By Alexis Schulz
As many colleges continue to scramble to refine their sexual assault policies, Rider has taken the initiative by introducing the educational programs “Think About It,” “ThinkLuv” and “ThinkDrink.”
Changes to federal laws involving Title 9, which prohibits sexual discrimination on campuses and mandates educating students about sexual assault policies, have prompted the university to institute these new programs, according to Susan Stahley, alcohol, drug and sexual assault education coordinator.
“There have been many changes on how to educate students and how to make them aware of not just the policies, but how to be safe, how to report something and how not to be a bystander,” said Stahley.
One major change to federal policy occurred in October with the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which stated that all colleges must provide ongoing sexual assault education for all students. Stahley said Rider knew this change was coming and the administration began researching programs last spring.
“It’s ongoing education, it’s not just a one-shot deal,” said Stahley. “We started talking about, ‘What are we going to do to reach students?’ It’s impossible for me as a party of one, even with students helping me, to get to every single student on campus, so what are we going to do to reach every student?”
Stahley said the program that freshmen were previously required to take called “alcohol.edu” was able to reach every student. With this in mind, the administration began looking at ways to change that program to encompass sexual assault training.
“We not once but twice had panels of students, 20 students the first time and 15 students the second time, and they literally went online and reviewed the programs,” she said. “We selected the top ones and we ended up choosing CampusClarity’s ‘Think About It’ program for new freshmen and new transfer students.”
Rider then had to figure out how to put a program in place for other students who had completed “alcohol.edu” as freshmen. Stahley said she went to a conference where she met Katie Koestner, featured in Time magazine, who was raped at the College of William and Mary her freshman year in 1990. Koestner was one of the first women to come forward and work to implement sexual assault policies on college campuses. Koestner suggested “ThinkLuv” and “ThinkDrink” to Stahley because they covered everything the university wanted students to learn.
“We figured that a 30-minute video really isn’t that bad for students to see,” said Stahley. “It was a great video. It not only covers the issues of sexual assault but how to take care of your friends and watch out for predators.”
CampusClarity’s “Think About It” program takes an hour and a half to complete and is broken into three parts, which students may do in sections. “ThinkLuv” contains a pretest, 30-minute video and a posttest. “ThinkDrink” is optional to those students taking “ThinkLuv.” The Rider News was unable to preview the programs.
“It really encompassed all the things that we wanted students to learn,” she said. “We decided if we’re going to make the students do something, let’s figure out something that will be easier for them.”
Other colleges such as Florida Atlantic University, Temple University, University of San Francisco and Michigan Technological University also use the “Think About It” programs to educate students. Anthony Campbell, dean of students, said the programs will not take much time to complete and will prove to be beneficial to the student body.
“It’s the best way for us to prevent sexual assault because it’s educating students,” said Campbell. “The programs are interactive and they are entertaining. We are required that all our students take this and it may affect registration.”
In Rider’s newly released Clery Report, the university has fewer reported rapes, down from three in 2012 to two in 2013. Stahley hopes increased awareness will eventually reduce numbers of sexual assaults. In the meantime, she hopes educating students will mean that, if assaults happen, they will be reported.
“Increasing the Clery Report numbers isn’t a bad thing,” she said. “The media might think it is, but it really isn’t. I don’t think there will be more incidents of things happening. I think there will be more awareness and more willingness for students to come forward and report.”
Stahley said the most important thing is to keep an open mind while going through the program because it could instill a lasting impression on a student’s life.
“If we can get at least one little thought in your head, one thing that you can take away from this, that constitutes a success to me,” she said.