CSU working with CU ‘Yes Means Yes’ bill focusing on affirmative consent

Sady Swanson

The Associated Students of Colorado State University are working with the University of Colorado’s student government on a proposed statewide bill that shifts the definition of consent to focus on affirmation.

The ‘Yes Means Yes’ bill redefines the idea of consent, requiring an affirmative “yes” when looking for consent, rather than looking for a “no,” according to ASCSU Director of Governmental Affairs Jake Christensen.

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“Affirmative consent is defined as affirmative, conscious and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity,” Christensen said.

According to the bill, an affirmative “yes” can be verbal or nonverbal, Christensen said.

Monica Rivera, assistant director of educational programming at the Women and Gender Advocacy Center, said she likes the bill because it shifts the focus away from asking survivors if they said or signaled “no,” and towards asking perpetrators if and where they received an affirmative “yes.’”

“In other circumstances in our world, we have an affirmative consent model for lots of things,” Rivera said. “If you are on an airplane and you’re sitting in an exit row, the flight attendant comes by and you have to give a verbal ‘yes’ that you are aware that you’re in the exit row. … If you shake your head ‘yes,’ they say ‘I need you to verbally respond.’”

The bill would require all Colorado colleges and universities to change their policy in order to receive state funding.

“In order to receive a certain amount of state funding, schools have to have an affirmative consent clause in their bylaws,” ASCSU Deputy Director of Legislative Affairs Sarah Bush said.

The bill also outlines how investigations should go, including assisting survivors of sexual assault with getting legal aid and proper counseling, according to Bush.

CU brought the bill to a meeting at the capitol in Denver, where members of the state legislature and other stakeholders in sexual assault from universities went over the bill, according to Christensen.

A similar bill passed in California last year and has been successful so far, according to Christensen. CU already has something similar in their bylaws already.

At the stakeholders meeting, they decided to create a task force and are currently deciding who will be on the task force. The task force will work some of the issues the bill has.

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Rivera said she does not like the name because yes does not always mean yes. Some survivors are coerced or threatened.

“People may verbally say yes, but they can’t or aren’t actually giving consent,” Rivera said. “We would support calling it Affirmative Consent or Explicit Consent.”

Another kink in the bill that needs to be worked out is how to define nonverbal affirmation, Christensen said.

“Whether it’s a head nod or moving closer to someone, it’s a gray area,” Christensen said.

Rivera said this bill will not solve everything automatically, but she does hope that it starts to shift the culture on campus around consent.

“I don’t think it’s going to be a magic pill that solves everything,” Rivera said. “Just because the law changes, does not mean that automatically we have police trained differently, we have investigators trained differently, we have a cultural change that happens overnight.”

Collegian City Beat Reporter Sady Swanson can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter at @sadyswan.