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Think About It: Mandatory survey creates concern

Logo for the CampusClarity organization. (Designed by Jeremy Beckman)
Logo for the Campus Clarity organization. (Designed by Jeremy Beckman)

Look, if a girl is wearing a tiny outfit to a party, isn’t she basically saying that she’s looking for action?

This is an example of a dialogue that students are required to respond to in a new online course that’s mandatory for students new to Mills. The course, called Campus Clarity’s Think About It, is geared toward the prevention of substance abuse and sexual assault in college.

Campus Clarity’s Think About It is designed to help students “better understand risks related to alcohol, drugs and dating violence,” said Anne Staunton, manager of wellness and community outreach at Mills, in a recent email. Although Staunton said she hopes students will complete the course out of their own initiative, students who fail to complete the course by Oct. 18 will have a hold put on their registration.

The course is divided into six sections that feature videos, virtual activities, animated scenarios, and quizzes with topics like “partying smart” and sexual violence in college.

Campus Clarity’s Think About It was developed by a group of students at the University of San Francisco, and is designed to help students act quickly and appropriately in difficult situations, Staunton said.

Although Campus Clarity advertises that the course “prepares new college students for the unique challenges and responsibilities of college life,” many students said the course was not well suited for the Mills community.

“I think it’s a really great idea to have this kind of program to even out the playing field for those of us who haven’t sought this information,” first-year Katy Harechmak said. “But I thought it was really not representative of the Mills experience I’ve had so far and the experience I’m expecting to have.”

Think About It describes circumstances that lead to sexual violence as well as how to handle relationship conflicts. In regard to this section, Harechmak and her girlfriend Sophia Woodruff said they appreciated that the course was clear about sexual assault and consent. They agreed, however, that the portrayal of couples was heteronormative.

“Mills has a large queer community and a community of color so they could have spoken more to those communities,” said Woodruff. Harechmak and Woodruff also said they noticed that the course had no transgender characters.

“The general queer populace was not there,” Harechmak said.

In the relationship section, Harechmak said she felt uncomfortable when the course required her to answer whether she used a condom in sexual intercourse.

“[The course] really thought I was straight, which was offensive,” Harechmak said. Harechmak said she would have preferred if Think About It asked if she practiced “safe sex” rather than assuming she was in a heterosexual relationship.

Students said they also found the lesson on sexual assault problematic. This section describes a variety of situations that can lead to rape and sexual assault and how to act from the  perspective of a bystander, a friend, a victim, and a perpetrator. This section requires the participant to watch a video where a man, who remains anonymous, confesses to sexually assaulting a series of women during college by inviting them to parties where alcohol was readily available.

“If you felt like you had to do the course, and you’re doing it the night before — like I’m sure lots of us did, then it would have been very stressful and very triggering and very scary to be constantly bombarded with that kind of sexual harassment,” Harechmak said.

Students said they would prefer a different method of education in the future.

“I think if they could invest the time and resources I would definitely have something where the students could navigate it easier,” Woodruff said. Woodruff suggested a similar course where students can choose topics they are interested in rather than being directed through a series of mandatory lessons.

Staunton said the priority is keeping students safe and informed. She also said she is open to feedback about the course.

“We’ll start with student feedback and go from there,” Staunton said. “If there’s a way to improve it, we would.”