Harvard Tells Students ‘Using Wrong Pronouns’ Is ‘Abuse’
Mandatory Title IX training tells Harvard undergraduates they may be subject to disciplinary proceedings for “sizeism,” “fatphobia,” “cisterosexism,” “capacity”
Abigail Anthony • September 14, 2022 5:00 am
Welcome to Harvard!
“Grossphobia” and “cisterosexism” perpetuate “violence”. “Using the wrong pronouns” constitutes “abuse”. And “any words used to lower a person’s self-esteem” are “verbal abuse”. These are just some of the things the school told all undergraduate students during a mandatory Title IX training session, according to documents reviewed by the Free Washington Beacon.
The online training, which all undergraduates had to take to enroll in classes, includes a “power and control wheel” to help students identify “harmful” behavior. Outside the wheel are attitudes that “contribute to an environment that perpetuates violence”, a voiceover of forming states, including “sizeism and fatphobia”, “cisterosexism”, “racism”, “transphobia”, ” ageism” and “capability”. “
Inside the wheel are behaviors that the school says constitute “abuse” and could violate its Title IX policies. “We all have a vital role to play in creating a community that cultivates gender equality and inclusion,” Harvard College Dean Rakesh Khurana told students in a video showcasing the training. “Completing this course is a critical step in establishing a common understanding of values here at Harvard College.”
Harvard launched the training in 2016according to Harvard Crimsonand announced in 2018 that completion of the training was a pre-requisite for enrollment in the course. The school is vague on the repercussions of violations of its sprawling interpretation of Title IX, a federal law that prohibits discrimination based on sex, indicating that violations “may” result in “termination, dismissal, expulsion” or “revocation of office”.
A spokesperson for Harvard’s Office for Gender Equity, which organizes Title IX training, did not respond to a request for comment. Harvard did not respond to a request for comment.
The training also presents scenarios that involve potential Title IX violations and explains how students should respond to them, asking them to “prioritize social justice and inclusion” and “intervene” whenever “harm ” occurs.
In one storyline, “Andre” continues to “mess up Logan’s pronouns” and comment on Logan’s “outfits, hair, and nail polish”, which makes Logan feel “exhausted and frustrated to be around again. in a situation to educate their peers about gender identity.”
Andre’s remarks “contribute to an atmosphere of disrespect and may also violate Harvard policies,” the training says. “It can be useful to reassure [Logan] he’s not hypersensitive and the impact he takes is valid.”
The Harvard training offers a window into how the expanding concept of sexual harassment, from sex to gender identity, plays out on college campuses. Harvard defines sexual harassment as “unwelcome behavior based on sex, including sexual orientation and gender identity”. A similar definition appears in the Biden administration Proposed Title IX Rules released in June. Both documents cite the 2020 Supreme Court decision in Bostock v. Clayton Countywhich held that an employer cannot discriminate on the basis of gender identity without also discriminating on the basis of sex.
In the storyline involving Andrew and Logan, the Course categorically states that “repeated use of the wrong pronouns” is a potential violation of Title IX, and it’s a stark example of how Title IX can be weaponized to target the speech, not just conduct. In 2015, for example, Northwestern University launched a Title IX Investigation in a teacher, Laura Kipnis, who had criticized the school’s sexual harassment policies. And in 2021, a Title IX course at Boston University required all students to assert that people “rarely” make false accusations.
Redefining harassment benefits the bureaucrats tasked with monitoring it. “The entire livelihood of Title IX officers depends on there being a perpetual stream of sexual misconduct allegations at their universities,” said Leor Sapir, a fellow at the Manhattan Institute who studies Title IX. “So they’re defining ‘sexual harassment’ and ‘hostile environment’ in increasingly implausible ways to ensure there’s always supposed ‘sexual harassment’ going on.”
The training highlights the conflicting commitments of these bureaucrats, who champion personal autonomy while advocating policies that restrict it. The wheel of power and consent suggests that restrictions on “clothing, friends, time or events” are “harmful”, especially when they lead to “isolation”. Yet Harvard’s COVID-19 policies — which required students to eat in their rooms during power surges — restricted all of those things. The Ivy League school kept mask mandates in place for nearly two years and imposed strict capacity limits for events, prompting more than 50% of Harvard freshmen to complain about social isolation.
Each scenario in the training involves at least one transgender, non-binary, or disabled character, regardless of the underlying lesson. In a scenario about harassment, the victim “Adrian” and the aggressor “Toni” use the pronouns “they/them”; in another scenario, one of the students uses a wheelchair, even though the topic has nothing to do with disability.
Abigail Anthony is a senior at Princeton University.