Affirmative Consent: Your Guide to Minnesota’s Latest Policy

Affirmative Consent Logos

Affirmative Consent Logos

Rape is a criminal offense.

There, now that that’s been established, it is important to examine affirmative consent, which has been recently put into effect at the University of Minnesota, just in time for Welcome Week, rather than waiting until the Board of Regents finalizes it is approval of this policy at its meeting next week.

Affirmative consent, or “yes means yes,” says that all sexual activities are acceptable only if both parties express consent through “clear and unambiguous words or actions.” Sounds simple enough right? However, “Unambiguous words or actions” is itself a ambiguous definition, as is “sexual contact,” and then there’s the problem of the shifting of the burden of proof from the accuser, to the accused.

Another problem with affirmative consent policies is it treats a criminal offense as an administrative problem. With issues as serious as sexual assault and criminals as dangerous as rapists, universities have no place adjudicating such cases. They belong in the criminal courts and should not be decided in an administrative setting.

Here’s the sort of things you might expect to see at the University of Minnesota now:

First to be examined is affirmative consent’s home state of California. At the University of California – San Diego a student accused of sexual assault was suspended after a hearing in which he was denied his right to cross-examine his accuser and adverse witnesses. This hearing also didn’t allow him to present evidence in his defense. Judge Joel M. Pressman, of the Superior Court of San Diego, overturned this decision.

“The limiting of the questions in this case curtailed the right of confrontation [sic] crucial to any definition of a fair hearing.” wrote Pressman in his decision.

At the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Molly Morris complained to her school that she had been intoxicated when she had sexual relations with Corey Mock. Mock was initially cleared of all charges, but the university’s chancellor took an interest in Morris’ appeal, and the decision was reversed, and Mock expelled, with no changes in the evidence presented. Judge Carol McCoy overturned this case for reasons similar to the San Diego case.

“The UTC Chancellor improperly shifted the burden of proof and imposed an untenable standard upon Mr. Mock to disprove the accusation that he forcible assaulted Ms. Morris,” McCoy wrote in her ruling

A word of warning to students at the University of Minnesota: as much as this policy’s biggest advocate Joelle Stangler is at pains to point out that sexual permission slips are not required by this policy, you would be well advised to avoid going on such field trips if you don’t have your slip signed in triplicate and properly notarized.

Remember, there’s a reason that affirmative consent advocates like the Affirmative Consent Project sells sexual encounter kits with contracts. They subconsciouslyknow the danger of their own policies.