To the Editor:
This past Tuesday, Women’s Forum invited Head of School John Palfrey and Paul Murphy, Dean of Students, to discuss the new “open-door” parietal policy that has spurred a petition as well as several acts of student protest. Many students expressed outrage regarding this policy, claiming that, while it purported to prevent instances of sexual assault, in practice it will achieve the exact opposite, because sexual activity will be removed from the safety of dorm rooms. The primary issue then becomes whether the school is more or less responsible of negligence under the new rule.
As a community, however, we need to remember that in cases of sexual assault, the assaulter is ultimately responsible. With this in mind, we need a policy that holds these perpetrators accountable for their actions, regardless of whether the act was committed in a dorm room. We need to reexamine the issue of consent and clarify once and for all that only a clear and enthusiastic “yes” qualifies as sexual consent.
Inspired by California’s Senate Bill 97, nicknamed the “Yes Means Yes” law, Stowe House has decided to enact policy of affirmative sexual consent. In California, the policy aims to clarify what is commonly considered to be gray area surrounding consent.
In accordance with Massachusetts state law, consent at Andover is currently defined as the absence of a “no,” though even this is hardly made clear to students, except in abstruse language buried deep in the Blue Book. The Blue Book lacks any clarification of the definition of sexual abuse and sexual consent, leaving our students uninformed when it comes to what does or does not constitute sexual assault. This omission is more than just a simple inconvenience: it implicitly permits students to be intimate without obtaining explicit consent by claiming that the rules were never clarified in the first place.
In Stowe House, we have redefined consent as an explicit “yes.” Thus, in any case occurrence of sexual intimacy in Stowe, consent is only obtained when the individual in question gives clear and enthusiastic consent, both verbally and physically. It is our hope that other dorms will follow our lead in implementing such a policy, and that the Blue Book will incorporate an unambiguous policy on sexual assault that states that only “yes” means yes.
It is in the interest of our entire community to promote a campus-wide “Yes Means Yes” policy. The Strategic Plan, finalized two weeks ago by the Board of Trustees, contains a section on “Empathy and Balance,” in which it states that Andover must “prioritize mutual understanding and individual well-being as essential to a thriving community.”
A “Yes Means Yes” policy proactively helps Andover to embark on its new initiative of promoting self-awareness and the health of the entire community. We can no longer stand for a culture in which, according to the 2014 _Phillipian_ “State of the Academy” survey, 67 of our students are the victims of sexual assault. It is time for Andover to redefine consent.
Adrienne Allen ’16
Alisa Bhakta ’16
Lily Grossbard ’15, Commentary Editor for _The Phillipian_
Hannah Hagemeyer ’15
Sadie Holmes ’16
Emma Kukielski ’15
Di Ouyang ’15
Tessa Peterson ’15
Alex Westfall ’15, Photography Editor for _The Phillipian_
_All signatories are residents of Stowe House_