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Feminist Philosophers

News feminist philosophers can use

Ludlow lawsuit dismissed February 5, 2015

Filed under: law,sexual harassment — jennysaul @ 8:43 pm

More here.

 

Guest posts on sexual harassment law

Filed under: law,sexual harassment — jennysaul @ 8:41 pm

We’re kicking off what we hope will be an extremely useful series of guest posts today from amanforsomeseasons.  I’ll let him introduce himself.

As a regular reader and a friend of the Feminist Philosophers blog, as a former philosopher and current lawyer (yes, I know), and as a feminist and an interested observer of events that affect women’s issues, I am pleased to be given an opportunity to provide some legal commentary around many of the subjects discussed on this blog.

I have recently enjoyed a number of lively and stimulating discussions with a regular Feminist Philosophers blogger, particularly about how universities are handling – and, in some cases, failing to handle – allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination. One of the major themes of our discussions has been why some universities opt to deal with these issues publicly, often to their detriment, while others decide instead to whitewash the problem quietly.

I enjoyed hearing the perspective of someone who sees frequent and startling examples of the latter solution; she was very interested to hear my legal perspective on both. She said that the Feminist Philosophers’ readership, too, might be interested to get a lawyer’s take on these things, and so she has invited me to post a few entries. Depending upon the reception, I may do more than a few (but hopefully not less).

I welcome comments and have asked that commenting for my posts remains open; I will do my best to engage with the commenters. And now the fine print:

  • Please understand that in blogging here, or in responding to comments, I am writing for educational purposes only, to give general information and a general understanding of the law. I do not intend to provide specific legal advice about your individual circumstances or legal questions. You acknowledge that neither your reading of, nor posting on, this blog establishes an attorney-client relationship between you and me. My posts should not be used as a substitute for seeking competent legal advice from a licensed attorney in your state. Readers of this information should not act upon any information contained on this website without seeking professional counsel. The transmission of confidential information via Internet email is highly discouraged.

Thank you. I am looking forward to our discussions.

 

Harvard Law found in violation of Title IX, reaches Resolution Agreement with OCR December 31, 2014

Following its investigation, OCR determined that the Law School’s current and prior sexual harassment policies and procedures failed to comply with Title IX’s requirements for prompt and equitable response to complaints of sexual harassment and sexual assault. The Law School also did not appropriately respond to two student complaints of sexual assault. In one instance, the Law School took over a year to make its final determination and the complainant was not allowed to participate in this extended appeal process, which ultimately resulted in the reversal of the initial decision to dismiss the accused student and dismissal of the complainant’s complaint.

During the course of OCR’s investigation, the Law School adopted revised procedures that use the “preponderance of the evidence” standard for its sexual harassment investigations and afford appeal rights to both parties, in compliance with Title IX. The Law School also complied with the Title IX requirements relating to the designation of a Title IX Coordinator and publication of its non-discrimination notice.

Read more here, and the resolution agreement can be read here.

 

Notre Dame appeals to SCOTUS over ACA October 8, 2014

Filed under: gender,gender inequality,health,law,politics,religion,reproductive rights — philodaria @ 5:04 am

The University of Notre Dame has appealed to the Supreme Court, requesting that it require the lower courts reconsider its case against the HHS mandate in the light of the Hobby Lobby decision. Notre Dame lost its previous appeal, in which three anonymous students filed an intervening suit.

One unique feature of the legal complaint that Notre Dame is asking be reconsidered is that it asserts government regulation which treats religious universities as distinct from houses of worship violates the university’s religious belief in the unity of the Church. In its complaint, the university writes,

The U.S. Government Mandate also improperly attempts to sever Notre Dame from the Roman Catholic Church. Notre Dame sincerely believes in the unity of the Catholic Church, including that Catholic educational institutions, especially Notre Dame, are by definition the “heart of the church” or Ex Corde Ecclesiae. Notre Dame’s mission is just as central to Catholic faith and life as the mission of Catholic houses of worship. Yet, the U.S. Government Mandate would limit the definition of “religious employers” to houses of worship, attempting to sever the Church from its heart and to divide the unified Church. The U.S. Government mandate would thus turn the broad right to Religious Exercise into a narrow Right to Worship.*

Irrespective of what one thinks about religious freedom, women’s rights to healthcare, or potential violations of the establishment clause, this is a troubling argument. If religiously-affiliated universities could not be treated as distinct from houses of worship without violating religious exercise rights, then effectively, students at those universities could not be protected from sexual misconduct, harassment, or discrimination by Title IX as Title IX is not applicable to houses of worship (nor could it be).

*It is worth noting that Notre Dame has argued in court in the past (cf. Laskowski v. Spellings and  Am. Jewish Cong. v. Corp. for Nat’l. & Cmty. Serv.) that activities such as the provision of healthcare coverage benefits do not constitute religious exercise.

 

Yes means yes bill in California August 31, 2014

Filed under: education,law,rape,sexual assault — philodaria @ 1:22 am

From the Daily Beast:

On Thursday, the California state legislature voted to replace the “no means no” standard for sexual consent on college campuses with the affirmative “yes means yes” definition. Under this standard, silence or lack of resistance is not considered a legally acceptable way to convey consent. Inebriation will also not be considered an acceptable defense. Gov. Jerry Brown has until September 30 to sign the bill. If he does, all colleges receiving state funding would have to adhere to “yes means yes.” Campus assault advocates have been pushing for such reform, arguing that “ no means no” unfairly burdens victims. However, many worry that “yes means yes” is a vague standard.

 

 

 

Rapist sentenced 361 days in order to avoid trial August 12, 2014

Filed under: law,rape,sexual assault — philodaria @ 9:34 pm

From the Star Tribune, man who confessed to raping two girls, 13 and 15, was giving a plea-deal with a sentence of the time he had already served — 361 days. The county attorney, James Backstrom, said this will allow for avoiding potentially traumatizing the victims by requiring them to testify.

 

More news from Boulder August 7, 2014

From Daily Camera:

For only the fourth time in University of Colorado history, Boulder campus leaders have begun the process of firing a tenured faculty member after paying a graduate student $825,000 to settle accusations the philosophy professor retaliated against her for reporting a sexual assault by a fellow graduate student.

Chancellor Phil DiStefano recently issued a notice of intent to dismiss associate professor David Barnett, Boulder campus spokesman Ryan Huff confirmed to the Daily Camera.

Barnett, who is not the alleged sexual assailant, is accused of compiling a 38-page report painting the victim as “sexually promiscuous” and alleging she falsified the report of the assault, according to a notice of intent to sue CU filed by the victim last month.

The move to fire Barnett, who has taught in the philosophy department since 2005, comes as CU already was under federal investigation for possible violations of Title IX, the federal gender-equity law. It also comes six months after a scathing report detailed sexual harassment, bullying and other unprofessional conduct within the philosophy department . . .

The victim, who declined to speak with the Camera through her attorney, Debra Katz, filed the complaint because Barnett “smeared her reputation” and she wanted to prevent something similar from happening to future victims who report sexual misconduct, Katz said.

“She felt it was very important to bring that issue to the attention of the appropriate parties within the university and not only protect her own rights, but to ensure that other people who come forward and report serious Title IX violations are not retaliated against,” Katz said.

Katz said that if the university tolerated retaliation, it would have a “chilling effect” on anyone wishing to come forward to report a violation.

She added that while her client did not ask for Barnett to be dismissed, the decision sends a “very strong message” that the university is serious about disciplining people who violate Title IX.

While not speaking about the allegations against Barnett specifically, Huff said it’s important for investigations into possible university policy violations to be conducted by professionals.

“We have established mechanisms with trained professionals who are in charge of conducting investigations,” he said. “Having non-trained, non-professional people conducting unauthorized investigations is not appropriate.”

For those who are unclear on how retaliation in the context of a Title IX complaint is itself a form of sex discrimination prohibited by Title IX, I recommend reading through the SCOTUS decision on Jackson v. Birmingham Board of Education as well as the ‘Dear Colleague’ letter from the Office for Civil Rights of April 2013.

 

Warn juries about rape myths before they hear evidence May 7, 2014

Filed under: law,rape — Heg @ 1:37 pm

The new Director of Public Prosecutions in England & Wales, Alison Saunders, has said juries should be warned about myths and stereotypes associated with rape BEFORE they hear evidence:

Ms Saunders said: “There is lots of really good practice now, so the judge gives the jury directions on myths and stereotypes. But, what normally happens is that they’re given at the end of the case when the jury is just about to go out and deliberate.

“All of us are human – you’re going to hear the evidence, you’re going to make a judgement and then you’re told to set your judgement aside and [are told by the judge] these are the things you should be taking into account – actually it’s better to hear that at the beginning.”

It’s an interesting article, based on an interview with Alison Saunders and Martin Hewitt, the Association of Chief Police Officers’ lead on adult sexual offences.

 

Harvard Professor suing over denied tenure May 1, 2014

Dr. Kimberly Theidon, an anthropology professor, is suing Harvard University, alleging discrimination and retaliation after she spoke out on behalf of victims of sexual assault and criticized the university’s handling of their cases.

“I’m not going to be silent, I was not going to be a dutiful daughter so they denied me tenure and effectively fired me,” said Theidon.

Now she’s blowing the whistle on the university by filing a complaint with the Massachusetts Commission against Discrimination alleging she was discriminated and retaliated against for criticizing the university’s handling of sexual assault cases.

“This case is about the importance of women who are sexually assaulted on campus having someone to go to as the first responder who will not be afraid to help them,” said her attorney Elizabeth Rogers.

“We want Harvard to change their policies,” said attorney Phil Gordon.

A spokesman for the University declined Team 5 Investigates request for an interview, citing the pending litigation.

However, in a written statement, the university told Team 5 it “would never deny tenure due to a faculty member’s advocacy for students who have experienced sexual assault.” Instead, tenure decisions are “based on the quality of a faculty member’s research, teaching and university citizenship.”

“I think in principal that is probably true, but in practice, they violate it often and in my case they violated it,” said Theidon. However she said she doesn’t have any regrets,” I would do it all over again, only I would be louder.”

Read more here. 

 

 

Not Alone April 29, 2014

Filed under: academia,law,rape,sexual assault,women in academia — philodaria @ 2:42 am

The White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault has released its first report. A snippet:

Among the most promising prevention strategies – and one we heard a lot about in our listening sessions – is bystander intervention. Social norms research reveals that men often misperceive what other men think about this issue: they overestimate their peers’ acceptance of sexual assault and underestimate other men’s willingness to intervene when a woman is in trouble. And when men think their peers don’t object to abusive behavior, they are much less likely to step in and help. Programs like Bringing in the Bystander work to change those perspectives – and teach men (and women) to speak out against rape myths  (e.g., women who drink at parties are “asking for it”) and to intervene if someone is at risk of being assaulted.

The full report is here. 

 

 

 
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