College revises sexual misconduct policy

August 24, 2007

Gettysburg College’s sexual misconduct policy, which was criticized by a group called FIRE last year, has been revised.

FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, is a nonpartisan organization that monitors educational institutions and civil rights, said organization President Greg Lukianoff.

He said the group took issue with vague wording in the college’s previous sexual misconduct policy drawing no distinction between a hug and sex crimes.

“When colleges pass codes so broad, every student can be found guilty of violating it on a regular basis,” Lukianoff said. “It leaves it up to the discretion of the school to enforce the policy as they chose.”

The group also disputed Gettysburg’s former definition of sexual consent, which includes “continuing and active consent” throughout.

Julie Ramsey, Gettysburg’s vice president for student life, said a policy committee of students, faculty and administration gathers each year to review the college polices. They reviewed the sexual misconduct policy last year, and re-wrote it. Changes include more specific language along the lines FIRE called for.

“The policy talks about consent, and it talks about how students give consent and tries to make that as clear as possible,” Ramsey said.

It defines sexual misconduct and sexual assault as “deliberate physical contact of a sexual nature without the other person’s consent.”

Violations include unwanted sexual contact, non-consensual intercourse and exposing one’s self to another person when it is unwanted.

The policy also has a revised definition of consent that includes “informed, freely and actively given, using mutually understandable words or actions which indicate a willingness to participate in mutually agreed upon sexual activity.”

Other revisions to the policy have updated the reporting process. Victims can make an official report to the school if they’re clear on how they want the situation to be handled, or they can make an unofficial report where they can talk about their options confidentially with a counselor.

“It lays out very clear definitions of what sexual misconduct is and how consent is defined,” she said.

As to whether or not FIRE had an influence, Ramsey said committees periodically examine the school’s policies and update and change them when the committees find it necessary.

The previous year, the committee overhauled the college’s drug and alcohol policy.

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Schools: Gettysburg College Cases: Gettysburg College: Unjust Sexual Misconduct Policy