Land of Litigation

In the United States, people get sued a lot, or more precisely, companies get sued a lot. I was the plaintiff in three car accident cases (ie, it was the other person fault and they therefore owed me money) before I was 21. Then there are the class action lawsuits, where a lawfirm sees something that a company has done wrong, but they can't sue the company themselves, they have to get other people to sign up as plaintiff; I have been involved in two of those and was recently invited to be in a third.

So anyhow it is not surprising that as part of my training in my job, we have had several conversations about how to avoid getting personally sued or opening the University up to liability, which of course means they might get sued and be found guilty. And then this afternoon, I had online sexual misconduct training, which was really weird. I expected it to be about policying boundaries, both in ourselves and in others, which not something I am particular interested in nor very good at - I like the kind of people who push boundaries.

But this training wasn't about telling us what we personally should or should not do with our coworkers or students; rather, the point was that every university employee, unless they are a priest or a professional counselor, is required to report anytime we suspect any sexual misconduct or hear or see any instances of sexual misconduct. If we don't, or if we do and the University doesn't do anything about it, the university could get sued. All of this comes from something called Title IX, which got radically expanded especially after the case of the sexual abuse of minor's at Penn State a few years ago. It used to be shorthand for equality in sports programming, but it always had a sense of sexual discrimination to it, which is of course a form of sexual abuse. The lawyers are also working to get it to cover such things as virtual sexual harassment, such as cyber stalking or bullying. From what I understand, that really is the much more prevalent, and in my mind more worrisome, trend on college campuses and among students generally. They know how to get into each other's computers, and see everything they are doing. That kind of behavior genuinely scares me. But obviously, I am a blogger, I post on Facebook and Instagram, I do the twitter feed for my department, etc. In my mind, once it has gone out over wi-fi, I assume it is fair game to anyone, I don't even presume privacy in my email. But I draw the line at those programs that can take over your camera or see all your files remotely, that is a boundary line of privacy I really hate to have violated. And if I knew any of my students or co-workers were having their privacy invaded like that, no matter their gender, that is something I would want to report and would want stopped, because it is abusive, it is about one person having power and the other person having none, the very epitome of discrimination. The university should get sued if they can't ensure those kinds of basic levels of privacy, and dignity.

In Iceland, it is very rare for anyone to get sued over anything, which of course has its benefits and drawbacks, because in general, it isn't healthy to spend one's life looking around or looking over one's shoulder. I think if one feels safe and secure, and knows that what one is doing is right, that you don't need all the laws and all the lawsuits. I know the difference between wrong and right, and I know which people and which companies I can trust. There is no need to call the cops or bring in the lawyers.

Changing one's password might be a good idea, however.

Comments

Jono said…
Maybe having been to places that are less paranoid and litigious makes some of us roll our eyes and shake our heads at some of the relatively extreme measures to protect people and institutions from legal action.
Also, 34 percent more women than men are graduating from college now. I think Title IX may have helped women do that. It will be interesting to see the effects of that in the future as far as leadership roles in business and politics. Hopefully, they'll approach a ratio that is closer to the reality of 50/50.
Anonymous said…
Rape cases are far more serious than cyber stalking, and especially common on college campuses. You should know that!

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