Condemn Senator for Perpetuating Sexual Harassment


Target: Senator John McCain

Goal: Reprimand John McCain for stance in favor of verbal sexual harassment

Senator John McCain (R-AZ) recently came out against new provisions that would give further protection to victims of sexual harassment. He claims that these new guidelines will restrict the right to free speech.

The Department of Justice and the Department of Education recently investigated the University of Montana’s policy for rape and sexual violence on the school’s campus and created a new policy for the school that defines sexual harassment as “any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature.” This new definition has the capacity to include speech as a type of sexual harassment.

Members of the Departments of Justice and Education have openly stated that the new policies are to stop students from being discouraged from reporting incidents of harassment by using a more general understanding of sexual harassment, and that existing legal standards for harassment still stand. The decision to change the policy was made after the University of Montana failed to act quickly and appropriately following multiple reports of sexual assaults, and attackers were not punished by the school. The new policy intends to change the overall process so that more sexual assaults and harassments are reported and actions are taken immediately to address the claims.

Sen. McCain wrote a letter to the Department of Justice condemning them for their unilateral decision to create a new policy, claiming that the new definition directly attacks freedom of speech. He argues against the policy, finding it specifically threatening because of the likelihood that this policy or a similar one will be implemented at other universities in the country. He argues that the policy is unconstitutional because it might infringe on someone’s right to free speech, although the Department of Justice has stated repeatedly that the policy exists only to stop students from being discouraged to report, and that all cases will still be evaluated by the university under the original definition of sexual harassment.

By signing the petition below you will be condemning Sen. McCain for actively discouraging students from reporting sexual harassment through his efforts to block the Department of Justice’s new policy.


Dear Senator McCain,

Sexual harassment and assault are extremely prevalent in the United States and on college campuses, and are often overlooked or ignored, as evidenced by recent events at the University of Montana. Protecting victims of sexual assault is imperative to protecting the rights of all United States citizens. Students should not be discouraged from reporting any sexual harassment or assault that they have experienced, and should instead know that their university has a policy that allows them to report such incidences, and that investigation and action will be taken immediately to address these concerns.

I am writing you to ask you to retract your letter to the Department of Justice indicating that the new policies at the University of Montana infringe upon the right to free speech. As the Department of Justice has repeatedly stated, the new policy does not redefine ‘sexual harassment’ or ‘hostile environment,’ but instead changes the policy on reporting so that more students report incidents. All cases will still be evaluated under the same guidelines as before, although now more students will feel that they have the ability to speak up and report incidences of sexual harassment. This prior policy – where students may be afraid to report incidences of sexual assault, or believe that reporting them would be futile – silenced individuals much more than this new policy will.

Please act now to ensure the health and wellbeing of sexual assault victims throughout the nation and its college campuses.


[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore via Flickr

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One Comment

  1. Michael Ejercito says:

    The policy at issue does infringe on free speech because it is overbroad. See See, e.g., Board of Trustees of State Univ. of N.Y. v. Fox, 492 U.S. 469, 483 (1989). The proposed policy does not even require the conduct to be “prejudicial to discipline and good order”, let alone “severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive.”

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