SUNY system adopts affirmative sexual consent policy to deter campus rape

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ALBANY, New York — New York's state university system has adopted a new definition of sexual consent that requires a clear, affirmative agreement between partners, part of a larger effort to reduce sexual violence on college campuses.

The SUNY Board of Trustees announced Tuesday that it has formally approved the new policy, which will apply to more than 463,000 students on all 64 state campuses. Under the new so-called "yes means yes" standard, silence cannot be interpreted as permission to engage in sexual contact, and consent may be withdrawn at any time.

"Today, SUNY is taking a critical step toward combating the epidemic of sexual violence and misconduct on our college campuses," said Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who called the new policy the first of its kind in the nation.

The new definition says "Affirmative consent is a clear, unambiguous, knowing, informed, and voluntary agreement between all participants to engage in sexual activity. Consent is active, not passive."

The standard goes on to say that a prior sexual relationship does not confer consent to future sexual activity.

Other initiatives adopted by the SUNY Board include better training for law enforcement and a Bill of Rights for sexual violence victims that informs them of their right to report sexual assault to campus police or the local police department.

To encourage the reporting of sexual violence, students will be given immunity for any drug or alcohol violations. All SUNY schools will also adopt a uniform policy on victim confidentiality and the reporting of sex crimes.

"SUNY's top priority is to protect our students and foster safe learning environments on our college and university campuses," said SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher. "These new SUNY policies are sound, consensus-driven, and comprehensive."

The policy was proposed by Cuomo in October and then finalized over the fall. The details will be given to all first-year SUNY students as part of their orientation.

Cuomo said Tuesday that he supports legislation to make the policy apply to all private colleges and universities too.

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