Despite the recently revised policies of many universities around the country, NC State will not be implementing any changes to its sexual assault policy based on the “Yes Means Yes” movement.
Instead, the school is working to combat sexual assault on a community-wide basis through outreach and advocacy programs.
“From an education and advocacy standpoint, we’ve been on a ‘Yes Means Yes’ perspective and philosophy for the last few years,” said Otis McGresham, assistant director for Interpersonal Violence Services at the NC State Women’s Center.
UNC-Chapel Hill and Duke University recently adopted new sexual misconduct policies centered on the “Yes Means Yes” campaign. The revised policies redefine consent as having both parties “affirmatively agree” before participating in sexual activity. In addition to changing the sexual misconduct policy, UNC-CH asked all incoming students to sign a form stating that they understood and would abide by the given definition of consent.
The “Yes Means Yes” movement gained attention in California last month, when the state passed a law requiring campuses that receive state money to define consent as “affirmative, conscious, and voluntary agreement.” The law also specifies that consent must be continuous throughout sexual activities and excludes silence or incapacitation due to drugs or alcohol as consent.
State legislators in New Jersey and New Hampshire have introduced similar bills which link state funding to the use of affirmative consent, in hopes that the updated policy will reduce the number of sexual assaults on college campuses.
Many other schools around the country have added similar definitions to their sexual misconduct policies, including State University of New York schools and every Ivy League school except Harvard University. More than 800 universities around the country currently have affirmative consent definitions in their sexual assault policies, according to The National Center for Higher Education Risk Management.
“I know they have discussed it … but there are no immediate plans for changes in the Code of Conduct,” McGresham said.
The current policy includes a requirement of consent, however it does not explicitly define consent. It states: “‘Without consent’ means that an act was committed against a person either by force (threat, coercion, or intimidation), or without the person’s agreement or permission to allow another person to commit an act.”
It also states that, “A person who is incapacitated as a result of alcohol or drug consumption (voluntary or involuntary); who is unconscious, unaware, or asleep during the act; or who is under the legal age to provide consent, is incapable of giving consent.”
While the “Yes Means Yes” campaign has gotten national attention, there is some doubt to its effectiveness.
“Here at NC State, most people get that consent is a big part of preventing sexual violence,” McGresham said. “When you agree to the student code of conduct here, it is already implicit. For us, the challenge is creating a community that is less tolerant to sexual violence. We have to make it clear to perpetrators that that behavior is not tolerated.”
NC State has introduced various outreach and awareness programs in an effort to communicate this attitude. The Women’s Center holds workshops about sexual abuse and sexual violence, all of which address the issue of consent. The university also showed a presentation on consent for all new students during the New Student Orientation.
NC State recently implemented the “It’s On Us” campaign, an online movement sponsored by the White House.
However, some students also argue that NC State should change its definition of consent in the Code of Conduct to abide by the affirmative standard.
“I think that they should do as much as they can to prevent situations where consent could be considered controversial or foggy,” said Morgan Impink, a freshman in bioprocessing science. “I don’t think ‘It’s On Us’ does enough. Signing a pledge online isn’t a binding agreement.”
Others believe that the school is taking measures in the right direction to prevent sexual assault.
“The ‘It’s On Us’ campaign is great because it helps to spread awareness,” said Rhiannon Crisp, a sophomore in polymer and color chemistry. “I think that it has really great potential to help, especially on a college campus.”
Culture change is something that takes time, according to McGresham.
“I don’t think we are there yet, but we are raising awareness and are working to make people see early on that their responsibility in the Wolfpack is maintaining that safe place,” McGresham said.
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