The University of Montana is gearing up for the new school year — and trying to figure out a way to respond to the multiple allegations of sexual assault on campus that prompted a Federal Department of Justice investigation last spring. Here's a start: the university is requiring all students to complete an online video tutorial on sexual violence and score 100 percent on the accompanying quiz before they can register for spring semester courses. According to Danielle F. Wozniak, an associate professor and co-chair of Montana's University Council on Student Assault who helped launch the tutorial, the University of Montana is the first university to require this type of education.
You need a UM email address to view the tutorial, but according to the PETSA (Personal Empowerment Through Self Awareness) website, it's 20 minutes long and includes seven videos on topics like "myth and facts," "what you should know," "a rape prone culture," and "risk reduction for everyone." The intro is clear and to the point: "Sexual violence can happen on any campus, and it has happened at The University of Montana."
"One of the things that we wanted to do was be very proactive and to really create an environment where [a string of assaults on campus] cannot easily happen again," Wozniak told Inside Higher Ed. "And so part of that was educating every single student about information that we felt was imperative to their safety."
Naturally, there are some people who disagree that it's a great idea to teach students that everyone, not just certain people — like, say, football players or women who go out to bars at night — are responsible for combating rape culture. Peter Wood, president of the National Association of Scholars, said the quiz requirement "really makes it an instrument of intimidation and psychological coercion more than it is a question of knowledge." The phrase "intimidation and psychological coercion" seems more reminiscent of torture camps than a 20 minute video about an issue that affects one in four college women and drives home the point that only a miniscule number of sexual assault reports are false, but maybe that's just us.
Wood also called the quiz, which students can immediately retake as many times as they have to until they pass, a "rather severe sanction," but if we remember anything from those pre-freshman year Alcohol EDU online classes, most undergrads will take the quiz lying down while watching TV at the same time. In short: it's the beginning of an important discussion, not the end, and it's definitely not severe. But according to Wozniak, student feedback has already been positive. "Especially from women who have lived with this issue all their lives…. They are just all saying, ‘Thank you, thank you, thank you for bringing this out in the open, thank you for being able to talk about it, thank you for doing this.' "
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Counter-Rape Culture [Inside Higher Ed]
(Image via PETSA)