“Syracuse’s nebulous ban on ‘mental harm’ means students don’t know if they can ask questions or discuss sexual misconduct without getting in trouble”
Syracuse has a policy against causing others mental harm. That’s what’s being enforced here.
From the FIRE blog:
Syracuse punishes student for asking man at party if he’s a Canadian sex offender
She’d heard rumors that the guy at the party had a history of problematic behavior toward women. So Syracuse University freshman Samantha Jones went right up to him and asked: Was he a registered sex offender?
Now, Syracuse is enforcing its ban on causing “mental harm” to punish the 18-year-old biology student for her question. It’s a move that adds to Syracuse’s troubling history of censorship and raises new questions about the vulnerability of Syracuse students who report or discuss sexual misconduct on campus.
“Syracuse’s nebulous ban on ‘mental harm’ means students don’t know if they can ask questions or discuss sexual misconduct without getting in trouble,” said FIRE Program Officer Alex Morey. “Administrators should take action now to ensure these kinds of vague policies don’t infringe students’ core expressive rights.”
In October, having heard rumors of past predatory behavior, Jones approached a fellow student at an off-campus party and asked him if he is a registered sex offender in his native country, Canada.
He reported the incident to campus police, who referred the matter to Syracuse’s Office of Community Standards. Last month, the University Conduct Board found Jones responsible for violating a ban on “[c]onduct, whether physical, electronic, oral, written or video, which threatens the mental health, physical health, or safety of anyone.” Jones has since been placed on disciplinary probation and is required to attend “Decision-Making” and “Conflict Coaching” workshops.
“Accusing someone of something that has no validity, especially being on a sex offender list can harm one’s mental health and safety,” wrote Syracuse administrator Sheriah Dixon in a December memo detailing Jones’ formal punishment. The problem with this assessment? Jones didn’t accuse the man of anything. The Conduct Board’s own findings conclude plainly that all Jones did was seek clarification about rumors.
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