Cayuga’s Watchers and Consent Education will host an inaugural Culture of Consent Week on Ho Plaza beginning Monday, initiating an annual attempt to elevate sexual assault awareness and prevention.
Cayuga’s Watchers hires sober monitors to attend parties as peer resources in the hopes of preventing dangerous situations before they occur, according to President Drew Lord ’18. Consent Ed aims to engage Cornell students about “sex, consent, and social responsibility,” the organization says.
Both organizations are working to fulfill a resolution passed by the Interfraternity and Panhellenic Councils last spring, which aims to train all Greek chapters on bystander intervention, social responsibility and consent.
Members of each student organization are giving away free merchandise, offering information on campus resources and will have a Snapchat geofilter set up to spread awareness about the event on social media.
Over the summer, Cayuga’s Watchers and Consent Ed began collaborating, and ultimately decided that Culture of Consent Week would be a feasible way to raise social awareness about consent, according to Lord.
“The point of this week is to put a positive focus on getting consent and removing the taboo of asking for consent,” said Caitlin Gleason ’18, President of Consent Ed. “If we can push people to understand the full definition, I think we will make a difference on campus and in how people interact.”
Gleason explained that it is important to inspire open dialogue about what it means to consent, beyond the basic definition of two parties agreeing to a “yes means yes” standard for sexual consent.
“Consent is affirmative and also ongoing, meaning it needs to be affirmative every step of the way,” she added. “It’s willing, meaning you cannot be unconscious. It can also be given and taken away any time. Obviously, you want the enthusiastic yes, but you can still say no after that; it’s not just getting the yes for five minutes, you want a positive yes throughout.”
Paola Ocampo ’18, a member of Cayuga’s Watchers, shared her conviction that educating students about consent means stressing that, “it is important that the safety comes first.”
Raising awareness about the necessity of bystander intervention is another goal for the week, according to Director of External Operations Ben Bacharach ’18.
“We’re making sure that everyone on this campus is an active bystander and that at large parties there are paid employees who are bystanders who know exactly what to do in the situation,” he said.
Gleason stressed that students, rather than Cornell’s adminstrators, must be the architects of a culture of consent.
“The administration does a lot and it’s great to see the variety of effective services, but also I think there’s a cultural component which is harder to engage with the student population,” she said.
For Gleason, the event is a part of a broader effort to expand Consent Ed’s outreach beyond Greek life, into the rest of the student body. Consent Ed, which only became co-ed last year, is working to become more inclusive of all gender identities, races and religions, and to provide training to non-Greek student groups, according to Gleason.
She said the group is also planning to work with IFC to train chapter ambassadors, who can then educate their fellow Greek members on the importance of consent, replicating Panhellenic Council’s current training model.
Lord also added that he hoped to expand the event for future years, reaching more students and raising more awareness on campus.
“Social responsibility is a force worth spreading, and there’s still more to be done,” he said.