On Oct. 2, New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered SUNY to change how they prevent, investigate and prosecute sexual assault on all 64 of its campuses.
The new policy will include a SUNY-wide definition of consent that is required from all participants before engaging in sexual activity and as an immunity policy that protects students who come forward in reporting sexual assault. There will also be a statewide training program that will teach campus police and administrators how to address sexual assault incidents.
In addition, the policy will launch a public campaign on sexual assault to increase awareness among the parents and students of SUNY and introduce a uniform Sexual Assault Victims’ Bill of Rights that will inform a student of his or her rights after an incident of sexual assault.
We at The New Paltz Oracle commend Cuomo and SUNY for putting this policy in place.
Not having a universal policy allowed each individual institution to come up with its own policies, which created differences in how consent was defined. Now, with a policy that gives one central definition of consent, every administrator, officer, faculty member and student in SUNY can be on the same page when addressing sexual assault.
We hope that every administrator and officer not only on our campus, but in the state takes the training program seriously to learn how to address sexual assault in a uniform way. Victims of sexual assault are in a vulnerable state, so it is extremely important for officers and leaders on campus to know how to handle a person in need.
Students who go through this traumatic experience should not feel scared to speak up to officials. Under this new policy, their identities will be protected. Once the policy is officially implemented, we urge students to take the time and read the Sexual Assault Victims’ Bill of Rights to know the steps they can take. The Bill of Rights will also inform students how to obtain a restraining and no contact order and how to obtain counseling, health, legal and support services.
New Paltz is a school that does a tremendous job of informing its students about how they can help sexual assault survivors and raise awareness to end the rape culture with groups such as Step up! New Paltz and New Paltz W.A.R (Walk Against Rape). We encourage these groups to inform the campus through programs about the new policy.
We hope that each school implements a program during the school’s orientation to teach their incoming students about the policy and their rights, so students are aware of this information upon their arrival on campus.
According to Cuomo, one in four college women will be a victim of sexual assault and fewer than five percent of these assaults are reported to law enforcement.
So please, New Paltz, educate yourself about the new policy to help make our campus community a safer place and know how you can help yourself or your peers who could be dealing with a traumatic and life-threatening experience.