This semester, Cornell University is trying to formally bring a version of Yale’s Communication and Consent Educators program — and possibly its famous frozen yogurt skit — to its Ithaca campus.
Known as Cornell Social Consultants, these students will help identify unsafe social dynamics, develop strategies for effective interventions and collaborate “with other students and student groups to change the campus environment and reimagine traditional events … within the Cornell community,” according to a Cornell website that describes the position. The CSC program was announced this semester, drawing its inspiration from a presentation that Yale Assitant Dean of Student Affairs Melanie Boyd gave to Cornell’s Council on Sexual Violence Prevention last October, during which she explained the role of the CCEs at Yale. Responsible for holding many workshops and trainings — including the Myth of Miscommunication for freshmen that involves asking students to froyo “dates” — and for encouraging more conversation on the topics of sexual misconduct and the social climate at large, CCEs work with students and student groups to build a healthier culture on campus. Cornell is currently soliciting applications to fill the positions.
“There was tremendous enthusiasm when Dr. Boyd described this new approach to sexual violence prevention with the aim of creating a more positive, respectful sexual and social culture in which students feel safer and have an ability to thrive,” said Jessie Bonnie-Burrill, a public health fellow at the Skorton Center for Health Initiatives and the CSC program leader at Cornell.
Last spring, the Cornell community experimented with a pilot program built on the CCE structure, expanding sexual violence prevention to include elements of Yale’s initiative. And beginning this fall, the program will be officially introduced at Cornell as a collaboration between the Skorton Center and the Office of the Dean of Students.
In addition to Cornell, Washington and Lee University in Virginia has also started to implement similar approaches to addressing sexual misconduct, looking to the Boyd-directed CCE program for advice and guidance.
Evan Walker-Wells ’14, a former CCE, is currently working with Washington and Lee University to develop a pilot program that is also modeled on Yale’s CCE program and to help train potential student leaders. Walker-Wells said officials from the liberal arts school were interested in a number of Yale CCE workshops, including the Myth of Miscommunication.
“The CCE program aims to end campus sexual violence by actively fostering a more positive campus culture, one where respect, mindfulness and mutuality are foundational values,” Boyd said in an email to the News on Monday. “That’s attracted some attention from other campuses, and so we do what we can to share materials we’ve developed and lessons we’ve learned.”
At Yale, CCEs expressed excitement that the program has become a template for nearby universities, naming several reasons for the Yale program’s success.
CCE Fiona Riebeling ’18 said it is promising to see other colleges follow Yale’s footsteps because, in her view, the CCE program has been very effective. Riebeling added that Yale’s model is empowering. Rather than telling students what not to do, it focuses on individual ability to understand sexual signals and to respect each others’ boundaries, she said.
CCE Nathan Kohrman ’16, a staff columnist for the News, said the strength of Yale’s program lies in the diverse backgrounds of the CCEs: They come from Greek organizations, varsity sports teams, performing arts groups, among others. The broad range of perspectives contribute to the CCEs’ discussions.
Alex Borsa ’16, also a CCE, said that during the freshman workshops, students are asked to think about ideal romantic situations and imagine the kind of sexual atmosphere that they wish to see at Yale.
“When they [students] spend mental energy on desirable things, it is easier to create a positive environment,” Borsa said.