By Jana Persky
This year’s New Student Orientation (NSO) will include a new program addressing sexual assault and relationship violence on campus. The 45-minute segment, which is called “Facing Reality: Cultivating a Community of Respect & Consent,” will be held immediately after NSO tradition “The Real World: Stanford” on Friday, Sept. 19.
The program is intended to ensure that freshmen understand the legal definitions of consent and sexual assault, ways to prevent relationship and sexual violence, and resources that are available to people impacted.
“We want to talk them about how, yes, it’s a law, yes, it’s a university policy, but also from a value perspective, who do we want to be as a community and who do we want to be as people?” explained Title IX coordinator Catherine Criswell.
Criswell will be one of four speakers at the event. Angela Exson, the assistant dean of the Office of Sexual Assault and Relationship Abuse Education and Response, will also talk, as well as two students.
Student presenters were chosen through an application process. The first student, who will open the program, will speak about her experience as a survivor of sexual assault.
“There’s no one that can speak better to the issue than someone who has experienced it, and it’s important that the freshman class understands that [sexual assault] does happen at Stanford,” said Elizabeth Woodson ’14, ASSU co-president. “It was [also] important that [the speaker] had gotten to a place where they had gotten comfortable telling their story to such a large audience and also was beyond the judicial process piece of it.”
The second student will close the program with a call to action by sharing a personal story and explaining the principles of being an upstander. Criswell said that an upstander is someone who actively steps in to help prevent harmful situations.
“We wanted to bring it back home to a peer voice from a student…and ground it again in what they can do, both males and females, to really be a solution to this issue and to helping change our community and campus culture to have it be what we want it to be,” Criswell said.
Criswell’s and Exson’s speeches will focus more on university policies and resources. Criswell explained that her presentation will discuss how the University defines sexual assault, consent, relationship violence and stalking so that students can become more aware.
Criswell also said that the event is part of an ongoing effort to improve the process of receiving guidance about cases of sexual assault and relationship violence.
According to Criswell, the University plans to provide more clear diagramming of potential resources and a mobile app to accompany the “Not Alone” website that launched in the spring. She added that throughout the year there will also be more educational programming for different communities on campus.
According to Woodson, the idea for the program arose from suggestions proposed in ASSU town hall meetings held in April.
“We did a brainstorming session where we talked about a bunch of places Stanford could do better, and this was one of them,” Woodson said.
After the meeting, representatives of the ASSU began building a proposal and then presented it to the Office of the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education (VPUE).
Woodson explained that although it is difficult to add new programs to NSO, university administration considered this topic a priority. The proposal went through several iterations before coalescing into the 45-minute program, and follow-up surveys will be conducted to assess the impact of the event.
“We see it really as kind of an inauguration point for this class to understand and then act in a way that will create the safe and respectful campus that we need,” Woodson said.
Contact Jana Persky at jpersky ‘at’ stanford ‘dot’ edu.