Students are skeptical of a new sexual misconduct education program suggested by a University task force in a report released Wednesday.
The Task Force on Sexual Misconduct Education and Prevention, which formed after the Delta Kappa Epsilon brothers chanted offensive slurs on Old Campus in October, has called for all registered student organizations to send a representative to educational sessions about sexual misconduct prevention starting next fall. All four student group leaders — along with eight of nine other students interviewed — said the measure could prove useful overall, but may benefit some organizations more than others.
“Student groups should definitely be educated,” said Lidia Dervisheva ’13, president of Yale European Undergraduates. “But I don’t see how it’s going to work out in the future or if it’s going to be productive.”
Jonathan Setiabrata ’13 said the new policy will benefit the few social groups that create settings where sexual misconduct may arise, but he said the requirement would pose a burden to other groups.
The report recommends that representatives from party suites — “especially large dorm rooms that host many parties within the residential colleges, often with some degree of support from the masters and deans,” according to the report — also take part in the sessions on sexual misconduct, though Miller said residential college masters and deans still must discuss how to implement the recommendations.
While Andrew Nelson ’13, who lives in Davenport’s “Crosspiece” party suite, said he appreciates that the University is spreading educational offerings, he thinks the stipulation on party suites is excessive.
“Most of the party suites probably didn’t or wouldn’t do anything [bad] at all, so it’s a little unfair to be made to do these [discussion sessions],” he said.
Some leaders of student organizations are lukewarm toward the proposal. YCouture President Erica Blonde ’12, a staff reporter for the News, said she does not think sexual misconduct education would be “a bad thing” for student organizations. The new stipulation is an “OK idea” that will better prepare students should they face sexual misconduct, said Eric Moy ’13, co-president of the Vietnamese Student Association.
In this respect, Moy added, the training is similar to alcohol awareness training he received from the Asian-American Cultural Center when he took over as co-president this fall. Training related to sexual misconduct would better suit groups involved in the Yale “party scene,” such as fraternities, he said.
“I don’t think sexual harassment usually occurs in cultural groups,” he said. “[Sexual misconduct] training would be helpful — but how helpful would it really be?”
Even organizations that do not place a special emphasis on social events can be affected by the campus’s sexual culture, said Melanie Boyd, special advisor to the dean of Yale College on gender issues who helped draft the report. Boyd said the primary goal of the initiative is to build campus awareness about how to identify and think critically about sexual misconduct.
“Levels of sexual harassment depend on the values on campus,” she said.
Boyd added that the best way to begin spreading a constructive conversation about sexuality and appropriate behavior is to equip student leaders to engage their peers in such discussions. She acknowledged that unregistered student groups, including social organizations such as secret societies, will not be required to attend training. Still, she said she hopes to develop a program that will attract even those who are not required to attend and is “interesting and useful and not too onerous.”
The task force also recommended in their report that administrators alter the freshman orientation program. For the past two years, freshman watched a video about sexual misconduct and discussed it with their freshmen counselors — an experience the majority of students interviewed said was sufficient. But Boyd said the sexual misconduct prevention program for freshmen will improve if students think more deeply about and discuss sexual interactions at Yale.
For example, she said, many students do not know that young people often consent to sexual relations even if they would prefer not to. The University’s emphasis on securing consent may not always fit the way sexual encounters unfold in practice, she said, so discussion should delve more deeply into those complicated issues.
Dean of Student Affairs Marichal Gentry said he appreciates the task force’s suggestions, adding that he looks forward to the final report of the Committee on Hazing and Initiations — another group formed in response to the DKE incident — as administrators and students continue work to promote “mutual respect” on campus.
Gentry said his office is already pursuing the task force’s recommended improvements to sexual misconduct training for freshman counselors and peer liaisons.
Yale College Dean Mary Miller said she will oversee the creation of a new standing committee called for in the task force report. While the committee will not dispense punishment to perpetrators of sexual misconduct, it will complement the disciplinary University-wide committee recommended by a committee appointed by the Provost’s Office.
She added that she will not know the nature of the new standing committee until the University-wide committee is formed, and does not know when the University-wide committee will be complete.