ST. PAUL, Minn. — Minnesota State’s Board of Trustees is expected to vote in coming weeks on a change to sexual misconduct policy at the state’s largest higher education system, which covers both employees and students alike.
Student leaders want to replace “no means no” with “yes means yes” when it comes to obtaining sexual consent, the Pioneer Press reported . The affirmative consent policy emphasizes that consent must be expressed through “words or clear, unambiguous action,” and can be revoked at any time.
The policy is meant to remove confusion about when participants are willingly engaging in sex, said Lexy Byler, a Minnesota State University Moorhead student and vice chair of Students United, the state university student advocacy group.
“You shouldn’t be feeling like there’s any question about it,” she said. “It’s trying to eliminate that gray area.”
Students United have been working on the affirmative consent policy for three years. Byler said the group hopes to pass the change in March, given the momentum from the nationwide #MeToo movement, which aims to stop sexual violence.
“You can’t ignore the climate right now in the United States,” she said. “This is something that has really wide support among our students.”
While affirmative consent is the ideal model for communication between sexual partners, it isn’t a good college policy, said Samantha Harris, vice president of policy research for the nonprofit Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.
“There is consensual sex that happens without that due diligence,” she said.
Such policies are difficult because it’s relatively easy to be punished for a student conduct violation when compared with the criminal justice system, she said.
“Students can be expelled from school often with very little process,” Harris said. “I wonder whether they’ve truly thought through the implications.”
The state-run system has 30 public colleges and seven universities.
Information from: St. Paul Pioneer Press, http://www.twincities.com