Consent bill advances to governor’s desk

By Pat Cordova-Goff | Staff Writer

Legislation that would require California universities and colleges receiving state funding to adopt “affirmative consent” language into policy definitions of consensual sex is on the governor’s desk. If Gov. Jerry Brown signs it, California would be the first state in the union to enact such a requirement.

SB 967, which was passed unanimously by the state senate on Aug. 28, is part of a nationwide effort to reduce the rising number of sexual assaults on college campuses.

Although the federal Department of Education provides universities and colleges guidance on how to protect and provide services and support for sexual assault victims, California’s universities and colleges lack uniform standards. SB 967 would do just that.

Commonly known as the “Yes Means Yes” bill, SB 967 would replace “No Means No” policies. It would place the responsibility of receiving a clear “yes” from a consensual partner on the student initiating sexual activity. The bill requires “an affirmative, unambiguous and conscious decision” from the parties involved.

State Senators Kevin De Leon (D-Los Angeles) and Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) are co-sponsors of SB 967, which would require changes in local policies articulating how California campuses prevent, report and investigate sexual assault.

Describing college sexual assaults on campuses an “epidemic,” the White House released a list of colleges and universities with high rates of sexual assault and violence, including USC, UCLA, UC Berkeley, and Occidental College. Numerous student activists are calling for state governments to act in the interest of safety.

Opponents of the bill argue it is politically over-reaching and will force universities into legal complexities not experienced before.

Supporters of SB 967 say that silence and/or lack of resistance should not constitute consent, nor should alcohol and/or drug use excuse unwanted sexual activity.

UC President Napolitano formed a system-wide task force to oversee the University’s efforts to improve prevention and responses to sexual assault on the ten campuses.

The CSU Committee of Governmental Relations has documented support of the bill as well, and is working with the bill authors on implementing SB 967 into the CSU policies.

Citrus’ sexual violence prevention policy, which can be located online under Campus Safety, outlines and defines dating/domestic violence, rape, sexual harassment/violation, and stalking. The Citrus website says that consent “cannot be given if the person is asleep, intoxicated, unconscious, mentally disordered, under threat of force, or for any other reason unable to communicate willingness to participate in sexual activity. Intercourse under any of these circumstances is rape.”

Citrus College’s sexual violence policies (AP 3540 and AP 7102) do not define consent, however, or mention what language is needed to qualify as given consent. Under SB 967, Citrus will be legally obligated to include that consent in sexual activity requires an articulated “yes” from those involved.

SB 967 would mandate additional protections. Schools would be required to have on-campus victim advocates; prevent victims and witnesses who come forward from being punished for under-age drinking; and require disciplinary committees to be trained on dealing with sexual assault cases.

“[Citrus College] takes sexual assault charges very seriously and act upon them immediately,” said Arvid Spor ED.d, vice president of student services.

In addition, all institutions would be required to teach freshmen students about sexual assault and content during orientation.

“[Citrus College campus safety] will be implementing many workshops and presentations this year in partnership with the Health center, attempting to be proactive,” said Ben Macias, interim campus safety supervisor. “These workshops will be available, free of charge, for students and employees.”Martha McDonald, dean of students, echoed Macias, highlighting the annual Sex 101 Week and introducing an upcoming “[sexual assault] awareness campaign.”

“Campus safety involves everybody,” Macias added. “Collectively, we can combat sexual assaults.”

Gov. Brown has until Sept. 30 to reach a decision on the bill.