Today’s ‘Campus Alert’: Hug At Your Own Risk

May 29, 2007
Today’s installment of our weekly Campus Alert feature in the New York Post discusses a sexual misconduct policy at Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania with which FIRE has taken issue for quite some time.

The policy, which defines “brushing, touching, grabbing, pinching, patting, hugging and kissing” as sexual interactions, requires “verbal,” “continuing,” and “active” consent to participate in these exchanges.
As we note in Campus Alert:
In practice, complying with Gettysburg’s policy seems to mean that each and every physical contact between students is doomed to be embarrassingly awkward. (“Can I hold your hand?” “Yes.” “Can I continue to hold your hand?” “Yes.”) But of course Gettysburg students don’t comply with these ridiculous prohibitions; they’re students, not robots.
Every Gettysburg student has likely violated the policy at some point. So why does it exist? Since it clearly has no relation to reality, the policy should be scrapped.
Gettysburg’s administration insists that while the policy is enforced, it has never been used to crackdown on hugging or hand-holding, but the fact that the policy still exists means that administrators have explicitly reserved the right to punish students for this behavior when they deem it necessary. Trusting administrators with the power to punish on the promise that they won’t abuse that power is a losing proposition.
FIRE has been watching this case for a year now, and although Gettysburg promised a revision of the policy at the beginning of this academic year, the old policy is still on the books. As we said in Campus Alert, Gettysburg students should demand change, for while this policy exists, the danger remains that administrators may arbitrarily choose to enforce it. 

Schools:  Gettysburg College