Mattress Girl, move over.
You've got stiff competition for the Most Bizarre Protest on an American Campus category.
Letitia Chai,a female Cornel student, was practicing delivering her senior thesis in cut off jeans, when professor Rebekah Maggor casually asked, "Is that really what you would wear?"
The outrage! Chai stormed out of the class and returned to resume her practice stripped to her underwear. But even that was not enough. As Reason reports:
Chai stripped again during her actual senior thesis presentation, in front of students and professors. She said she "stood in solidarity with people who have been asked to 'question themselves' based on others' perception of their appearances," according to the Sun. She asked the audience to join her—and some removed articles of clothing. Afterward, she led a roundtable discussion about diversity and inclusion.
Most of the students who had been in attendance during the initial incident collaborated on a document exonerating the professor, Maggor, of wrongdoing. "We write this letter because we feel it is our duty to give a fairer representation of our professor than what was portrayed," they wrote. "We do acknowledge that our professor could have been more conscious and careful of word choice when discussing such sensitive topics. However, she has openly recognized this and apologized on more than one occasion. As a professor, she is incredibly open to criticism and, following the incident, listened to what her students had to say regarding her role in what occurred."
This is bizarre: the professor ends up apologizing for a casual (and appropriate) remark and the student who stripped nearly naked leads a session on diversity. Yeah, I'd like to take out some student loans to sit in on that roundtable!
Reason's Robby Soave thinks he spots a potential Title IX violation in Chai's actions:
Here's a question: Is this a Title IX case in the making? The federal statute dealing with sexual misconduct has often been used as a weapon to police uncomfortable expression. Overzealous compliance with the Obama-era Education Department's broad interpretation of Title IX has prompted campus authorities to discourage gendered salutations, investigate professors for writing controversial essays, and give failing grades to students who made harmless comments. One can easily imagine administrators going after a student who not only took off her clothes in class but encouraged others to do the same.
I asked Cornell's Title IX office if Chai's behavior had raised red flags, or whether someone would need to file a complaint first. "The Office of the Title IX Coordinator does not opine on whether an individual's reported conduct 'could…be a Title IX infraction on its own,'" spokesperson Kareem Peat told me. "If you would like to report an incident to the Office of the Title IX Coordinator, you may do so at https://biasconcerns.cornell.edu/."
But here's the weirdest twist of all:
But according to the Sun, the Title IX office did contact Chai. "Chai said that although the Title IX office had contacted her regarding the incident," the paper reports, "she is not actively pursuing a case at present." This makes it sound like she was approached as a possible victim of sexual harassment, rather than a perpetrator—which suggests that Title IX officials think a professor questioning a student's appearance is a more serious matter than a student disrobing in front of her classmates.