Students question new training sessions

Yale College Dean Mary Miller unveiled two instructional programs Tuesday on leadership strategies and sexual misconduct prevention — but a majority of students interviewed questioned whether these initiatives will improve Yale’s sexual climate.

This January, freshmen will attend a new set of workshops that will “examine the signals people use to distinguish among agreement, refusal and ambiguity,” Miller said in a Tuesday email to the class of 2015. At the same time, representatives from registered student groups and varsity sports teams will be required to attend leadership training sessions, which will include sections on combating sexual misconduct and hazing, Assistant Dean of Student Affairs Melanie Boyd ’90 said in a Tuesday email to the News.

“We sometimes take leadership for granted, downplaying its importance,” Boyd said. “Our hope is that this training, small though it is, will prompt self-reflection and conversations that help make our community one in which everyone can thrive.”

Each registered group and varsity team must send three representatives to a leadership session, Miller said in a campus-wide email. The email encouraged the leaders of unregistered groups to attend, as well. Organizations that do not send officers to the training will lose their registered status with the Dean’s Office, Boyd said.

Hannah Peck, a student affairs fellow who helps run the Communication and Consent Educators program, said faculty and administrators will speak to attendees about effective leadership as well as ways to deal with sexual misconduct and hazing.

Two members of unregistered fraternities interviewed said they were open to attending the leadership sessions.

Brian Ruwe ’13, president-elect of Sigma Alpha Epsilon, said in a Wednesday email that his fraternity is “excited” about the workshop and the “opportunity to interact more closely” with other campus leaders and administrators. Three members of SAE have already signed up for the Jan. 24 session, he said. Although a former leader and current member of Delta Kappa Epsilon said the fraternity has not yet had a chance to talk about its participation in the training, he said he thinks DKE members will “probably end up” discussing their involvement at a later date.

But five of seven leaders of registered student groups interviewed said they do not think the leadership sessions are necessary or relevant to their organizations’ activities, though all seven added that they will still attend the training.

One president of a registered campus group, who wished to remain anonymous to maintain a positive relationship with the Dean’s Office, said the program seemed like “a waste of time.”

“I think there’s always going to be a problem of people not respecting each other, but I don’t think that it can be solved from a top-down approach,” he said. “It needs to be more of a grassroots solution that comes from the students themselves.”

Another president of a registered campus organization who wished to remain anonymous said she did not think the sessions would be effective because Yale’s diverse student organizations face different concerns and challenges that cannot all be addressed in a single training session.

Still, two leaders of registered groups said they thought that all campus organizations, regardless of their history with sexual misconduct, could benefit from the program.

Frankie Costa ’14, president of the Yale International Relations Association, said he thought training was necessary for all groups because of the overlap between academic and social life at Yale. And Yale College Democrats President Zak Newman ’13 said he thought the training sessions would keep everyone “on the same page” regarding sexual harassment. He added that all students play a role in creating Yale’s sexual climate and that it would be “an injustice” if groups did not participate.

While administrators will run the leadership training sessions, the freshman workshop will be hosted by Communication and Consent Educators, a group of 40 undergraduates tasked with developing programs to improve Yale’s sexual climate. Boyd said the workshop will give freshmen an opportunity for “more exploratory” discussions beyond the topics covered in their September orientation, which focused on Yale’s rules and regulations.

Brendan Shi ’15 said he thinks it is important for the University to promote discussions about consent, adding that these conversations will be more useful to freshmen in January than they were in September, since students have since formed relationships with one another. He said that the workshop would be most useful if they talked about specific situations students might encounter, rather than just “hitting us over the head with ‘consent, consent, consent.’”

But six other freshmen interviewed said they did not think additional workshops would be beneficial.

“I feel like everyone pretty much has their morals down at this point, and I don’t think any amount of workshops are really going to change how people act in certain situations,” Santino Butler ’15 said.

Freshmen will learn the time and place of their workshops, also planned for late January, from their freshman counselors or residential college deans. The leadership training sessions will take place on Jan. 23, 24 and 25.

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