A new piece of legislation has found its way through the California Senate and into the office of Gov. Jerry Brown to either be signed into state law or vetoed before Oct. 9.
If passed, Senate Bill 967, which would be an extension to the California Educational Code, would require higher education institutions in California that receive state funded student financial aid to adopt policies that affect the way cases of sexual harassment, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking are investigated and handled.
In addition, the college would be required to install and partner with prevention and outreach programs and resources for students on and off campus for such cases.
“Here at Contra Costa College the main thing is educating the campus community,” Dean of Student Services Vicki Ferguson said.
Current legislation already requires colleges in the state of California to have policies in regards to cases of sexual assault or similar situations and provide resources to students.
But the additions to these laws would better regulate exactly how investigations of the like are conducted.
“A law like this is very beneficial because it will cause more cohesive communication between the college, the students and the state on both an educational and legal level,” Ferguson said. “I think CCC is on the right path, but I would like to see a little more education for our students (on the subject).”
Health and human services major Safi Ward-Davis said, “I think that such a bill would be good to have here at CCC. I know when we had the peer support group, we had a variety of students that came in for help.”
Under the potential law colleges would be required to, at a minimum, install outreach programs that include information for the student body, campus organizations, athletic programs and student organizations about the college’s overall sexual assault policy, the benefits of an “affirmative consent” standard and the rights and responsibilities of students under that policy.
“There is a collaboration alongside West County Health Services with assisting students with these sort of cases,” Ferguson said. “The college has responsibilities to its students and the surrounding community.”
Nicknamed throughout the state as the “Yes means yes” law, colleges would adopt policies that require the practice of an “affirmative consent” standard when dealing with cases of sexual assault between students.
“Affirmative consent” is defined by the pending law as “an affirmative, conscious and voluntary agreement to engage in a sexual activity.”
Before students would legally be allowed to participate in a sexual act with another, all individuals involved would be responsible for receiving an act of “affirmative consent,” verbal or non-verbal, from the other party.
“It takes care of the possibility of confusion,” Police Services Lt. Jose Oliveira said. “There are federal guidelines in place already for how college campuses are supposed to conduct and meet certain requirements when dealing with these cases.”
“Affirmative consent” is an ongoing agreement from all students involved and can be revoked at any time.
By investigating whether or not a victim of a sexual crime gave “affirmative consent” to the accused, police and college investigators alike can easily determine whether or not any laws were actually broken between the parties involved.
Ferguson said, “It gives the victim more power and protection throughout the situation.”
College Vice President Tammeil Gilkerson said, “There has been a lot of focus on this sort of legislation. We have policies in place to inform students of their rights and where they can go in the case of one of these situations.”
“(Information) needs to be more available,” Gilkerson said.