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Vague Title IX Rules At UC Davis Turn Free Speech Into Sexual ‘Harassment’

UC Davis’ Title IX office claims to uphold free speech while simultaneously insisting if students don’t use transgender pronouns, they can be disciplined for harassment.


In an Abusive Conduct and Harassment Training from the University of California, Davis’ Title IX office, the public university pushed radical gender ideology, including asserting that “trans women are women” and “trans men are men.” In the training, which was characterized as “required” in my student portal and email, the Title IX office force-fed students and staff leftist orthodoxy under the guise of anti-discrimination, but it left the terminology and enforcement of these policies vague.

The training, which was offered both in person and as an online course, claimed people may identify as “nonbinary, agender, genderqueer, gender fluid, Two-Spirit, bigender, pangender, gender nonconforming, gender variant, etc.” It later said students and faculty are to “also use language and support policies and practices that affirm all persons’ ability to live, work, and socialize as their whole selves.”

At the same time, however, UC Davis claimed, “In general, making unpopular statements or articulating positions on controversial issues does not constitute Abusive Conduct.”

How can both of these views coexist? To what language, policies, and practices are students and faculty expected to adhere? Are they ideologically driven or based on an objective standard? Who decides and enforces what students can or can’t say at a public university?

I reached out to the Title IX office with similar questions. I was eventually diverted to the office of strategic communications, which mostly responded with nonspecific policies and pre-approved quotes and phrases that UC Davis recycles across various DEI and Title IX materials.

A UC Davis spokesman told me that “according to the UCOP Gender Recognition and Lived Name Policy, ‘An individual’s gender is their gender identity, which can be the same or different from their sex assigned at birth.'”

That policy, however, is rooted in the subjective feelings of an individual, not objective reality. But if UC Davis considers transgender-identified students to be whatever they claim to be — and expects other students, through words and deeds, to “affirm” them as their “whole selves” — then would the university find dissenting students guilty of “abusive conduct”?

The issue for students who don’t subscribe to radical gender orthodoxy is not our transgender-identified peers, but rather the administration’s insistence that we conform to their worldview or risk repercussions. The UC Davis spokesman also told me that “per the UCOP Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment Policy, sexual harassment ‘includes acts of verbal, nonverbal or physical aggression, intimidation or hostility based on gender, gender identity, gender expression, sex- or gender-stereotyping, or sexual orientation.'”

In other words, UC Davis considers gender identity — something entirely subjective and malleable — to be a protected class. So what if a student doesn’t agree and uses pronouns that differ from the individual’s preference?

The spokesman told me that the university reviews each “set of actions or statements” in question to determine what “constitutes a violation of university policy, as well as the appropriate action if a violation is found.” After assessing various circumstances such as the alleged seriousness and extent of the conduct, the relationship of those involved, and other actions, “a finding of violation by the university can result in actions ranging from a warning to suspension or dismissal from the university.”

In other words, it is entirely up to UC Davis and the Title IX office to determine what counts as harassment or abuse and what consequences will follow. Without a clear, objective, enforceable standard, it is up to a biased institution and its ideologically motivated Title IX bureaucrats to determine what is harassment.

This is in tension with the free speech rights of students. As UC Davis’ Principles of Community state, “We affirm the right of freedom of expression within our community.”

I’m not the only student who has raised this issue. My peer who completed the training contacted the Title IX office regarding its misgendering policy since his values conflict with the school’s standards. His speech ought to be protected at the university, but the rules seem to conflate disagreement with harassment.

An email I obtained, sent from the Title IX office to another student, appeals to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and states:

‘[A]ccidental misuse of a transgender employee’s preferred name and pronouns does not violate [Title IX, but] intentionally and repeatedly using the wrong name and pronouns to refer to a transgender employee could contribute to an unlawful hostile work environment.’ The University has relied upon legal guidance when assessing complaints of this nature that have been filed with HDAPP.

“Misgendering” is not inherently malicious; it’s a clash of worldviews. But that doesn’t matter to the university. The UC Davis Title IX office has insinuated that intentionally calling someone by his or her correct biological pronouns is punishable.

UC Davis is not unique. Radical gender ideology is increasingly permeating institutions of higher education, largely through Title IX offices and university bureaucrats. The problem is these policies are not rooted in truth, but in ideology. And they aren’t enforced objectively, but subjectively. The students who disagree, not out of malice but out of deeply held beliefs, seem to be the only class left unprotected by Title IX.

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