The passage of California’s “yes means yes” law in September altered the definition of sexual consent in the state. Now, it may lead to a change of policy at the University of Minnesota.
California law defines consent as “affirmative, conscious, voluntary agreement.” Many states and universities currently define consent through the absence of disagreement, rather than the presence of agreement.
At the end of the fall 2014 semester, the Minnesota Student Association resolved to explore the possibility of implementing an affirmative consent policy on campus as part of a new focus on sexual assault prevention and awareness.
This new policy may be modeled after the California bill, introducing mandatory education about sexual assault and consent laws for incoming University students. A taskforce with representatives from MSA and the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action will explore the proposed changes in policy.
However, University policy already embraces a policy similar to “yes means yes,” defining consent as “informed, freely and actively given and mutually understood.” Sexual assault on campus is punishable by the University, under both the Student Conduct Code and state law.
Given the current definition of consent in the Student Conduct Code, in addition to its similarity to the “yes means yes” law, it is not clear whether MSA’s focus on sexual assault awareness and prevention will yield tangible results. The effort is laudable, but we would like to see MSA push for change at the state level to ensure affirmative consent is enforced by law.