Sex assault and rape are huge problems on our campuses in New York and across the country. Indeed, evidence suggests that the information gap in this area adds to the problem and proves to be highly misleading for students and families.
Although all colleges and universities that receive federal funding are already required to publish data on campus crimes pursuant to the federal Clery Act, spotty compliance leads to a distorted snapshot of crime and safety on campuses and results in a limited ability to compare such data across schools.
The truth is, states don’t have to wait for the federal government to act — they have the ability to take this on themselves and, given the enormity of the problem, we cannot wait any longer.
That’s why Governor Andrew Cuomo is tackling this issue head on — he is calling for policy changes in all colleges across the State, making New York a leader in combatting sexual assault and rape on college campuses.
In his Executive Budget, Governor Cuomo presented a comprehensive plan to protect the safety and rights of all students attending college in New York. The proposal codifies a sexual assault prevention and response policy previously adopted by the State University of New York, applying it to all colleges and universities — public and private — in New York State.
He also launched the “Enough is Enough” campaign to highlight the importance of this policy to help ensure all New York’s college and university students are protected from sexual violence while at school.
The policy includes four critical components, which give more power and protections to the victims:
- A statewide definition of affirmative consent;
- A statewide amnesty policy to ensure students who are victims of sexual violence can report them with immunity for certain campus policy violations;
- A Sexual Violence Victim/Survivor Bill of Rights to be distributed to every student, and confidential reporting protocols to ensure colleges use best practices when handling a case of on-campus sexual violence that provides both care and respect to the victim;
- Comprehensive training requirements for administrators, staff, and students, including at new student orientations.
These measures will ensure that all of New York’s college and university students have a very clear understanding of consent, their rights as victims, and the safeguards in place to keep them protected.
By enabling students to complete assessments of their campus life and environment, we are giving them the power to provide more accurate information about what is actually taking place on our campuses during the day and at night. It also will provide better data to make more robust comparisons of all colleges and universities in the State – an extremely helpful tool for current and prospective students and their families.
We all know that drafting and passing a piece of legislation is the first step, but it’s the implementation of the law that is key. With the passage of this proposal, each college and university in New York State will be required to comply with its provisions and submit the anonymous campus surveys as proof of campus happenings, or risk losing State funding. They will also be required to make the policy clear to all students, faculty, administration and the general public.
Sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking affect thousands of college students in New York State and across the nation. In addition to the trauma caused by such violence, many victims drop out of school, experience difficulty working, and see promising opportunities cut short in the aftermath of their incidents.
We must do more to protect our students from on-campus sexual assaults, and providing students with increased protections as well as ensuring more accurate reporting are vital to achieving that goal. Governor Cuomo’s legislation ensures that students and their families have access to important information and helps foster an environment of respect, safety and awareness on our campuses.
Not only will these policies make New York a leader in fighting sex assault, but they will also provide a legislative template for every state in the nation to follow – with this, we can stand up and say that all campuses must and will become places free of sexual violence.
Gay Voices – The Huffington Post