After legal threats and humiliating national publicity, officials at Howard University in Washington, D.C. have tentatively agreed to rescind their finding that a law professor was guilty of sexual harassment under Title IX because he presented students with an exam question about a hypothetical person who was molested while undergoing a Brazilian wax job.
Administrators labeled Howard University School of Law professor Reginald L. Robinson as a sexual harasser in May — after a protracted 16-month investigation concerning the hot wax test question Robinson gave students back in September 2015.
The multiple-choice question involved a person who slept through a Brazilian waxing (which is the removal or all or pretty much all of a person’s pubic hair using heated goo and pieces of fabric).
An attorney representing Robinson, Gaillard T. Hunt, reached an agreement with Howard officials late last week about the finding of sexual harassment as a result of the question.
“We have discussed the case with the University and we believe we have reached a mutually satisfactory solution. Professor Robinson regrets if anyone was offended by the test question,” Hunt said, according to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Higher Education (FIRE), a civil rights organization.
Here is the bikini wax question, in its entirety:
P owned and member managed “Day Spa & Massage Therapy Company, LLC.” P catered to men and women. Among other services, P offered Brazilian and bikini waxes – sometimes called “Sphynx,” bare waxing, or Hollywood waxing. To provide these services, P hired A, an Aesthetician, who had been fully certified and licensed by the school at which A had studied and by the state in which P was located. One day, T visited P’s company. T had never sought such services, but T’s friends had raved about P’s waxes. A met T at the service desk. T asked for a Brazilian wax. “A full or modified Brazilian?” A asked. T looked confused, and so A explained that a Full Brazilian (“FB”) would render T hairless from belly button to buttocks, and a FB required T would be naked from the waist down. A FB required A to touch T’s body and to adjust T’s body so that A could access every follicle of pubic hair. Next, A explained a Modified Brazilians (“MB”). A MB left a thin strip of hair at the top of T’s genitalia, viz., a “landing strip.” T opted for FB. A again told T that A would have to touch T’s genitals to complete the waxing. T agreed, and T signed the service contract and initialed the space for acknowledging A’s information. T got undressed in a private salon, where T also drank hot herbal tea. At A’s behest, T, w who was waist down naked, got on the waxing table. Once on the table, with instrumental tones wafting, T drifted into light sleep; A completed the FB. Upon awaking, T felt physically uncomfortable, asking A if A had touched T improperly. A, saying no, and feeling offended, walked out. Two weeks later, P received a letter from T’s attorney, in which T alleged that A had improperly touched T, causing T to seeking counseling and drugs for post-traumatic stress disorder. Having worked with A for 10 years, P responded that A was a certified, licensed Aesthetician, who’d never had any such allegations filed by clients. T sued P, and in deposing A, P and T’s attorney learned that A had properly touched T during the FB. Nevertheless, T still felt that A’s touching was improper. In the suit, T alleged that A, cloaked with the apparent authority, had induced T by false representations to rely reasonably on A, so that A, while within the scope of employment, could cause harm to T. If P demurred, in effect saying “Yeah, so what!” to T’s pleadings, will the court find in favor of T?
(A) Yes, because T had established that A was a servant who was placed into A’s position as an Aesthetician, which enabled A to harm to T.
(B) No, because T expressly and impliedly consented to A touching T in any manner that was reasonable for A to provide the FB service that T requested.
(C) Yes, because P benefited from the revenue paid by T to P for services performed by A.
Officials at Howard never informed Robinson who had accused him of sexual harassment — or even described the specific sexual harassment he was accused of committing, Hunt told The College Fix.
Despite the lack of due process, Howard University officials had decided to punish Robinson by forcing him to undergo sensitivity training and requiring him to submit future test questions to prior administrative review. Administrators also warned the professor that he may be fired if is found in violation of Title IX for a second time. (RELATED: Law School Brands Professor As Sexual Harasser Over Test Question Featuring Bikini Wax Job)
Title IX is a comprehensive 1972 federal law that prohibits federally-funded entities from discriminating on the basis of biological sex.
Hunt noted that a commenter at the American Bar Association Journal claimed to be one of Robinson’s accusers.
“My law school professor thought there was no way to teach a demurer [sic] lesson other than forcing me to explain to a class full of people just how exactly I know that the client must have been drugged, when I declined he moved on to another woman,” the commenter states, “It was me.”
The commenter also asked: “do I really have to discuss my personal grooming habits for the class?”
Howard’s administration has remained strangely silent concerning the sexual harassment charges.
Candi Smiley is the Title IX coordinator at Howard who conducted the 504-day investigation of Robinson and determined that he was guilty of sexual harassment for giving students a hypothetical test question about a dissatisfied bikini wax customer.
Smiley’s LinkedIn profile shows that she has a law degree and has previously worked as a contract attorney and document reviewer at various law firms.
Robinson’s very extensive curriculum vitae includes a multitude of academic publications and two advanced degrees. He graduated magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Howard in 1981.
Howard University School of Law charges students about $102,000 for a three-year degree preparing them for legal careers. Bar-passage rates for Howard students are frequently lower than average state bar-passage rates.
In a statement provided by FIRE, Robinson suggested that policing course material for anything someone finds offensive is a bad way to prepare law students for the rough-and-tumble legal world and the often unpleasant facts encountered by attorneys.
“My case should worry every faculty member at Howard University, and perhaps elsewhere, who teaches in substantive areas like law, medicine, history, and literature,” Robinson said. “None of these academic areas can be taught without evaluating and discussing contextual facts, especially unsavory and emotionally charged ones.”
“I also can’t prepare my students adequately for legal practice if I can’t teach them new developments and require them to read unedited, unfiltered cases,” the professor added.
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