Verbalizing consent, in theory, is relatively simple. But how and does it work in practice? On a recent evening, I watched at a student dance where all attendees were asked at the door to read and sign the Sexual Offense Prevention Policy before entering. There were quite a few in attendance, some from Antioch College, and many more from other colleges. None objected or even seemed surprised.
At Antioch College, we believe that democracy and change requires the kind of direct engagement, difficult conversations and hard work exhibited by those who created the Sexual Offense Prevention Policy. The policy isn’t the final answer in ending sexual violence and harassment, by any means. But if we are to make real progress on those fronts, it is crucial we encourage open dialogue and respect around the real issues. Then, as now at Antioch, students own their education. They are encouraged to participate in developing policy and practice — and to take personal and collective responsibility — for the betterment of the community and society they wish to build.
It may well be time for learning space, workplace, and government office in America to offer “Consent 101” as a required course.
Thomas Manley is president of Antioch College in Yellow Springs.