As part of efforts to improve Yale’s sexual climate, two new instructional programs on leadership strategies and sexual misconduct prevention will take place at the end of January.
Freshmen will attend a new set of workshops that will “examine the signals people use to distinguish among agreement, refusal and ambiguity,” Yale College Dean Mary Miller said in an email last month 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 December email to the News. But a majority of students interviewed questioned whether these initiatives will have a significant impact on student behavior.
“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, adding that leaders of unregistered groups are encouraged 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.
Faculty and administrators will speak to attendees about effective leadership as well as ways to deal with sexual misconduct and hazing, said Hannah Peck, a student affairs fellow who helps direct the Communication and Consent Educators, the group of 40 undergraduates formed last fall to improve Yale’s sexual climate.
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 an email last month 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 added. Although a former leader and current member of Delta Kappa Epsilon, who asked to remain anonymous because he did not want to speak on behalf of the fraternity, said in a December interview that the fraternity had 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 student group who also asked to stay anonymous said she did not think the sessions would be effective because Yale’s diverse organizations face different concerns and challenges that cannot all be addressed in a single training session.
But 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. In addition, 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, Communication and Consent Educators will host the freshman workshops within freshman counselor groups. 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, when students had not spent much time with each other. He said that the workshops would be most useful if they discuss 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.