Students at the University of New Orleans could violate their school’s”sexual harassment policy by sending “suggestive” notes or cards in celebration of Valentine’s Day, due to the university’s broad definition of sexual harassment.
Students at the University of New Orleans could inadvertently violate their school’s policy on sexual harassment, as the school’s definition of harassment is so broad, even Valentine’s Day cards could be deemed sexual harassment.
“Sending suggestive or obscene letters, notes or invitations” is considered sexual harassment, according to the school’s existing policy on “Prohibiting Discrimination, Harassment, and Retaliation.”
According to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), the policy’s examples of sexual harassment fails to mention that “individual examples are only punishable when they actually meet the legal standard [for harassment] — as set forth by the Supreme Court.”
“As a result, those examples look like they’re prohibited when standing alone, creating a chilling effect on protected expression,” said FIRE.
“As a public university, the University of New Orleans is legally obligated to protect its students’ free speech rights,” continued FIRE, “If its students are left wondering if sending a Valentine will land them in trouble, the university is not living up to that legal obligation.”
The organization added that the school must revise its policy to clarify that its current list of harassment examples are not punishable by law unless an example becomes “a part of conduct that meets the standard for harassment laid out by the Supreme Court.”
A student’s concern regarding this issue is valid in today’s academic setting, especially considering that students can easily find themselves under scrutiny or at the subject of accusations, as the definition of harassment is becoming increasingly ambiguous on college campuses.
Last year, for example, it was reported that a student at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College was stopped by school officials when she tried to hand out valentines cards on campus that read “Jesus Loves You.”
Additionally, an A capella group at Princeton University was compelled to remove the song “Little Mermaid” from its repertoire last November amid concerns that the group’s rendition of the song was actually promoting misogyny and “toxic masculinity.”
In today’s politically correct society where songs like “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” are banned for being “inappropriate” or where students can misuse a Title IX office over a political disagreement, concerns over a school’s reaction to Valentine’s Day cards are unfortunately justified.