Our University's core value to respect all people relates to the concept of consent, an issue that figures prominently in complaints of sexual misconduct. In a sexual context, respecting another person means understanding that we do not have the right to act upon another person sexually unless and until they give clear permission to do so.

Consent means giving permission for sexual activity to occur. Consent to engage in sexual activity must be informed, knowing and voluntary prior to and during sexual activity. Consent is active, not passive, and is demonstrated through clear and mutually understood gestures and words that signal a willingness to engage in sexual activity. Silence cannot be interpreted as consent. Obtaining consent is the responsibility of the individual who wishes to initiate sexual activity.

Consent to sexual activity can be withdrawn at any time. Further, consent to one type of sexual activity may not, in itself, be taken to imply consent to another type of sexual act.

The influence that drugs and alcohol is an important consideration in understanding the concept of consent. The use of alcohol or other drugs can have unintended consequences and can create an atmosphere of confusion and impaired judgment over whether consent is freely and effectively given. Being under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol does not diminish the responsibility of the initiator of sexual activity to obtain consent and is never an excuse for sexual misconduct.

There are several circumstances under which consent cannot be freely given, nor should it be assumed to have been given:

  1. Incapacitation
    A person may not engage in sexual activity with another person who the initiator knows, or should reasonably have known, is incapacitated as a result of alcohol or other drugs. Incapacitation is a state where a person lacks the capacity to appreciate the nature of giving consent to participate in sexual activity. Physical markers indicate an inability for a person to give affirmative consent which is required for sexual activity to occur. Examples may include but are not limited to vomiting, falling/inability to walk or stand; incoherent speech, unresponsive behavior.
  2. Coercion
    The use of fraud or force to compel another person to engage in sexual activity does not constitute consent. Examples of fraud or force include but are not limited to physical force, threats, intimidation, or coercion.
  3. Current or prior intimate partner relationship
    The existence of a relationship between parties does not confer consent nor should consent be presumed. Clearly understandable agreements about sexual activity are still expected within the parameters of an intimate partner or dating relationship.