As part of renewed efforts to engage students in creating a safe campus environment, the Yale College Dean’s Office has enlisted high-level administrators to speak to student leaders at this week’s leadership training sessions.
Attendance at one of the three 75-minute sessions, which began Monday night with a crowd of over 300 students, is mandatory for at least three representatives from every registered student group and varsity sports team. The training includes presentations about effective leadership as well as ways to address hazing and sexual misconduct. Although students expressed skepticism about the sessions when they were first announced in late December, the majority of attendees interviewed Monday said they thought elements of the training were useful for their groups.
“We hope to encourage students to lead actively in the groups they’re representing and in their other social circles,” Hannah Peck DIV ’11, a student affairs fellow who coordinated the training sessions, said in a Sunday email. “Such active leadership will help us address challenges we face as a community.”
The idea of training student leaders originated last March in a report by the Task Force on Sexual Misconduct Education and Prevention, which was convened after Delta Kappa Epsilon pledges shouted offensive chants on Old Campus in fall 2010.
As of Sunday, 276 students were signed up for the Monday session, 185 for the Tuesday session and 156 for Wednesday, Peck said. By Friday, 271 of 392 registered student groups had signed up for the training, according to an email from Assistant Dean of Student Affairs Melanie Boyd ’90. Though Boyd said she was concerned that many groups would lose their registered status by failing to attend, administrators said they were pleased that 76 unregistered groups had also signed up.
Boyd said she recognized students were “not thrilled” with the idea of additional training and “generally resent being told what to do,” but she said administrators worked to address this concern by focusing on student needs when developing the training schedule.
“It’s been my experience that students genuinely value substantive engagement with tough issues,” she said. “This week’s training begins with that presumption.”
In her opening remarks at the training session, Deputy Provost Stephanie Spangler, who is in charge of Title IX compliance at Yale, urged students to “speak out more directly and forcefully” to promote healthy relationships, adding that student leaders in particular can make a “tremendous” impact. Yale College Dean Mary Miller, who will introduce the third session, told the News Monday that including top administrators in each of the sessions demonstrates the University’s commitment to improving campus culture. Provost Peter Salovey will open the Tuesday night meeting.
After presentations about leadership strategies, such as identifying and upholding a group’s values, Peck and Benjamin Flores ’10, another student affairs fellow, advised students to avoid hazing practices that make group members feel “devalued,” a feeling Peck said students do not expect to experience when joining an organization.
In a poll of the audience conducted using electronic clickers, 57 percent of students in attendance said they knew someone who had felt uncomfortable during an initiation — a statistic Peck and Flores said students should find worrisome.
Nine of 13 attendees interviewed said they thought the training was helpful, and some said the sexual harassment and hazing discussions were particularly relevant to their organizations’ activities.
Emma Schindler ’14, a representative from Elm City Echo, a publication that features work written by homeless individuals, said Peck and Flores were “asking the right questions and asking the hard questions” in their discussion of hazing and sexual misconduct. But she said she thought the presentations on leadership were “fluffy,” adding that it was unfortunate that the sexual harassment discussion began at the end when students were getting ready to leave.
Four students interviewed said they thought parts of the presentation were irrelevant to their specific organizations since some of their groups do not hold initiation ceremonies.
One student, who asked to remain anonymous to maintain a positive relationship with the Dean’s Office, said he thought the session was “ineffective” because it failed to address sexual harassment directly and used analogies that “masked” the real issue.
The next two sessions will take place at 6 p.m. on Tuesday and 7 p.m. on Wednesday in Room 114 of Sheffield-Sterling-Strathcona Hall.