VIEWPOINT: Faults of Delayed Education

For new students at Georgetown, there is a requirement to complete mandatory consent training to address the widespread issue of sexual assault on college campuses. The training comes in the form of “Think About it,” an online course that new students must complete by the end of October, and “Hoya Real Talk,” an educational skit show during New Student Orientation that introduced students to a few of the situations students encounter in college.

While the lively, theatrical format in which sexual assault was presented during “Hoya Real Talk” proved engaging for some, many students felt that the gameshow format was flippant, overlooking the serious trauma that sexual assault can inflict on survivors. Particularly troubling was the segment in which a serial rapist was pulled aside for a quick quiz show in which he explained how he had acted inappropriately, but he was never shown facing actual consequences for his actions.

I left Gaston Hall feeling disillusioned, knowing that “Hoya Real Talk” was the only sexual assault education that some in the room had ever or would ever receive. Georgetown proudly boasts that Hoyas hail from 50 states and over 130 countries, yet the other important reality of our diverse, lived experiences is that some of us have not been exposed to topics regarding assault in high school. Place 1,500 excitable young adults from all over the world in an unsupervised environment with access to alcohol and drugs, and sexual assault is bound to occur.

A few weeks later, all Georgetown freshmen received an email from Vice President for Student Affairs Dr. Todd Olson, informing us that we needed to complete “Think About It,” a mandatory course regarding sexual assault. While I support continued dialogue on the matter, the valuable information regarding abusive relationships, alcohol, drugs, hookup culture and sexual assault contained in the “Think About It” program should be provided to students the moment they first step onto campus, not six weeks after they arrive at Georgetown.

It is entirely unacceptable that a more comprehensive program was offered a month after our arrival, especially considering that the Race Abuse Incest National Network reports that over 50 percent of all assaults on college campuses occur between August and November. How many sexual assaults occurred between the day school started and the day “Think About It” was introduced? How many sexual assaults could have been prevented if this information had been presented earlier? While “Think About It” is not the end-all, be-all solution to sexual assault on college campuses, its incorporation into our campus community should be conducted in way that helps students make better decisions before they arrive on campus.

It is clear the problem of sexual assault exists on this campus, but the way the school treats those who avoid the “Think About It” course also needs to be addressed. Last year’s Sexual Assault and Misconduct Survey at Georgetown revealed that 21.3 percent of freshmen females are likely to be sexually assaulted compared to 10.4 percent of female seniors, while 7.5 percent of male freshmen reported assault versus 3.9 percent of male seniors.

According to Olson’s email, “A list of students who do not complete the course will be kept on file in the Office of Student Conduct, and it may be considered in the event of a future student conduct incident.” Such a consequence hardly compares to the punishment for students who fail to complete the Scholarly Research and Academic Integrity Tutorial, which would bar students from being able to preregister for spring 2017 courses, a difference that could be perceived to reflect the administration’s distorted priorities.

I commend the “Hoya Real Talk” performers, the peer advisers and the orientation advisers for starting a dialogue regarding sexual assault, mental health and drug abuse, and I do
believe they successfully informed some members of the community about critical issues regarding sexual conduct. However, Georgetown needs to create real, tangible consequences for students who do not attend mandatory sexual assault training, such as blocking them from class preregistration or deducting housing points, to demonstrate its commitment to preventing sexual assault and upholding values of care in the community.

Michelle Bolt is a freshman in the College.

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