As she followed the #MeToo movement while teaching Introduction to Women’s and Gender Studies, Dr. Dawn Campbell had a compelling thought: “We need a course that deals directly with how we view consent and how power plays into much of what we’re seeing in sexual assault cases.” And that’s how her Special Topics class taught this fall, Harassment and Consent, got started.
As she designed and implemented the course, Campbell has only been reassured of the importance and relevance of the topic to her students and the wider university community as a whole. She says, “We know that there’s a high incident of interpersonal violence and sexual assault on college campuses, and we know there’s correlation between many of those assaults and alcohol and drugging, a lot of which occurs on college campuses. We’re able to start from studying the university context and then move into the broader context of national discussions.”
Everything that's happening in the country right now is tying into the curriculum. The class is thinking deeply about responsibility and the hearings.
Campbell says students need a space for discussion and learning around the topic of harassment and consent. “I think that in the media and peer groups information can be very polarized and misconstrued, there’s lots of myths surrounding sexual assault which is why a lot of students wait to get help or report an incident,” she says. Her class provides a much-needed place for open discussion, she says, “While students can get some information from media and friends, within a classroom they have the space and freedom to discuss these issues in a particular context in a respectful space. They can make these important connections regarding how historical movements and contemporary issues come together.”
Having a curriculum on this promotes healthy relationships, agency, a clear understanding of power dynamics, and the importance of consent.
As the semester has unfolded, national events have highlighted just how important the topic is. She says, “Everything that’s happening in the country right now is tying into the curriculum; this curriculum is so relevant right now with the Supreme Court nomination hearings. We’re making lots of comparisons between the Hill-Thomas hearing and the Ford-Kavanaugh hearing and we’re also recognizing the differences. The class is thinking deeply about responsibility and the hearing and connecting it to their discussions and formal writing assignments.”
This thinking and engagement with the topic is so valuable for students, according to Campbell. She says, “It’s clear in studies and statistics that college students often struggle in relationships, there’s a failure in our sex education and curriculum in K-12 to really address these important issues of harassment, assault, and consent. Having a curriculum on this promotes healthy relationships, agency, a clear understanding of power dynamics, and the importance of consent.”
Oct 4, 2018
By Lorena Hildebrandt