May 13, 2016

Higher Education Institutions’ Definitions of Sexual Consent

OLR Report 2016-R-0006 provides each Connecticut higher education institution’s current definition of “consent” in sexual relationships and provides a source for each. Also, the report indicates whether each institution submitted a report to the Higher Education and Employment Advancement Committee in 2015 about its sexual assault, stalking, and intimate partner violence policies as required by law.

Currently, each Connecticut public and private higher education institution defines sexual “consent” for purposes of the institution’s conduct codes and disciplinary proceedings.  Such definitions are typically found in the institution’s student conduct code or Title IX policy handbook.

Generally, each institution’s definition contains all or many of the following: (1) a basic definition of “consent,” (2) method(s) of expressing consent, (3) duration, (4) parties’ relationships, (5) revocation, (6) coercion, and (7) legal age.

Institutions may soon be required to incorporate a “yes means yes,” or affirmative consent standard, into their campus policies.  Substitute House Bill 5376, which passed in both the House and Senate, requires all Connecticut colleges and universities to use a standard of affirmative consent when determining whether sexual activity is consensual in the context of their institutional policies on sexual assault, stalking, and intimate partner violence.  This requirement would be in place beginning with the 2016-17 academic year.

The bill defines “affirmative consent” as an active, clear, and voluntary agreement by a person to engage in sexual activity with another person. It specifies that higher education institutions are not required to adopt the bill's definition verbatim but must use a definition that has the same or a substantially similar meaning.

The governor must now decide whether to sign the bill into law.

For more information, read the full OLR report here and a summary of the bill here.