In a push by the Federal Government, universities across the country were required to strengthen their policies and punishments with respect to sexual assault. When Yale University released it’s guidelines, it caught some negative media attention because in some instances students convicted by the university of sexual assault would not be expelled. The term that most critics focused on was “nonconsensual sex” as situation more complex than simply rape.
Yale University has followed up on this criticism by releasing a series of hypothetical scenarios with which it hopes to provide some guidance as to how the university defines “consent.” One of the criticized scenarios features two gender-neutral students studying together and one continually invites the other one to have sex. The other student rejects the offers for a time and then eventually agrees, initiating physical contact. According to Yale, this is consensual. Although, were a complaint to arise, Yale would recommend that the first party attend a sensitivity training about inappropriate sexual pressure.
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Another scenario featured an encounter in which consent was given at first and then rescinded, but the second party continued anyway. Yale’s discipline board would seek to substantiate the facts and if they did, the recommended punishment “would be a multi-semester suspension or expulsion, because the consent was not sustained.”
The reaction to these scenarios has been mixed. A board member of Students Active for Ending Rape or SAFER called the Yale document “one of the better examples of a solid, detailed definition of consent.” A spokesperson for the American Association of Women believe that the scenarios might actually make it more difficult for students saying, “they’ve done a disservice to students who might be reading this and wondering which scenario they fit in.” All, however, praise Yale for keeping their focus on a very important issue.