Extended first-year orientation, September 30, 2010
September 30, 2010
Extended first year orientation
Sexual assault education addresses social issues on campus
By Caitlin O’Connor ’14
News Contributor, The Spectator
The campus was abuzz with debate this week as first-year students were required for the first time to attend additional orientation programs addressing sexual assault. Many students believed that these events were created in response to recent incidences of sexual assault on campus. However, according to Nancy Thompson, dean of students, “the programs that took place this weekend have been in the works since last May.” First-year students were told during the first day of orientation that their orientation would continue into the academic year, with more required events in late September.
The sexual assault program consisted of two separate events, one aimed toward men and the other aimed toward women. The women’s segment featured a play written by a Hamilton alumna and acted out by five female upperclassmen. The men witnessed a lecture by Keith Edwards, founder of the organization Men Ending Rape.
The program was in fact open to every student on campus, not just first-years. Many athletic coaches required their male athletes to attend Edwards’ interactive lecture, “She Fears you,” regardless of class year. Many fraternity members were also in attendance. Edwards stated that all men are not rapists, but that “Fraternities are more likely to be homophobic or misogynistic to defend against the fact that they are a large group of men living together.”
Some students were bothered by the fact that the women’s play, “Fresh,” focused on support and acceptance, while the men were instructed on how to improve themselves. Edwards’ shocking title, “She Fears You,” also made some students uncomfortable, as they felt it perpetuated sexism. These students felt that the titles and varying content of the two programs did more hurt than good by increasing the divide between genders on campus.
Hamilton students were not the only ones upset by this new mandatory orientation program. Bill Nojay, a conservative Rochester radio host, contacted The Spectator in order to further investigate what he believes to be, “an eerie echo of the communist youth indoctrination programs of the Soviet era.” He plans to receive student opinions and feature the issue on his show.
In addition to Nojay’s complaints, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) addressed a letter to President Joan Hinde Stewart on the matter. FIRE asked that Stewart make the male program optional in order to protect students’ rights. However, sexual assault education for college students is required by New York State law. The activist group was primarily concerned with the men’s program in comparison the women’s, shown by only a brief mention of “Fresh” near the letter’s completion. FIRE viewed “She Fears You” as a “cognitive and emotional intervention” on the part of Hamilton College.
In spite of a few dissenters, many students still found the new orientation program both insightful and effective. Even though the content of the program at times seemed unrealistic and out of context to students, Bethany Campbell ’14 said, “I was amazed at how connected I felt to the characters.” Although the men’s lecture contained discord and solemnity, many students still felt like they got a good experience out of it. As Kevin Prior ’13 said, “I found the lecture to be very thought-provoking, even if I didn’t agree with everything the speaker was saying.”
There will be another extended-orientation program for first-years later this year focused on diversity issues. Northside Area Director of Residential Life Noelle Niznik believes this process of lengthening orientation is beneficial. “Students can now contextualize a lot of what we are trying to convey because they have become part of the campus community,” she said.
The College is planning to continue the tradition of having orientation follow-up activities in the years to come.
It should be known that although these events were said to be required by the Administration, no Hill Card swiping was done at either the male or female program. Therefore, some students may not have attended the presentations in their entirety.