MANHATTANVILLE COLLEGE TACKLES NATIONWIDE SEXUAL ASSAULT CONCERNS

MANHATTANVILLE COLLEGE TACKLES NATIONWIDE SEXUAL ASSAULT CONCERNS

Haven program screenshot outlines what it means to have a healthy relationship

by NATALIE MARTE

Manhattanville College has joined Everfi’s Haven program, an online course educating students about sexual assault, in hopes of raising awareness of sexual assault and to prevent the occurrence of future incidents.

Through the online course, students are taken to a portal that includes several levels of interactive lessons. By exploring different topics, students utilize the material in context through simulation videos and are put to the test with pop quizzes on their newfound knowledge.

“I’m not even really aware of what the regulations are,” said Imani Rodriguez ’16. Rodriguez stated that she had completed the Haven Online Course but didn’t think it would have the effect the school is hoping for. “The test was definitely helpful in defining what sexual harassment is in terms of trying to see warning signs.” She believes, however, that the fact that it is mandatory makes students just want to get it over with. “Even though it is an hour-long assessment, they’ve made it mandatory, and if you don’t do it there will be some sort of consequence.”

Screen Shot 2014-10-19 at 5.34.10 PMSharlise Smith, the Dean of Students, is aware of the implications of the course being mandatory. “Being here long enough, and doing research from other institutions, students would not take it if it wasn’t mandatory. I’ve gotten negative and positive emails regarding the hold on the account.” Different colleges around the country that are also having their students complete the workshop have gone as far as adding a fine to the students’ accounts.

Rodriguez believes that students are only going to complete it because it’s required for them to. “It should be something students want to do and want to learn,” she says. In response to changes that could be made, Rodriguez says some alternatives are “holding meetings or a day that set aside to really educate people about this issue.”

Rodriguez is not the first person to bring these issues to light. Dean Smith has been working since last year on creating workshops and inviting guest speakers to bring awareness to these problems. However, she notes the fine line between awareness and overkill. Dean Smith hopes to have a speaker come in from St. Vincent to speak on sexual assault as well as drug and alcohol abuse on campus.

The Office of Student Affairs is working hard on creating a balance for bringing attention to all these issues rather than focusing too much on one topic. Currently, they are working on altering policy Title IX in the Education Acts Amendments of 1972, which is a policy that protects the rights of students regardless of their sex.

Though the college is concerned about on-campus issues and understanding Title IX, these are nation-wide concerns. Universities all over the country are beginning to enforce their sexual assault policies more strictly this semester. For instance, Princeton University recently released a statement on their policies changing to include in particular, a ‘higher burden of proof.’ Essentially, this means the standard will lower from people only being convicted if there is a ‘preponderance of the evidence.’ Screen Shot 2014-10-19 at 5.43.14 PM

In Manhattanville’s Annual Security Report for 2010, it states that incidents are to be reported immediately to a college administrator and can be brought to the Harrison Police Department. It clearly defines each sexual offense including rape, date rape and sexual abuse in detail. The report also points out that ‘complaints’ would be handled by the College Judicial System and, if necessary, law enforcement will be involved.

College campuses are under a lot of scrutiny for the attention they pay to these policies. Despite the rise in sexual assault statistics, many are rarely highlighted. That is, until the case of Emma Sulcowicz.

Emma Sulcowicz is currently a senior at Columbia University who was sexually assaulted her sophomore year in her own bed. As a physical representation of the traumatic burden she has had to carry, Sulcowicz is carrying her 40-pound mattress around campus until her attacker has received fair punishment for assaulting her. Sulcowicz has been receiving a fascinating amount of media attention from renowned publications such as the New York Times and New York Magazine. In this instance, Sulcowicz claims that she and several other students filed a report to the administration, only to have it filed away. Bringing this to light could potentially lead to serious repercussions and the big question is, “Why aren’t schools taking these reports seriously?” Screen Shot 2014-10-19 at 5.41.18 PM

Sulcowicz is adamant in the fact that she is not protesting against Columbia, but rather taking a stance against injustice. She did not respond to the Touchstone’s request for comment.

As far as reporting sexual misconduct at our own school, Rodriguez reluctantly admits that, “On nights that we have large parties and large events like Quad Jam, I do not feel safe on this campus.” With that said however, she adds that she is hopeful that the results from this online course along with all of Dean Smith’s hard work will create awareness and stimulate a necessary change for Manhattanville College.

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