UH considering "Yes means yes" consent policy to strengthen Title IX requirements

UH considering "Yes means yes" consent policy to strengthen Title IX requirements
Published: Jan. 24, 2015 at 12:02 AM HST|Updated: Jan. 24, 2015 at 1:24 AM HST
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MANOA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The University of Hawai'i will soon be rolling out a series of system-wide campus initiatives designed to strengthen their Title IX compliance and ensure students safety.

Officials say these changes aren't in response to the Department of Education Title IX audit that took place on campus last April, instead they say the proposed policies administration is considering have been in the works since 2013 when the Violence Against Women Act was signed by President Obama.

Under the law, colleges and universities are now required to report all domestic and dating violence incidents along with stalking. It also affords additional rights to campus victims and mandates school policies to address and prevent campus sexual violence.

"A task force was formed back in February of 2014 to look at how we could strengthen and make sure that we meet all the requirements, but it's not about meeting requirements. It's about doing the right thing and making sure this campus is safe and that it is discrimination free," said UH spokesperson Dan Meisenzahl.

New preliminary numbers for 2014 show 7 reported sexual assaults at UH Manoa. There were 8 in 2013, 11 in 2012 and 12 in 2011.

Among new policy considerations awaiting administrators approval is a plan to include "affirmative consent" language in the student code of conduct handbook. The national trend defines consent not as waiting for a person to say "no," but rather seeking an explicit "yes" before engaging in any sexual activity.

"It's not just no means no, it means -- did you get a yes?" explained Meisenzahl.

It's not clear how the policy will be enforced here in Hawai'i if it goes into effect, but a similar bill in California now requires universities to adopt an "affirmative consent" standard to be used when investigating sexual assault complaints on campus. Officials say alleged attackers can no longer claim reported victims "didn't say no".

UH officials have also asked state lawmakers for an additional $3 million over the next two years to upgrade their campus safety program, which would involve hiring 48 people -- Title IX coordinators, investigators and trainers system-wide and a 37-person new security staff for the UH Hilo campus to replace the current private security force. Officials say the latter isn't the result of any complaints, but strictly to ensure universal training for all employees that will meet Title IX requirements for a quick and timely response.

"We don't want to meet the minimum requirements we want to make sure that we have the safest possible campus where students feel safe and they get the education they deserve," said Meisenzahl.

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