New Sexual Assault Policy Approved
After a months-long effort by student activists and administrators, The New School’s board of trustees approved the university’s revised sexual assault policy at their board meeting on April 14. The move is an integral step toward reforming The New School’s stance on dealing with sexual violence on campus. The policy will be implemented in time for the fall 2011 academic semester.
The revised policy is the result of a collaboration between the Feminist Collective, a student group promoting women’s issues, and administrators from Student Services and Student Health Services. It provides more specific guidelines on what constitutes sexual misconduct, as well as clarifying the definition of consent to make less ambiguous what breaches the boundaries of consensual sex. The new policy also streamlines The New School’s procedures for reporting incidents of sexual assault on campus, and establishes specific protocols for how the university investigates alleged misconduct.
“The New School recognizes that it has a key role in assuring the safety and security of every student,” said Linda Reimer, senior vice president for student services, in an email to the Free Press.
Reimer compared the reforms, in particular the new policy’s definition of consent, to those implemented by other universities across the country.
“The new policy clarifies what is meant by consent, verbal and otherwise, as assent articulated by both parties to engage in sexual contact,” Reimer said. “Universities have been moving towards this concept of consent, including Yale, Columbia, MIT, Duke, Vanderbilt, Tufts and the University of Virginia.”
In January, the Feminist Collective submitted a preliminary 20-page draft of revisions to the current sexual assault policy. The administration then edited it down to a five-page document. Although the university then worked with the Feminist Collective in revising several drafts of the proposed policy, the students said that once it reached the general cousel’s office, they were largely left out of the process.
The Feminist Collective did, however, have the opportunity to consider the final version of the document and suggest further changes before it was submitted to the board of trustees for a vote.
Lang senior and Feminist Collective member Suzanne Exposito said she was pleased with the policy’s reforms and proud of the effort carried out by fellow students. She also praised Tracy Robin, assistant vice president for student health and support services, for her assistance when it appeared as though student input would be marginalized by administrators.
“I felt that the students were pushed away by the administrators — perhaps because of some stigma around student organizers — but Tracy was incredibly sympathetic to our cause,” Exposito said. “We really meant well by this policy reform, and Tracy recognized that good will and helped us gain access to the proper channels and helped make it happen.”
Reimer said the new policy signifies The New School’s commitment to addressing sexual assault on campus and ensuring the safety of students.
“What is perhaps most important to the university’s role in educating students about sexual assault is a robust section [in the policy] on medical care, legal options, psychological issues, and resources,” Reimer said. “The New School has made a commitment to taking these vital proactive steps to prevent sexual assault and misconduct from occurring.”