May 1, 2013

Orientation Week to Include Workshop on Sex Education

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Following a string of sexual assault incidents reported on campus, the Class of 2017 will be the first to participate in a workshop on consent and healthy sexual relationships during Orientation Week this August.

“Speak About It,” a troupe of young college graduates and actors who travel the country raising awareness against sexual violence, will come to campus to lead the workshop for first-year and transfer students. According to the group’s website, the troupe’s goal is to generate a conversation about sex and to leave students feeling educated, entertained and empowered to create change on their campus.

Both students and administrators collaborated to include the presentation as part of the Orientation Week experience of incoming students at the University.

According to E.E. Hou ’14, creative director of the Every1 Campaign — a student organization that addresses issues of sexual assault and consensual sex — the workshop will consist of a dynamic presentation between actors and spectators that includes skits and monologues based on real stories.

“A lot of freshman come to campus very experienced, with little knowledge about the importance of consent and sexual relationships,” Hou said. “The workshop’s main contribution will be to raise awareness about both consent and sexual assault.

Hou said many students are unaware about the pervasiveness of sexual assault on college campuses, and that a workshop of this kind will convey to entering students the importance of fostering a culture of consent.  According to statistics compiled by the New York State Coalition Against Sexual Assault, at least one in four college women will be the victim of a sexual assault during her academic career. On the other hand, one in six men experience abusive sexual experiences before age 18, according to a study conducted by U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

Anisha Chopra ’13, outgoing at-large rep for the S.A., said the impact of the workshop will be to begin an initial conversation among freshman about the importance of consent and fighting sexual assault.

Anna-Lisa Castle ’14, co-chair of the Women of Color Coalition, said she hopes the presentation “is included in a more holistic, broader effort of initiatives.” Castle is also a participant of the Assembly for Justice — a group that coordinated a protest against the University’s reaction to reported sexual attacks last September.

“I am excited that this is a conversation that will start in Orientation Week, but it should not end there. This is not a solution by any means,” Castle said. “I hope the administration is as committed to continuing the conversation throughout the Cornell experience.”

While she said she recognizes the workshop’s goals are necessary and excellent, Castle said  “there is more to be done beyond initiating a conversation about consent.”

“These goals will not be achieved until we take a hard line against sexual violence as a campus community,” she said.

Castle expressed concerns for the workshop’s ultimate effectiveness without additional resources and events aimed at continue developing student awareness about consent and sexual assault. “Many other initiatives are already in place, and this is one more,” Castle said.  “If we want to get serious about sexual violence, it will require commitment and follow up, not just funding for adding an additional initiative to the pile.”The “Speak About It” troupe offered a pilot presentation in January during transfer student orientation. Members of the audience — including both transfer students and leaders of various campus organizations working against sexual assault — evaluated and provided feedback following this initial presentation. The January workshop was funded by the Orientation Steering Committee and the Division of Student and Academic Affairs, according to Sarah Jones, assistant dean of students in the Office of New Student Programs. The President’s Council of Cornell Women will fund the troupe’s presentation this upcoming August.Jones said the “workshop is a tremendous opportunity to introduce important concepts to new students.” She also said the Orientation Steering Committee is working to partner with different student organizations to support the “Speak About It” performance and provide additional resources to first-year students as a means of following-up with the troupe’s workshop.In the past two years, “Speak About It” has offered workshops at Utica College, Bowdoin, Harvard and Brown.

Original Author: Patricio Martinez