By Elena Sorrentino
It is that time of the year again, when students are required to complete the University’s required Haven Understanding Sexual Assault course. While in essence, the information that this course is trying to present is very relevant and necessary, I believe that it would benefit the university if they worked to find a more effective way to promote discussion of interpersonal violence issues on campus.
Perhaps my largest issue with the Haven course is that if you are a returning student, it is basically the exact same program that we were required to take last year. There are perhaps a few minor changes, but I can’t even ascertain that for sure, because the largest portions of the information and graphics were identical to those previously. I equate this to if everybody had to take the same “Introduction to Library” course every year, perhaps it would be helpful if we were told new information, but what is the point of reiterating a course you already passed?
The course recognizes that you pass, based on a post-test, which includes the same questions you’re required to take in a presurvey. While in essence, this might work as a legitimate indicator that students learned something in the course, students themselves are never told what they get right or wrong. Rather, they are simply told if they pass or fail. Therefore, they are unable to confirm for themselves if they did actually learn anything through the course. Alternatively, they may believe to be correct about one of their answers when they are in fact incorrect.
In addition to this, since Haven is an online course, students often simply breeze through it. While there are time limits on each slide, requiring the student to stay on it for a certain period of time, it is very simple to do other things and simply hit the ‘next’ button when the opportunity allows. By asking the same questions in the pre and post surveys, the students know exactly what information they are going to need to know and can effectively zone out everything else. I have talked to many of my friends about this course, and all of them seem to share the same attitude: “get through it as quickly as possible.” Which, for a course pertaining to a very important subject matter, most definitely is not the way it should be looked at.
In 2016, The Chronicle reported that the administration of The College of Saint Rose, which is of similar size to Eastern, paid over $8,000 to take a Haven course. With this amount of money Eastern could do a lot to further knowledge about sexual assault on campus in ways that students wouldn’t simply do out of obligation. For example, one thing that I did learn through Haven was that the only way Eastern listed to “get more involved in the prevention of sexual violence” is to join “The Men’s Project” on campus. Haven states that this “is a small cohort of Eastern students who identify as men to meet to engage in dialogues about men and masculinities; as well as to learn, listen, challenge and work together to GENERATE accountability, CHANGE behaviors, INCREASE involvement in gender equity efforts and interpersonal violence prevention and positively INFLUENCE the behavior of others.” While this is a notable accomplishment, the fact that it is the only thing that our campus lists as a possibility to prevent this on campus is severely disappointing. For a campus that is so invested in issues of domestic violence that they force us to take a required course, that they are fully aware very few people pay attention to, most likely obligated only in order to cover their own requirements, I would expect a little more attention to be brought to organizations and activities that might actually make a difference.