‘The Hug Police Invade Higher Education’

June 12, 2006

Check out the great article by Allison Kasic over at the Independent Women’s Forum. In it, Allison discusses Gettysburg College’s absurd and patently unfair sexual misconduct policy. She writes:

When is the last time you asked permission before hugging a friend? I’d certainly be guilty of violating such a strict code. Greg Lukianoff, president of FIRE, accurately points out that this policy “can turn almost any student at Gettysburg into a criminal.” In doing so, it ceases to be a useful policy and becomes a joke.

Imagine potential dialogue around campus: “May I hug you?” “Yes.” “May I kiss you?” “Sure.” It can only get more awkward from there.

She also points out the ridiculousness of the recent American Association of University Women (AAUW) report which claimed that “nearly two-thirds of undergraduates (both men and women) have been sexually harassed.” FIRE strongly objects to the AAUW’s report and its deceptive findings as they keep alive the misinterpretation of “harassment” to mean, essentially, any time someone feels offended—a definition that is legally wrong but that has been at the heart of so many of FIRE’s cases. As I said at the time:

With millions of students allegedly believing they were ‘harassed’ by merely rude or bawdy speech, it is no wonder that colleges and universities are inundated with frivolous harassment claims and lawsuits. This report is actually evidence that harassment law and policies must be reformed to more clearly protect free speech rights.

Thank you, Allison, for bringing attention to these important issues. Gettysburg’s policies and the AAUW report both conflate normal daily behavior (hugs or flirtatious glances) with serious offenses and in doing so only trivialize real sexual offenses and harassment.