As everyone rethinks consent, administrators rethink orientation

Schools increasingly focusing on sexual assault, 'yes means yes' policies

More colleges and universities are integrating affirmative consent training into orientation and the normal school year, Jacqueline Thomsen reports for Inside Higher Ed.

Laws in California and New York now require campuses to use affirmative consent in sexual misconduct policies and train staff, faculty, and students on "yes means yes." As the trend spreads, institutions in other states are voluntarily adding training on the need for specific actions or verbal actions to indicate consent as well.

How affirmative consent is changing college culture

This spring, the Indiana University System revised its sexual misconduct policies to include affirmative consent. Much like in previous years, freshmen at the Bloomington campus will now complete an online module on sexual assault and misconduct over the summer and then see a musical dealing with the same topics during orientation.  Following the musical, trained student orientation leaders will facilitate discussions.

But programming on sexual violence will not stop when classes begin, says Carol McCord, Bloomington's associate dean of students. Additionally, posters listing university resources for sexual assault survivors will be placed in bathroom stalls in every campus building.

"While we must have the university definition, legally and judicially, the reality is that we want them to understand what students need to have consent," she says. "They don't need the actual verbatim definition, but they have to be clear when they have it, they need to be clear when they do not have it, clear on how to get it and how to intervene if they see people going forward who can't give consent."

Schools in New York are taking a multi-pronged approach to education on the topic too.

SUNY system adopts affirmative consent policy

At Daemon College, students and parents attend sessions on dating violence and consent during summer orientation. Then they complete training online before arriving back on campus for the fall semester, when they attend a theater performance dealing with the same topics and then discuss them in a first-year seminar.

"I think one of the things is that unless you have context for the information, it's hard to understand it," says Greg Nayor, Daemon's VP for student affairs. "It's not that the content is all that challenging ... but people have this information in a variety of different ways, and they don't realize that they need it until they need it."

Resource: The EAB Sexual Violence Campus Climate Survey

Other strategies schools employ include role playing, conducting a freshman survey to see how many have experiences with relationship violence, and mandating bystander training for student leaders.

At Columbia University, students are required to complete online training over the summer and "reflect" on the issue once on campus—by participating in group discussions, creating an art piece, or completing a similar activity.

"I think part of what's important is that education and engagement on these issues extends well beyond orientation and aims to shape an environment that support all students and reinforces the link between sexual respect and community citizenship," says Suzanne Goldberg, Columbia's EVP for student life (Thomsen, Inside Higher Ed, 8/19).

Thoughts on the story? Tweet us at @eab_daily and let us know.

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