Staff Editorial: Columbia sexual assault programs lack applicability

Sexual assault is among the biggest concerns facing college students and administrators. There seems to be a pattern of high profile universities not implementing sufficient sexual assault policies or sexual assault education programs.

The recent list of universities under fire for poor handling of sexual assault cases proves that schools still have a lot to learn. Administrators at Columbia University recently announced a new program that uses inadequate methods to educate about and discuss sexual assault.

The school’s “Sexual Respect and Community Citizenship Initiative” outlines different programming options that students can choose to educate themselves. The program includes workshops, training, film screenings, videos and reflections, art therapy and a specific “keys to resiliency” option for sexual assault survivors.

While the initiative sounds engaging, its planned activities would be better suited for middle school education. The art option suggests creating art about “consent, relationships and boundaries,” but it leaves little room for actively learning about sexual assault policy. Uninterested students can get away with painting pictures without getting real knowledge from the program.

While art therapy is a genuine method for assault survivors, the program’s rules about excluding sexually explicit images and the portrayal of real people restrict students’ creativity. Ultimately, it is unlikely sexual assault education could be taken seriously in such an environment.

Columbia’s program also allows students to watch TED talks and submit writing responses. This option sounds like a simple homework assignment that any student could breeze through without gaining real insight on the issues. Students are allowed to choose any of the options they want, so some may take the easy route and paint a picture or watch a video just to fulfill the requirement.

Implementing sexual assault policies and enforcing sexual assault education are not easy tasks. But more attention must be given to programs so that they are not a chore to students. It is difficult to assure students’ understanding of sexual assault if they are just assigned a few paragraphs to write.

Sexual assault policy should be continued throughout every students’ education career; it shouldn’t just be forgotten once they press the “submit” button.