Members of No Red Tape Columbia and sexual assault activists from other New York universities met with former City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Democratic lieutenant governor candidate Kathy Hochul on Wednesday to discuss potential state legislation for raising awareness of and preventing campus sexual assaults.
Hochul said the meeting was part of an "information-gathering stage" for the Women's Equality Party—a party that Gov. Andrew Cuomo created in July, which Hochul and Quinn have been visibly involved in.
At the press conference following the meeting in Times Square Wednesday afternoon, Hochul said the party plans to add an 11th point addressing sexual assault to the 10-point Women's Equality Act Cuomo first proposed in 2013 and that the WEP was built around.
"When we send our daughters off to campuses, we expect universities to make sure they're protected," Hochul said. "Today was about really creating a connection between a group of young women activists, and they can then connect us to other young women activists who can then talk about the reality of what's happening at college campuses."
Calling sexual assaults a "scourge" on college campuses, Quinn said that Wednesday's discussion focused on how to raise public awareness of the issue. She also said that it was the WEP that reached out to the students, and that they hope to have similar conversations in the future.
Students from Barnard and Columbia who attended the meeting were No Red Tape Columbia members Zoe Ridolfi-Starr, CC '15, Michela Weihl, BC '17, and Madeline Belloff, BC '15. They were joined by four other student activists from Fordham University, Hofstra University, and St. John's University.
Ridolfi-Starr said that they chose to turn to legislators because universities will not hold themselves accountable.
"We need the support of leaders from the Women's Equality Party like Christine Quinn, like Kathy Hochul, to help us advance this legislation, develop new legislation, and continue pushing this issue forward," she said. "Otherwise universities are not going to be safe places for young women or any students to study."
"At the end of the day, we need real women who are facing these issues on their campuses influencing policy, influencing legislation that's going to be proposed," Donya Nasser, a St. John's University senior, said.
"It was very important for Chris Quinn and I to hear this [from the activists] because the Governor has asked us to be involved in spearheading and leading the Women's Equality Party," Hochul said. "They will be our advisors in this process—some of them may graduate and we hope to keep them, because obviously their passion has brought this debate to the level it is."
Hochul said that the party plans on pushing the 10-point Women's Equality Act—which has repeatedly been stalled in the state legislature by opponents to an abortion provision—starting in January. She did not indicate a timeline for incorporating the 11th point on sexual assault.
Cuomo created the WEP this past summer in response to Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino's anti-abortion stance.
Analysts and fellow Democrats have also said that the party could siphon liberal and women voters from the Working Families Party during the Nov. 4 gubernatorial elections. While the Working Families Party has endorsed Cuomo, it has also criticized him for his more centrist policies and dealings with State Senate Republicans.