UC Berkeley students react to ‘yes means yes,’ DREAM loan program legislation

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On Sunday, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a “yes means yes” campus sexual assault bill and another bill that gives state loans to undocumented students — two pieces of legislation that will directly impact California colleges.

Senate Bill 967 states that consent in sexual intercourse is an “affirmative, conscious, and voluntary agreement.” Senate Bill 1210 creates the California DREAM Loan Program, which provides loans to undocumented students in the UC and CSU systems.

UC Berkeley junior Meghan Warner, a sexual assault survivor and chair of the ASUC Sexual Assault Commission, said she was excited that Brown signed SB 967, though she said the move did not come as a surprise. Warner has testified, lobbied and made public comments on behalf of the bill, which she said will help foster a “culture of consent.”

The university supported the legislation and incorporated the idea of affirmative consent in its new sexual harassment and sexual violence policy released earlier this year.

“We think it’s certainly a positive step that not only the University of California but that the state of California has taken it so seriously,” said UC spokesperson Dianne Klein.

ASUC External Affairs Vice President Caitlin Quinn said the law validates survivors and solidifies UC Berkeley’s adherence to upholding its policy.

“(The law) is miles and miles ahead of what any other state has done to put into law,” Quinn said, adding that similar legislation should be passed in other states in the next legislative cycle.

UC Berkeley senior Sofie Karasek, a sexual assault survivor who cofounded the survivor advocacy organization End Rape on Campus, noted that the law was an “important step forward” in changing campus culture. Still, she said, policy could improve by guaranteeing that cases of sexual assault will receive formal investigations if requested by the survivor.

UC policy grants formal investigations, but Karasek said they are not granted consistently.

UC Berkeley senior Aryle Butler, too, said it was a “common-sense” bill. She said it is significant because it outlines the way administrators should engage in policies around sexual assault education and investigation.

“It’s a catchall — a net to put everyone on the same page,” Butler said.

Butler was one of about 10 UC students who rallied at the state capitol and presented a petition to Brown’s office earlier this month, urging him to sign the bill. She was also among more than 30 current and former students who filed federal complaints against UC Berkeley for allegedly mishandling sexual assault cases.

Meanwhile, the signing of SB 1210 represents a progressive step, because it will provide more equitable access to financial aid for undocumented students, said Meng So, coordinator of the campus Undocumented Student Program.

“For many students, receiving admission to Berkeley is a moment of triumph,” So said. “But for many undocumented students, because they don’t have access to financial aid, oftentimes the question they first ask is, ‘Can I afford it?’ ”

UC Berkeley junior Ivan Villasenor Madriz, an undocumented student, said that while the legislation is admirable, it and several other California laws neglect undocumented students who do not qualify for Assembly Bill 540, which exempts certain nonresident students from paying out-of-state tuition.

“Even though there are all these opportunities … they still haven’t addressed the root of the issue,” Madriz said.

The affirmative consent law will be implemented as early as Jan. 1, and the undocumented loans will be disbursed beginning in the 2015-16 academic year.

Contact Suhauna Hussain at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @suhaunah.