SGA endorses sexual misconduct policy

Posted by Kat Kullman

On Tuesday, Sept. 28, the Senate of the Student Government Association discussed the update to Skidmore's Sexual Misconduct Policy.

Dean of Student Affairs Rochelle Calhoun and representatives from the Center for Sex and Gender Relations, Joe Yanks '11 and Claire Throckmorton '11, attended Senate in order to discuss the changes in policy.

In fall 2009, the Student Affairs subcommittee of the Institutional Policy and Planning Committee decided to undergo a comprehensive review of the Sexual Assault Policy. The Committee was motivated by the concerns of the community and decided that Skidmore needed to revise these policies.

"We knew that one of the critical issues for us was that there weren't enough people in the community being actively trained to deal with sexual assault. We needed to change that," Calhoun said.

The foundation of the new policy is called ‘effective consent.' Effective consent is intended to keep communication going during all points of sexual activity and requires that both people agree concretely as to how far the sexual activity will go.

"When we talk about effective consent, we're really asking of the two people, what did the victim do that you thought gave consent? And what did you do that said no?" Calhoun said.

Without this effective consent, it is automatically considered sexual misconduct, regardless of substance abuse. "A lot of times during sex, alcohol is involved. But if you're the initiator you need to gain consent. Effective consent can be given nonverbally, though a nod or a gesture, but the more you drink, the more clear the consent needs to be," Yanks said.

This policy is intended to help make the boundaries of sexual misconduct or assault clearer and more inclusive. "One of the reasons for this change is that it gives power to the victim, and it gives a definition to these acts. It is also unique in that it uses gender neutral pronouns, and it includes having more than two partners in a sexual act. "It's all covered under this policy," Throckmorton said.

Additionally, the new policy adjusts what occurs if the victim reports the assault. In the case of an accusation, the complainant is assigned an ‘advocate,' while the respondent is assigned an ‘advisor.' These are members of the faculty or staff at Skidmore who have gone through numerous sexual assault trainings both at Skidmore and in Saratoga.

They have been observed and been certified to take the position of either advocate or advisor. Both guides are there to advise the complainant and respondent in a non-legal manner and to let the student know what his or her best options are. Advisors and advocates stay with the students through the entire hearing process, even after it is over. Advocates are also available for students who choose not to report the assault.

This policy of effective consent intends to put an end to reactive education and shift it to proactive education. "Effective consent is so important. We're making a policy that reflects the community we want to have," Yanks said. Calhoun agreed.

"We hope to use this to enact a cultural shift," Calhoun said.

Saunie Schuster, a partner in the Ohio-base law firm of Schuster & Clifford, LLP and recognized national expert on the issues of sexual assault on college campuses, will address students in an open discussion and review of the policy at 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 6 in Gannett Auditorium.

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