The Minnesota State Board of Trustees revised its sexual conduct policy on Feb. 21 to define sexual consent as affirmative.
The new revision came in large part due to a push from Students United, an advocacy group made up of Minnesota State university students, formerly the Minnesota State University Student Association.
MNSU student and Students United State Chair Faical Rayani said university students have been pushing for this revision for three years.
“Affirmative consent is the verbiage used to describe a consensual sexual activity between two individuals that are fully aware of and clearly consent to the sexual activity in an unambiguous way,” he said. “Affirmative consent emphasizes that if sexual activity happens between two individuals, there must be clear signals sent by both partners to indicate consent. These signals must be sent and received by both or all partners and everyone is held responsible.”
Rayani went on to say that the revision puts on emphasis on expressing consent with the word, “yes,” rather than the lack of “no.”
“Many times, individuals are too intoxicated, too frightened or too anxious to say ‘no’ to sexual activity,” he said.
Student governments at all seven state universities unanimously passed the revision before sending it to the 15-person Board of Trustees to be voted on. Students United worked closely with Minnesota State Chancellor Devinder Malhotra, university presidents, campus Title IX officers and the Inter Faculty Organization to help draft the revision.
“Our involvement as students was key and everyone’s cooperation and collaboration was what made it happen. We were able to centralize and drive the conversation while leveraging the relationships we had built,” Rayani said.
With Minnesota State including this new revision, now all public higher education institutions in the state have an affirmative consent policy. The University of Minnesota passed a similar revision in its sexual conduct policy in 2015.
“Not only were we able to make a difference this year but our state of Minnesota and university system has now become an example for the rest of the nation,” Rayani said.
Six sexual assaults have been reported to MSU Campus Security since August 2017. Former MNSU student John Owen was sentenced to four years in prison on Dec. 5, 2017 for the rape of a 16-year-old female in the Preska Residence Community in September 2016.
According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), 11.2 percent of college students will experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence or incapacitation.
“It’s very impactful. It’s not common to have a huge influence on a policy, especially a systemwide policy such as this one,” Students United Vice Chair Lexi Byler said in video on the group’s Facebook page.
In addition to the revision passing, Students United is working on several other initiatives including making textbooks free and advocating for open education sources. For more information, visit studentsunited.org.