UT prof claims 'inappropriate' name guess is sexual harassment

A student at the University of Tennessee was accused of sexual harassment after incorrectly identifying the name of his instructor on a geology quiz.

Keaton Wahlbon, a student in Professor Bill Deane’s earth science class, told Reason that he was given a “0” on a class assignment after he misidentified his lab instructor, guessing a generic female name that turned out to be that of a nude model.

In response to the question, "What is your lab instructor's name? (if you don't remember, make something good up)," Wahlbon chose the second option, guessing "Sarah Jackson.”

However, “Sarah Jackson” is also the name of a lingerie/nude model, and Wahlbon was given a “0” on the assignment, with his answer marked “inappropriate” by the grader.

Wahlbon emailed Professor Deane in attempt to have the decision reversed, explaining that he simply chose “Sarah Jackson” because he considered it a common name, and that the top Google searches for the name were not inappropriate.

“A bunch of us didn't know so I literally put down a very common girl name and a common last name, so I put down Sarah Jackson,” Wahlbon told Campus Reform. “I even googled ‘Sarah Jackson’ and nothing like that came up except for the name of a model. Most results were artists, authors, and just normal people's social media accounts.”

Deane nonetheless rejected Wahlbon’s request, stating, "I have no way of determining your intention. I can only consider the result. The result is that you gave the name of Sarah Jackson, who is a lingerie and nude model. That result meets the Title IX definition of sexual harassment. The grade of zero stands and will not be changed."

Wahlbon said he plans on appealing the decision to the head of the university’s natural sciences department, but said he is less concerned about regaining the points than about defending himself from what he considers aspersions against his integrity.

“It's not that it's going to affect my grade it's just the principle of the whole thing. I shouldn't get a 0 for a coincidence like that,” he told Campus Reform. “It's not all about the points; it's mostly the principle of the situation. I feel wronged and feel like they degraded my integrity by automatically assuming the ‘worst’ from me.”

Campus Reform reached out to the University of Tennessee and Professor Deane, but did not receive a response from either in time for publication.

(H/t: Total Frat Move)

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @AutumnDawnPrice