Before entering a party at the Charter Club, one of the Ivy League university’s famous “eating” clubs, students will be presented with a pledge that reads, “Consent is asking for and receiving affirmation before and while engaging in anyone’s personal space or belongings, and can be revoked at any time.” Students who refuse to read the pledge won’t be allowed to enter the event. The Tab, a student news site, first reported the pledge.
The eating clubs, where upperclass students take their meals and hold social events in the clubs’ houses, are often seen as the nucleus of Princeton’s campus life. But the clubs came under scrutiny in 2014, when two sexual assaults were reported to occur at the clubs and when one of the clubs, Tiger Inn, was investigated for allegedly distributing a photo of a sex act.
“We all acknowledge that sexual assault is an issue on our campus and every campus, and we want to do whatever we can to help that. The conversations are happening, and I think they’re self-initiated,” Lorena Grundy, the president of the Charter Club and a Princeton senior, told Motto in a phone interview. “We’re always looking for new ways to prioritize consent and everyone’s safety.”
The Charter Club board unanimously decided to implement the policy after it was suggested by one of its board members who had heard students at Stanford University did something similar. For the past few years, parties at the Charter Club and other eating clubs have had bouncers, security guards, and four sober student officers, who have received training from Princeton’s Sexual Harassment/Assault Advising, Resources and Education (SHARE) office, on duty at each party.
While Grundy said she’s only received positive responses from attendees at Charter Club parties, some students were worried that the Charter Club didn’t define consent explicitly enough. Students told the Daily Princetonian, the university’s student newspaper, that they were concerned the the pledge didn’t explicitly include ‘sexual activity‘ or the notion that an individual can’t give consent while intoxicated. And some feared the pledge might not be effective if students arrive to their parties drunk and are unable to read the pledge.
“I agree that the comment on consent and incapacitation is very valid, and we’ve already begun discussing adding a clause to add that,” she said, adding that the club’s bouncers would send anyone who was too drunk to read to pledge to health services instead of allowing them to go to another club. “I would not say that we’re at all skirting around the issue of sexual activity—we simply intended to make the statement as broad as possible. Of course it includes sexual activity, but we don’t want to reduce the situations in which consent is required to only sexual activity, but also any engagement with another person’s personal space or belongings.”
Grundy said that she plans to have conversations with the director of Princeton’s SHARE office about how to modify the pledge’s language.
“We don’t claim to be experts on everything related to consent,” she said. “We will be happy to modify our policy with her recommendations—the ultimate goal is for the statement to be as effective as possible, whatever that entails.”