The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education — an advocacy group for freedom of speech, religious liberty and “sanctity of conscience” — has given poor ratings to Adams State University and Fort Lewis College for their sexual harassment policies.
“Both of these policies provide a definition of harassment that is broader than the Supreme Court’s legal standard for harassment,” said Laura Beltz, the report’s author, according to The Denver Post.
FIRE sorts colleges and universities nationally into three categories: “Green light” schools have policies that do not pose a threat to free speech. The policies of “yellow light” schools could be interpreted to restrict free speech. And “red light” schools substantially restrict speech through their policies.
Mississippi and Arizona were the only states whose institutions all received green light ratings.
Adams State defines sexual harassment as “unwelcome conduct that is of a sexual nature or is based on a person’s actual or perceived sex, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. It can include unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other verbal, nonverbal, or physical conduct of a sexual nature.”
Fort Lewis College defines sexual harassment similarly, as “unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature, unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other visual, verbal, or physical conduct of a sexual nature.”
The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, a nationwide anti-sexual violence organization, cites the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in its definition of sexual harassment, being “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature in the workplace or learning environment.”
RAINN adds that sexual harassment “does not always have to be specifically about sexual behavior or directed at a specific person. For example, negative comments about women as a group may be a form of sexual harassment.”
FIRE singled out three universities in its report for “overly broad” sexual harassment policies. All of them included “unwelcome” conduct in their definitions.
A spokesperson for Adams State told the Post that the university rewrote their sexual harassment policy in 2017, but received no clear guidance from FIRE.