OCCOM BILL wrote:
What's your take, Joe?
Lo, these many years ago, back when I was but a fresh-faced collegian myself, I had occasion (albeit briefly) to live in a high-rise dormitory. And so I can condole with the UNH student here. I too waited for elevators that seemingly never arrived, and watched with rising gorge as fellow residents blithely kidnapped those elevators for a one-story joy ride. Truly, I feel Garneau's pain.
Undoubtedly, it was with this sense of frustration that he posted the flyer in question:
And indeed, most of the residents living below the sixth floor of Stoke Hall
are women, so Garneau seems to have directed his admonishment at the right target population.
Although his flyer was addressed to a single sex, his rebuke was hardly sexual in nature. At most, it can be considered offensive to the lazy and overweight rather than to women in general. Frankly, I find it more offensive to the literate than to anyone else, and it certainly does no credit to the repute of UNH that a student could gain sophomore standing while writing sentences such as: "If u live below the 6th floor takes the stairs
.Not only will u feel better about yourself but you will also be saving us time and wont be sore on the eyes" [sic!
]. This is what passes for an educated student at UNH these days? O tempore, o mores!
The UNH student code of conduct
, which sets forth both the guidelines for student behavior and the procedures and penalties for breaches of those guidelines, says surprisingly little about sexual harassment. Under Art. III, sec. B, subsec. 3(d), a student is prohibited from engaging in "harassment." What this means, however, is unclear. It's true that Art. IV, sec. D, subsec. 7(f) mandates a student may be expelled from a dorm if he is found guilty of "[m]isconduct that harms others because of their particular race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation," but this is hardly more enlightening than the previous prohibition against "harassment."
Of some interest is the statement put forth by the Sexual Harassment and Rape Prevention Program (SHARPP)
at UNH, which defines sexual harassment as: "any unwanted, unwelcome attention to someone's body, sexuality, or sexual identity." I suppose if there is any definitive statement on the issue of sexual harassment at UNH, this is as close as one might get, and it is satisfactory for our purposes.
The question, then, is whether Garneau's flyer constituted "unwanted, unwelcome attention to anyone's body, sexuality, or sexual identity." Now, calling attention to the flabbiness of Stoke Hall co-eds may indeed have crossed the line into "unwanted and unwelcome attention to anyone's body," although it's not at all clear why this should be considered sexual
attention. After all, if Garneau's crime is of sexual harassment, there must be some sexual
element present. And I don't think it's enough simply to point out that Garneau directed his remarks to women: if that were the criterion, then a statement that "all the men in Stoke Hall are slobs" would be sexual harassment as well, and that seems rather farfetched.
So, what do we have here? We have a policy that forbids "harassment" without really defining the term. We have another policy which does not allow anyone to be expelled from a dorm unless they are found to have engaged in "misconduct that harms others because of their particular race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation," even though, in this case, there has apparently been no finding of any harm. And we have a sexual harassment policy that, it seems, forbids saying anything bad about either men in general or women in general.
I'm not sure we have to reach the First Amendment issue in this case, since it strikes me that Garneau's expulsion violated his rights under the UNH student code of conduct. Furthermore, if there was a deprivation of constitutional rights, it was a deprivation of his Fourteenth Amendment rights to due process. I would, therefore, recommend that he be punished for violating the dorm policy regarding the posting of unauthorized flyers and sentenced to a remedial writing program.