Geneseo prepares to implement SUNY-wide sexual assault directives

Vice President for Student and Campus Life Robert Bonfiglio represented Geneseo at the State University of New York Working Group for Continual Improvement on Sexual Violence Policies in Albany on Monday Oct. 27. He was one of 50 SUNY administrators and outside experts who worked to review drafts of policies corresponding with New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s recent push to develop and enforce SUNY-wide sexual assault initiatives. The Working Group reacted to six policies that SUNY lawyers drafted based on directives proposed by Cuomo and passed as a resolution by the SUNY Board of Trustees on Oct. 2. The six uniform policies include the following: an affirmative consent definition, an amnesty policy, required training and orientation programming, a policy regarding campus judicial processes, a victim’s bill of rights and a confidentiality policy.

Bonfiglio said that he believes that Geneseo’s policies are already largely in line with the proposed policies and that “the policies, in the end, will reflect some language from a number of different institutions.”

Bonfiglio said that one of his major contributions to the Working Group meeting involved the language of the affirmative consent policy regarding individuals with disabilities. The original language of the consent policy said “a person is deemed incapable of consenting when that person is mentally defective.” Bonfiglio spoke about the inappropriateness of the phrase “mentally defective” based upon discussions he participated in at Geneseo with visiting lecturer of sociology and political science Joanna Kirk’s SOC 281: Sel Topics: Gender and the Law class.

“Our policy has some words related to a person’s mental condition,” he said. “We don’t use the word ‘mental deficiency,’ but even the words we use could be improved.”

When the policies are finalized and in place, individual SUNY campuses will be able to make additions to the universal language, such as examples to further define the policies or wider bounds for student training initiatives.

“I think that people are going to be pleased with the policies because we’re trying to come up with the most simple, precise language and do away with a lot of legalese,” Bonfiglio said.

Following the meeting, Bonfiglio added that the Working Group made significant changes to the proposed policies, preparing a refined second draft. The Working Group will host two virtual town hall meetings in the coming weeks to receive public feedback.

The group will meet again on Nov. 14 to revise the policies based on the virtual meetings. The goal for implementation is Dec. 1. The current policy drafts will not be revealed until the dates for the virtual town hall meetings are announced.

These new policies coincide with a myriad of campus initiatives to improve sexual assault awareness. According to Administrator of Student Health and Counseling Melinda DuBois, 99 percent of first-year students participated in the Think About It training program, which provides education on sexual assault, healthy relationships, drugs and alcohol.

Health and Counseling also plans to administer a climate survey in spring 2015—a replicate of a 2010 anonymous survey administered by professor of psychology Jennifer Katz. The survey will explore students’ feelings about the college’s responsiveness to issues of sexuality, alcohol, drugs and mental health, tracing trends from 2010-2015.

Bonfiglio and DuBois recently met with Women’s Action Coalition President sophomore Jes Heppler and Pride Alliance treasurer junior Kevin Callery to gain student perspectives.

“I think that this college listens very closely to its students,” DuBois said. “I’m impressed when we have meetings with students and they express their concerns and hopes; it’s nice when we can all work together.”