People can savage social norms, but also revive them

When Professor Cass Sunstein was a young law professor, he happened to come across an older male professor talking to a young female student in a hallway. To his astonishment, the professor was stroking the student's hair.

Prof Sunstein later went up to her and said: "That was completely inappropriate. He shouldn't have done that." The student brushed him off: "It's fine. He's an old man. It's really not a problem." Thirty minutes later the same student appeared in his office, in tears. "He does that all the time," she cried out. "It's horrible. My boyfriend thinks I should make a formal complaint, but I don't want to do that... I don't want to make a fuss."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 10, 2019, with the headline 'People can savage social norms, but also revive them'. Print Edition | Subscribe