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NY Colleges Gear Up For 'Yes Means Yes'

New York's affirmative consent law applies to all colleges in the state, public and private.

College students are getting down to work on campuses across New York, and many are also learning a new definition for sexual consent.

New York passed a law in July requiring “affirmative consent” for sexual activity. It’s one of the farthest-reaching laws in the country, and the state is selling it to colleges as a marketing tool.

Colleges are in fierce competition for students these days. Enrollment is down across the country. Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul says New York’s new law could help its colleges get a bigger piece of the shrinking pie. She spoke on the public radio show Capitol Pressroom Wednesday.

“If I’m a parent in California, and my son or daughter is looking at colleges and I know New York has the toughest laws in the country, I’m going to encourage them to go to New York,” Hochul said.

The law defines consent as “knowing, voluntary and mutual”. In other words, silence or lack of resistance doesn’t count.

New York’s public university system is out ahead on implementing the law. SUNY’s Joe Storch worked on a new website for victims of sexual violence. Storch explained on the Capitol Pressroom that the site lists on- and off-campus resources by school. It also has an “exit” button that closes the window and erases browser history to protect privacy.

“If you have someone who’s violent in your home, or with you, and they come over and say, ‘What are you looking at on the phone?’ You just click the exit button, and then when they click the back button it goes to whatever you were looking at before,” Storch said. “It’s like the entire transaction never happened.”

All colleges in the state have to start enforcing affirmative consent this fall. They will also file yearly reports on sexual assault cases with the state and provide training for administrators, staff and students.