I am not a puppy. Don’t try to train me.

Is there a legal right not to be indoctrinated?

The following is the full text of an email I just received from the dean’s office:

In September of 2004, Governor Schwarzenegger signed Assembly Bill 1825 requiring employers to train anyone with supervisory responsibilities in sexual harrassment prevention. The University’s definition of “anyone with supervisory responsibilities” includes chairs, deans, principal investigators, and any faculty who have teaching assistants or research assistants, in addition to staff supervisors and managers. The new law specifically requires 2 hours of training and that the training be repeated every 2 years. It also requires employers to keep records of training attendees. The deadline for initial compliance with the law is January 1, 2006, thus everyone must have completed the training by this date.

Accordingly, we have scheduled 2 sessions with the Campus Title IX Compliance Coordinator, Pamela Thomason. She will conduct a training session on Tuesday, October 18th, from 10AM to noon and one on Thursday, October 27th, from 2PM to 4PM. Anyone may attend either session. The sessions will be held in the 5th floor faculty lounge and since this room holds only about 25-30, please let me know if you plan to attend. If we find that we need to schedule more training sessions to accomodate everyone, we will try to schedule additional sessions, however, this may prove difficult so I urge you to attend one of these sessions if at all possible.

The UC Office of the President is planning to release an on-line training module on sexual harrassment prevention later this fall. Completing this module will also satisfy the law’s requirements but no additional details on this are available at this time.

Let’s put aside for the moment the thought of Der Gropenfuehrer ordering other people to take “sexual harrassment prevention training.” (Presumably the new law was actually a liberal initiative.) The whole concept is, I submit, deeply offensive.

Let’s consider the notion of “training,” shall we? I know what it means to “train” a puppy, or even an infant. But what, pray tell, does it mean to “train” an adult human being? I can train for a skill or a performance (chest surgery, say, or running a marathon), by building up the appropriate muscles, reflexes, and habits. But what does it mean to “train” someone about how not to be a sexual predator in the workplace? Are we to practice not demanding sexual favors from our subordinates? Do obnoxious-language-avoidance drills?

No, we can sit there as some staff drone or contractor either recites from a policy manual or tries to “raise our sensitivity”: i.e., attempts to indoctrinate us. To paraphrase the caption (by E.B. White) of one of my favorite cartoons, I say it’s Maoism, and I say to hell with it.

Here’s a question for my readers learned in the law: Can the state lawfully require, as a condition of my employment, that I endure being preached at? Can it require that my employer discipline me for refusing to sit through two hours of offensive boredom?

In the flag salute cases ( Gobitis and Barnette), the Supreme Court finally ruled that students could not be compelled to say what the did not believe, on the grounds that freedom of speech included the freedom to remain silent. Has anyone ever litigated the correlative right not to be compelled to listen?

Footnote In this case, the state is my employer, which no doubt complicates matters.

Update More in the next post, including a response to Nathan Newman.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com