Call me a traditionalist, but when I think sexual harassment, I think of a Don Draper-esque man giving a secretary a congratulatory slap on the behind because she “walked her sweet ass down to the deli and picked up that reuben for me real good, didn’t ya, sugar tits?” Granted, the Grandex HR informational videos are a little outdated–they were produced by Phillip Morris, and at one point, the Marlboro Man makes a cameo seemingly just to share a cigarette with the narrator and casually say some distressing things about the Vietnamese–so my definition of sexual harassment might be sort of narrow here in 2014. Regardless, what I don’t picture when I think of sexual harassment is a dancing Teletubby.
Delta Tau Delta at the University of Missouri didn’t see anything all that wrong with a dancing Teletubby, either, which is why the fraternity was surprised to find out the actions in the video below–which takes place in Greek Town during last week’s sorority recruitment at Mizzou–landed them a meeting with the university’s Title IX coordinator, courtesy of the Greek Life office and the Panhellenic Association.
Other than the raw sexuality inherent with any depiction of a Teletubby, this seems pretty innocuous. But this is apparently what the people who run Greek life at Mizzou think is worth the time of the school’s Title IX coordinator. That would be the same person who has to regularly deal with real issues, such as students being sexually assaulted. The Title IX coordinator at Mizzou had to take time out of her day to evaluate this video. To put that into some sad perspective, no Title IX coordinator should have to spend even one second of his or her day doing the exact same work as I do.
Thankfully, presumably due to the fact that Mizzou’s Title IX coordinator has common sense and eyeballs, nothing in the video was determined to be harassment and Delt was let off scot-free.
Harassment, however, was one of the big themes of this year’s sorority rush at Mizzou, though it wasn’t so much sexual harassment as it was fraternity guys being harassed by PHA members, Pi Chis (recruitment counselors), and the Greek Life office for potentially, possibly, maybe, kind of but not really at all sexually harassing the girls going through recruitment. Throughout the week, fraternity members who were simply standing on their lawns, talking to other members of their own fraternity, and otherwise hanging out, were berated and yelled at until they cleared out of their own property. According to one source, several other fraternities have or had meetings with the Title IX coordinator as well. By all accounts, their behavior was much more appropriate than anything described here, and almost certainly not worthy of a meeting.
All of this basically comes on the heels of ESPN’s revelation that Mizzou likely violated Title IX in its mishandling of one of former running back Derrick Washington’s seemingly innumerable sexual assaults during his brief, worthless tenure at Mizzou. A few weeks ago, a memo was sent out across the university (each fraternity president received one, too) by the school’s Title IX coordinator, Linda Bennett.
Though the letter might seem overly strict in some aspects–no off-color jokes, for example–it doesn’t really look any different than your typical office sexual harassment policy. It’s pretty standard stuff. Essentially, the school realized there was going to be blowback for how poorly it handled Derrick Washington a few years ago (and that’s not the only case the school didn’t handle well) and decided to be proactive. That’s good! That makes sense. What isn’t good, and is, in fact, borderline despicable, is Mizzou’s Greek Life office using the school’s reinvigorated support of Title IX in the wake of mishandled sexual assaults as an opportunity to scare fraternities into ceasing any behavior the office finds even remotely offensive by using Title IX, its campus coordinator, and frivolous meetings as a threat. That’s just fucked up, actually. If the school wants to improve its Title IX track record, this is a terrible way to go about it. There is vigilance, and then there is abuse. Watching that video and hearing about the accusations that arose from it make it clear that the Mizzou Greek Life office’s actions fall into the latter category. Someone should probably do something about that.