Peer educators to tackle sexual consent

This fall, Yale College is launching a new peer education program aimed at teaching students how to identify and prevent sexual misconduct.

The program places three trained, paid students known as communication and consent educators in each residential college, where they will work with masters and deans to develop unique programming, said Melanie Boyd, special advisor to the Yale College dean on gender issues. In addition to holding small events for residential college communities, the student educators — who completed preliminary training Sunday — will eventually present a “risk reduction” workshop to freshmen, lead “bystander intervention” sessions for sophomores and give sexual misconduct education sessions for leaders of registered student organizations.

“These are difficult issues and require frank, thoughtful conversations — the kind of discussions students are often most willing to have with other students,” Boyd said.

The college began accepting applications for the new program in July. The program developed after the Task Force on Sexual Misconduct Education and Prevention — which formed after a group of Delta Kappa Epsilon brothers sang offensive chants on Old Campus in October — released a March 2 report recommending that leaders of student organizations attend special training sessions.

The task force made its recommendations just days before 16 Yale students and alumni filed a complaint March 15 with the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights alleging that Yale violates Title IX regulations and fosters a sexual climate that is hostile toward women.

Boyd said the Office for Civil Rights investigation of that complaint has “fueled” the University’s development of better sexual misconduct prevention and education programs, but she emphasized that this process was already underway when the investigation began. She added that the creation of the new peer education program exceeds the Office for Civil Rights’s standards.

“What the communication and consent educators are doing is well above what would be required in any kind of Title IX sense,” she said.

Three educators interviewed said the Title IX investigation did not affect their decisions to apply for their new jobs.

Sania Tildon ’12, a communication and consent educator for Branford College, said she provide strategies for leading events that Branford’s dean and freshman counselors might already want to host. Boyd said she hopes the educators will develop creative methods to present information in less serious settings than the usual straightforward discussions about sexual behavior.

The communication and consent educators were initially slated to supervise only two large-scale projects: bystander intervention training for sophomores and sexual misconduct training for leaders of registered student organizations, Boyd said. They were given extra responsibility after several freshman counselors told administrators that they were uncomfortable presenting the risk reduction workshop to freshmen, she added.

“It was not ideal,” Boyd said. “[The freshman counselors] did not have time to learn the workshop.”

Developing and presenting all three programs in one year would be too much work for the student educators, Boyd said. This year’s peer educators will lead just two of these three events, Boyd said, adding that Yale College has not yet decided which of the three educational elements will have to be delayed until next year. Next year’s educators will host all three events.

Melissa Lucchesi, outreach education coordinator for nonprofit college campus security organization Security On Campus, Inc., said she expects the sessions for registered student groups to have a significant impact on campus culture. She added that universities report strong results when they implement peer education programs.

“By educating everyone across the board, it gets everyone on the same page, and it helps to create solidarity in the community about these issues,” she said.

But when the Task Force on Sexual Misconduct Education and Prevention issued its recommendations in March, 12 of 13 students interviewed said such a requirement was more necessary for some student groups than others.

Wendy Murphy, an adjunct law professor at New England Law School in Boston who has filed Title IX complaints against schools such as Harvard Law School and Princeton University, said she doubts that required educational sessions would substantially improve Yale’s culture.

“My sense of the student reaction to these things is that [they] perceive them as not only a pain in the neck but completely unconnected to this kind of problem,” she said. “The real solution is to have a meaningful, quick and effective response to reports of sexual misconduct. Once that becomes a reality, students should have an appreciation for the values Yale is trying to promote.”

Provost Peter Salovey announced in April the creation of a new University-Wide Committee, a disciplinary body intended to streamline the process of bringing forward complaints of sexual misconduct across Yale’s 13 schools.


An earlier version of this article misleading version of a quote from Melanie Boyd, special adviser to the dean on gender issues. She said freshman counselors, not communication and consent educators, did not have enough time during their training to master “risk reduction” workshops designed for freshmen.


  • Branford73

    Wendy Murphy??!!!! ARRRRGH! Blech. Journalists please stop going to this over-self-promoting, under-qualified, so-called expert. She’s only an “expert” because she’s willing to say ridiculous things in this area. Research her name in association with the Duke Lacrosse hoax and see how long she insisted something criminal above under age drinking occured.

  • ldffly

    Segregate male and female students; male students to keep eyes down when approaching a female; accusation of misconduct by a male to be taken as prima facie true.

    • SY

      I get your points and humor, but some women are complaining about more than men looking at them or hitting on them drunk.

      I can’t get women to respond to this: do women contribute to sexual misconduct? Many consent-awareness women appear to assume that men are responsible for sexual misconduct. Women are not, even 50% or 20% of the time. Yale women are not raped in public places. That would be easy to deal with. Some women are having drunk dorm room sex with with a drunk man whom they don’t know or like. A minority of men are willing to have (drunk) sex with a woman they don’t know or like. The existence of female prostitution proves that. Within the tribe, drunk sex seems less unappealing than prostitution until one sobers. And men usually are able to forget bad sexual decisions (unless pregnancy, abortion or disease), but women do not.

      As liberal Leah L. wrote in YDN last year, women must protect men’s virtue–particularly drunk ones. If women did not get blasted (or kept a designated sober friend with them), and then did not go to a dorm room with someone they don’t really like or know, how many sexual misconduct cases would there be? Will that be part of the peer education program? I doubt it. I’m trying to be helpful.

      • ldffly

        Your point about women engaging in drunken sex and regretting it the next morning is well taken. Imagine, the next morning some would look over at the guy, say “yeecchhh,’ and that would represent the beginning of criminal action. It has happened on college campuses. I think you are correct that women who drink too much do need the sober friend to help prevent them throwing caution to the wind and engaging in anonymous sex.

  • The Anti-Yale

    At Dartmouth the folklore has it that a male worker is told he will lose his job if he looks at a female for more than X number of seconds. I have not seen this in writing.

  • ldffly

    I want it made plain that my comments in now way countenance rape, physical pressure to have sex, and all that goes with it. Indeed, my attitudes towards sex outside of marriage would be considered primitive by many. However, what is going on these days is very disturbing. It just seems that if you’re a male, you have to disprove that you are a predator.

  • River_Tam

    I wonder what the rate of sexual harassment/assault is at Wellesley.

  • connman250

    As much as liberal society trys to brainwash people into thinking that looking or saying sexual things to a women is somehow predatory or unatural, is halarious. A slip of the male tongue can get him into serious trouble such as losing his job or worse. What has Yale or anyone else done to stop female exploitation in advertising or entertainment? How many Yale or Harvard graduates who are CEO’s of major corporations are guilty of sexual exploitation?

  • connman250

    We have the same basic instincts as most animals. Hunting, food, sleep and sex to name a few the basic needs. Trying to suppress these needs is unatural and futile. To force oneself on another sexually or otherwise, is assult, but the other rules concerning looking at someone a few seconds too long is overkill.

    • Yale12

      Obviously there are not actually any rules concerning looking at someone a few seconds too long. Jesus Christ.

  • The Anti-Yale

    At Dartmouth the folklore has it that a male worker is told he will lose his job if he looks at a female for more than X number of seconds. I have not seen this in writing.

    • Yale12

      Yeah, this wasn’t true and/or valid the first time you commented it on this article, either.