Friday, August 29, 2003

Theoretical orientation 

I love the new school year, because we get email again that shows how far the campus has sunk. This morning's email box includes a note from the "Coordinator of Sexual Assault Services" talking about the "Respect and Responsibility" workshop that I noted last spring is a requirement for all students at SCSU.
In order to create as safe a campus as possible, new students (with six or more credits) are required to attend a workshop entitled Respect and Responsibility which outlines expectations for student�s conduct and provides information about sexual violence and discrimination. Students learn what they can personally do to reduce sexual violence and biases motivated incidences, policy information, consequences for acts of sexual violence and discrimination, and available resources to go to for assistance.
I don't find that at troubling. It would be nice to have a place to go when Christians get harrassed, but I suppose that's just quibbling. No, what caught my eye is a few paragraphs down.
The workshop has been a requirement since 1992 for all first year students, with transfer students being added to the requirement a few years later. The program began as a two hour workshop on sexual violence prevention. In the early 1990s we were receiving 35 to 40 sexual assault reports, compared to the last several years in which the year-end totals were in the upper teens. Several years ago the curriculum was modified to add the topic of oppression and discrimination in an attempt to educate and reduce bias motivated incidences occurring in our campus community.
Now look. Sexual violence prevention is a universal good, and teaching students the process for reporting it, and informing students which behaviors are acceptable and which are unacceptable -- provided you can do so clearly -- should be an integral part of orientation. But oppression is a theory of why discrimination happens. It is not a fact, and it is not even settled opinion. The place to discuss that theory is a classroom, not in orientation. Theories get discussed in courses that pass through a curriculum process -- no such process was followed for orientation. And if anyone thinks I'm just quibbling here follow the link to our earlier post, wherein the orientation's full title is given: "Respect and Responsibility: Sex, Race, and Power." It's not just sexual assault, and it's not just a discrimination course. It's an attempt to implant a particular view of social interaction on new students without giving them a chance to consider alternative views.