Large group of students attending a seminar. Picture is taken as a blur.

Large group of students attending a seminar. Picture is taken as a blur.

Imagine being told on a quiz to give your lab instructor’s name, with a joking aside to “make something good up” if you couldn’t remember or didn’t know your lab instructor’s name.

Imagine coming up with two very generic names to fill in the blank – Sarah Jackson. The only name more generic than that would be Emily Smith.

And now imagine that you got a Zero on the quiz for putting Sarah Jackson in the blank, with allegations of sexual harassment. Then, after complaining about this absurdity, you get a Title IX investigation opened against you by the school.

This is the sad reality for a student at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, TN. It appears to me like a bunch of faculty and school officials may have rocks in their heads on Rocky Top.

It’s lunacy.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has more details:

Last week, several news outlets reported that a student at the University of Tennessee (UT) received a zero on a quiz—a grade his professor justified because he viewed an answer as sexual harassment under Title IX. Now he’s being investigated by campus officials after unidentified faculty saw the absurd interpretation being mocked by entertainment websiteTotal Frat Move.

How might one violate Title IX on a quiz? The first question on the quiz asked “What is your Lab instructor’s name?” and invited students to “make something good up”—that is, a joke—if they don’t remember his or her name. The student, Keaton Wahlbon, couldn’t remember his lab instructor’s name, so he wrote a generic first name, Sarah, and a common last name, Jackson. Writing Sarah Jackson—an altogether ordinary name—landed Wahlbon in hot water with his lab instructor and his professor. In fact, the quiz was returned to Wahlbon with the word “inappropriate” next to his Sarah Jackson answer.

As it turns out, Sarah Jackson happens to be the name of a Canadian actress and lingerie model. It is also a name shared by thousands of other people across the world. Wahlbon tried to explain to his professor that he wrote what he thought was a generic name on the quiz and did not intend to be crass. According to an email screenshot obtained by Total Frat Move, his professor wrote:

I have no way of determining your intention. I can only consider the result. The result is that you gave the name of Sarah Jackson, who is a lingerie and nude model. That result meets the Title IX definition of sexual harassment. The grade of zero stands and will not be changed.

The appearance online of this absurdity has now led to an official Title IX investigation.

What a tangled web we weave when we let self-deceived progressive professors and out-of-control bureaucrats redefine our laws to trample our free speech and other constitutional rights.

The Executive Director of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, Robert Shibley, has a new book out that I highly recommend. Called Twisting Title IX, Shibley discusses numerous stories of students and faculty battling political correctness in the ivory tower, having their due process and free speech constitutional rights trampled in the process.

These battles are important. If we don’t fight them now, it could reach a point where it will be too late in the future.

Help the college students of tomorrow save themselves from being fined and kicked out of school for writing John Smith on their papers. After all, there’s gotta be a John Smith out there somewhere that has done something that could lead to charges of sexual harassment.

About The Author

Mark Meckler

Mark was a co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots, and served as the national coordinator. He left the organization to work more broadly on expanding the self-governance movement beyond the partisan divide. Mark appears regularly on television in outlets as diverse as MSNBC, ABC, NBC, Fox News, CNN, Bloomberg, Fox Business and the BBC. He’s highly sought after for the tea party perspective from print and electronic media outlets, from the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, L.A. Times, Washington Examiner, Politico and the The Hill. Mark blogs at MarkMeckler.com, and his opinion editorials regularly run in many of the leading political newspapers both on and offline. Mark has a BA in English from San Diego State University and graduated with honors from University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law in 1988. He practiced real estate and business law for almost a decade. For the last eleven years of his legal career he specialized in Internet advertising law. When not fighting for the future of our nation, Mark is an avid horseman, and lives in rural northern California with his wife Patty and two children.