I must disagree with Cindy Weese’s and Kelsen Young’s claim that “nothing in the Department of Justice’s recent Resolution Agreement with the university violates free speech.” The offending language in the agreement is: “The term ‘sexual harassment’ means unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature.” Now, we can all agree that an unwelcome sexual advance falls within this definition. It is at the margins, however, that we encounter problems. One example: years ago one of our English Literature professors used a zucchini creatively to illustrate the baudy nature of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. It was, needless to say, hilarious. But if it is unwelcome for one student, it falls within the DOJ definition. When professors are teaching materials at the margin, they have three choices. Plunge ahead and take the risk; seek permission (which means that the University administration takes the risk) or the easiest path — self-censorship. Self-censorship is safe and easy and the language of the DOJ agreement that encourages self-censorship violates free speech.

Jeffrey Rentz, Tbilisi, Georgia

(1) comment


Your English professor made his living from teaching, whether illustrating Chaucer with a zucchini or not. Restricting such expression would be a violation of “economically-motivated” speech which the U.S. Supreme Court has protected. Like it or not, such graphically sexual speech is guaranteed under the 1st Amendment.

A very interesting, albeit disheartening, article recently appeared in The New Republic titled “The Right to Evade Regulation, Remain Unaccountable, and Mock Democracy: How corporations hijacked the First Amendment”. The 1st Amendment, most definitely, ain’t what it used to be.

“Once the patron saint of protesters and the disenfranchised, the First Amendment has become the darling of economic libertarians and corporate lawyers who have recognized its power to immunize private enterprise from legal restraint. It is tempting to call it the new nuclear option for undermining regulation, except that its deployment is shockingly routine.”


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