HODRICK: Consent and conversation

It started with two jokes. “The only thing I’ve been forced to do at Yale is go to a consent workshop,” one student quipped.

“I guess they think you still need to learn that no means yes and yes means anal,” another responded.

Two years after DKE pledges chanted those words, students who were just beginning to study for the SAT at the time recognized the words without need for an explanation. This scar of the darker side of Yale’s recent history resonates through our collective cultural consciousness as loudly as “For God, for country and for Yale.”

I was not the only one whose patience for mandatory events was wearing thin by the time Saybrook freshmen trooped into WLH for our consent workshop. Nevertheless, despite my frustrations at all the Camp Yale events and the jokes of the students in my group, the consent workshop went tremendously well.

Using frozen yogurt as a metaphor, we proved that people are actually incredibly capable of recognizing when someone doesn’t want to do something. The exercises didn’t reinforce traditional tropes of gender or situation and engaged nearly everyone.

But no workshop can magically erase that chant from our minds. I was confused that the communication and consent educators attempted to lead the workshops as if in a vacuum. From the 2009 preseason scouting report to the 2010 DKE chant to the 2011 Title IX investigation, our school has a recent history of sexual misconduct that went unspoken. I wondered why nobody had bothered to inform the freshmen.

I walked into Assistant Dean of Student Affairs Melanie Boyd’s office yesterday with two goals, both related to that very question. I went as a reporter sent to gather an administrative opinion. But I also went as a student who has long been fascinated by issues of gender and sexuality — okay, I’ll say it: a feminist — who was confused as to why an obvious problem was not being discussed. The reporter expected canned answers and lines to read between, while the student was not sure what to expect from a dean.

Over the course of an hourlong conversation with an incredibly open administrator, Boyd and I discussed both the theory behind the details of the consent workshop and the specific mistakes Yale has made in past dealings with sexual misconduct. Afterwards, she emailed me a JSTOR article about the reification of masculinist violence — this was two feminism nerds in action.

Somewhere around “reification,” I remembered how excited I am about these questions, and I realized I had been entirely convinced that the consent workshops would successfully introduce freshmen to and work toward changing Yale’s sexual culture without reinforcing stereotypes.

I went wondering why no mention had been made of scandals like the DKE chants. Boyd convincingly argued that to tell freshmen these are things that happen every year would perpetuate the belief that these are things that happen every year — and are therefore okay.

Fundamentally, the workshops are not about teaching girls to survive frat parties; they are about teaching Yale students to communicate respectfully in all aspects of their relationships and to trust their gut instincts when they find themselves being disrespected. Administrators and students are working to create positive change in the culture rather than temporary Band-Aid solutions after controversial events.

I learned two lessons yesterday. I was incredibly close to the faculty and administrators in my high school, but it took my conversation with Boyd for me to realize that the adults running Yale are just as open to talk to students. A little bit of initiative can lead to an incredible conversation (and extra assigned reading … ).

These conversations, meanwhile, have an incredible power actually to change your mind and your opinion, if you are open to letting them be changed. I walked out of Boyd’s office fully in agreement with her arguments about the consent workshop, and with two thoughts in my mind.

First: There goes the column I was going to write.

Second: That’s why I chose Yale.

Courtney Hodrick is a freshman in Saybrook College. Contact her at courtney.hodrick@yale.edu.

Comments

  • concerned

    Recent history of sexual misconduct on campus goes unspoken by official Yale as well as the more distant history of same–for freshman since 1969. Thus the current necessity to “force” “change” to Yale’s sexual culture now embedded in freshman orientation activities. Without ever having to probe what the pay-off might be, and has been, in sanctioning disrespect for a person, a group, a class, a culture, etc. Add to this the devastating culture of silence surrounding the sexual predation of children–elite prep schools are the best example–there simply is no excuse for silence, only aruguments.

  • River_Tam

    > I went wondering why no mention had been made of scandals like the DKE chants. Boyd convincingly argued that to tell freshmen these are things that happen every year would perpetuate the belief that these are things that happen every year — and are therefore okay.

    What a lame excuse.

    • penny_lane

      Agreed. They do happen every year.

  • eli1

    This article is another attempt at feminist garbage and an attempt at false victimization of freshmen, demonstrated beautifully by the author’s meeting with Boyd (how is she a Dean again??). I would love to write an academic rebuttal to this, although, as a professional pretty far removed from Yale, I am not in the mood to be labeled a rapist by a bunch of moonbats.

    • Robbie

      It seems like this comment is far more likely to draw criticism than an academic rebuttal would be.

    • Robbie

      And why on Earth do you think you’re in a position to call anyone else a moonbat when you’re going off like this on a freshman guest columnist penning a remarkably tame opinion for her college paper?

  • eli1

    > It started with two jokes. “The only thing I’ve been forced to do at Yale is go to a consent workshop,” one student quipped.
    >
    > “I guess they think you still need to learn that no means yes and yes means anal,” another responded.

    PS…this is how the majority of campus feels…just that no one has the courage to say it for fear of being overheard by the feminazis just dying to politicize it and start another useless feminist flame war in the YDN.

    • Standards

      >as a professional pretty far removed from Yale . . . feminazi.

      Oh, if only you were removed so much further.

    • xfxjuice

      The only flame wars I ever see in the YDN are between RexMottram08, River_Tam, and PK. And they aren’t so much flame wars as it is a circle jerk of conservatism between Rex and River, and some incoherent babble by PK. If I had a nickel for every time I could guess what would be said by either of these three people in the comments section, I’d be very wealthy.

  • TheFriendlyGod

    As a professional pretty far removed from Yale, let me tell you how the majority of campus feels.

  • DH2014

    ^^bump.

  • River_Tam

    > it took my conversation with Boyd for me to realize that the adults running Yale are just as open to talk to students.

    FFS. Yale students ARE adults.

  • oogabooga

    It’s OKAY – everything is! It’s YALE! Rape, disrespect, indirect and not-so-well-hidden RACISM – it’s ALLLLL OKAY! It’s YALE WORLD!

  • yalereader

    Sexual misconduct is not tolerated in America and history is taught in our classrooms for the betterment of future generations. I’m confused by this article.

    I hope the workshop’s intended message of sexual misconduct not being tolerated at Yale was clear to freshman and is reinforced across the entire campus community with whom freshman will interact.

    Yale should annually require everyone involved in their community to sign a statement that they have read and agree to Yale’s Definitions of Sexual Misconduct, Sexual Consent, and Sexual Harassment found on their webpage:
    http://yalecollege.yale.edu/content/definitions-sexual-misconduct-sexual-consent-and-sexual-harassment.

    It is clear.

    • ldffly

      Maybe the administration could stop encouraging the hookup culture.

      • oogabooga

        The only thing that’s clear is this: Evil Empires with elitist attituds usually do have the distinctive ability to do as they want. I.E: the MASTERS offic – really? Are we still in slavery days?! They couldn’t find a better name than MAHHSTA? It’s appalling. This article simply underlines yalie status. It’s too bad because there were and still are a lot of wholesome down to earth beauiful people that graduate Yale who truly want to change the world for the better and I love them.

        • penny_lane

          I can’t tell if this comment is satire or not. It always makes me very concerned when that happens…

          If it’s not, there’s a fun story about The State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations I could tell.

  • dbrett

    I’m sorry but did the president’s, dean’s, secretary and vice president’s office and Melanie Boyd JUST realize overnight they had to follow the law and uphold Clery and Title IX? If the Title IX complaint was just brought forward by “feminazis” why is the list of **OCR requirements for Yale to be compliant SIX PAGES LONG?**

    Why is there no campus information about WHAT was in the **OCR resolution agreement**? Is it a secret – in the way freshmen weren’t told of the hostile environment issues here? Are they supposed to find out when the next group of drunken undergrads spout intimidating, abusive songs – **or should they find out when their roommate is acquaintance-raped and is “advised” they should “go through the informal process** – you don’t want this to be public, do you?”
    And the Yale culture lives on – no accountability – as usual

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