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Thursday, July 6, 2017

Ouch! Brazilian wax test question nets Howard University professor a 504-day Title IX investigation, sanctions

WASHINGTON, July 6, 2017 — A test question about hot wax has landed one Howard University professor in hot water with Title IX investigators.

On May 4, law professor Reginald Robinson was deemed responsible for sexual harassment after two students complained about a test question involving a Brazilian wax and an upset client. After a 504-day investigation, administrators determined that Robinson would be required to undergo mandatory sensitivity training, prior administrative review of future test questions, and classroom observation. Robinson also received a stern warning that any further “violations” of the university’s Title IX policies may result in his termination.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education wrote to Howard on June 16 demanding that Robinson’s sanctions be removed. Howard did not respond by FIRE’s June 30 deadline.

“Robinson’s test question clearly does not constitute sexual harassment,” said Susan Kruth, FIRE’s senior program officer for legal and public advocacy. “Howard’s overreaction to a simple hypothetical question is a threat to academic freedom and a professor’s ability to effectively teach students.”

During a September 2015 class, a female student challenged a test question’s premise that a person could sleep through a Brazilian wax. After a complaint to administrators by two students and a 16-month investigation, Robinson was informed that one of the students allegedly believed the question’s premise somehow required her to reveal to the class whether she’d had a Brazilian wax. This dubious assertion, coupled with the use of the word “genitals” in the law school test question, contributed to then-Deputy Title IX Coordinator Candi Smiley’s determination that Robinson is guilty of sexual harassment...

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