Professors at Marquette University in Wisconsin are told to report critics of gay marriage to the school’s human resources department. The anti-harassment policy at the Jesuit college may reflect a change in tone for some members of the Catholic Church, an institution that opposes same-sex marriage.
The Catholic News Agency reports that the training manual given to Marquette University employees includes a comic strip about a fictional character called “Harassed Hans,” a man in a wheelchair, whose coworkers have been “talking about their opposition to same-sex marriage” all week. “Hans is offended, but he struggles with whether to report the situation,” the comic says.
“Even though Becky and Maria were only expressing their opinions and didn’t mean to offend, they could still be engaging in harassment. The complainant does not need to be involved in the conversation to be offended,” the comic said. “Hans’ sexual orientation is also irrelevant; he does not need to be gay to be offended by his co-workers’ discussion of same-sex marriage.” Later the presentation says, “Hans is right to report Maria and Becky’s conversation.”
While the presentation may seem like the Catholic college is voluntarily aligning itself with federal court rulings, including one that took place in its home state of Wisconsin, which recognizes same-sex marriages, university spokesman Brian Dorrington told CNA that the anti-harassment training is given to all employees “in accordance with federal law” and does “not necessarily equate to university policy.”
Dorrington is referring to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which in 2012 found that discrimination based on sex-stereotypes such as the belief “that men should only date women or that women should only marry men” violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. While colleges and universities must abide by this definition of discrimination, Marquette University has a “hiring for mission” policy in which the school can choose to hire employees it thinks will “make a positive contribution to its religious character.”
The latest news of the anti-harassment policy comes after a controversial conversation a Marquette University graduate student who was teaching an ethics class had with a student after class. In the recorded conversation, Cheryl Abbate told the student he didn’t “have the right, especially [in an ethics class], to make homophobic comments or racist comments.” Dorrington told CNA the university is “taking appropriate steps” to make sure all parties involved in the dispute are treated fairly and that the school values the “essential elements of our intellectual environment at Marquette, where our faculty and students have the ability to explore ideas, express opinions and participate in discussion.”