Student Accused of Sexual Harassment for Getting Teacher’s Name Wrong

by Blake Neff

A student at the University of Tennessee flunked a quiz and was accused of sexual harassment after he guessed the wrong name for an instructor in his class. Strangely enough, the Obama administration likely bears some of the blame.

The trouble for Keaton Wahlbon began last week when he took a quiz on sedimentary rocks for his earth science class. One of the questions on the quiz asked what the name of a female lab instructor in the class was.

“If you don’t remember, make something good up,” the quiz added.

Wahlbon says he didn’t know the answer, so he just put in a generic woman’s name, “Sarah Jackson,” as a wild guess.

When Wahlbon received the quiz back, not only had he missed that question, but it had also been marked as “inappropriate” and he’d received a zero.

It turns out Sarah Jackson is the name of a lingerie and nude model, and Wahlbon’s professor Bill Deane apparently believed he was making a crude sexist joke.

When Wahlbon contacted his professor to request a grade change, Deane responded by saying Wahlbon’s answer was outright sexual harassment. The text of the email was posted by Total Frat Move, which first reported the story.

“Dear Keaton,” he wrote. “I have no way of determining your intention. I can only consider the result. The result is that you gave the name of Sarah Jackson, who is a lingerie and nude model. That result meets with Title IX definition of sexual harassment. The grade of zero stands and will not be changed.”

Deane’s unusual way of defining sexual harassment, which assigns no weight to Wahlbon’s personal intent, isn’t entirely out of nowhere. Instead, it stems from questionable decrees emanating from the Obama administration.

In a 2013 letter to the University of Montana, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights said that Title IX, a law banning sex discrimination in education, requires that sexual harassment be defined from the perspective of the victim rather than the perpetrator. Instead of requiring a “hostile environment” created through a series of deliberate actions, OCR said sexual harassment was “any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature,” regardless of the perpetrator’s actual intent. More recently, OCR has even claimed that relying on “common sense” to define sexual harassment is a violation of federal law.

In enforcing a very strict idea of sexual harassment in his class, then, Deane was just following the Obama administration’s own guidelines.

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