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Friday, August 30, 2013

Sending the Right Messages

Members of the Student Affairs staff presented two extremely well-done programs as part of New Student Orientation this past week. The first program was on day two. It is a program on Bystander Intervention and is intentionally heavy for so early on. But the idea is to be proactive right from the start.

With a focus on sexual assault, Kristin Eisenhauer, Senior Staff Psychologist, led a team in preparing and presenting this important program. The emphasis of the program is on looking out for one another. It takes the onus from victims of assault and charges everyone with community-based responsibility for watching out for students who may be in trouble, students who may get themselves in trouble, and students who are, well, just standing by. It is a powerful program that extends to other areas (homophobic slurs, for example) and teaches students ways to stand up for what is right.

At a time when many institutions are under fire for under-responding to sexual assault, institutions are searching for ways to address complex issues involved in sexual assaults on campus. Trinity has updated its Web page and policy recently in an effort to be in even more transparent compliance with Title IX. That legislation requires schools to offer education. The Bystander Intervention program hits all the right notes in doing so. Trinity has long been ahead of the curve in having transparent policies and public information via the Web to address these serious issues in order to do the right thing - not just be in compliance.

Alison and Jasmeen
Doing the right thing includes addressing the important social issues that can arise on diverse campuses such as Trinity's. The national award winning program "The Story of Our Community Begins With You," was updated and presented on Sunday night of New Student Orientation. The program is not the same old thing regarding diversity. It is intended to be inclusive of everyone and broaden the definition beyond race. Many of us, here, tired of programs that started with "we all bring diversity" and then focused only on race. Still a major element of diversity, this program also offers information on non-traditional students, students with disabilities, body image, age, and more. The program was masterfully coordinated by Soisouda Inthavong Smith with many faculty, staff, and student presenters. Unfortunately a technical glitch interrupted this short, homegrown, and excellent video on religion, but it has been sent to the new students in their class newsletter.

The program ends with a clip from a John Quinones/Oprah show that involves bystander intervention - of all things. Following the clip, the students got to meet the two real-life heroes in the clip, Trinity grads Alison Talbert and Jasmeen Waliany. They stepped up against discrimination of a Muslim woman.

While I know I am boasting on my deserving staff, I do so unapologetically. They delivered some knock-out programs. It isn't just my perception that these programs hit their marks. While the assessment of orientation, overall, will be conducted in a few days, our assessment-oriented team did some on-site surveys after these two programs. Initial findings on the intervention program show that 67% feel very prepared and 33% feel somewhat prepared to help someone in our community as bystanders. In the diversity program a sample of the assessment data shows that 87% of the students strongly agree or agree that they want to explore more about their identity as a result of the program. And, 83% were able to reflect on one new aspect of their identity.

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