City Paper is not for tourists
The University of Maryland has begun planning a “mandatory sexual assault prevention education program” for the upcoming school year. The details of the program are still in the works, but UMD student newspaper the Diamondback is already skeptical.
The Diamondback reports that the new education program will be funded with a $500,000 grant from the Department of Justice, and that it will be targeted at “expanding existing programs, educating students, training public safety officials and training administrators.”
It’s the “educating students” part the Diamondback is concerned about:
Though the details of the education aspect are still being worked out, health center officials said it will likely be incorporated into freshman orientation and be similar to the university’s online alcohol education program, AlcoholEdu.
. . . Some students, however, were doubtful the effort will have the desired effect.
“Taking a collaborative approach is a great way to help decrease the amount of sexual assault that goes on campus, as it is not possible to tackle the problem if not everyone is involved,” junior marketing major Stephanie Nguyen said. “But if the education program is similar to AlcoholEdu, then I can guarantee that no one will pay attention.”
AlcoholEdu, for the uninitiated, is an “interactive online program” about the effects of alcohol that all University of Maryland students must complete. On-campus skepticism of the alcohol abuse education program is encapsulated in this University of Maryland Facebook group, entitled “AlchoholEdu Is Way More Interesting When DRUNK!!!!!!!!” The group, which currently only has five members, describes itself this way: “group is for anyone who has had to sit through that 3 hour bullshit that encouraged me to drink way more.”
Let’s hope that UMD’s sexual assault education program does not produce similar results.
Well, it looks like AlcoholEdu haters are in for some good news. The sexual assault education program “will not be anything like AlcoholEdu,” says Kelly Kesler, Assistant Director for Health Promotion at the university. “The comparison is actually not correct.”
Outside the Classroom, the organization that developed AlcoholEdu, has also created an online program for addressing sexual assault on campus: SexualAssaultEdu. Kesler says that UMD’s program will be not at all be related to that initiative. (Outside the Classroom, for its part, says that several independent studies have found its programs effective).
So what will UMD’s student education piece look like?
It’s a video. Kesler says the project is still in the beginning stages, but the proposed content of the work has largely been defined: “The objective is to educate students about the scope of the problem on campus in terms of sexual assault, relationship violence, and stalking,” says Kesler. “It will teach students about the contributing factors. . . . It will educate students about bystander support skills, about making a positive peer influence, and about the resources that are available for victims and how to make use of them.”
Kesler says the university is researching how best to relay that information—-two possibilities are through “vignettes and expert interviews.” The video will likely be shown at new resident orientation programs for students living on-campus, in selected classrooms, and online.