On November 3, 2006, FIRE sent a follow-up letter to Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania encouraging the school to keep its promise to rewrite its Sexual Misconduct Policy as stated in a mass e-mail sent to the student body on October 29, 2006. FIRE pointed out that the primary problem with the policy was its extraordinary overbreadth, noting that “[t]he current policy makes almost every member of the campus community a sexual offender…(it) places acts of true sexual assault in the same group as innocuous everyday acts, such as hugs without permission.”
The exact wording of the offending part of the policy is this:
All sexual interaction between any two people must be consensual. Each individual has a responsibility to obtain consent before engaging in sexual interaction. Consent is defined 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.
That’s right—“continuing and active consent”—whatever that means. The policy further defines “sexual interaction” as “brushing, touching, grabbing, pinching, patting, hugging, and kissing.” In other words, by the very terms of the policy, husbands would have to ask permission to kiss their wives, boyfriends would have to ask permission to hug their girlfriends, and friends would have to ask permission to give an amiable pat on the back. And remember, failure to do so was deemed to be a form of “sexual assault.”
FIRE first wrote to Gettysburg on April 11, 2006, objecting to the policy, which “dangerously trivializes sexual assault by equating heinous acts with innocent behaviors.” Unfortunately, Gettysburg president Katherine Haley chose to defend the policy in a letter to FIRE on April 27, 2006, arguing that somehow it “reflect(ed) good practice.” Only after FIRE issued a press release on May 11, 2006, exposing the absurdity of Gettysburg’s policy to the public, and after writing another letter to the school on August 17, did Gettysburg state that it would be revisiting the policy this year—proving once again that “sunlight is the best disinfectant.”