Consent Education

How Students are Promoting Consent During Orientation

In a few weeks, thousands of new students will arrive on campus to begin their life at Concordia. With many of these students taking part in various frosh week events, student associations and the Centre for Gender Advocacy are working on ways to keep those students safe while they go through the typically booze-soaked initiation to university life.

To promote consent and sexual assault prevention, more is being done this year than ever before.

The Centre for Gender Advocacy, an independent student group mandated to promote gender equality and empowerment, is offering workshops on consent and identifying sexual assault.

Instead of the level of violence determining if it’s assault, it should be the level of consent, says Julie Michaud, a coordinator at the Centre.

Leaders for the Arts and Sciences Federation of Associations frosh are taking part in an extended workshop made especially for frosh leaders to help them determine when sexual assault is happening to others.

“So they’re not embarrassed to ask if people are comfortable,” said Michaud. “And how to really create a culture of consent at frosh.”

The CGA was originally pushing for a mandatory workshop for all frosh attendees, but after meeting last week the two groups have decided on giving ASFA frosh leaders three-hour consent training and four optional half-hour sessions for first-year students as part of the first day of ASFA frosh at Loyola.

“This will be my fourth year, and I know how froshies act,” said ASFA VP Social Sean Nolan, who is running the federation’s frosh this year.

“It would be really tough to hold the attention of 300 people for two hours.”

With ASFA frosh leaders getting consent training for the first time last year, and no such option previously available for ASFA “froshees,” Michaud sees this as a step forward.

“You really need time to hash out all of the assumptions that a lot of times people don’t fully realize they hold: that only sluts get assaulted and only evil people do the assaulting.”
—Julie Michaud, Centre for Gender Advocacy

“It was much shorter, and because it was much shorter it really wasn’t that effective,” said Michaud of last year’s half-hour workshop for ASFA frosh leaders.

“You really need time to hash out all of the assumptions that a lot of times people don’t fully realize they hold: that only sluts get assaulted and only evil people do the assaulting,” she said. “You need a lot of time to challenge those ideas.”

Michaud suggested including a statement that the consent workshop be mandatory in a form signed by students so they would have no choice but to attend.

“Ideally, ASFA frosh and all froshes—though I understand that there are structural challenges with the other associations’ froshes—should be moving towards mandatory consent workshops for everybody,” said Michaud.

While ASFA frosh is team-oriented with “froshees” spending much of their time with the same frosh leaders, others such as the frosh by the Commerce and Administration Student Association are open to more than just first-year students, and tickets are bought for individual events.

Other orientation week events, like those by the Concordia Student Union, are open to everyone.

Executives of the CSU, CASA and Engineering and Computer Science Association are participating in the Centre’s workshop, as well as the CSU’s two Orientation coordinators and the ECA’s frosh leaders.

The first part of the workshop goes over ground rules, “so people can say what they want to say, keeping in mind that given the data we know that one in four students will experience sexual assault over the course of their post-secondary education,” said Michaud, citing research done at the University of Alberta.

After that, the group is broken down into smaller teams to participate in activities like ordering a deck of cards with different actions listed from least intimate to most intimate, and looking at sexual images in the media to see if consent is addressed.

At the end of the month the Centre will also be giving its two-hour workshops for all students and residence assistants at Concordia. Last year, the workshop was given to students staying in the Grey Nuns residence.