Of course, the problem is nothing new. Undergraduates have been overindulging in alcohol and sex on campuses probably since those institutions first opened their doors and dormitories. However, administrators over the generations have generally "winked and nodded," probably figuring "it's all part of the undergraduate experience." Hormones are hormones, after all. What's one to do?
But, the combination of alcohol and sex has given rise to something new that today's administrators can't countenance:
- The negative publicity tarnishing an institution's "brand" when the media and online blogs report its sexual assault figures.
- The U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights initiating an investigation of an institution for mishandling or failing to prevent sexual violence on campus.
So, what are administrators to do?
Inside Higher Education reports how administrators at Colgate University are dealing with the problem of sexual assault. Its Associate Vice President and Dean of Students, Scott C. Brown, and his fellow administrators are encouraging the development of a healthy sexual climate by letting the students take ownership of it. It's called "bottom-up sex," meaning "take the risk of letting students handle it."
What's that mean?
Colgate started with its Sexual Climate Advisory committee, a group
of faculty and staff charged with “developing, coordinating and evaluating
initiatives that improve the sexual climate.” That includes prevention and
education programs, but with an overarching focus on “positive sexuality,”
which administrators say allows students to “embrace their own identity”
and be accountable for their own lifestyle choices.
SCAC members dispatch reports and ideas from the "front lines" of Colgate's counseling center, women’s center, student government and elsewhere. The goal is to reduce the incidents of harassment and attempted rape by increasing the percentage of students who can define "consent" and believe they are empowered to make their own choices.
That description caused The Motley Monk to wonder:
- Is it really true that students admitted to Colgate can't define the word "consent"?
- Why have these programs? Wouldn't it be easier just to have applicants write a definition of "consent" on the application form and hold them accountable when they trespass beyond the terms of that definition?
- Colgate students need to "believe" they're "empowered" to make their own choices? Is that because they really aren't with those faculty and staff Capos monitoring what's being reported? If so, isn't that being duplicitous if not fraudulent?
- Aren't there some choices that students must not make and, if they do, shouldn't they be held accountable? For example, doesn't uttering something that's politically incorrect result in sanctions that could lead to expulsion? What about an attempted rape, whether alcohol is or isn't involved?
- What about an informed conscience and free will? Can't an institution of higher education provide that service?
Brown reports that some of SCAC's programs have worked. Best of all:
- Survey data indicate that the dozens of lectures, performances, training, student groups, and consistent communication, plus a flier campaign that drilled home the definition of consent, have gotten the message across.
- Most promising is the increase from 60% to 85% in the number students who could identify and define "consent."
Wow! Those data got The Motley Monk wondering:
- 85% of Colgate students can now identify and define "consent" when it comes to sex. For crying out loud, these are college students! Why not 100%?
Then, there's "Yes Means Yes"--a five-week seminar (which soon will be a for-credit course)--which is grounded in "an understanding of sexuality as a natural and healthy aspect of human life." According to Brown, the goals of this seminar include "creating healthy sexual beings who are comfortable engaging in safe, consensual and pleasurable sexual activity." One exercise requires students to collaborate on a common definition of "hooking up" and then discuss the pros and cons of such a situation.
The Motley Monk can't but ask:
- Is one of Colgate's educational objectives to create healthy sexual beings "who are comfortable engaging in safe, consensual and pleasurable sexual activity"?
- Doesn't this sound more like an objective of the Kinsey Institute?
Unsurprisingly, this seminar is wildly successful. According to Brown:
- In 2012-2013,the rate of sexual assaults involving attempted and successful sexual penetration dropped by 12.5% and 8% respectively.
- 82% of students reported feeling empowered to make “healthy sexual choices that work for them.”
Furthermore, the student who developed "Yes Means Yes," Evan Chartier, has seen the positive effects at some parties. He wrote:
I have seen people respect other peoples' privacy when hooking up
in a public place, check in with friends to be sure that everything is
consensual, I have seen people catch themselves slut shaming, etc.
Overall, even if people only do these things because I am around,
they still demonstrate that they know what consent is and are
knowledgeable about the discourses around the sexual climate at
With Sexual Assault Awareness Month well underway, isn't it great that Colgate's goal is to achieve a "bottom-up" and "sex-positive climate"?
What's it cost per year for membership?
Standard Billed Expenses & Tuition: $47,855
Room: $5,770 (based on traditional residence hall)
Meals: $6,190 (based on Premier Unlimited meal plan)
Student Activity Fee: $330
Total Standard Billed Expenses: $60,145
Call The Motley Monk a "prude." Hooking up is wrong. Period. No if's and's or but's about it. Higher education does not exist to provide a "bottom-up" and "sex-positive climate" but to form the mind to pursue the truth in life.
But, that's to moralize.
So, let's try some basic economics. Can't those bright young people at Colgate figure out how to enjoy a "sex-positive climate" for a whole lot less than $60k+ per school year?
Let the discussion begin...
To read the Inside Higher Education article, click on the following link: