One week ago tonight, the nation’s restaurants, florists, and candy stores were overrun by citizens paying fealty to a beloved annual ritual: Valentine’s Day. Doubtless you know the drill: couples (established, would-be, erstwhile, and even those holdouts still insisting that they’re “just friends”) circle February 14th as a particularly appropriate opportunity to demonstrate their affection for one another. As a result, all of America celebrates and swoons en masse.
That is, all of America except for one small isle of awkwardness and absurdity: the campus of Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania.
You see, despite FIRE’s many reproaches, Gettysburg College still insists on enforcing a ludicrous sexual misconduct policy. How bad is it? Well, the policy is so overbroad that it regards “brushing, touching, grabbing, pinching, patting, hugging, and kissing” as sexual interaction, and it defines consent as “the act of willingly and verbally agreeing (for example, by stating ‘yes’) to engage in specific sexual conduct. If either person at any point in a sexual encounter does not give continuing and active consent, all sexual contact must cease, even if consent was given earlier.”
As FIRE has pointed out repeatedly, Gettysburg’s incredibly broad policy has the effect of equating every Valentine’s Day hug initiated and continued without preliminary and continuous consent to a serious sexual assault, like rape. As Greg pointed out in a column for the California Daily Journal last summer:
This rule effectively makes every student—man, woman, married or single—guilty of sexual misconduct. Does anyone get verbal consent to hug their friends and then continue to ask for it the entire hug? Should every time you tap someone on the shoulder be a violation of a university policy? Gettysburg’s rule does not reflect reality, and so it criminalizes perfectly normal intimate and even merely affectionate interaction.
We at FIRE can only imagine the intensely uncomfortable and thoroughly unromantic Valentine’s Day students at Gettysburg College must have had. That is, if they abided by their school’s ridiculous rules. And if they didn’t, why does Gettysburg insist on keeping a rule on the books that it knows it can’t really enforce?
In the name of sweethearts everywhere, FIRE hasn’t forgotten about the absurdities of Gettysburg’s policy.