Students Revise Sexual Assault Policy
A small group of students recently submitted to New School administrators a new policy that they hope will address and correct what they see as long-standing shortcomings in the university's current sexual assault policy.
The current draft of the proposal, obtained by the New School Free Press, revises the current policy, but is far from complete. The revision process however, is still ongoing and administrators still need to complete a review of the proposal. Student members of the Feminist Collective are largely responsible for the changes found in the proposed policy, cooperating with administrators in student services and student health services with the aim of implementing and enacting it over the summer.
The Feminist Collective started working on the policy in October, after coming in contact with Tracy Robin, assistant vice president for student health and support services, and Tom McDonald, assistant vice president for student and campus life. Liaising with the administrators, they wrote a 20-page draft and submitted it to Linda Reimer, senior vice president for student services, for review last month.
Feminist Collective member Suzanne Exposito said the group recognized the university's existing policy needed revision after going through the document with Students Active for Ending Rape (SAFER), an organization committed to empowering student-led campaigns to reform college sexual assault policies, and noticing numerous flaws, particularly with the definition of consent between sexual partners.
"The present policy doesn't actually cover what constitutes sexual assault," said Exposito, a literary studies senior at Lang. "The fact is that defining it by consent makes it more clear. We've heard the argument that defining rape by an absence of consent makes it a gray area, but actually it doesn't. Defining consent is defining exactly where the boundaries were crossed in the first place."
Though the entire process is ongoing, the draft sent back to Robin, McDonald and the Feminist Collective from Reimer's office was cut down to five pages from the original 20.
Administrators wouldn't comment on the specifics of the cuts and members of the Feminist Collective said that they needed more time to analyze the latest draft. Many of the cuts simply eliminated verbose language, but others did away with substantial policies like a more diverse board to review on-campus sexual assault cases.
Reimer acknowledged that the current sexual assault policy needed improvement. "If you've read the current policy, it's very basic," she said. "It doesn't have a lot of definitions in it. The idea is to make it a more robust policy, something that has a little more meat in it."
Reimer added that a final draft of the new policy would go to the office of the general counsel for a legal review, with the goal of being presented to the board of trustees at their meeting in April for approval and adoption by the university.
Robin said that the goal was originally to have a draft brought to the board of trustees at their meeting this month, but that work was still ongoing and that part of the process would have to wait until the spring.
"Once we hear from the general counsel we'll find out if it looks good or needs more revisions," she said. "We're hoping in the next few weeks it gets through the general counsel and then on to the board of trustees."
McDonald hailed the new policy as a progressive, comprehensive set of guidelines that would clarify the procedures for dealing with sexual misconduct at the university and keep The New School in line with other universities around the country. He also praised the students of the Feminist Collective for their commitment to ensuring The New School developed an adequate policy for its students.
"They did a lot of hard work," McDonald said. "They came up with a really intelligent, very professional presentation on what the policy should look like. They looked at other schools. It was very well done."