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What’s the goal?



UFV’s athletic department needed to get over 250 people trained on sexual harassment prevention, fast. So they did. On Monday, the whole of athletics sat through UFV’s In This Together: Sexualized Violence Prevention training.

There’s no question about whether the training session was done for the right reasons or not — it just kind of sends the wrong message.

This is sexual harassment and this is how we’re going to prevent it, by pushing hundreds of people through a short lecture? Many of which, really weren’t interested. The boys at the back didn’t seem to run out of material for cracking jokes.

So before continuing, let’s get this straight: there is absolutely a sexual harassment problem and it is without a doubt far too common on, around, and connected to university campuses. Something needs to be done about it.

When I was in conversation with someone after the seminar, the word that kept coming up was, “insulting.” Insulting, as in the approach to sexual harassment prevention being to usher a bunch of students and staff enmasse through a lecture. It’s not that the seminar is a bad idea. It’s that this is a pretty serious problem and I’d be concerned if not all that can be done is being done. So how many cases of sexual harassment has there been here on campus? I encourage you to ask UFV. You’ve got to know what your numbers are before attempting to change them.

If we have proof that we did sexual harassment prevention training, but no proof that it’s doing anything to curb sexual harassment, what do you think the ultimate purpose of the plan was? Who are we trying to please? Obviously saying something was done to fix the problem is more important than fixing it.

How we address a problem says a lot about what we think of a problem. Do we believe that a short seminar can fix a systemic problem as human as we are?

What I learnt at the training session was, in essence, if someone doesn’t want to be touched, don’t touch them. If someone doesn’t want to play, don’t play with them — maybe engage in dialogue to find out why. Lessons we learnt in kindergarten.

Makes me think, maybe the problem isn’t that people are ignorant, that they are uneducated about playtime and is thus something we can fix with a quick seminar. It’s not something we can educate out of our culture — people are crooked and manipulative and will take what they want regardless of what they know.

Offer a lecture, sure, great, it can’t hurt. What else will be done? UFV is positioning itself as a front of the pack adopter of new pedagogies like experiential learning. We know, according to Science Magazine, that undergrad students in stand-and-deliver lectures are 1.5 times more likely to fail than students in active learning classes. Does sexual harassment prevention not deserve more than a short lecture?

The Ministry of Advanced Education is the organization pushing this new sexual harassment prevention agenda. Last year the province mandated that all public post-secondary institutions create a sexual misconduct policy by mid-May, 2017.

The problem with this is, institutions will do what they will, they’ll do what they know how to do: slowly piece together an official policy on sexual harassment and ask staff to conduct seminars in the meantime.   

Personal relational investment and mentorship is how we make change. And that’s the high note. I know that UFV has a fantastic athletics program. Each coach is loved dearly by their players, teams are tightly knit and have a great respect for one another. This is fortunate. And this is how harassment of any kind is prevented. Let’s not stop the training seminars, bet let’s certainly not rely on them.

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