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NY expands ‘yes means yes’ policy to private colleges

ALBANY — New York state’s private colleges and universities have a new sexual consent policy after Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the measure into law Tuesday in an effort to combat campus sexual violence.

The new law contains a “yes means yes” definition of consent that requires a clear, affirmative agreement between partners. It also creates a victim’s bill of rights and boosts training for law enforcement, faculty and students.

Cuomo noted that his three daughters will all be in college this fall and that studies show one in five female college students report being sexually assaulted.

“A woman isn’t going to be made to feel guilty or complicit or fearful if she goes forward,” he said at New York University. “We’re not going to allow the schools to cover it up anymore. Those days are over.”

New York’s public universities adopted the “yes means yes” policy last year, shortly after California passed a similar law for all schools receiving state money for financial aid.

The New York law’s victim’s bill of rights guarantees students the right to report any incident to campus police or local law enforcement. The law also creates a uniform reporting system to ensure each campus accurately reports cases of sexual violence to the state. Finally, it includes a provision giving students who report sexual violence immunity from any student disciplinary actions relating to alcohol or drugs.

Fordham University student Monica Sobrin, a member of the group Students United for Safer Schools NY, said the changes make New York a “national leader in the fight against campus sexual assault. The new law “will greatly impact the way that sexual assault is discussed, taught and handled in colleges and universities statewide.”

Cuomo made the measure a priority in this year’s legislative session, writing a supportive op-ed in Billboard Magazine with pop artist Lady Gaga and holding a series of public meetings and rallies to discuss the proposal. One featured U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who returned to New York City to celebrate the bill’s passage.

“Today is a tipping point day,” the California lawmaker said. “Thank you, New York, for setting an example.”