The rigorous application process to become a Yale Communication and Consent Educator has produced 49 sophomores, juniors and seniors who will lead the Yale community throughout the 2017–18 school year. Among these individuals are 12 student-athletes who are not just exemplary educators in Yale’s community but also members of nine different Eli athletic teams.
Communication and Consent Educators, or CCEs, work under Assistant Dean of Student Affairs Melanie Boyd to foster a more positive sexual and social climate. The CCEs, who lead workshops and work with student organizations, hail from backgrounds as diverse as the programs they lead. Being a CCE poses a substantial time commitment, particularly during the fall when all first years attend mandatory workshops and sophomores also take part in seminars about bystander intervention. Yet more than the physical hours spent leading discussions, student-athletes who are CCEs are taking on the responsibility of being a leader on Yale’s campus in a realm both outside of the classroom and off the field.
Senior Associate Athletic Director of Student Services Brian Tompkins said he sees athletes taking on this role as an extremely important and positive task.
“CCEs, whether they are athletes or not, are special people,” Tompkins said in an email to the News. “They are chosen for their ability to relate to, and be a positive influence on, their peers. Having a well-trained, thoughtful CCE in any group environment is an asset to that group’s tone and culture.”
CCEs like Adrian Lin ’19, a member of the Yale swimming and diving team, and Izak Epstein ’19, a heavyweight crew rower, both joined the program for similar reasons as most other students: They were interested in the topic and wanted to find a way to make their campus and environments safer regarding sexual conduct.
Lin, the silver medalist in the 200-yard freestyle at the 2017 Ivy League Championships, already has a full plate between swimming and his academics, but said that Yale track and field runner and CCE Project Coordinator Katrina Garry ’18 helped convince him to apply for a position even with his hectic schedule. Likewise, Epstein now balances early-morning rowing practice, class and his work as a CCE.
However, both Epstein and Lin acknowledged the importance of their dual roles as CCEs and athletes and knew when they joined the program that the time commitment was for a worthwhile cause.
“I think athletes are in an interesting position to effect change,” Lin said. “One of the more obvious reasons is that a lot of men’s teams have houses so they control some of the social spaces on campus … Athletes on every team are constantly working to better these dynamics, but having CCEs in these communities, whose job it is to have these conversations, helps expedite these changes.”
Epstein echoed a similar sentiment and added that he feels he can bring a unique perspective as a CCE while also helping to better connect with other male athletes who often feel targeted during conversations surrounding sexual assault.
“Athletes often have both the benefits and the pressures that go along with having a high profile on campus,” Tompkins added. “The CCE program is a wonderful opportunity for our athletes to use their skills and profiles to strengthen a culture of communal consideration, respect and understanding in our campus community.”
The benefits of student-athlete CCEs spread to their teammates as well. The swimming and diving team, for instance, now talks more openly about changes they would like to see in team and Yale culture — and with Lin as a prominent member of both the swimming and CCE teams, these conversations are occurring more frequently.
Members of the women’s soccer team also expressed admiration for their teammate, goaltender Jane Buckley ’20, who is in her first year as a CCE.
“[Jane] is a great resource and role model on these issues [of consent] both to the [first years] on the team and to everyone else involved,” women’s soccer team manager Alex Ritter ’20 said. “Being a CCE, Jane is more in-tune with how one’s actions can affect people. She has helped educate the team on our tendency towards heteronormativity and how that mindset could make teammates uncomfortable and could lead to a more negative team dynamic.”
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