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Scholars call for withdrawal of sexual assault policy

The Stanford Association of Scholars - a group of about 30 faculty members - has unanimously adopted a resolution calling for the withdrawal of Stanford's new policy on sexual assault.

The policy, approved by President Donald Kennedy in November 1991, states that "sex by force or coercion, including deliberate coercion through the use of drugs or alcohol, is absolutely unacceptable at Stanford."

Faculty, staff or students who are found in violation of the policy face maximum university sanctions, in addition to criminal prosecution.

According to Doug Dupen, deputy director of employee relations, the policy is intended to bring Stanford into line with California State Law, Assembly Bill 3098, which requires that colleges and universities develop procedures for dealing with sexual offenses taking place under their jurisdiction.

But Prof. Gerald Gillespie, chairman of the Stanford Association of Scholars, said the new policy is yet another example of the "continuous pressure on campus to alter the legal definition of many things. It's making people feel nervous, because they feel there is an agenda behind this."

(The student senate recently rejected proposed changes in the campus judicial system that would have made it easier to find students guilty on such charges as date rape, cheating and other student conduct violations.)

Gillespie distributed his group's resolution to the press in mid-January. The document particularly objects to the notion of "coercion" via drugs or alcohol, which it calls "vague and ill- defined."

"Sexual assault might well be construed to include the following scenario: A male student offers a female student a drink, the male student having in mind later having sex with the female student," the resolution states.

"Similar scenarios in which a female offers a male a drink or a person offers a person of the same sex a drink might also be construed to be sexual assault."

Sexual assault, the scholars resolved, "ought to include sex after (proven) intentional incapacitation of the victim. . . . The new statement, because of its vagueness and lack of clear 'bright lines,' threatens to turn social drinking, flirtation, seduction, impassioned persuasion and consenting sex into the campus crime of 'sexual assault.' "

In response, university judicial affairs officer Sally Cole - one of the authors of the policy - called Gillespie's allegations of a hidden or radical agenda "way off the mark."

"The policy - which was approved by the university cabinet, the provost and the president - was developed by human resources specialists and university attorneys in consultation with many others, both on our campus and on other campuses," she said.

"Responding effectively to complaints of sexual assault or other forms of unacceptable sexual conduct will always be a tricky business that requires skill, sensitivity and good will. While we must be self-critical as we develop experience both with our policies and with our response mechanisms, (this) blast at the new policy is, I think, both premature and unhelpful."

Bob Hamrdla, assistant to the president, said on Jan. 27 that Kennedy had not yet received the resolution and therefore had no comment.


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