This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Utah State University officials plan to inundate their students with the definition of consent this semester.

Signs that read "consent for sexual activity is enthusiastic, sober, verbal, non-coerced and mutual" are going up around campus. Windows on a university shuttle bus carry a similar message. School officials recently posted on their Facebook and Twitter pages that "consent is verbal. 'Have a conversation, don't guess.' "

The "Consent Is" campaign — and other steps Utah State is taking — comes as many Utahns have expressed concern about how campuses are combating sexual assaults. Fifty-six percent of Utahns surveyed in a recent Salt Lake Tribune-Hinckley Institute of Politics poll believe schools aren't doing enough.

Younger Utahns are more critical — 71 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds felt universities need to improve, compared to 50 percent of 55- to 64-year-olds.

Women are more likely to be concerned, with 62 percent saying schools need to do more, compared to 51 percent of men. And 48 percent of Republicans polled said schools aren't doing enough, compared to 73 percent of Democrats.

The overall poll, conducted by Dan Jones & Associates, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.42 percentage points.

Utah State's "Consent Is" campaign is just one way the university is responding to concerns raised in July when The Tribune reported that four women — who did not know one another — separately reported to Logan police in 2015 that former Aggies linebacker Torrey Green sexually assaulted them. Three of the women were students and say they informed the school.

It does not appear that the school disciplined the football player, but the story prompted officials to conduct an internal investigation that resulted in eight recommendations. Tim Vitale, university spokesman, said the school is working to implement them now.

USU's "Consent Is" efforts launched in September to educate students about sexual assault and harassment prevention.

"We've been addressing student conduct at the end point, but we need to educate the student body on what consent is and help them understand all the nuances of it so we can prevent sexual assault," said Amanda DeRito, university social media coordinator.

Under Title IX, a federal law that bars sex discrimination, higher education institutions have an obligation to swiftly respond to and resolve complaints of sexual violence.

Three Utah colleges — the University of Utah, Brigham Young University and Westminster College — are under federal investigation because of their handling of sexual assault complaints. Utah State is not under federal investigation.

Last month, USU launched a new system that allows students to file a sexual assault report online — both anonymously and not — and allows that information to be tracked through a database, Vitale said. The system was purchased in spring 2016 and Vitale added that it would help in instances when multiple women report the same alleged perpetrator to different individuals within the school.

"No report will be lost and there will be no lost communications anymore," Vitale said, explaining students often reported via anonymous phone messages. "That's one of the things we were aware needed to be addressed."

Vitale said school officials also are working on changes to the student code related to confidentiality, as well as clarifying mandatory reporting and anonymous reporting policies. All changes will have to be approved by the university board of trustees.

The first woman to report against Green last year didn't report to the Title IX office, but said she informed her dormitory complex's resident assistant — who is required to report to Title IX — and the dorm's supervisor. It's unclear if the resident assistant or the dorm's supervisor told Title IX.

Additionally, officials are developing an agreement with law enforcement and other community groups to spell out how and when information is shared, Vitale said. Logan police, who received all four complaints against Green, previously told The Tribune no communication existed from the department to school officials about the former athlete.

No charges were filed against Green, but county prosecutors are re-examining the cases. Green, who signed a free agent contract with the Atlanta Falcons in April, was cut from the team this summer after team ownership learned of multiple sexual assault allegations made against him.

The school's "Consent Is" campaign will last until the end of the semester. Officials are exploring other ideas, such as bystander training, for spring semester.

"Right now, we're just trying to educate students," DeRito said. "Next semester, we'll give them the tools to prevent sexual assault when they're out and about with friends. They need to recognize when they see something that's not right."

Twitter @alexdstuckey

comments powered by Disqus