[eDebate] Fw: "Illegal debating" discussion

Sherry Hall shahall
Mon Nov 5 15:27:33 CST 2007

----- Original Message ----- 
From: Sherry Hall 
To: James E. Radford jr 
Sent: Monday, November 05, 2007 1:53 PM
Subject: Re: [eDebate] "Illegal debating" discussion

You leave out the showing of pornography to people who have asked not to be exposed to it.  I think that that clearly violates the sexual harassment definition at Harvard. Hanging posters of scantily clad women in office settings has been deemed to violate sexual harassment laws by creating a hostile working environment under Title VII.  I think the key here is whether or not the actions created a hostile environment.  I believe that Wende has indicated that her partner did perceive this to be hostile.  An environment that renders one so uncomfortable as to not be able to participate in the round seems pretty hostile to me.  I also think it is not very helpful for you or anyone else to suggest that Wende and her partner are wrong to characterize this as sexual harassment.  They are the ones that experienced it, and you are not really in any position to challenge their perceptions of how they felt.  If they felt they were harassed, if they felt the environment was hostile, then for them it was.  We as a community have to decide how we are going to deal with these situations.  We can continue to turn a blind eye and watch more and more women leave this activity, or we can acknowledge that some basic standards of respect for the other participants in this game are in order.  I applaud Wende's openness in explaining what happened, and wholeheartedly support her right to call it sexual harassment if she sees fit.


  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: James E. Radford jr 
  To: edebate at ndtceda.com 
  Sent: Monday, November 05, 2007 12:20 PM
  Subject: [eDebate] "Illegal debating" discussion

  I've been following this discussion with some interest, and wanted to add something briefly: 

  I think it's important to note that "sexual harrassment" is understood by most to have a specific legal definition, and, when a specific act or set of acts takes place that meets that definition, those acts may constitute one element of a legal claim, in court, for monetary damages, under law. Similarly, many institutions, such as universities, have their own definitions of specific acts or processes that constitute "sexual harrassment," and, if one engages in those acts, there is some specific penalty involved. 

  While Wende may be correct that her partner felt uncomfortable and offended by the team's sexual simulations, it is a big leap to jump from "offended" or "uncomfortable" to "the team engaged in specific acts which are proscribed by (a) law, entitling us to monetary damages, or (b) institutional policy, subjecting the team to a penalty." 

  So, there should really be two separate discussions here: (1) Did the actions constitute actionable "sexual harrassment," and (2) Even if not, were the actions so reprehensible and offensive, and so lacking in pedagogical, artistic, or political value, that the team should not have done the performance? 

  I think that, based on Wende's characterization, the actions probably did not meet the def of "sexual harrassment," and, in that case, that term should probably be extracted from the debate, so that we can focus on the merits of the performance and not get distracted by a misleading legal term. 

  Just my two cents, J.


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