom? (I can't remember what year that was, but there's no way I'm Googling that at work)

I used to spend a lot of time there, using the library. You can't park in a visitor lot and walk into a building without seeing a flyer or a T-shirt that includes "sexual jokes, innuendoes and stories, or comments" or talk about sexual experiences, and a lot of those flyers were for activities sponsored by university-approved groups.
8.10.2007 2:03pm
go vols (mail):
The plan probably goes something along these lines: The narrow policy is, in fact, the official University position when pressed. If the broader policy is actually applied against a student, and that student objects or threatens legal action, the university will back down to the narrower stance. In the meantime, they can use the broader definition in an attempt to influence incoming freshman during orientation, etc. Basically, by avoiding the creation of any actual cases and controversies, Iowa escapes court scrutiny.

Or am I wrong? Could one make a facial challenge to this sort of policy?
8.10.2007 2:06pm
So, touching a woman's breast, as discussed in the sexual assault thread below, could be a crime if it is unwanted. If you ask permission to touch a woman's breast it could be considered sexual harassment. Hmm, I don't see a winning scenario anymore.
8.10.2007 2:12pm
Tinhorn (mail):

Sexual harassers can include (but aren’t limited to) ... acquaintances, friends, ... and strangers....

Well, I suspect they *are* limited to those.

Sexual harassment occurs when somebody says or does something sexually related that you don’t want them to say or do, regardless of who it is.

So if I don't want this girl I have a crush on to sleep with the Quarterback, and she does, then she's sexually harassed me?
8.10.2007 2:19pm
I didn't see a definition of 'sexually graphic' as to the posters, magazines, etc. that could constitute harassing behavior. Does it mean a depiction of any sex act? Or would putting up a poster of a nude male or female be considered harassing behavior? That poster of the "David" for example.
8.10.2007 2:25pm
The Emperor (www):
Aren't they thinking too small? Why not just prohibit "being mean and hurtful" in general? Then set up cameras around campus and look for instances of people "being mean and hurtful" and expel those students.
8.10.2007 2:27pm
The policy is definitely broad, but appears to be for guidance purposes. I couldn't find any sanction attached to this policy. Following the link, if you think you've been harassed, you can call a variety of counselors or file an EEOD complaint.

Without a sanction, this is basically a long-winded plea for people not to tell dirty stories to people who may not want to hear them.
8.10.2007 2:39pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

Without a sanction, this is basically a long-winded plea for people not to tell dirty stories to people who may not want to hear them.
Isn't it wonderful how much more civilized of a society we have become? I can remember being a 17 year old college student, and the concept of telling someone about sexual experiences who wasn't at least emotionally intimate would have been incomprehensible.
8.10.2007 2:46pm
Hans Bader (mail):
This policy, taken literally, bans sex education classes (which necessarily contain sex-related discussions that will inevitably offend some listeners), as well as discussions of sex crimes laws.

SSD is right. This policy actually promotes date-rape by making it risky to engage in discussions about sexual boundaries that might avert unwanted touching and penetration -- because it treats even necessary discussions are "unwelcome" verbal "conduct" of a sexual nature.

It may also violate freedom of intimate association by interfering in dating relationships to an unjustifiable extent. See Wilson v. Taylor (11th Cir. 1984) (freedom of intimate association covers dating); Louisiana Debating &Literary Ass'n v. New Orleans (5th Cir. 1994) (freedom of intimate association trumped antidiscrimination ordinance).
8.10.2007 2:50pm
I went to college in the era of streaking. I think some bodies I saw could have been characterized as 'frightening'.
8.10.2007 2:51pm
James Eaves-Johnson (mail) (www):
Several years ago, I taught Introduction to Law in the Business School at the University of Iowa. In one of my classes, we watched the John Stossel report, "You can't say that!" and followed it up with an examination of Iowa's policy and a discussion of the First Amendment's implications for the policy (particularly contrasting facial and as applied challenges to such a policy).

I mentioned the exercise to the professor I worked under (I was a JD/MBA student). I quickly learned that she had written the policy. I received a stern lecture on the subject. I was sure I would be fired. After I assured her that I also stressed the damage sexual harassment can do and pointed out to the students that the policy would be enforced without regard to the issues we were discussing, her tone and redness shifted down a little. Of course, I never mentioned it to her again. I continued to teach as I always had, and thankfully, no one ever complained.

On a point mentioned above, the second link, which is the detail of the policy, includes penalties, up to, and including expulsion. The policy has teeth, long and sharp ones.
8.10.2007 3:14pm
George Weiss (mail):
university liberals to government: stop conducting warrantless searches..whereas the due process

university to their own students: you have no right to go to school here despite paying absorbent whatever we say and accept whatever decision we make.

in my undergrad school (U of MD College Park) there was a guy who was 'prosecuted' for harassment of such a kind. the girl herself did not even complain (nor did she say anything accusatory at the "hearing". all the evidence was hearsay from third parities (of course allowed).

they called the police..which tore him out of his bed at night and yelled at him. the prosecutor put it on a stet docket (he was charged with MD crim CODE § 3-803. dismissed) and got a restraining order.

before the 'hearing' (read: tribunal with no rules of evidence and no exclusionary rule)...the school put him on 'interim suspension'. (kinda like a pretrial disposition)
According to the school's own rules..he was supposed to get the interim suspention reviewed within 5 days. (part 18 of the code..see below) took him 2 months...he got mandatory W's on his transcript.

after the 2 months..the univ VP of student affairs relaized it had no case for interim suspension and put him back on campus. He still had to go through the formal hearing however (the actual trial like)

at the trial the self righteous "hearing board" re suspended him (unanimously of course). The charges and evidence they decided to bring him changed 2 days prior to trial.

The SAME VP then overruled that decision on the merits..and reinstated him.

he still has
1. permanant W's
2. a restrinag order
3. no tution remission for the 'interim suspension' period
4. his education and earning power delayed by 6 months.

hes being represented by a dc firm. (after lots of prodding from me)

during this whole thing i read through the Univ's Code Of student conduct's most ridiculous provisions: (the code is found at

2. we don't need to follow our own procedure-if we don' can complain...but there is no penalty for us wither way. (part 8 ANNOTATION 9

yep this is all ok for them-at least form a legal standpoint. (the U of MD is exempted from the administrative procedure act in our state)

also as it says in annotation 9:
9. The Supreme Court has recently rejected the theory that state schools are bound
by principles of federal administrative law requiring agencies to follow their own
regulations. Board of Curators, University of Missouri v. Horowitz 55 L.Ed 2d
124, 136. See, generally, “Violation by Agencies of Their Own Regulations” 87
Harvard Law Review 629 (1974).

but from a policy standpoint? how much money do we spend a year deciding who to admit our universties? how much has been written on the fairness and possible corruption of the process.

what about who we throw out of our universities?
8.10.2007 3:18pm
George Weiss (mail):
i should add though that is a completely perverted reading of board of curators v Horowitz's- all that ruling says is that the due process clause of the 5th amendment through the 14th doesn't require states to comply with their own regs....

not that they don't have to for other reasons
8.10.2007 3:24pm
James Eaves-Johnson (mail) (www):
Here's the hypothetical that got my students going. The University dominates Iowa City, so almost everyone here between 18 and 24 is a student. You (student) go to a bar on Thursday night. Everyone (surprise!) is drinking and probably a little intoxicated. You get into a fairly sexual conversation with a few people (who you do not know from school, even though they may go to Iowa). Later you hit on one in the group of the opposite sex who politely rebuffs you. In your state of mild intoxication, you make a few more attempts at pursuing this person (you never touch them), but go home alone having failed in your pursuit. A couple days later, the Associate Dean of Students calls you into her office about a complaint of sexual harassment. Have you violated the policy? Are there First Amendment implications?
8.10.2007 3:56pm
DiverDan (mail):

Sexual harassment occurs when somebody says or does something sexually related that you don’t want them to say or do

So, in order to fully comply with this policy, a student must either: (a) completely refrain from any sexual thought, conduct (such as ogling a callipygian coed), or speech, except in complete privacy; or (b) be endowed with the power to read the minds of everyone in sight or earshot, in order to determine whether or not anyone might not like what they are about to say or do. Sounds like the recipe for a rather barren college existence. I think life at a monastery would be more arousing. If Iowa has a policy of encouraging diversity, apparently human beings (or at least those who have not been neutered) are not included in that policy.

I think the best way to kill this insane PC-gone mad is to insist upon strict enforcement. Islam students should insist that every female student, faculty member, or staff member be required to wear a Burkha. Insist that all female athletes wear baggy clothes that completely cover all bare skin below the neck. Male Students and faculty must button all shirts to the adam's apple to prevent any display of chest hair. Cheerleaders must be prohibited at all athletic contests. No films above a P rating can be shown anywhere on campus (even PG films can include racy language and innuendo) [sorry, forgot that we can't use the term "innuendo", as it might be construed by someone as a sexual double entendre], and even consensual displays of affection or sexual attraction must be prohibited in any public location on campus. If the Dean is seen on campus kissing his own wife, file a complaint and insist that he be fired.
8.10.2007 3:56pm
U of I needs to be sued on 1st Amendment grounds. Expect much more of this creeping PC fascism if the Democrats take power. Vote Republican if you value your freedom. Hillary does not tolerate dissent or freedom of thought.
8.10.2007 4:21pm
Archon (mail):
As a matter of contract law, a university must substantially follow its own procedures as outlined in their student handbook or other policies. I know there are a score of cases on the state and federal level with this holding.

Also, a state university may be bound by state administrative law. Some know this fact, but blatantly ignore it.
8.10.2007 4:33pm
George Weiss (mail):
what about u of md- i think they do have some exemptions-good point about the contract reason to follow their own regs (i knew there was another reason why they had to)

-i think the first amendment talk is a little premature-after all-even state schools arnt establishing 'law' prohibiting certian sppeech...they are really just doing it as a contractual agreement thats part of going to school there-you dont have to go to school there-and if you dont-you dont have to agree to the terms

its like-you dont have to go into the bar-but if you do there is a contractual agreeemnt for you to consent to be searched.

its also like-you dont have to settle a case-but if you provision of the settlement may be that you dont talk to people aboutthe amount settled for

plus-private schools need not worry about this at all..and some private schools (like duke) are the main villians
8.10.2007 4:47pm
Sherman Dorn (mail) (www):
Without a sanction, this is basically a long-winded plea for people not to tell dirty stories to people who may not want to hear them.

Heck, if you took this seriously, it prevents you from watching late-night television, because the monologue might include a Bill Clinton or Lindsay Lohan joke.

George Weiss, what makes you think a university liberal like me thinks this is anything but nutty?
8.10.2007 5:55pm
George Weiss (mail):

that is tired typical and stupid straw man arugment:

ok-your a libreal who think this is nutty

you want a medal?

i never said that ALL liberals did anyone also anything at all

it was obviously ageneralization about the liberal dominated univ rhetoric toward their gov and the liberal dominated anti due process stuff

im sure youve also made politacal generalization about 'librals' or conserrvatives in your life

get over it
8.10.2007 6:16pm
U of I Alum:
Question for the posters.

As a UI alum, check writing parent and resident of the state of Iowa, what should I do about this? (1) Write a letter to the Dean inquiring about it. (2) Write a letter to the Attorney General inquiring about his evaluation of its legality and constitutionality. (3) Other. Your thoughts would be appreciated.
8.10.2007 6:55pm
theobromophile (www):
I take it that young women at the University of Iowa can no longer read Cosmo on campus.

What makes someone a sexual harasser is behavior, (including words and actions) that uses sex to be disrespectful, hurtful, embarrassing, humiliating, intimidating or frightening to you or another person....

Silly question: Does "another person" exclude the speaker, or can the speaker be charged with sexual harassment for recounting the previous evening in a self-deprecating manner?
8.10.2007 7:00pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
What makes someone a sexual harasser is behavior, (including words and actions) that uses sex to be disrespectful, hurtful, embarrassing, humiliating, intimidating or frightening to you or another person....
The thing is, this is completely, utterly, 100% wrong. "Uses sex" has nothing to do with sexual harassment. The "sexual" in "sexual harasser" refers to the motive for selecting the target, not the content of the behavior.

In other words, it refers to sex in the sense of what some people call "gender," not in the sense of sexual activity.

If you throw rocks through the windows of women's dorm rooms because they're women's dorm rooms, there's no sex involved, but it's sexual harassment. (Also a crime, but that's another story.)
8.10.2007 7:19pm
George Weiss (mail):
U of I Alum:

i dont know much about iowa or u of iowa

i would suggest contacting the university policy making body that made that policy (which is probly a mix of students and facualty) at u of md it was called the university senate (which is put in place by our university board of regents..which gives the u senate its authority)

thats probably your best bet..youll probably have to find the right committee in the policy making body....try to talk to the chair of the committee

i also like your idea of talking to the state attorney general. check the opinions of your state attorney general online before you do though.

i wouldnt bother with a letter to the dean..unless you have all the time in the world..he/she probly wont care
8.10.2007 8:04pm
Gaius Marius:
Katherine McKinnon must be doing cartwheels.
8.10.2007 8:30pm
Like most people, I will accept that the liberal establishment is fighting sexual harassment with pure motives, when they put the same energy into excluding female sports reporters from male locker rooms with the same gusto that they keep male reporters out of female locker rooms.

In the mean time, they are true hypocrites. No two ways about it.

Want to prove me wrong? Let's see a university president call for true locker room equality. And keep ol' Larry Summers in mind.
8.10.2007 8:33pm
NickM (mail) (www):
Hmmm. So if a female student accuses a male student of date rape, and university police ask him to tell his side of the story, can he say "I don't want to talk about my sexual experiences. You're sexually harassing me." and get away with it?
8.10.2007 10:06pm
Consider the real world implications (for especially sexually vile speech), even when addressing your own audience, e.g., for what happened to Don Imus and Michael Savage.
8.10.2007 10:14pm
Oops - buzzkill
8.10.2007 11:25pm
John Neff (mail):
Some of the same folks who probably had a hand in writing that policy were members of the Johnson County Democratic platform committee. They wanted plank that would make it illegal for an employer to ask an employee any questions. It did not pass the laugh test.
8.11.2007 12:26am
Can I complain about all songs on the UI radio station, elimnating DJs who play rap, and then rock, until only Perry Como is left?
8.12.2007 3:14pm