University updates policy on sexual misconduct

tag cloudBy Sara Miller

The Student Sexual Misconduct policy has been updated on the recommendation of a committee of faculty, staff, and students. The policy defines sexual misconduct, outlines student rights, identifies resources available to the student community, and guides the University’s response to reports of possible sexual misconduct, including sexual assault.

Important updates to the policy include full definitions of the terms consent and incapacitation in connection with sexual activity. The new standards are now in place and reflect the University’s ongoing focus on the prevention of all forms of sexual misconduct.

“The revision of the Student Sexual Misconduct Policy is an important step in increasing
the transparency of the way in which the University handles sexual misconduct reports,” said Morgan Levy, University director of Equal Opportunity Compliance and Title IX Coordinator.
“Students, staff, and faculty thoughtfully engaged for several months in a process to create a policy that clearly outlines the University’s commitment to creating a campus free of sex-based harassment, including sexual violence.”

With the changes to the policy, the University has moved toward an “affirmative consent” model that requires explicit consent from both individuals engaged in sexual activity. The policy
now mandates that consent be “informed, freely given, and mutual,” and that each participant obtain and give consent in each instance of sexual activity. According to the policy, silence does not constitute consent, and past consent to sexual activities does not imply present or ongoing future consent.

The new policy standards also more clearly define individuals’ responsibilities to determine if someone is not sober enough as a result of alcohol or drugs to give informed consent to sexual
activity. Individuals must not engage in sexual activity with a partner that a reasonable person would realize is incapable of giving consent. If someone shows signs of being incapacitated—falls down or demonstrates a lack of control over physical movements; shows a lack of awareness of their circumstances or surroundings; is not able to com- municate properly—a reasonable person would likely conclude that their informed consent is not possible.

“Clarification regarding what constitutes incapacitation was a key component of this policy,” said Levy. “We wanted to make clear to students that it is everyone’s responsibility to ensure that their potential sexual partner is able to make an informed decision about whether to engage in sexual activity.”

The University actively promotes awareness and prevention of sexual misconduct through a variety of educational programs. The first exposure to the topic is during freshman orientation during Red Light/Green Light, a mandatory one-hour program jointly offered through several University departments. Student actors play out real-life scenarios to increase new students’ awareness about sexual assault and provide information about the resources available. A key component of the program is its emphasis on encouraging students to intervene if they suspect that someone is engaging in or about to engage in inappropriate behavior by demonstrating safe and effective ways for students to approach a peer and remove them from the situation.

Students, faculty, and staff, and others who believe they are aware of an instance of sexual misconduct are encouraged to immediately report it to University Public Safety.

The full Student Sexual Misconduct Policy and more information can be found online at www.rochester.edu/sexualmisconduct.

Sara Miller is University spokeswoman.