Anti-abortion exhibit as sexual harassment?
Brad.Clanton at MAIL.HOUSE.GOV
Tue Mar 13 16:59:16 PST 2001
It would seem to me to be quite absurd to say that an exhibit comprised of
photos of aborted fetuses (offensive though it may be) constitutes "sexual
harassment." How is a picture of an aborted baby "sexually explicit," as
Ms. Rosser described it? Sounds like a legal theory concocted by a doctoral
student in the department of curriculum and instruction (which it is).
Insensitivity, intemperance, and a lack of charity should not disqualify one
from having one's view heard, it seems to me, else we would likely have
ceased hearing from the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, NARAL & Co. long ago.
House Judiciary Committee
362 Ford House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
From: Volokh, Eugene [mailto:VOLOKH at MAIL.LAW.UCLA.EDU]
Sent: Tuesday, March 13, 2001 4:32 PM
To: CONLAWPROF at listserv.ucla.edu
Subject: Anti-abortion exhibit as sexual harassment?
Any thoughts on the following story, either on the police brutality question
(which unfortunately is pretty fact-intensive), or on the sexual harassment
Ryan Pittman, "U. Texas President Criticized for Handling of Exhibit", Daily
Texan, Mar. 1, 2001 (available on LEXIS, University Wire):
Complaints of police brutality and sexual harassment have been lodged
against the University of Texas administration this week as a result of its
controversial decision to allow an anti-abortion exhibit to go up near the
center of campus last week.
Several members of the UT community have called upon UT President Larry
Faulkner to publicly apologize for what they call "administrative
mismanagement of the situation," with at least one faculty member currently
pursuing legal action against the University.
The exhibit, sponsored by the UT student group Justice For All: Students for
Bio-Ethical Justice in conjunction with the national Justice For All
anti-abortion organization, included graphic images of aborted fetuses on a
three-sided, 18-foot high display located outside Gregory Gym.
Mia Carter, interim director of the Center for Asian-American Studies and
outspoken critic of the exhibit, said she is "discussing the possibility" of
legal action against the University for its role in an altercation between
her and a UT Police Department officer Feb. 20.
Carter claims the police officer used unnecessary force when he tried to
confiscate a bullhorn she was holding, injuring her neck and leaving a small
cut over her left eye. The use of amplified sound on campus other than in
designated areas is not permitted under UT policy.
"The extent of force directed against a crowd of non-violently protesting
faculty and students was outrageous and needs to be accounted for in
substantial, not just merely rhetorical, ways," Carter said, referring to
the altercation between her and the UTPD officer as well as additional
reports of police "shoving people to the ground."
. . .
"We have the authority to make people comply with the rules and regulations
of the campus," [Terry McMahan, assistant chief of the UTPD] said, adding
that every UTPD officer receives training in crowd management. "Police have
a right to use force when it is necessary."
Among the dozens of other complaints lodged by students and faculty against
the administration is a claim by Yvette Rosser, doctoral candidate in the
department of curriculum and instruction, that the administration is guilty
of sexual harassment by allowing the graphic display to produce a "hostile
working and learning environment for women."
"What was paraded as an issue of freedom of speech, masked in the rhetoric
of the First Amendment, was without question a cruel and insensitive
spectacle that could in fact be considered a case of preplanned,
University-sponsored sexual harassment," Rosser wrote in a letter to
Faulkner and several other administrators.
Rosser said the administration's decision to allow the "sexually explicit
and morbidly graphic display" to be erected on campus amounted to visual
sexual assault on her and her daughter, Krystina Siebenaler, a
radio-television-film junior. Rosser said she wants the administration to
publicly admit it was wrong in permitting the display to go up as well as an
apology from Faulkner.
But Faulkner stood by the administration's decision to authorize the
anti-abortion groups' exhibit, saying that his first concern was upholding
the First Amendment rights of those wishing to speak on campus.
"The University is committed to the observance of the First Amendment; it's
central to what a university is about," Faulkner said. "I don't see how we
can apologize for upholding the Constitution of the United States."
. . .
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