Do you have a right not to be offended, ever, by anything anyone else says or does? If you find someone boorish, insensitive or prejudiced, can you just say you’re offended and — poof — that person disappears?

Pretty much, yes. If you’re at college and you’re offended by someone’s remark of a sexual nature, that is now enough to get that person kicked off campus.

For this, we must thank the federal departments of Justice and Education, which earlier this month jointly issued a new “blueprint” for colleges and universities, which defines harassment down. Before, harassment was defined as something “objectively offensive” — something a reasonable person would find completely unconscionable. Now? Any “unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature” is considered harassment, including unwelcome speech.

Unwelcome! We’re not talking about threatening speech or a hideous demand, such as, “Sleep with me, or you get an F.” Now the threshold is simply speech that someone (the person no longer has to be reasonable) finds unwelcome.

I keep flashing back on a high-strung girl I was friends with in college who was ready to murder a boy who asked her out once but not twice. If it were today and he uttered, “Sorry, but you don’t turn me on,” she could have him legally booted off campus. After all, the remark is of a sexual nature, and it certainly would be unwelcome!

“It’s impossible to prevent everyone from being offended every time,” says Greg Lukianoff, author of “Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate” and president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. That’s why, in the past, universities were instructed only to punish conduct that was “persistent, punitive and objectionably offensive.”

But now if a sociology class were discussing women in combat and one student raised his hand to say, “I don’t want ladies on the front lines, because if I’m shot, I want someone with a lot of upper body strength to drag me to safety,” would that be the jumping-off point for a lively discussion?

Or would it be the end of that student’s college career?

After all, someone in the class might find the remark both sexual — he is talking about male bodies vs. female bodies — and unwelcome. How dare anyone say women don’t belong on the front lines! Such politically incorrect sentiments can now be prosecuted.

If this sounds as if I’m an alarmist just imagining the worst-case scenarios, consider a few cases that already made their way to the courts, even before this new edict. One concerns a student in a creative writing class in which the female professor encouraged everyone to write his or her “impressions” — even sexy ones — in a journal. When one student scribbled that he found her hot, she turned him in for harassment.

The school suspended him for three semesters.

Another time, a young man who was tired of students taking the dorm elevator up or down just a single floor made a flier joking that girls could lose the “freshman 15” (that is, the 15 pounds some kids gain on dorm food) by taking the stairs. The flier added, “Not only will u feel better about yourself but you will also be saving us time and won’t be sore on the eyes.”

For that bit of sexism, he was kicked out of the dorm, put on two years’ probation and forced to undergo mandatory psychological counseling.

If you ask me, he’d need the counseling after that kind of punishment.

As a feminist through and through, I believe that sexism still exists and that it’s good to point it out and discuss it. But how can people discuss anything on campus when whatever they say about men, women, sex or even freshman flubber can and will be used against them?

Lenore Skenazy is the author of “Free-Range Kids: How to Raise Safe, Self-Reliant Children (Without Going Nuts with Worry)” and “Who’s the Blonde That Married What’s-His-Name? The Ultimate Tip-of-the-Tongue Test of Everything You Know You Know — But Can’t Remember Right Now.”

(4) comments

Freedom writer
Freedom writer

This "political correctness" thing is getting WAY out of hand. What happened to freedom of speech (and thought)? This country used to pride itself on such freedoms, but in today's society people are labeled racist or bigot for offering views judged to be politically incorrect. What's next? Jailing people for speaking their mind?


Totaly agree freedom writer. I personaly have been targeted on these comment portions by 3 individuals that seem to pride themselves in using bigot, hate, and racist. So sad that in some eyes its wrong to disagree.

Freedom writer
Freedom writer

Let me guess who's been taking shots at you. First and foremost......Jasper. Second would go to gobeavs.......Those two lead the non-contributing ignorant contingent by a mile. And third place goes to?


I remember last fall in an argumentative writing class I was taking at OSU. A student was writing a paper about how Apple computers were better for school that I reviews. All I said was that the interpretation was biased and that Microsoft supports this campus better than Apple did (especially when it comes to jobs) and that many in the computer science department needed Windows based computer to write applications software with. Because of that comment, I wasn't being nice about my review and it hurt my grade.

If I was in a business class such as marketing going over a business plan, that would be another story or throwing a student under the bus for their speech in a speech class.

Many times freshman students aren't necessarily criticized for their own work right away because many colleges do that on purpose to prevent them from being discouraged and having ideas about dropping out of school. It's better to keep them in then to let them drop out in terms of funding as we have witness locally in our own community college system in this area (the low retention numbers).

Some of these professors get little too crazy with this PC garbage because they never worked in the world outside of the college campus. In some cases it's just teaching in a vacuum.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.