IOA creates online course in light of increasing number of sexual assaults on campus
By Ashley Hocking
It is 11 p.m. on a Thursday night. Sophomore Taylor Brasted has had a very long week of extracurriculars, tests and group projects. Brasted looks over her meticulously handwritten to-do list for the night. At the bottom of the list, she sees there is only one uncrossed task: “complete IOA sexual harassment course.”
The Office of Institutional Opportunity and Access (IOA) implemented a mandatory sexual harassment course through Blackboard this semester because of the increasing number of sexual assaults on The University of Kansas’ campus recently.
The sexual harassment training consists of six videos and a quiz: 10 questions for undergraduate students and 16 for graduate students. Students who do not complete the course will not be able to enroll for the fall 2016 semester.
Caelan Golledge, a KU sophomore who completed the sexual harassment training, believes students will view the course as another homework assignment to complete.
“Honestly, most people are just going to click through the course just to get done with it because it’s a requirement before you can enroll,” Golledge said. “People just consider it a hassle.”
Josh Jones, the interim director of IOA, has a different take. Jones considers the course a helpful tool for figuring out the blurred lines of sexual harassment and assault.
“The course helps show some of the kinds of nuisances that people may not themselves think of as sexual harassment or assault that are against our policy,” Jones said. “They need to be aware of our policy because it’s serious and it’s interfering with students’ education. That can’t be accepted.”
Faculty and staff will also be required to complete a separate, mandatory training course regarding sexual harassment and assault.
“There’s a lot of specialized sections in the faculty training because faculty and staff have a position of power,” Jones said. “A lot of people don’t know what to do, what to say or how to handle it. We help walk them through what they can do.”
Jones believes that the sexual harassment course provides greater context of what sexual assault and sexual harassment are.
“We’re hoping that this will help provide students with a level of familiarity with the process and what to expect, so that students will feel more comfortable reporting to IOA,” Jones said. “We’d like to get to a point where IOA is preventing sexual assault from happening.”
The goals of implementing the sexual harassment training are to acquaint students with the topic of sexual harassment, teach the importance of bystander education and motivate students to get more involved in changing the rape culture on campus, according to Jones.
“Policies alone will not change a culture; thus, [it] is vital students take an active role in being engaged bystanders and report incidents,” said Jane Tuttle, the associate vice provost for student affairs. “It takes all of us working together to make KU as safe and welcoming as possible.”
IOA makes an effort to reach out, train and give presentations to a variety of student populations including: sororities and fraternities, athletic teams, residence halls and student organizations.
“The reality is that faculty, staff and administrators are not always where students are,” Jones said. “We have to really work with students. We have to be working together: not just the Jayhawk community, but even our Lawrence community.”
Jones said IOA is taking another step towards creating an “overarching and comprehensive prevention plan” each year. This year’s online mandatory course supplemented last year’s sexual harassment training PowerPoint provided to students.
Brasted said the sexual harassment training course is formatted like a chore. When Brasted gets ready to complete the last item on her to-do list, this is her mindset.
Brasted returns to her bedroom, and opens Blackboard on her Mac laptop. She skips over the videos and opens the quiz. After completing 10 multiple choice questions, Brasted gets a perfect score on her first try.
“The examples were pretty far-fetched, so it was pretty easy to be like, ‘I know that’s wrong,’” Brasted said.
The item is crossed off Brasted’s to-do list, and soon forgotten. The format of the sexual harassment training is not the most effective way to address sexual assault and harassment on campus, according to Brasted.