Section: News

Consent training raises some concerns from students

Upperclass students were given something other than midterms to think about before October Break.

On Oct. 3, upperclass students received a email from Meredith Bonham ’92, vice president for student affairs, informing them of an online course on topics such as alcohol and sexual misconduct called “Think About It,” created by a group called CampusClarity. Students must complete the course by Nov. 2 to register for spring classes.

“Think About It” joins other sexual assault prevention measures on campus, such as the Real World Gambier program and posters in bathrooms across campus that outline options for sexual assault survivors. The program also collects data for the College that complements the Campus Climate survey Kenyon students took during the 2014-2016 academic year. Andrea Goldblum, the College’s former Title IX coordinator, entered into a contract with CampusClarity in the fall of 2015. The contract preceded an incident last April when an unknown individual allegedly assaulted a student in her dorm room and a letter by Michael Hayes ’14 condemning the College’s handling of his sister’s alleged sexual assault, both of which brought the topic to the forefront of campus conversation.

“Think About It” is well-received by students, cost effective and is well-regarded nationally, according to current Title IX Coordinator Samantha Hughes. Bonham also had experience with the course at Hamilton College, where she worked prior to coming to Kenyon, Hughes said.

But some students tell another story. Isaac Hager ’19 found the program to be “condescending.”

“Mostly the aspects it seems to be designed for people who are unfamiliar with any sort of situation,” Hager said. “And for the people it would likely be directed towards, given that most people aren’t taking it seriously, it’s probably not hitting its intended target given that it seems not serious by being in an email.”

He said he did not learn anything from the program, and believes the issue of sexual assault on campus requires more immediate attention, such as harsher punishments for offenders and small group meetings.

“It just seems to be a review of what Kenyon’s trying to tell us,” Hager said. “It seems like they have stooped very low to address the [increased number of sexual assaults].”

There are also concerns about how the course may affect those impacted by sexual assault. Bonham and Hughes met with two survivors who voiced concerns about completing the program. Hughes is considering working with the Health and Counseling Center or the sexual assault survivors support group to create a safer environment in which to complete the program. These situations will be handled on a case-by-case basis.

“We wouldn’t want to traumatize somebody,” Hughes said, “but we also don’t want someone to not have the education, so we’re at this weird kind of space.”

Students are also uneasy about how the program highlights the relationship between sexual assault and alcohol and the modules on hookup culture. But many of the sexual assaults reported to the Title IX office or recorded in a Campus Climate survey involve alcohol, according to Bonham.

“We know that alcohol plays a large role in the instances of sexual misconduct cases that are reported at Kenyon,” Bonham said. “It would be disingenuous to talk about one but not the other.”

“The few [students that have spoken to me] have said, ‘you know, it feels like maybe abstaining from alcohol or drugs is the only option or being in a relationship is the only option and that’s certainly not something that college is trying to promote. It should be more around responsible and educated risk and or decision-making regarding whatever choice in mind,” said Hughes.

Other students expressed concern on Facebook about sharing personal information on the module. Both Bonham and Hughes said the information is completely confidential and that the College is unable to trace responses back to individuals. Hughes hopes to use the data to determine areas of misinformation, as well as to understand demographic information.

“I’m more interested in knowing class years, like how do responses vary from first-year to senior year … from people of color versus Caucasian people, that kind of thing,” Hughes said. She has not yet developed firm plans to release a publically available report.

Hughes encourages students who have specific concerns, such as those worried that the only LGBT relationship in the module is an example of abuse, to reach out to their Student Council representative — she plans to consult Student Council for feedback — or to her directly. Hughes reported a poorly phrased question from the CampusClarity’s employee program that seemed to imply that a low level of workplace harassment was acceptable, after which CampusClarity changed the phrasing.

“I do think CampusClarity as a company is responsive, but we do need to know very specifically what the concerns are,” Hughes said.

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