Consent policy has promise

Daily Editorial Board

After months of debate, the University of Minnesota has enacted an affirmative consent policy redefining sexual consent along the lines of “yes means yes.”
 
Many critics of affirmative consent policies fear they shift the burden of proof from the accuser to the accused. Kimberly Hewitt, director of the University’s Office of Equal
Opportunity and Affirmative Action, has denied these claims. 
 
In an interview with the Chronicle of Higher Education, Hewitt said that under the affirmative consent policy colleges must consult with both parties after an alleged sexual assault. Investigators need to prove that more than half of the evidence suggests an alleged assault took place. Although this standard of proof is lower than “beyond a reasonable doubt,” it follows the federal government’s guidelines for investigating sexual assaults on college campuses. 
 
In recent days, the University has taken about the new consent policy, targeting athletes and members of Greek life in particular. 
 
Already, it is clear that the affirmative consent policy has opened opportunities to discuss sexual assault. In itself, this makes the policy commendable. Equally praiseworthy are the University’s efforts to inform its students about the new regulations — no policy will work unless the student body knows it exists. 
 
However, the new policy does not specify how officials will treat alleged violations. In the coming weeks, it is urgent that the University makes a marked effort to clarify this.
 
Spreading this information will help dissuade misconceptions about the new policy and ensure a safer campus for everyone.