A Howard University law professor has been found guilty of sexual harassment after he asked students to answer an exam question about a theoretical situation in which a woman was molested while having a Brazilian wax job.
According to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Higher Education (FIRE), Professor Reginald L. Robinson was branded a sexual harasser by the Howard University law school for setting the question in September 2015.
In the made-up scenario he advanced, Robinson asked about a hypothetical person being molested while sleeping during a Brazilian waxing session. The question also mentioned a “landing strip” and the absence of hair from “belly button to buttocks”, Inside Higher Ed reported.
After the exam, two students filed a complaint against Robinson. One of them claimed the question had forced them to disclose whether they had had a Brazilian wax themselves.
The University faculty, meanwhile, was concerned by the professor’s use of the word “genitals” in the question.
Candi Smiley, the Title IX coordinator at the university, who conducted a 16-month investigation into Robinson’s allegedly inappropriate behavior, decided that he violated the rules of sexual harassment and found him guilty for having asked the question.
As a punishment, Professor Robinson will have to undergo sensitivity training and his future exam questions will have to approved by the administration. He was also told that if he violates Title IX again, he will be fired from his position.
In a press statement by FIRE, spokeswoman Susan Kruth claimed the university’s “overreaction” to the incident threatens the academic freedom of the professor and his ability to “effectively teach students.”
“Robinson’s test question clearly does not constitute sexual harassment,” she said. “Howard’s overreaction to a simple hypothetical question is a threat to academic freedom and a professor’s ability to effectively teach students.”
Robinson has claimed that forcing him to undergo sensitivity training and supervising course content in order to avoid offending material doesn’t help to prepare future lawyers who will encounter “unsavory and emotionally charged” cases.
“My case should worry every faculty member at Howard University, and perhaps elsewhere, who teaches in substantive areas like law, medicine, history, and literature,” the professor said.
“None of these academic areas can be taught without evaluating and discussing contextual facts, especially unsavory and emotionally charged ones.
“I also can’t prepare my students adequately for legal practice if I can’t teach them new developments and require them to read unedited, unfiltered cases.”
Gaillard T. Hunt, Robinson’s attorney, claimed that Howard University “wants to treat its students as delicate snowflakes who must be protected from unpleasant hypothetical cases.”
The attorney also accused the institution of libel, saying the sexual harassment finding against Robinson was “libelous of him as an individual.”