The firing of an LSU professor for using profanity and vulgar language in class has prompted a national discussion on sexual harassment and free speech at colleges and universities, an advocate opined in the Wall Street Journal.
Will Creeley, the vice president of legal and public advocacy for the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, wrote an editorial for the Wall Street Journal questioning what he calls the overreach of the federal government’s definition of “sexual harassment,” released in 2013. Creeley's foundation has sponsored a lawsuit for Teresa Buchanan, contending that LSU’s sexual harassment policy “unlawfully equates all speech of a ‘sexual nature’ with sexual harassment.”
Buchanan, a tenured associate professor, was fired for sexual harassment last June, despite a faculty panel’s recommendation that she keep the job.
In his editorial, Creeley writes that the federal blueprint for sexual harassment has created pressure for universities and has made teaching styles such as Buchanan’s “a liability.”
“LSU’s decision to fire a star professor on trumped-up sexual-harassment charges makes sense only in light of recent pressure from the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights,” Creeley writes. “Since 2011 this office has aggressively pursued investigations into colleges it suspects have failed to conform to its expansive interpretation of Title IX, the federal law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex.
Creeley calls the mandates on Title IX “legally suspect and constitutionally unsound.
“But because it may terminate the federal funding of any institution it deems noncompliant—a death sentence for all but the wealthiest schools—colleges have hastily revised their policies to meet the new dictates, sacrificing free speech and due process.”
Earlier this month, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education named LSU to its top 10 “worst abusers of student and faculty free speech rights” this year, largely due to Buchanan’s firing.
Read the full Wall Street Journal editorial here. Note: the link requires a subscription.