Via Inside Higher Ed, the Third Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled (pdf) yesterday that Temple Univesity’s sexual harassment policy, which was replaced in January 2007 with a newer, narrower one, was unconstitutional. Christian DeJohn, a former masters student at Temple who was also enlisted in the Pennsylvania Army National Guard, claimed that the policy was “overbroad” because he felt “inhibited in expressing his opinions in class concerning women in combat and women in the military.” In other words, we need to make sure he has a safe space to spew his sexist rants about how women can’t fight. The policy, which was changed between the original lawsuit ruling and the appeal, originally read like this:
[A]ll forms of sexual harassment are prohibited, including . . . expressive, visual, or physical conduct of a sexual or gender-motivated nature, when . . . (c) such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work, educational performance, or status; or (d) such conduct has the purpose or effect of creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment.
DeJohn was awarded a whole $1 in nominal damages for his troubles. It doesn’t sound like DeJohn is really out anything because he got legal aid from Alliance Defense Fund’s Center for Academic Freedom–an organization that “help[s] you know and understand your rights as a Christian college student.”
But the dude just sounds like he has a giant chip on his shoulder. He’s also a big fan of lawsuits. In addition to the sexual harassment component of the suit, he claimed Temple didn’t let him complete his master’s program and therefore didn’t hire him as a historian. The court ruled against him on this point. DeJohn also sued the U.S. Army in a separate lawsuit for discriminating because they didn’t hire him for a job as a military historian (a job one presumably also needs a master’s degree for) because he was a veteran.
The ruling could impact non-discrimination policies at other universities in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware, all of which are in the Third Circuit Court’s jurisdiction. It’s unclear whether other colleges will voluntarily loosen their non-discrimination policies or face lawsuits that could be inspired by the court’s ruling.