The Sexist

UMD’s New Sexual Assault Education Program Draws Some Early Skepticism

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.

  • Northwesterner

    The issue here is that you appear to be demanding a complete end to crime on the UMD campus. This simply will not happen. There are criminals and people raised to become criminals and the criminally insane in any group of people, particularly when they're 40,000 of them and they do way more substance abuse than the normal population (as college students do).

    If the program reduces these crimes by 25% I think it will be well worth it to the 25% of victims, probably women, who wake up next to someone after passing out and everyone's still dressed or the dude who goes and sees a counselor when he can't resist the urge to follow, stalk or humiliate women in public so he avoids flashing or committing assault.

    I was in a highly volatile relationship at age 20 and I thank god that I was exposed to enough Andrea Dworkin back then that when I got slapped and called names I snapped to attention, walked out, and never looked back. Because my natural inclination was not to walk away from getting slapped. Boys need to be trained to look for the warning signs and get the hell out asap.

    I don't know how many times I intervened with other guys when they appeared to be stalking friends who weren't interested. 5 or 6 times. this stuff needs to be taught and if it stops 25% of the incidents so that 40 guys don't become alcoholics who hate themselves and 40 girls don't have to go through counseling, then that's a good thing.

    But anyone who judges the program based on the behavior of truly psychotic criminals is missing the point of society on the whole.

  • anon

    A half-million dollars.... So that's where my tax money is going....

  • Rayne

    While I think it is a good cause, and probably much needed. I do know that most students do not care for videos. Just by personality. Interactive mediums such as lectures, or interactive plays I think tend to work better.

    Just my two cents

  • Northwesterner

    If you think your tax money funds the majority of UMD expenses... where do I start?

  • Katie

    Yeah, ew. Who wants their tax money going to programs designed to help prevent crime? I want all of mine going to guns and WARS and shit, because I'm an AMERICAN goddammit.

  • kza

    No one will give a shit about a video. I've seen a few of these cheap ass sexual assualt videos. There more laughable then informative. Save the money and just make them read this blog.

  • Wagatwe

    A VIDEO? They're getting a half a million and they're only going to have a VIDEO? How is that going to be able to properly address and prevent sexual violence at all? I'm sorry but (wait, no, I'm NOT sorry) just a video during freshman orientation will do very little-if anything at all-to properly educate students about campus sexual assault.

  • Julian Real

    I wish more colleges and communities took more seriously the sexual abuse that occurs on and off campus.

    @commenter #2, anon
    May 19th, 2010
    11:53 am

    A half-million dollars…. So that’s where my tax money is going….

    No, anon, your tax dollars are paying for U.S. soldiers to rape and kill Afghan and Iraqi women and girls.