By Emily Beach
Pour the coffee and prepare for all-nighters—school is back in session. As the academic year begins, orientation provides a place for freshmen to learn rich school traditions, parking policies, and for many students across the country, a new program about sexual assault.
Senate Bill 967 passed unanimously in the California Senate after a 52 to 16 vote in the State Assembly. Governor Jerry Brown is expected to sign the bill into law. This would make California the first state to add a new section to the Education Code regarding student safety and sexual assault, altering the standard of sexual consent on college campuses. The bill mandates that in order to receive state funds for student financial aid, colleges and universities would be required to implement policies and procedures to ensure that those who are victims of sexual assault on campus receive appropriate treatment and information.
The rally called ‘yes means yes’ stems from the bill’s affirmative consent standard, which requires that consent for sexual activity must be an “affirmative, conscious, and voluntary agreement” between both parties throughout the activity. This provides the opportunity for either student to revoke their consent at any time. Both parties must take valid steps in ensuring that their partner provides an “enthusiastic” yes before the activity by seeing that they are not asleep, unconscious, incapacitated due to drugs, alcohol or medication, or unable to communicate due to mental or physical conditions. Silence or lack of response does not constitute a valid yes.
The senate bill pushes for universities to adopt policies that help victims feel safe by implementing procedures in response to the activity. Each institution is to create outreach programs that provide students with their rights and responsibilities under the policy. The program will connect with local centers and be incorporated in student orientation.
Dominican University of California’s current sexual consent policy states that, “The University is committed to ensuring that all students participate in education programs to promote the awareness of sexual harassment, rape, acquaintance rape (‘date rape’), and non-forcible sex offenses. All new Dominican University of California students are required to participate in an online education program prior to New Student Orientation, and additionally they are required to attend an awareness/education session during Orientation.”
In regards to sexual consent on campus, the University’s Sexual Assault Policy defines consent as “generally means positive cooperation. The person must act freely and voluntarily and have knowledge of the nature of the act involved. A current or previous dating or marital relationship is not sufficient to constitute consent. The use of drugs, alcohol or any other intoxicant may prevent a person from giving consent.”
Dominican University of California receives state funds from the Cal Grant for student financial aid. With the passing of Senate Bill 967, Dominican will comply with the changes in the law.
For the students attending Dominican, this bill provides a platform to clarify what “positive cooperation” means in their active lifestyle. Mairi Pileggi, Director of the Gender Studies Program at Dominican University, commented that “one thing I hope this bill will do is spark dialogue on campus about sexual assault and what ‘giving consent’ means. If it helps students reflect on how they act on their sexuality and become more aware of or more intentional in their actions, then students benefit.”
For further information regarding Dominican University’s harassment policy, visit http://www.dominican.edu/campus-life/current/studentlife/sexualharass_policy.pdf