Make Time for Consent, ASFA

Concordia Frosh Needs a Sexual Assault Workshop

Despite instances of sexual assault in the past, ASFA will not be holding a workshop on consent and assault during its Frosh week. Photo Stefan Guntermann.

Despite past instances of sexual assault during the Arts and Science Federation of Associations Frosh Week, organizers of the event have said they will not be partaking in the Centre for Gender Advocacy’s two-hour long workshop on sexual assault in September.

In an interview on CBC Daybreak Montreal, ASFA VP Social and frosh organizer Sean Nolan explained that, due to time constraints, froshies would instead hear about sexual assault and consent from their Frosh leaders after the leaders attended a workshop.

Nolan went on to say that the workshop would not be held for froshies because it is “sort of hard to organize a time.”

This, quite frankly, is unacceptable. It’s sort of hard to organize a time? Sexual assault is a very real concern during frosh week, and it’s hard to believe that it is not possible to, at any point, hold a mandatory session on something as important as this.

If frosh is being revamped as Nolan claims, now is the perfect time to institute a mandatory workshop on sexual assault for all participants, whether they are there as first-years or as leaders. The sad reality is that many attendees aren’t aware of what actually constitutes consent, and requiring participation in this workshop could go a long way toward changing that.

While the CGA will be permitted to have a booth at Loyola while students register and meet their frosh leaders, Julie Michaud, a coordinator at the CGA, pointed out that there is simply no way that a brief conversation is equivalent to a two-hour session that discusses issues of consent and assault in detail.

Those who would likely approach Michaud and other representatives of the CGA at their booth would also likely be the ones who are already aware of what constitutes consent, while those who are less aware of what it is would continue to be oblivious.

This workshop is greatly needed; frosh moves fast and the combination of ignorance, alcohol and pressure culminates in a situation that can lend itself very easily to instances of sexual assault. Simply because throngs of students have not been coming forward in no way means assault is not an issue. It is ignorant to assume that because nobody brings it up it is not happening, and it is precisely that attitude that contributes to perpetuating a cycle of violence and stigma.

According to Nolan, it is “sort of difficult to keep the attention of a giant group of first-years who honestly just want to get out and party.” That is not an excuse. Sexual assault happens, and making sure people know what consent looks like is important. Froshies have a week to party; taking two hours out of that week to make sure they understand exactly what consent looks like is a small obligation that helps make the week safe for everyone.

When asked about the perception that frosh is a time when sexual assault is a real concern, Nolan replied that that idea “in no way makes any association look good.” But making a student association look good is far from the point.

The point is that students risk being assaulted by people who are unaware of what consent truly is, or who simply do not care. What really makes an association look good is when their students are educated on what is and is not consent, and ASFA would be well served to keep this in mind.

Last year was the first time frosh leaders were given training on sexual assault and consent, and while it is great that they will receive the same training again this year, there are 60 leaders for 350 first-year students. Students are just as capable of sexually assaulting someone as frosh leaders are, and leaving the explanation of consent to the frosh leaders, over someone from the CGA whose concern is gender equality and safety, is not good enough.

After all, the argument against having this workshop is that they’re already too busy.

Concordia has finally announced that it hopes to open a Sexual Assault Centre in the fall, and if ASFA participated in the CGA’s workshop Concordia could do a lot to help prevent sexual assaults from happening on campus. This decision by ASFA turns a blind eye on a problem that often already goes unreported.

Sandwiching a booth for the CGA between one for the Journalism Students Association and the Geography Undergraduate Student Society can’t be compared to a two-hour workshop, and it simply will not do.

It’s wrong of ASFA to turn down the consent workshop. New students need to know how to make Concordia a safe space.