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Cuomo announces new anti-sexual assault measures on SUNY campuses

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (center) introduces his multi-pronged sexual assault program to the SUNY Board of Trustees. The policy must be put into action at each of the state's 64 college campuses within 60 days.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo made a rare appearance before the State University of New York Board of Trustees to urge them to pass a system-wide set of policies on how to respond to sexual assault and rape on campuses.

Cuomo convinced the board to adopt the new policy that helps prevent sexual assault. It includes a uniform definition of what it means to consent to sexual activity, amnesty for students who report an assault or rape, and a new sexual assault victims’ bill of rights.

The governor, saying that there’s a disturbing epidemic of sexual violence in this country, says the state university system can be a leader in finding solutions.

“This is a societal problem,” said Cuomo. “This is Harvard and Yale and Princeton, as much as it is Albany, Buffalo and Oswego.”

He also says New York has a long history of being the first to take action to address these types of problems.

"This is the progressive capital, and historically part of New York's legacy is we take these complicated issues and we sort them out and we figure them out first," Cuomo explained. "And we set a precedent, and other states then follow the precedent that we set in New York."

SUNY Oswego President Deborah Stanley agreed with the governor, saying this is the next step in helping colleges tackle what has become a nationwide problem.

"With this action, we will have the best tools and resources to assist victims," Stanley said. "And this mandate from the governor and the board will help bolster all of the efforts that we have already been trying to wade through and establish on our campuses."

Cuomo says the issue is personal for him. He has two daughters in college, and one more in high school.

SUNY campuses have 60 days to implement the new policy and college presidents must report the actions they've taken by the end of March. Cuomo says once the program is working effectively throughout the SUNY system, he would like to turn the policy into a state law.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.