In light of last week’s Sexual Violence Awareness Week, the recent allegation of sexual assault in Schroeder Hall and the high-profile case last semester involving student athletes, it is ever-relevant to continue to discuss and evaluate the new training procedures Marquette has instituted in an effort to make positive changes on campus.
One of the methods is training student leaders and next fall’s incoming students with a series of online training videos. These online videos are narrated and led by two pseudo-college students who discuss information surrounding sexual assault interspersed with testimony from people who have experienced sexual assault in different forms.
While the videos provide a lot of good information addressing what sexual assault actually is and how to recognize and prevent it, the valuable parts are juxtaposed with off-putting moments and absurd ideas.
The “typical male college student” played by an actor is offensive and completely unaware of the issues and why they are important, which seems unfair to males in general. One has to wonder why the videos could not have portrayed the character as a normal college student looking to learn more about sexual assault instead of a crass and willfully ignorant male needing to be set straight.
Do we need such an overtly negative image of college guys? The clips describing different ways men try to pressure college women into potential assault situations, while fair and comprehensive, seem to do the job.
If we want college men to take these videos seriously and realize the immensity of the issues, it is questionable whether this caricature is the best way to depict them.
The videos also offer suggestions on last-ditch measures to prevent a potential rape by advising students to claim to be HIV positive (to which the male character laughably responds, “Me too!”) and to remember the three “-ates”: urinate, defecate, and regurgitate. These ideas are simply hard to take seriously. Who is going to view these videos as authoritative and useful when they are being told to defecate themselves? Are there no other viable solutions for students to escape such a situation?
Furthermore, we have to ask how many hours of training videos incoming students will be expected to watch before arriving on campus. It seems inevitable that these videos will be perceived to be a drag in the same way that AlcoholEdu is, the online alcohol education program incoming freshmen are required to take. We are worried they will be viewed in the same context, as more or less a joke.
If students trivialize these videos, we run the risk of actually inflating the stigma of sexual assault and having fewer students report the crimes and seek help when they happen.
We applaud the university for its recent efforts to be transparent, thorough and sensitive when dealing with these issues. Marquette is taking an important first step in acknowledging the problem of sexual assault on a college campus and seeking to reduce it on ours.
The intention behind these videos — and the other forms of training faculty and student leaders are undertaking — is to be commended. However, we have a long way to go.
We implore that students do not disregard these videos. If we are to collectively acknowledge the serious nature of the problem and expect the university to address it, we must allow them some room for trial and error. After all, the university was not directly responsible for the content in the videos.
While recognizing the effort the university is making, we can offer critical feedback. During this pivotal time of determining the best course to discuss these issues, we can urge the university to continue trying to find a module that best fits our student body. We can also remind the administration to include us in the process.
After all, only students will know if other students will take the training seriously. And when discussing sexual assault, we simply need to find a way.