New sexual assault policy: Affirmative consent


“The definition of consent in the administrative policy on Sexual Assault, Stalking and Relationship Violence has been revised to state that consent is an:

‘Informed, freely and affirmatively communicated willingness to participate in sexual activity that is expressed by clear and unambiguous words or actions.’”

This was an email sent to all university faculty and staff from the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action on Monday, August 24. The email explains the definition of consent change that will be implemented at all University of Minnesota schools.

The previous policy defined consent as “informed, freely given, and mutually understood.”

“The standard is improved because both parties in the situation must be affirmatively consenting--both have to say yes,” Dr. Lisa Erwin, Dean of Students, said.

The new policy also comes with an extended appendix to make the definition even more clear. Erwin believes that students must pay attention to the appendix as well because it will help them understand that you shouldn’t guess or make assumptions when it comes to sex.

The appendix lays out all the factors that will be considered when determining consent. For example, being in a romantic relationship does not mean consent is given. If there are drugs or alcohol involved, there cannot be consent and if consent was initially given, it can be withdrawn at any time.

These are three of thirteen examples of factors that do or do not determine consent. Check out the list here.

Erwin explains an easier way to understand it as instead of “no means no” the new definition would be more like “yes means yes”. This statement puts both parties in the picture of consent, meaning that both parties have to say “yes”.

The initial proposal for a system-wide definition change was created in November of 2014 and then brought to the Office of Equity and Diversity by the Minnesota Student Association (MSA), otherwise known as the Twin Cities Student Association.

The standard is improved because both parties in the situation must be affirmatively consenting--both have to say yes. -Dr. Lisa Erwin, Dean of Students.

The MSA used evidence, or lack thereof, from their own campus to support their fight for a new and clearer definition. This evidence includes the 22 percent of women from the University of Minnesota who reported being sexually assaulted and the fact that the UMPD received only 18 reports of documented sexual assaults while Sexual Assault Support Services received 183 clients.

The proposal was approved by the President’s Policy Committee (PPC), executives authorized by the President to make decisions. The PPC will then hand it over the the Board of Regents.

The Board of Regents will officially endorse the change on September 11th in Minneapolis at their next meeting-- almost a full year after it was initially proposed.

“This is a very serious issue and we at UMD want to find as many ways as humanly possible to help students understand it,” Erwin said.

Three years ago UMD started online modules for all incoming students and presentations during Bulldog Welcome Week. The university also offers “Got Your Back! UMD,” the training program for bystander intervention, and the Women’s Resource and Action Center (WRAC) will also be doing presentations throughout the year.

Erwin said that if the new policy encourages survivors to come forward then that is positive, though she believes the most effective way to talk about sexual assault is when students talk to students.

If you know anyone who has been sexually assaulted go to to report it and look at the sexual assault protocol.


All genders welcome at WRAC

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