THE BLOG
11/16/2009 06:40 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Publishing a Misogynistic Student Newspaper Column = Sexual Harassment?

From the Connecticut Post, apparently discussing this column (my backup version is here):

... The Fairfield Mirror ...[, an] independent student publication[,] faces harassment charges before the school's Student Conduct Board....

The controversy erupted over a satirical column in the Sept. 30 edition of The Mirror that poked fun at female students who agree to one-night stands. The "He Said" column described a female's "walk of shame" leaving a male's dorm, and used words like "pounding" and "hood rat" to talk guys through the morning after consensual sex....

The student editors [of the newspaper agreed, in response to complaints and a threat of being deprived of school funding,] to make changes to ensure editorial content in the paper has no divisive, offensive language that could result in emotional or physical harm to anyone....

If anyone can point me to a copy of the new Fairfield newspaper policy, I'd love to see it; if it is as quoted, this sounds like an appallingly broad policy for a newspaper to agree to, or for any university to demand. The one reference I could see to "divisive, offensive" in the Mirror archives, here, is an assurance only as to the "Coffee Break" section -- still troubling, but more limited in scope. On the other hand, it said nothing about "emotional or physical harm," so perhaps some other policy is out there.

Note that Fairfield University is a private Jesuit university, and therefore not bound by the First Amendment. Nonetheless, it is apparently trying to apply general "sexual harassment" principles, presumably on the theory that the newspaper column created a "hostile, abusive, or offensive educational environment" for the complainants and for reasonable readers based on the readers' sex. And this could equally be applied under many university speech codes, including public university speech codes. What's happening to the Fairfield newspaper is an indicator of what might equally happen at public universities as well, so long as those universities believe (as I've heard many people argue) that "sexual harassment"-based speech codes are constitutional.