- Associated Press - Thursday, October 2, 2014

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - New York’s 64 SUNY campuses are getting a new policy on sexual violence designed to address what Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday was an “epidemic” plaguing the nation’s colleges.

The changes include a new campus definition of sexual consent as a clear, active and unambiguous agreement to engage in sexual activity and stress that silence cannot be interpreted as consent. The new policy also calls for comprehensive training for campus police, a public awareness campaign and a sexual assault victim’s bill of rights that ensures students can report sexual violence to either campus law enforcement or to local or state police.

“This is not just a SUNY problem, but SUNY can lead and SUNY can reform on-campus safety so we can better protect our students,” said Cuomo, who announced the changes at a meeting of the SUNY board of trustees in Manhattan.

Implementation of the new policy, which was endorsed by the SUNY trustees, will be overseen by Linda Fairstein, a former prosecutor who led the Manhattan district attorney’s sex crimes unit.

Public awareness campaigns and training programs are a big part of the new policy. Campus police and college administrators will receive new training on how to prevent sexual violence and help victims. The topic will also be incorporated into orientation for all incoming freshmen at SUNY colleges.

“SUNY is committed to providing the best tools, resources and services for students to protect them from sexual assault and support them in the event that an incident does occur,” said SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher.

As part of the new policy, students who come forward to report sexual violence will be given immunity from any student disciplinary actions relating to alcohol or drugs.

The new rules will also create a uniform reporting program to ensure each campus is accurately reporting cases of sexual violence.

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