After Yale’s latest semi-annual report on sexual misconduct generated controversy this summer, members of the class of 2017 took to the Internet to voice their opinions — but since coming to Yale, the students said their freshman orientation programs have not provided opportunities to continue their conversations from the summer.
This year’s freshman orientation program included numerous components that addressed various aspects of Yale’s sexual climate and drinking culture. Freshmen participated in a workshop on sexuality taught by the Community Health Educators, a workshop on consent that was run by the Communication and Consent Educators and a presentation by Carole Goldberg, director of the Sexual Harassment and Assault Resource and Education Center, or SHARE. Although students said the alcohol and sexuality workshops were informative, some said they felt the orientation programs could have benefited from structured discussions of the recent controversy.
Ten of 17 freshmen interviewed said they felt the workshops were more effective because they focused on educating students for their future four years rather than looking back on the University’s past problems, but several students were unable to answer questions about the details of recent Yale controversies surrounding sexual misconduct.
“One thing that was interesting was we did have a lot of workshops about sex and consent but no one ever brought up the report or any of the topics, such as the concerns in the report,” said Nicole Ng ’17, who had participated in Facebook discussions about the report in August. “The conversations that went on over the summer weren’t really brought up as much.”
Out of 24 students interviewed, 21 knew the function of the SHARE Center, but only one knew the role of the University’s Title IX coordinators and understood the purpose of the University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct. Eighteen said they felt confident they knew where to report instances of misconduct.
Four of the students correctly identified what the Title IX portion of the Education Amendment of 1972 was and one student knew the background on the Title IX complaint filed at Yale in 2011.
“I do think that the workshop could have benefited from discussing the current issues so it’s not some taboo,” Shyamala Ramakrishna ’17 said. “What happens at a lot of schools is the university likes to put a blanket on things, but what’s important to erase rape culture is to make ourselves uncomfortable on purpose a little bit.”
Two freshmen said their freshman counselors held informal discussion with their groups of freshmen to fill them in on the background regarding the Title IX complaint filed at Yale in 2011 and the subsequent changes to Yale’s sexual misconduct reporting system.
Kevin Vargas ’15, a CCE, said he felt freshmen who wanted to learn more about recent events related to sexual misconduct could learn about them outside of orientation.
“Personally, I think the freshmen are already bombarded with so many things during orientation,” Vargas said. “I think if a freshman wanted to learn more about these things, they certainly can.”
Some freshmen were surprised by the openness of the informal conversations they had over sexual misconduct issues at Yale.
Maheen Zakaria ’17, an international student from Pakistan, said she was surprised to find sexual violence to be such a major issue at Yale.
“In Pakistan it’s a very common, very huge problem, but people don’t generally talk about it because it’s taboo,” Zakaria said. “I thought what was different was that they had the problem here, but also they were openly dealing with it here.”
Zakaria added that she was optimistic that so many of her classmates were informed about sexual misconduct issues before coming to Yale.
The regularly scheduled CCE workshops took place on Aug. 31 and Sept. 1.