Revisions made to the Blue Book over the summer were introduced to students during their respective cluster meetings last Thursday. The major revisions focus on addressing sexual misconduct on campus, and they are a continuation of the Affirmative Consent Policy that was added to the Blue Book last year. Another major revision adds tobacco products to the Sanctuary policy.
Jennifer Elliott ’94, Dean of Students and Residential Life, emphasized the importance of reading the contents of the revised Blue Book, especially noting that sexual misconduct is now explicitly stated as a major offense.
“The Affirmative Consent Policy has not changed… sexual misconduct has always been considered a major offense under a larger umbrella of harassment… but we just wanted to be as explicit as we could with our [students] so that it will help inform their decision-making and their behavior,” said Elliott in an interview with The Phillipian.
The term “sexual misconduct” was also specifically defined as any act of unwanted sexual contact (both with or without force), non-consensual sexual penetration (with or without force), sexual intimidation, sexual exploitation, and relationship violence.
Elliott noted that students and faculty in the previous school year, as well as in lieu of recent investigations regarding sexual misconduct in boarding schools, have helped to prompt these changes.
“I think the larger cultural focus in this area, for sure the federal government’s investigation into a number of different abuses on college campuses [and] press coverage of activities on college campuses [have] focused all of our attention in this area. But… student advocates have [also] pushed us,” said Elliott.
Changes were also implemented to align policies on sexual misconduct in the Blue Book with the ones noted in the Faculty and Staff Handbook.
“We have repeatedly asked students to read this section, we’ve asked faculty and staff members to read this section, we have [discussed it] in cluster meetings, we will talk about it in dorm meetings, and advising groups. ‘I didn’t know’ will never be an okay excuse for student behaviors. We really want to make sure [students] know about it, and we want to make sure we offer opportunities if [students] have questions,” said Elliott.
All student offenses of sexual misconduct, harassment, discrimination, and hazing and bullying are handled by the Community Conduct Council (C.C.C.).
“[The C.C.C.] is largely an investigative group, and we write reports [about the incident] and make recommendations [to the Disciplinary Committee]… it makes total sense to have clearer guidelines,” said Marisela Ramos, Instructor in History and a member of the C.C.C.
The Brace Center for Gender Studies also plans to coordinate a number of events this year to address the topics of healthy relationships, sexual assault, and gender-based violence.
Laci Green, a sex educator, activist, and host of a YouTube channel on sexual education with one million subscribers, will also be coming to Andover and speaking at All-School Meeting on these topics this year. Green will hold a lunch discussion with students and hold workshops for student leaders and faculty.
“She’s fantastic… she’s young, dynamic, and super frank and open. [She] has a very powerful message, and a lot of the students here are familiar with her and her work. So we think it’s going to be a really great way to kick off the school year with this kind of program,” said Flavia Vidal, Instructor in English and Co-Director of the Brace Center for Gender Studies, in an interview with The Phillipian.
Stephanie Gilmore, a feminist activist and professor in gender studies, is another speaker scheduled to come to campus during the first weekend of October and lead various workshops.
In addition, Andover will again offer a Mentors in Violence Prevention program to 50 Lowers. In the span of seven 90-minute sessions, participants will learn about ways to raise awareness of sexual violence, discuss the importance of consent, and explore the potential roles of bystanders.
“Andover is trying to do everything we can to promote healthy decision making… We want [students] to enter into any dynamic with another person from a place of respect and thoughtfulness. The data we’ve collected on our campus and other campuses around sexual assault are terrifying, and they absolutely make it impossible for kids to learn well and to thrive. We want to make sure that [students] know that we are hearing them when they talk to us about their concerns,” said Elliott.
Revisions on sexual misconduct can be found on pages 9-19 of the Blue Book, and on page 39 it is explicitly stated that sexual misconduct is considered a major offense. Policy regarding the inclusion of tobacco in the Sanctuary policy can be found on page 7.