Although Barnard administrators have said they believe all students should receive sexual respect training, they will not require students to do so through the college's Being Barnard initiative.
Described as the college's “ongoing education and awareness campaign,” Being Barnard is dedicated to educating students about issues related to wellness, relationships, intervention, violence education, social identities, and social power.
Associate Dean of Equity and Title IX coordinator Amy Zavadil and Dean of the College Avis Hinkson told Spectator that though they “absolutely” believe that the entire Barnard community—students, faculty, and staff—should receive sexual respect training, the college would not enforce this for the second year since its creation.
“We have been told [by students] repeatedly that mandatory programming would be a deterrent,” Hinkson said.
Instead, the college hopes that continuing to make the programming voluntary will increase student participation and enthusiasm.
But given that very few students were aware of the initiative's existence last year—a workshop held last December was only attended by this Spectator reporter—it remains unclear as to whether or not student participation will increase this year.
Administrators have yet to release information regarding workshop participation rates, and no scheduled workshops have been listed on the Being Barnard website as of publication.
The Being Barnard campaign was first unveiled following the passing of the New York state law, Enough is Enough, which mandates that institutions receiving federal funding for financial aid must provide their members with an ongoing sexual violence prevention education campaign.
The program's creation also came after Barnard twice declined to participate in Columbia's Sexual Respect Initiative, which was launched in Feb. 2015. But unlike Columbia, where sexual respect training is mandatory for students, Barnard students are not required to participate in any Being Barnard workshops.
In the months following Being Barnard's unveiling in fall 2015, Spectator reported that programming related to sexual violence prevention and bystander intervention remained sparse, even though one in five Barnard students have reported experiencing sexual assault.
Since then, the college has made some efforts to bolster the initiative: Last semester, about 400 student leaders—such as resident advisers and student council members—were required for the first time to participate in Being Barnard workshops. Voluntary workshops held by Residential Life and Housing are being planned for the current semester, and the college increased its marketing for the initiative during the New Student Orientation Program this year.
Despite studies which have shown that brief, one-session educational programs are unable to effectively change behavior over time, the only mandatory sexual respect training that all students will receive throughout their time at Barnard will take place during NSOP—training which several students interviewed said they have already begun to forget—and be offered through Columbia's Sexual Violence Response office.
“We want to offer programming that reaches students rather than focus on requiring people to come to a room or go through an online module,” Zavadil said. “That's the essence of Being Barnard, is how do we make it available in a way that reaches a wider, the full population of our community?”
Students interviewed by Spectator said they thought Barnard should have mandatory sexual respect training.
“There are still misunderstandings about what it means to be a bystander, how to communicate with people about what consent is,” Zack Barone, BC '18, said. “I just think the more we're exposed to it as a culture, across the university, only the better it can be.”
Chelsea Noble, BC '18, said the voluntary nature of Being Barnard—particularly for programming about sexual respect—rendered itself ineffective for those who would most benefit from it.
“You can have us pay attention all you want and be knowledgeable, but the people that are going to commit the crime don't show up to these events, don't pay attention, and don't put responsibility on themselves,” Noble said.
Though Student Government Association of Barnard President Sara Heiny, BC '17, said that implementing mandatory sexual respect training across the college would be difficult, she said it was something that needed to be extended throughout students' four years at the college.
“Bystander intervention is a very important skill for all students on campus to have, and I think we need to spread the word about that and help reinforce those trainings across campus here,” Heiny said.
Sinead Hunt and Margaret Vorhaben contributed reporting.