'Yes means yes' from now on at Minnesota State colleges

The college system made affirmative consent an official policy on Wednesday.

What's happening?

A change in Minnesota State college rules, which will see the introduction of an affirmative consent policy for students at its 37 colleges and universities across the state.

The change happened at a meeting of its Board of Trustees on Wednesday and followed a student-led campaign, spearheaded by members of Students United.

The new policy will go into effect for 375,000 students across the Minnesota State system.

It follows similar steps taken by the University of Minnesota, which in 2015 implemented its own "yes means yes" policy as part of a national movement to combat sexual assault on college campuses.

The Pioneer Press notes that colleges including Macalester, St. Thomas and St. Kate's have similar policies.

"Thank you to the Minnesota State Board of Trustees for passing this policy and to the Chancellor and System Office for their support," Students United said on Facebook. 

"We are excited to begin educating students on the new policy as Sexual Assault Awareness Month approaches and continuing our steps towards making our university campuses safer for everyone."

So what does the policy mean?

Affirmative consent means that before a sexual encounter between students, both individuals must give clear indications that they are willing participants.

Each college will be responsible for introducing its own policy, but according to the one discussed on Wednesday, affirmative consent must be "informed, freely given and mutually understood willingness to participate in sexual activity that is expressed either by words or clear, unambiguous action."

"It is the responsibility of the person who wants to engage in sexual activity to ensure that the other person has consented to engage in the sexual activity," it continues. "Consent must be present throughout the entire sexual activity and can be revoked at any time."

It also describes some situations that are not consent.

– If coercion, intimidation, threats or physical force are used.

– If a person is mentally or physically incapable or impaired so they can't understand the nature of the situation – including if they've consumed alcohol and drugs, or if they're asleep/unconscious.

– A lack of protest, absence of resistance and silence doesn't constitute consent.

– Past consent of sexual activities doesn't imply ongoing future consent.

– You can't assume consent if you're in a relationship with the other person.

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