NYU released its updated policies and practices regarding sexual misconduct, relationship violence and stalking on Sept. 30. These policies are a response to an Oct. deadline imposed by federal mandates. The changes are a critical step toward tackling a national trend of sexual offenses at colleges. The updates include a Center for Sexual Misconduct Support Services, dedicated confidential counseling services, an expansion of preventative training and a clearer definition of consent.
However, whether or not the changes are actually effective depends on whether NYU remains dedicated to them.
Studies and students tell the unfortunate truth that sexual assault is a rampant problem on many college campuses. According to the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center’s 2014 survey, one in four women will be sexually assaulted during their academic career. In addition, the same source revealed that a rape occurs on an American college campus on average every 21 hours. While 43 percent of men have admitted to using coercive behavior in order to achieve sexual relations with a woman, only 15 percent refer to their encounter as rape. As a result of this national trend, the federal government implemented stricter mandates for colleges regarding sexual assault.
The email that the NYU community received yesterday covers the new policies prompted by the aforementioned mandate. Perhaps most significant is the establishment of the Center for Sexual Misconduct Support Services. This center will give students a single point of contact, who will connect the student with many services. Policies, procedures and resources can also be found on the new Sexual Respect website.
The new policy is an improvement, but the important part is ensuring its goals are carried out. Columbia University prohibits “all forms of gender-based misconduct,” including sexual assault, harassment, stalking and more. Yet Columbia has become infamous for having a “rape problem,” as students joining in senior Emma Sulkowicz’s well-known mattress protest declared. It is easy for NYU to phrase a policy but, if it fails to enforce it, NYU may find itself in the same boat as Columbia: possessing an unsavory reputation and students wronged by university centers.
NYU’s policy changes address a pressing national issue that all universities face. These new resources and organizations will give students the ability to find help and counseling in new and efficient manners. Overall, NYU’s policy is positive. Without continued dedication, however, these changes will fall short of their purpose. NYU needs to remain as adamant as they are now about addressing the important issues of sexual misconduct, relationship violence and stalking.
A version of this article appeared in the Wednesday, Oct. 1 print edition. Email the Editorial Board at [email protected]