Why FIRE Is Hot under the Collar

According to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), “the Departments of Justice and Education have mandated a breathtakingly broad definition of sexual harassment that makes virtually every student in the United States a harasser while ignoring the First Amendment.”

Here’s what FIRE is, well, fired up about:

The letter states that “sexual harassment should be more broadly defined as ‘any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature’ ” including “verbal conduct” (that is, speech). It then explicitly states that allegedly harassing expression need not even be offensive to an “objectively reasonable person of the same gender in the same situation”—if the listener takes offense to sexually related speech for any reason, no matter how irrationally or unreasonably, the speaker may be punished. 

So now, in addition to being a sadly moribund institution of dubious value to most students, college will be even more Orwellian in its policing of language than it had already become. Thank heavens technology is making it increasingly dispensable. College is dead. Long live higher education.