Posted by Lyndsay Stone
Recent changes to Skidmore's Sexual Misconduct policy, including to the section concerning effective consent and peer and faculty advocates, demonstrate the College's efforts to foster a safe and communicative social atmosphere on campus.
The Center for Sex and Gender Relations informs students of the policy's specific requirements through "The Insider: A Guide To Sex and Gender at Skidmore," a pamphlet given to all first-year students, is a condensed version of the policy that aims to clearly and succinctly relay the official document's vital messages.
The section concerning effective consent states that direct, assertive communication is the enabler of safe and consensual sexual interactions.
"Effective consent is the crux of the problem," said Lauren O'Donnell, one of the head peer advocates at the Center for Sex and Gender Relations. "Before it was just 'no means no, yes means yes.'"
The policy now directly addresses this communication when affected by the consumption of alcohol, a common component of sexual interaction. According to the pamphlet, someone is not in a position to give or gain consent if he/she is "severely intoxicated," "unaware of his/her surroundings" or "physically helpless" - three common side effects that occur alongside "going out" at the College.
The new policy emphasizes more than just affirming or negating a request. Each participant must dictate exactly what he/she would like to do, how, where and for how long. These statements cannot be communicated while in a state of inebriation. If they are, the policy considers the consent ineffective.
In response to an acquaintance rape that occurred on campus on March 25, Campus Safety hung up fliers throughout campus alerting students and faculty of the incident.
The fliers read "No Means No" in large letters and included a short summary of the incident. O'Donnell said the Center is working closely with members of the Sexual Assault Task Force, Campus Safety, Dean of Students Rochelle Calhoun and Director of Health Promotions Jennifer McDonald to ensure future fliers reflect the changes to the policy.
"'No means no' fails to stress the importance of effective consent and is very negative," O'Donnell said.
The revamped policy calls for a Deputy Title XI Coordinator to assist those affected by sexual assault. Appointed last semester to fulfill this position, Director of Student Diversity Programs Mariel Martin is the go-to person for both the survivor and the accused. If the survivor wishes to pursue the encounter in court, Martin is the primary resource for both the student and the Center during the process.
In addition to Martin's new position, the new policy alterations assign a campus advisor, who is a trained member of the faculty, to both the survivor and the accused. Previously, the policy only required an advocate for the survivor.
Additionally, the Center was just recently approved as the only anonymous peer-to-peer resource on campus. When approached for help by either a survivor or the accused, peer advocates need not report more than the date and location of the incident. They are also no longer required to report to Campus Safety.
These changes stem from the desire to make the post-scenario process as emotionally and logistically concise as possible, according to O'Donnell, who said the goal is to have the process remain under 45 days.
"The College is being very aware and taking huge strides toward improvement," O'Donnell said.