Cornell Law School Launches Title IX Investigation Over Male Students Ranking Female Students On Attractiveness

images-2The Cornell Daily Sun is reporting that Cornell Law School has started a Title IX investigation over a report that some male law students were “ranking women on their appearance.” What is most striking is that this was all done in a private group chat.  Men and women have been ranking each other by looks since time immemorial.  On October 5, Dean Eduardo M. Peñalver said in an October 5th email to law students that Cornell’s Title IX Office is investigating the matter, adding that “ranking women on their appearance is inherently degrading,” adding that it was “childish and unprofessional.” I agree that it is childish and unprofessional, but I still question the need for a Title IX investigation into the private correspondence of students over the attractiveness of other students.

Peñalver has asked for the matter to be raised in first-year classes and to tell students that “the behavior may well violate” the University’s Policy 6.4.  The policy states defines two of the violations in this way:

“Bias activity: An action of mistreatment or incivility (verbal, physical, in written or digital form) taken by an alleged offender/s and motivated in whole or part by an actual or perceived aspect of diversity/identity of the harmed or impacted party. Identity may include, but is not limited to, ability, age, ancestry or ethnicity, color, creed, gender, gender identity or expression, immigration or citizenship status, marital status, national origin, neurodiversity, race, religion, religious practice, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, or weight.

. . .

Sexual misconduct: A broad term encompassing any unwelcome behavior of a sexual nature designated as prohibited conduct by the applicable procedures under this policy.”

Both terms are “broad” to a troubling degree.  “Incivility” that is motivated even in part “by an actual perceived aspect of diversity/identity” is endlessly flexible as a standard.  I have previously objected to both such open ended definitions and the lack of due process often shown by university in adjudicating such claims.

There is no question that such ranking is unprofessional and uncivil.  However, that should warrant a visit with the Dean and strong condemnation to the students, who would likely remove the listing.  That will not stop students from judging each other on the basis of their appearance.

My greatest concern is the exercise of authority over private chats.  If this were a listing that was circulated throughout the student body, that would be another matter.  However, if this was a private exchange between law students, the concerns flip over the role of the law school.  It could come down to the meaning of a “private chat.”  There are chat rooms that are part of a broader circulation on social media and sites.  There is no indication of a broad distribution here but that would certainly raise issues of the students’ conduct if it were a law school wide chat room.


What do you think?


47 thoughts on “Cornell Law School Launches Title IX Investigation Over Male Students Ranking Female Students On Attractiveness”

  1. Cornell’s Title IX department must have too much time on their hands. Have they blocked students from using Tinder?

    1. “hot or not” was the thing years ago

      kids can use VPNs to surf porn in schools and they do

      “freedom!” wheeeeeee

  2. This kind of thinking is tanatamout to the Law School Administration acting as thought police. It violates the First Amendment Free speech clause and the freedom of association clause. And perception now becomes grounds for accusation. It’s ludicrous.

  3. Howie Carr is a radio talk show host out of Boston. If a woman is accused of some wrong doing and she is somewhat attractive, she’s probably innocent. If not so good looking, guilty. But isn’t this the way life is. Some people get an unfair advantage strictly out of physical appearance. Who would vote for a candidate that looked like Abraham Lincoln today?

    1. Among those who’ve competed well in the age of broadcasting have been such telegenic figures as Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Hubert Humphrey, Jimmy Carter, Walter Mondale, Robert Dole, John McCain Mike Huckabee, Hag Hillary, and Bernie Sanders.

  4. Education is solely the purview of the state.

    Education is distinctly not a “fundamental right” under the Constitution.

    Laws, both state and federal, impose no differentiation or favor among gender, ethnicity or race and none may be presumed and implied simply because one is a liberal redistributionist, socially engineering communist.

    There is no possible rationale allowing justices to incoherently or otherwise “interpret” that “public education” has any relationship to “…the equal protection of the laws…” of the unconstitutional 14th amendment, which was improperly ratified under the duress of post-war military occupation by the zealous, rabid successors of “Crazy Abe” Lincoln, who was directly influenced by exiled disciples of Karl Marx in Illinois who had fled prosecution for rebellion in Germany.

    The entire anti-American, liberal wing of the Supreme Court must be impeached, convicted and replaced.

    The Higher Education Act of 1965 is unconstitutional.

    Title IX is unconstitutional.

    The inmates have taken over the asylum – the Constitution.

    Make the Constitution Great Again – read it; read its words and keep a dictionary handy.

  5. “However, that should warrant a visit with the Dean”

    In this case Turley doesn’t go far enough. Since the conversation was private, it should warrant no punishment or censure whatsoever. Just a little further down this road are thoughts written in a diary.

    1. Exactly. At some point, the communication is so private that it implicates not freedom of speech but freedom of thought, which ought to be absolute. As Dylan famously sang, If my thought dreams could be seen/they’d probably put my head in a guillotine.

  6. I dunno, the rankings in law school are so merciless: class rank, law review, order of the coif, it may only be fair to rank everyone on the basis of their appearance as well. At least then, if you’re not academically on law review, you could still hold your head up as being a member of the actual “order of the coif.” Lol!

    1. Anonymous – we also know there is a “halo effect” for good looking people to get better jobs, better grades, better etc. I think they need to rank the administration. It might be sour grapes.

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