In their first collective meeting of the year, the Students’ Representative Council’s Wom*n’s Officers have committed to lobbying against the University’s rejection of a mandatory consent module for all students.
Wom*n’s Officers past and present penned a letter to Vice Chancellor Michael Spence last year outlining their demands for a safer University, which included setting up an online module about sexual assault and harassment that must be completed by all students once per semester.
In his response, Spence rejected the idea due to a lack of pedagogical evidence that it would help combat sexual assault on campus.
A University spokesperson told Honi, “In reviewing the expert evidence and seeking advice from the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Education) … it has become clear that this is not the most appropriate mechanism for achieving a well-informed student body on these issues.”
“We are considering a range of options for equipping our students to reflect on and embody norms of conduct conducive to a respectful, safe student experience.”
SRC Co-Wom*n’s Officer Imogen Grant argues sexual assault education is necessary for creating equality in education.
“Education equity for women is inextricably linked to combatting sexual assault on campus, and this requires prevention through education, support for survivors and their communities, and policy reform at the campus, local, state, and federal levels”, she said.
“We need to break past this impasse about sexual assault at University and demand not only adequate support for survivors, but also a transformation of campus culture.”
Mandatory sexual assault education is nothing novel within University settings: a number of universities, including the likes of Oxford and Harvard, have implemented mandatory sexual assault prevention training for their staff and students.
In 2014, the Governor of California passed a bill that requires colleges to implement “comprehensive prevention and outreach programs” including “empowerment programming for victim prevention … primary intervention, bystander intervention, and risk reduction”.
All staff must receive such training within 90 days of hire.
At the University of California (UC), all incoming students have been required to take the education and training program at their campus within the first six weeks of class, and ongoing training annually, since 2015.
When Honi asked about the impact of their mandatory training, UC’s Office of the President responded, “of course, we know prevention is key”.
At their Berkeley campus, all freshmen had to complete an online module and attend a presentation before they could register for classes last year.
In explaining their compulsory two-step module, Berkeley’s website says, “preventing sexual violence is not the responsibility of the survivor of the violence,” and while “risk reduction is not prevention … all of us can take a stand to prevent violence by confronting violent beliefs and attitudes before the violent action could occur.”