On Sept. 30, NYU Abu Dhabi students received an NYU-wide email on the new Sexual Misconduct, Relationship Violence and Stalking Policy
that was to be implemented on the very same day.
NYU recently joined the growing trend of universities by enacting an affirmative consent policy. State-funded colleges in California, for example, are now required to do so to continue to receive support
NYU now defines consent as “the affirmative agreement to engage in a specific sexual activity with another person” and makes clear that “silence, passivity, or the absence of resistance does not imply consent, and relying solely on nonverbal communication may result in a violation of this policy.” It clarifies that “consent can be withdrawn at any time” and that assumptions should not be made.
Other changes included in the new policy were clearer procedures for students, employees or third-parties on how to deal with sexual assault, an expansion of the range of activities prohibited under the policy and an increased availability of resources and services.
The response from students has been positive, especially surrounding affirmative consent. Senior Brooks Fowler, who recently designed brochures about consent in collaboration with the NYU New York Outspoken Peer Educator Program and is collaborating with NYUAD’s Health and Wellness Center to distribute them on the Abu Dhabi campus, is satisfied with this change.
"The go-to phrase has been no-means-no, but that's tricky because there is more to saying no than just the word — an answer of maybe can be no, body language can be a no — whereas the new policy, in line with yes means yes, first off gives the impression that consent is something positive, that you should want to give (since a coerced yes isn't consent), but also puts the grey area where it really is — in the land of no," wrote Fowler.
Though it was made clear in the email received that this new policy applies to students, faculty, administrators, staff and third parties at NYU’s three portal campuses and global sites, students are yet to hear from NYU Abu Dhabi itself. Also, though the same policies will apply, some students are uncertain as to how they will be put in action here in Abu Dhabi. Senior Oliva Bergen commented on this information lag.
“It’s a little unfortunate that these memos come out to all three campuses before it’s immediately certain what they mean all three campuses. And I think that is something, that, going forward, we can hopefully find streamlined so there’s more consciousness when things come from New York and decisions are made in New York of what they mean for Abu Dhabi and Shanghai as well,” said Bergen.
Fowler noted that there will be a transition period as the policy is implemented at NYUAD; however, that it applies just as much to NYUAD as to NYUNY.
Currently, if issues of sexual misconduct arise, students are directed to the Health and Wellness Center, told to call Wellness Exchange or contact a Crisis Response Counselor. However, some students are unclear of what the next step is. Senior Krushika Uday Patankar is concerned with what happens with the perpetrator.
“Is the Health and Wellness Center only going to treat the fact that I have gone through this experience and help me get counseling for it? But are they also going to address the other side of the issue, which is making sure the perpetrator is punished. Because there have been cases here that have been kept quiet, and there has been no punishment in place for those who has committed the sexual assault,” Patankar said.
On the same day this email was sent out, HashtagNYU released a video entitled “Let's Talk About Consent
,” which was soon posted on NYU New York’s “Sexual Respect
” page. NYUAD alumnus Yannick Trapman-O'brien wrote and directed the video and stated that his experiences in Abu Dhabi fueled his interest in the topic.
The video aims to start a conversation about the issue of consent given the large role education plays in sexual assault prevention and detection. A major issue with sexual assault is a lack of reporting, which can stem from self-blaming. According to the Sept. 30 email, beginning this spring semester, all NYU undergraduates will be required to take part in a Mandatory Online Training Program that will focus on education and prevention.
Melinda Szekeres is deputy news editor. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.