Ontario County campuses step ahead of state's sexual consent policy

By Julie Sherwood

HOPEWELL — As New Yor''s state university system adopted a new sexual assault policy for its 64 campuses, officials at Ontario County's two colleges say they have already taken the lead to address the issue.

Under the new standard approved by the SUNY board of trustees on Tuesday, silence cannot be interpreted as permission to engage in sexual contact, and consent may be withdrawn at any time.

Finger Lakes Community College, which is in the SUNY system, and Hobart and William Smith Colleges, a private college, already have policies in place aimed at preventing sexual assault and specifically, policies aimed at ensuring consent is a clear, unambiguous, knowing, informed and voluntary agreement — essentially, that consent is active, not passive.

At FLCC, Lenore Friend, director of public relations and community affairs, said college policies will not change much because the school recently reviewed and updated its policies with regard to the Violence Against Women Act earlier this year. The changes were adopted by the FLCC board of trustees at the board's Nov. 5 meeting.

For example, FLCC had already developed and approved a new definition of the term "consent." It is very similar to the SUNY version released this week, so it is just a matter of reconciling the two versions.

Because FLCC, as a SUNY community college, has an independent governance system headed by a board of trustees, FLCC will review all the material from the state in light of its own policies and procedures and make changes to align with the SUNY versions, Friend said.

At Hobart, Cathy Williams, vice president of communications, said that as a private institution the college is not in a position to be compared with SUNY. But with policies addressing sexual assault, Williams said, "we have really bolstered programs."

A number of aggressive measures to combat sexual assault took off earlier this year at the college following media attention of an alleged sexual assault case in which a freshman female student reported being sexually assaulted by football players at a fraternity party.

Those measures include an expanded Title IX office with a legal adviser and other professionals and a Sexual Violence Response Team of campus and community first- responders and staff from Safe Harbors of the Finger Lakes, Geneva Police Department, the District Attorney's Office and Thompson Hospital, among others, and a revised sexual misconduct policy and new procedures regarding hearing panels.

Robb Flowers, vice president of student affairs, said the aim is to promote wellness and safety on campus. The initiatives involve a collaboration with faculty, students and staff, he said.

New this year is something called "bystander training." Based on the University of New Hampshire model (considered among the best in the nation), the training, which covers how to prevent sexual assault as a bystander, is required for all first-year students and hundreds of others have also participated to date, according to Flowers. "Work is underway to ensure that bystander training is the first step in a continuous training program," he said.

Other developments include the college being one of the first three higher education institutions in the nation to partner with Circle of 6, an app that won the White House Apps Against Abuse Technology Challenge. Circle of 6 allows students to connect with friends to prevent violence before it happens and will launch in the spring semester.

The college is also launching Culture of Respect, an initiative that enlists the entire campus community to work collaboratively to address safety and wellness.


WHAT Expert on sexual violence speaks in President's Forum Series
WHEN 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 9
WHERE Vandervort Room of the Scandling Campus Center, 300 Pulteney St., Geneva
DETAILS Susan Brison, professor and chair of the Philosophy Department at Dartmouth College will talk about enhancing a culture of respect. The event is free and open to the public. More >>


© 2015 Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Geneva, NY 14456 (315) 781-3000 - Non-Discrimination Statement - ADA Compliance - Privacy Policy applicable to this site.
Preparing Students to Lead Lives of Consequence.