A feminist student group at the University of Mary Washington has filed a Title IX lawsuit with the school, claiming that it failed “to protect them from a sexually hostile school environment” because it didn’t block a social-media app on which students were saying bad things.
The app in question, Yik Yak, allows people to post anonymous messages that people in the same geographical area can see. According to an article in The College Fix, the school’s Feminist United group claimed that some students were using the app to post “overtly sexist and/or threatening” messages — and that the school’s failure to shut Yik Yak out of the school’s WiFi created a sexually hostile environment in violation of both Title IX and the Fourteenth Amendment.
(Note: A Foundation for Individual Rights in Education representative, Daniel Burnett, told The Fix that none of the “yaks” in question actually met the criteria of what constitutes a “threat” according to Title IX — which demands that “the speaker means to communicate a serious expression of an intent to commit an act of unlawful violence to a particular individual or group of individuals” in order to qualify.)
Now, The Fix reports that the school is maintaining that the group has a lack of evidence to support its claim, but I’d like to take it a step further: Their claim is dumb.
No, the school didn’t ban Yik Yak, but it also didn’t force these students to log on to it and look at the things that were upsetting them so much. The “yaks” that were bothering these students didn’t even qualify as threats, and even if they did, that still wouldn’t mean that the app the threats were posted on would be responsible — let alone that the school would be responsible for allowing that app. I receive death threats on Twitter on a pretty regular basis; should I be suing places for letting me see Twitter using their WiFi? It’s not hard to see how stupid this is; it’s much harder to see how anyone could actually take this seriously. I mean, you’re a student in college and this is what you’re doing with your time? Calm down and go drink a beer like a normal person.
The Fix reports that the lawsuit also cited a December 2014 incident, in which school officials received a recording of rugby-team members doing a “misogynistic chant” but didn’t do anything about it. FIRE program director Susan Kruth explained that that was probably because the chant was “constitutionally protected.”
– Katherine Timpf is a National Review Online reporter.