Michael Barone reports the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights has issued new guidelines that require (or in effect require, as no college in its right mind is going to get on the wrong side of the Office of Civil Rights and see its federal funding threatened) colleges to adopt a “preponderance of evidence” standard for finding students guilty of sexual harassment and sexual assault.
These terms are defined in various ways on various campuses:
. . . often they involve alleged offenses defined in vague terms and depending often on subjective factors. . . . campus definitions of sexual harassment include “humor and jokes about sex in general that make someone feel uncomfortable” (University of California at Berkeley), “unwelcome sexual flirtations and inappropriate put-downs of individual persons or classes of people” (Iowa State University) or “elevator eyes” (Murray State University in Kentucky).
In other words, if everyone laughs, it’s a joke. If one person does not, it’s a crime. It’s a good thing that standard isn’t countrywide or the jails would be full of standup comedians. I confess to having no idea what “elevator eyes” might be, but at my age I’d undoubtedly be flattered by them.
Compare those definitions with the Supreme Court’s definition: Conduct “so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive, and that so undermines and detracts from the victims’ educational experience, that the victim-students are effectively denied equal access to an institution’s resources and opportunities.”
It is truly astonishing how illiberal liberals have become in recent decades in the pursuit of “equality” (and, of course, power, in this case the power to criminalize jokes).
It’s not just an American phenomenon, of course. Europe, Canada, and Australia all have laws against people saying what they think if the thought is not preapproved by bureaucrats. I would recommend spending a few minutes listening to the inimitable Mark Steyn discuss an Australian case. He is, as usual, both hilarious and wise.