SMC Consent Month In the works for April

This April could mark Santa Monica College’s first Consent Week. Or month, rather.

In light of the establishment of task forces to combat sexual assault in the White House and the University of California system, student organizations on campuses like UCLA, Arizona State University, and UC Berkeley have organized Consent Weeks to raise awareness about the issue among students.

Here at SMC, Dr. Tsang established a similar task force last semester, and as a result of being on that task force, AS Board members Caitlin Corker, Daniel Kolko, and Jessica Meshkani are currently developing a Consent Month for SMC. April is the assigned month because it is Sexual Assault and Violence Awareness Month, and Denim Day falls on the 29th.

A week’s worth of interactive discussions, screenings, and conscious theater would be spread out over a month when limited to the Tuesday and Thursday Activity Hours, hence the term Consent Month. However, Corker says the aim of this event is not to simply give out information.

“We want people to have a conversation about it, we want it to be in classrooms. [This event is] not only to get the information, but now how do you interpret the information? How do you see us figuring this out on campus?”

Much of Consent Month is not set in stone. The events need to still be approved by the administration and campus facilities, and there’s still a meeting with department chairs to determine how faculty and staff will respond to the idea. But there are plans for interactive performances from theater troupes from UC Berkeley and Oregon State University as well as a screening of the documentary The Hunting Ground at The Broad Stage. However, there is still red tape to break through, in addition to procuring funding for the troupes, because the documentary is so controversial.

“There’s been discussions about ‘Is this what we want on our campus?’” says Corker.

Part of the effort to engage students in this conversation begins this month with a recently finalized campus climate survey.

The survey, modified from a climate survey from Rutgers, the university chosen by the White House to pilot such surveys, will be conducted by SMC’s Department of Institutional Research in classrooms where students answer questions anonymously about their experiences on campus with sexual assault or violence on campus.

According to Corker, the survey is a tool for SMC to to gain “relevant and educated responses” to what happens on campus. “The survey will give us what’s actually happening with the student population, what they’re actually feeling, whether there have been assaults on campus.”

It will also indicate whether students know where to go for support if they are victims of sexual assault. By nature, a community college’s students are always in transit unless they are active on campus, which makes it difficult to distribute this type of information to students.

“It’s not like we have a dormitory where we can post all of that information. We have Corsair Connect but how often do you scroll through everything on Corsair Connect?”

The use of this survey is not to say that the school doesn’t track on-campus assaults, or on-campus crime for that matter. The Cleary Act requires college campuses to record all campus crime, be it burglaries, assaults, harassment, or defacement. But because reported incidents are so few, “one or two incidents that were reported on campus,” says Corker, there is as much of a chance that could be a larger problem going unnoticed as much as there is a chance that there could be no problem at all.

“Right now, we don’t think there is [a problem] because nobody’s reporting that info.”

Nor is it to say that there are no support services or resources for victims of sexual assault on campus.

“If you go to psychological services, they’ll tell you where to go,” says Corker. “If you go to the police department, they’ll tell you where to go. We have a really good relationship with a rape treatment center here, it’s associated with UCLA. We do have the services, it’s now figuring out how to get that information out to students if they don’t already know.”