Civil Beat: ‘Sex on Campus — When Yes Means Yes’

Update 2/11/15: See the 2/10/15 announcement from David Lassner, UH President, at the end of this post.

[Note: SB387 is supported by the Women’s Legislative Caucus, and they’ve given Senator Shimabukuro the opportunity to be its first primary sponsor. The following are excerpts from Denby Fawcett’s Sex on Campus — When ‘Yes Means Yes’, Civil Beat, 10 Feb. 2015. -js]

Bills are advancing at the Legislature (HB 451 and SB 387) to urge UH, when addressing reports of sexual violence, to apply a standard of affirmative consent to determine if what happened was consensual sex or sexual assault or rape.

The affirmative consent bills are part of an effort to require the university to improve how it handles sexual assault, domestic abuse and other sexual violence issues reported by students, faculty and staff. Each measure says improve or else lose state funding.

This comes at a time when the University of Hawaii at Manoa is one of 55 colleges and universities under federal review for the way they deal with reports of sexual harassment and other sex crimes.

The investigation led by the U.S. Department of Education Civil Rights Office was launched to make sure the educational institutions are in compliance with sexual violence reporting and discipline requirements mandated by the Violence Against Woman Reauthorization Act signed by President Obama in 2013.

If colleges and universities fail to follow the law, they stand to lose federal funding.

Affirmative consent bills moving forward in the state House and Senate are a priority of the Hawaii Women’s Legislative Caucus and the Hawaii Commission on the Status of Women. 

Both organizations fault UH for under-reporting and downplaying the seriousness of sexual misconduct on its 10 campuses.

Affirmative consent standards have been adopted in various forms by 800 colleges and universities across the country. It’s called a “yes means yes” policy. California was the first to adopt a statewide policy last year.

In the past, investigations of sexual violence often put the burden of proof on a female victim by asking how hard she fought off her attacker or how many times she said “no.”

Affirmative consent differs by putting the onus on both parties to make a case that they mutually agreed to have sex.

Affirmative consent is unambiguous and voluntary agreement to engage in sex, which can be revoked at any time. The agreement must be made consciously.

Justin Murakami of the Sex Abuse Treatment Center says, “Silence or lack of resistance can no longer be interpreted as a go-ahead for sex.”

The State Senate Higher Education and Judiciary committees heard testimony on an affirmative consent bill and gave the measure preliminary approval.

Members of the House Higher Education committee Tuesday will hear the House version of the bill.

The University of Hawaii objected to the Senate bill at the Senate’s hearing Thursday, saying the issue is already being addressed by the UH internally and that’s where it is best handled.

Jan Gouveia, UH vice president for administration, told the state senators whenever there is a system-wide change at the university it takes a long time. She says updating the policy has taken months of research and work with committees, as well as getting agreement from three unions representing more than 10,000 faculty and staff members.

J.N. Musto, executive director of the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly, the faculty union, says he resents the Legislature meddling in this issue.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Gilbert Keith-Agaran told Gouveia and university President David Lassner, “the message you are giving us is you are working on this but we have no idea of how long it is going to take you. We don’t know if without an incentive, we can’t be sure the university will do anything.”

Read the full article on the Civil Beat site.

Update 2/11/15
Announcement from David Lassner, UH President, 2/10/15, re “Sexual assault and harassment policy updated by UH”:

Aloha University of Hawaii Ohana,

A major policy update this week reaffirms UH’s commitment to ensuring a safe environment across all campuses and having zero tolerance for gender violence and harassment. This policy specifically addresses sexual harassment, sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking.

Read the Policy: EP 1.204 Policy and Procedural Guidelines on Sexual Harassment, Sexual Assault, Domestic Violence, Dating Violence and Stalking at

The policy provides guidance on compliance with the complex and inter-related requirements of sex discrimination and sexual violence laws that cover students, employees and third parties including both on-campus and off-campus situations. More specifically, it incorporates the requirements and spirit of the Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and the Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act of 2013.

While this revised policy represents a firm commitment towards the safety and wellbeing of UH’s students, faculty, staff and visitors; the real work lies ahead to change campus climates and behaviors through a series of outreach and awareness efforts and victim support programs. We ask for everyone’s support and kokua in this critically important effort.

If you feel you have been a victim of sexual violence or sexual assault, please contact your Title IX coordinator. The list can be found at

Thank you to all of those who have contributed to this significant policy update.

David Lassner, UH President
Jan Gouveia, UH Vice President for Administration

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