One of the more nonsensical elements of modern college life is the widespread coexistence of coed bathrooms and ridiculously expansive sexual-harassment policies. On the one hand, colleges aggressively seek to break down gender differences, yet on the other, they try to create a zone of entitlement that prevents any sort of offense. The two goals are not compatible.
Case in point: Green Mountain College in Vermont. There, a student sued, claiming the school has an obligation to provide separate male and female bathrooms under Vermont building codes. According to the student’s father, the student did not know the college offered only coed bathrooms in her dorm, and when she complained, the college still refused to enforce any sort of gender separation (even though it nominally designated men’s and women’s restrooms). According to her father, men would routinely disrobe in front of his daughter and often used the restroom without closing stall doors (which would pretty much define “bad naked“).
Curious as to the school’s stance on nakedness, I looked up its student handbook. Lo and behold, it has a sexual-harassment policy so broad that it would be laughably unconstitutional at a public university. Among the many, many things it prohibits is “exposing one’s self” (even once) if that causes a “reasonable individual worry, trouble, or concern.”
So is a university defending in court acts of sexual harassment prohibited by its own student handbook? Is it intentionally creating conditions where sexual harassment (as it defines the term) is inevitable? Such is the mixed-up world of the modern campus. After all, in the hierarchy of concerns, blurring gender differences trumps preventing indecent exposure.