CCEs talk sexual climate creatively

At Viva’s, students participate in discussion led by CCEs about issues that seniors face in their final year at Yale.
At Viva’s, students participate in discussion led by CCEs about issues that seniors face in their final year at Yale. Photo by Aleksandra Gjorgievska.

“Tequila ginger ale,” Chloe Drimal ’13 said. “Or just tequila.”

Three other seniors seated around Drimal at a long table in the back room of Viva Zapata Bar agreed with a laugh, as more students in the room shouted out the names of their favorite alcoholic beverages.

But unlike a typical group of friends chatting over nachos at Viva’s, the seniors were gathered for “SWUGLIFE: A Colloquium,” an informal panel discussion on issues seniors tackle in their final year on campus. The event was organized by the Communication and Consent Educators program, which Assistant Dean of Student Affairs Melanie Boyd ’89 said was launched last fall in part to foster organic, informal discussions about Yale’s sexual culture.

Through a mix of unconventional activities and more traditional workshops, the group has begun a flurry of initiatives early this year and are building on student feedback, Boyd said, adding that the 40 undergraduate CCEs interacted with 3,610 undergraduates in the program’s first year.

All three students interviewed at the panel in Viva’s said they enjoyed the event.

“I like the fact that they did this in a bar, where people can be casual and talk about things that matter,” Jessica Tordoff ’15 said. “It wasn’t a boring discussion in WLH — it was different.”

Boyd said CCEs aim to start campus dialogue and create a “shared language” rather than prescribe policies to students. Because sexual misconduct is a constantly evolving issue, CCE Emily Hong ’13 said the group must continually adjust its efforts to meet immediate student needs and tackle issues as they arise.

As freshmen prepared for their first Safety Dance last week, CCE Kevin Vargas ’15 said the Pierson CCEs offered upperclassmen a ticket to a Shake Shack gift card lottery for providing advice to freshmen on their first college-wide party. The Davenport CCEs held a “falafel focus group” for the same purpose, and the CCEs placed table tents displaying the best answers in the Pierson and Davenport dining halls.

Vargas said the CCEs intend to replicate the process for Trolley Night, which is set to take place in Calhoun College this Friday.

“Though some upperclassmen in Davenport might have initially been drawn by the free falafel, students ended up having a great and meaningful discussion,” Hong ’14 said.

Since campus-wide parties and social activities are usually affiliated with student groups, Boyd said the CCEs are striving to work with organizations to make events safer for students.

Hong added that such cooperation will likely take the form of interactive workshops and discussions.

Boyd said the program has continued to implement initiatives that received largely positive feedback last year, such as the sexual consent workshops for freshmen. During the workshops, which freshman counselor groups attend individually, freshmen learn how to navigate seemingly harmless situations that could lead to sexual misconduct by observing a role-play scenario in which a student is pressured to get froyo as an example.

Eleven of 20 freshmen interviewed said they benefited from the sexual consent workshop. Jessica Leao ’16 said the workshop “was run very maturely, but in a fun, accessible way.”

Gina Starfield ’16 called the workshop “silly,” and said that it made no real impact on her or her friends.

“The workshop turned the idea of consenting into more of a joke than a real issue on campus,” she said. “I now laugh when a friend of mine asks me to get froyo.”

Out of 30 students interviewed who have taken part in one or more CCE initiative, 22 said they think the program has positively influenced their college experience.

“Even if you don’t agree with every aspect of the program, you can’t deny that providing a space for students to talk [about issues of sexual misconduct] has some merit,” Eamon Ronan ’15 said.

The CCE program is run by the Yale College Dean’s Office.

Correction: Oct. 5

A previous version of this article misattributed a quote from Jessica Tordoff ’15 to Hanna Morikami ’13.

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