On Sept. 28, Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill No. 967, redefining sexual consent on California college campuses. Commonly known as the “Yes Means Yes” bill, No. 967 is the first of its kind to clearly define consent, as it requires “an affirmative, conscious and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity,” excluding a lack of resistance or silence.
The bill aims to alter how schools prevent, report and examine sexual assault cases. “Yes Means Yes” serves as a significant stepping point toward these goals, according to ASUCD senator Amelia Helland.
“This legislation mandates that all post-secondary schools in California enforce an affirmative consent policy and dedicate resources toward expanding and strengthening prevention education, counseling and health care resources,” Helland said.
In efforts to improve campus sexual assault policies, both the administration and ASUCD are joining together and developing plans to further strengthen existing resources at UC Davis. A video project for Domestic Violence Awareness month is currently in the works with the athletics department, the Campus Violence Prevention Program (CVPP), Student Affairs and ASUCD.
A partnership with Student Housing is also part of the agenda. Faculty and Resident Advisors are to receive special training to ensure that all sexual assault reports are appropriately handled and discussed.
In addition, Helland is working to re-establish the ASUCD Sexual Assault Awareness and Advocacy Committee (SAAAC), initially implemented by the passing of ASUCD Senate Bill No. 67 last year. According to the bill, the committee will support programs that address issues of sexual assault and collaborate with other campus resources, such as CVPP. SAAAC is already in the process of hiring a chairperson and is expecting a mid-November launch. Committee-member applications are to be posted on the ASUCD website.
“Once meetings commence, members will collectively develop an action plan, which should include an ongoing awareness campaign, in addition to some sort of event,” Helland said. “Committee members will also be expected to keep in touch with resource centers on campus for weekly updates at the SAAAC meeting.”
The Chancellor’s Student Advisory Committee on Sexual Assault is also currently being developed. Committee members will provide official student recommendations and perspectives to Chancellor Katehi about sexual assault. This will differ from SAAAC’s focus of establishing a student-support system on campus, by directly implementing campus policies.
Student Affairs recently approached Harley Litzelman, the external director of ASUCD Lobby Corps and the new director of the Office of Advocacy and Student Representation, to recruit several ASUCD members for the Chancellor’s advisory board.
Litzelman told Student Affairs that the board should be composed of survivors and that the responsibility of those in charge was to properly direct and guide the members to further empower the say of survivors.
“We’re dealing with a population that is not educated on consent effectively,” Litzelman said. “When you look at the narrative as to what has inspired change, it is very revealing of how important it is that.”
Although changes have been in motion since the signing of Bill No. 967, affirmative consent is not a new concept at UC Davis or to the University of California system. The university has had existing programs educating students on campus sexual assault. In addition, on May 20, ASUCD Senate passed Senate Resolution No. 27 in a unanimous vote, formally supporting Bill No. 967. University Policy, Ch. 400 – Campus Climate, Sec. 20 – Sexual Harassment and Sexual Violence, details procedures for reporting sexual assault allegations and defines consent. It was passed earlier on June 19.
The bill requires campuses to adopt sexual assault response policies that focus on the victims, altering the way administrative reviews of assault allegations are handled. This sheds an entirely new light on survivors in contrast to the previously taught “no means no.”
“It clearly changes our message to victims because this is about supporting victims and victims’ rights,” said UC Davis Police Department (UCDPD) chief Matthew E. Carmichael.
Fifty-five higher education institutions, including UC Berkeley, USC and Harvard, were found in violation of Title IX for improper response to sexual assault cases. These schools are under investigation by the U.S. Department of Education.
“I think it’s about time that the government changed its attitude toward sexual assault victims and started supporting them instead of blaming them, especially on college campuses where the issue is so rampant,” said Alena Loomis, a fourth-year anthropology major. “The stand against former negative misconceptions of sexual assault victims is a good step forward.”
UCDPD is also upping campus security in its overall effort to create student safety. Aggie Host security officers will now conduct routine checks in the 24-hour reading room and inside various buildings. Safe Rides, a safety escort service, will be extending its services to cover the late hours in between Unitrans operation, as well as providing transportation from campus to anywhere within the city of Davis during those hours.