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Sex policy emphasizes 'yes' vs. 'no'

Laura Urban

Rather than "no means no," the sexual consent policy is now "yes means yes" at Alexandria Community and Technical College and other Minnesota colleges.

College students who do not obtain a "yes," what is know as affirmative consent for sexual activity, could now be breaking college policy, under the recent policy change approved by the Minnesota State Board of Trustees.

The policy change, approved Wednesday, Feb. 21, indicates that students and staff at Minnesota colleges could be punished if they do not obtain affirmative consent through "words or clear, unambiguous action."

This policy change applies to about 375,000 students at the state-run 30 colleges and seven universities in the Minnesota State system. It also applies to faculty and staff, as well as anyone who has sex on campus.

As a state-run institution, Alexandria Technical and Community College is revising its policy to reflect these changes.

"The policy before talked about consent, but what's different now is the term 'affirmative consent' and the definition of that," said Laura Urban, president of the college. "Our policy mirrored the state policy and will do so again with the changes."

This policy change calls for the person initiating sex to elicit clear consent from their partner, rather than for the receiving partner to object.

"The affirmative part of this just made that very clear because in the past, lack of consent or lack of a yes or lack of a no, some folks thought of that as implied consent," said Ross Santell, executive vice president of academic and student affairs at the college. "Now there's no question about it. I think it makes it very clear on both sides."

When policy changes are made at the college, students and faculty are notified via email. The changes are also posted online.

According to the college's 2017 security report, the last sexual assault reports at the college were during the 2013-2014 school year, when two on-campus instances of rape and two instances of fondling took place.

Though technically owned by the Alexandria Technical and Community College Foundation, Foundation Hall qualifies as on-campus for reporting purposes, says Urban. At capacity, it houses 139 students. Apartments are all male or all female, but the two share floors.

"I think a lot of the education we do has been responsible for no incidences (in recent years), but also a lot of public awareness now that wasn't there before," Urban said.

In 2016, the college began requiring sexual violence prevention training videos for students. Faculty and staff undergo training annually.

"Students do the training as part of their orientation," Urban said. "It's mandatory. A student who transfers in has to bring in documentation from another institution (saying they've completed training)."

Student Senate President Joe Berger says the training video was impactful.

"Statistically, our school is an extremely safe campus but I thought that the video was well put together," Berger said.

If a sexual assault does occur, students can report the situation to campus security or administration. From there, Santell says, it is usually up to the student how to proceed.

"They can treat it confidentially and we honor that as much as possible until the law says we can't," Santell said. "We notify the police, send them to the hospital. A lot of it depends on what the student wants."

In recent years, more than 1,000 U.S. colleges have adopted affirmative consent language.

"I think Minnesota is right in line with the movement that's taking place now, in terms of affirmative consent," Santell said.

The St. Paul Pioneer Press contributed to this article

ATCC on-campus resources

Counseling and mental health:

Julie Trosvig, 320-762-4958

Health and victim advocacy:

Tam Bukowski, 320-762-4415

Beth Leipholtz

Beth is a reporter at the Echo Press. She graduated from the College of Saint Benedict in May 2015 with a degree in Communication and Hispanic Studies. Journalism has always been her passion, but she also enjoys blogging and graphic design. In her spare time, she's most likely at Crossfit or at home with her boyfriend and three dogs.

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