At Governor's Urging, SUNY Board Votes to Establish Comprehensive System-wide Uniform Set of Practices to Combat Sexual Assaults on College Campuses
Board of Trustees Appoints Linda Fairstein as Special Adviser for Implementation of Sexual Assault Response and Prevention Policies
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that the State University of New York (SUNY) will put in place a comprehensive system-wide uniform set of practices to combat sexual assaults on SUNY campuses.
The Governor attended today's meeting of the SUNY Board of Trustees, and at his urging the Board passed a resolution to establish a set of policies that will be adopted by every SUNY campus regarding sexual assault prevention and response. The resolution includes implementing a uniform, system-wide definition of consent that is required between participants before engaging in sexual activity; an immunity policy to protect students coming forward to report sexual assault; a statewide training program for campus police and administrators regarding how to address sexual assault incidents; a public campaign to increase awareness among students and parents; and a uniform Sexual Assault Victims' Bill of Rights that will, in clear and specific language, inform a student of his or her rights following an attack including the option of approaching State Police.
Today's SUNY resolution is the first in a series of steps outlined by the Governor to combat sexual assault on college campuses. The Governor announced he will work to adopt the same standards legislatively for all of New York's private colleges.
"There has been an epidemic of sexual violence in this country that is truly disturbing and it is plaguing our college campuses," Governor Cuomo said. "It is time for New York to take what is a difficult, uncomfortable topic and lead the way, and that is exactly what this resolution passed by the SUNY Board of Trustees today will do. This is not just a SUNY problem, but SUNY can lead and SUNY can reform on campus safety so we can better protect our students, and make our university communities a safer place for our children."
SUNY Board Chairman H. Carl McCall said, “Keeping our students safe is SUNY’s number one priority, and we are grateful for Governor Cuomo’s ongoing support as we uphold our promises of safety and security on each of our 64 campuses. Establishing a comprehensive set of sexual assault prevention and response practices that is consistent across SUNY will ensure that our system continues to be a national leader not only in compliance but also in providing effective, quality support for all students.”
SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher said, “SUNY is committed to providing the best tools, resources, and services for students to protect them from sexual assault and support them in the event that an incident does occur. Governor Cuomo has helped us develop a comprehensive plan for increased awareness and police training that will complement our existing efforts and enhance our national leadership role in combating sexual assault and violence. We are proud to implement this new policy in partnership with the governor and the presidents at each of our 64 college and university campuses across New York State.”
Lori Mould, President of the SUNY Student Assembly and SUNY Trustee, said, “SUNY students support Governor Cuomo in his efforts to end sexual violence on campus. By securing a safe campus environment, the Governor and SUNY are helping to ensure that we as students can focus on our education and a successful future. We are fortunate to be part of a higher education system that has taken such a strong stance on this issue, and applaud the Governor in his decision to take the best practices found at our institutions to scale across the state.”
New York Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Donna Lieberman said, "Sexual assault is an assault on individual dignity and autonomy. Governor Cuomo’s proposal sends a clear message to college and university officials that they must ensure the safety and safeguard the rights of students who suffer sexual assault on campus. This new resolution will give officials the tools they need to help survivors regain control of their lives."
The Governor today also announced that the SUNY Board, upon his recommendation, has appointed Linda Fairstein to serve as a special adviser for the implementation of the sexual assault response and prevention policy. Linda Fairstein is one of America's foremost legal experts on crimes of sexual assault and domestic violence. She led the Sex Crimes Unit of the District Attorney's Office in Manhattan for twenty-five years. Currently a Fellow at the American College of Trial Lawyers, she is a graduate of Vassar College and the University of Virginia School of Law.
This resolution can be found here, and includes:
- Uniform Definition of Consent: All SUNY campuses will adopt a system-wide definition of affirmative consent as a clear, unambiguous, and voluntary agreement between the participants to engage in specific sexual activity. The uniform definition is as follows: "Consent is clear, knowing and voluntary. Consent is active, not passive. Silence, in and of itself, cannot be interpreted as consent. Consent can be given by words or actions, as long as those words or actions create mutually understandable clear permission regarding willingness to engage in (and the conditions of) sexual activity. Consent to any one form of sexual activity cannot automatically imply consent to any other forms of sexual activity. Previous relationships or prior consent cannot imply consent to future sexual acts."
- Uniform Amnesty Policy to Encourage Reporting: SUNY campuses will grant immunity for drug, alcohol, and other student code of conduct violations for students reporting incidents of sexual assault or other sexual violence.
- Comprehensive Statewide Training for Campus Police and College Administrators: SUNY, working with the State, will conduct statewide coordinated training with all SUNY campuses, including training by SUNY Police and State Police for campus security on best practices for campus security plans and victim sensitivity, as well as training by SUNY attorneys for college administrators and adjudicators on preventing and addressing sexual violence and how to improve compliance with existing federal laws. All SUNY campuses will also institute uniform training for students at all freshman orientations.
- Statewide Public Awareness Campaign: SUNY will undertake a statewide public awareness campaign, coordinated with the State, to increase awareness among college students, high school students, and parents of individual safety and prevention techniques as well as the importance of bystander intervention in any unsafe situation.
- Sexual Assault Victims’ Bill of Rights: All SUNY campuses will adopt and widely publicize a uniform Sexual Assault Victims’ Bill of Rights that will specifically inform victims of sexual assault of their right to report sexual assault to local, campus or State law enforcement. The Bill of Rights will also inform students how to access campus-specific victim resources including how to obtain a restraining/no contact order and how to obtain counseling, health, legal and support services.
- Uniform Confidentiality and Reporting Protocol for All SUNY Campuses: To ensure all colleges are following best practices and the same set of standards and protocols are in place on each campus, all SUNY campuses will adopt a uniform system-wide Confidentiality and Reporting Protocol. The uniform Confidentiality and Reporting Protocol will encourage the prompt and accurate reporting of acts of sexual assault, help the campus community to quickly respond to allegations of sexual assault, and ensure that students have timely and accurate information about available confidential resources
- Uniform Campus Climate Assessments: All SUNY campuses will conduct campus climate assessments in order to gauge the prevalence of sexual assault on campus, test students’ attitudes and awareness of the issue, and provide colleges/universities with information to help them form solutions for addressing and preventing sexual assault on and off campus.