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College Defines New Policy on Date Rape

By Steven A. Engel

After three years of rallies, committee reports and criticism of the College administration, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences quietly approved a new date rape policy last month which effectively provides a bureaucratic solution on what had been a wide-ranging campus debate.

The new definition defines rape as "any act of sexual intercourse that takes place against a person's will or that is accompanied by physical coercion or the threat of bodily injury."

The Faculty, which must approve any changes in College rules, passed the compromise definition favoring a negative criterion for date rape; the standard places the burden on the victim to "express unwillingness."

The College's definition of date rape has been a key point of contention on campus, since a series of articles three years ago in The Crimson documenting the cases of several rape victims at the College brought the issue to the attention of women's rights advocates.

The Radcliffe Union of Students and then-Dean of Coeducation Janet A. Viggiani pushed for the College to toughen its policies and to encourage rape victims to come forward.

Subsequently Congress passed the Higher Education Reauthorization Act last year, requiring universities to formulate written policy statements for dealing with sexual assault cases by this year.

The Faculty's adoption of the policy completes the work of the Date Rape Task Force, a student-faculty committee charged in December 1990 with evaluating the College's handling of date rape.

The Date Rape Task Force released a 40-page report last fall offering a liberal definition of date rape and suggesting new procedures in disciplinary action and education about date rape.

Many of the procedures have since been adopted by the Ad Board, according to Jewett. "Essentially the Task Force recommendations by and large have been acted upon," he says.

Most of the attention on the Task Force's activities, however, has focused on two controversial suggestions which were not implemented: a definition of date rape as sex without "expressed consent"--requiring sexual partners to elicit consent prior to engaging in intercourse--and the inclusion of students in the hearing of date rape cases that come before the Ad Board.

After the Task Force released its report, the Undergraduate Council proposed a definition of date rape as sex that occurs "despite the expressed unwillingness of the victim."

The two groups set the parameters of the debate: Should a "no" or a lack of a "yes" constitute date rape? They presented their proposals before the Faculty Council in November 1992.

Just days earlier, the College's Administrative Board had adopted several of the Task Force's suggestions, including allowing rape victims to give personal testimony before the Ad Board. Previously victims could only submit a written statement to the board.

The Ad Board also expressed reservations on the Task Force's definition.

In a memo to the Faculty Council, Jewett called the definition "either impractical or inappropriate as a disciplinary standard."

The Faculty Council also appeared to favor the council's definition. As a result, Jewett charged Viggiani and Heinicke, opponents in the debate, with the job of formulating a compromise definition.

The Faculty Council accepted the definition on May 12, making only minor technical changes and giving it to the Faculty for final approval.

Jewett says he was pleased with the outcome of the Task Force's work. "I think the Task Force had a very positive effect on the community's way of looking at this issue," he says. "We have a new policy that's quite explicit and firm."


"Date rape is any act of sexual intercourse that takes place against a person's will or that is accompanied by physical coercion or the threat of bodily injury."

Formulating a Definition

October 26, 1990

The Crimson prints a news feature which questioned the efficacy of how the Ad Board handles date rape cases. Dean of College L. Fred Jewett '57 says: "When people are drunk they may not remeber whether they said yes or not. The person that's drunk is not always clear, is not articulate, and that's why you get these cases." The comments sparks protests and "Attack Jewett" posters.

February 10, 1992

The Date Rape Task Force, commissioned after the 1990 protests, proposes a broad definition of date rape as "sexual intercourse without expressed consent." It also suggests a number of educational and administrative measures which are almost immediately adopted by the College.

May 6, 1992

The Undergraduate Council disagrees with the Task Force definition and proposes its own definition: "sexual intercourse that occurs despite the expressed unwillingness of the victim."

February 23, 1993

The council's Malcolm A. Heinicke '93 and the Task Force's Janet A. Viggiani formulate a compromise definition.

May 18, 1993

The Faculty approves the compromise definition, favoring the council's "no" standard.

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