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National Context

December 4, 2014

SUNY Announces New Sexual Assault Policy

SUNY unveiled a new system-wide sexual assault policy on Dec. 2, following Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s call for a comprehensive and uniform policy on all campuses. Universities within the SUNY system will have until March 31 to present a plan explaining how they will ensure compliance with the new policy.

The policy will include a Sexual Violence Survivor Bill of Rights, which clearly outlines the rights survivors are entitled to when reporting a sexual assault, as well as the options and support the university provides. Schools including NYU, The New School and Columbia University do not present the rights of survivors in this manner. The policy also includes an 11-line affirmative consent definition, and provides amnesty for survivors who used drugs or had been drinking at the time of the assault.

What is the Federal Sexual Assault Policy Mandate?

President Barack Obama signed the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act in March, which requires colleges to update their sexual assault policies by clarifying their reporting policies, and providing educational programs to students and personnel. The new requirements are outlined under Section 304 of the Campus Sexual Violence Act provision. Under the act, colleges have to provide annual statistics of domestic violence, dating violence and stalking. Schools are required to inform students about where they can receive help and report abusive behavior. School policy must also protect the confidentiality of the victim’s identity. Colleges are required to educate students and personnel on the definition of abusive behavior and consent, and provide a statement explaining that abusive behavior is not allowed. The mandate required that these changes be made by Oct. 1.

What Does Title IX Mean? 

Title IX is a section of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prevents discrimination based on gender in educational institutions.The law also allows the Department of Education to investigate schools for  including sexual assault, harassment and violence, which are considered a violation of a student’s civil right to education as they create “a sexually hostile environment.” There are currently 86 schools in the United States under Title IX investigation. While the majority of those schools are being investigated for specific complaints of sexual discrimination, 13 of them are under “compliance review,” which allows the DOE’s Office of Civil Rights to identify and remedy cases of sex discrimination, which may not be addressed through complaint investigation.

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