This spring, the Office of Student Affairs, WesWell, Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), and Public Safety will be facilitating a series of seminars called Leadership @ Wes. The series aims to address on-campus issues such as sexual violence prevention, inclusion, and alcohol use. It will begin this Sunday, Feb. 2nd and will run until March 5. Each session will run for approximately 60 to 90 minutes and will include a free meal for attendees.
Leadership @ Wes was developed by Associate Dean of Students Scott Backer, who explained that the program was originally directed toward members of Greek life on campus.
“The idea for the program initially came from a desire to work more closely with the Greek organizations on campus, but as I discussed the plan with other colleagues we decided to open it to the entire student body,” Backer wrote in an email to The Argus.
The planning committee was comprised of a diverse array of staff. Usdan Graduate Intern Alex Perry, Interim Captain of Public Safety Jay Mantie, Director of Health Education Tanya Purdy, Sexual Assault Resource Coordinator Alysha Warren, and Director of Student Activities and Leadership Development Elisa Cardona collaborated with Backer to produce the five unique programs in the series, each of which will be presented twice for a total of 10 sessions.
The five seminars are as follows: “Bystander Intervention,” led by Purdy; “Shifting our Focus: Understanding and Preventing Sexual Violence,” led by Warren; “Inclusion and Social Justice,” led by Cardona; “Be Quicker Than the Liquor: Alcohol Physiology,” led by Purdy and Mantie; and “Social Event Hosting and Management,” led by Mantie and Assistant Director of Student Activities and Leadership Development Gretchen LaBonte.
Warren spoke of the importance of maintaining a safe environment for students in all aspects of on-campus life.
“Sexual violence is a quality-of-life issue, so if students aren’t feeling safe, they’re not going to be able to learn,” Warren said. “That’s also going to impact their relationships on campus [and] their ability to perform in the classroom, so I think that by doing this program and preventing these things from happening, we’re enabling these students to learn and be safer and improve their quality of life.”
In her sessions, Warren will be providing an overview of sexual violence, from sexual assault to relationship violence. She will discuss rape culture and how to identify and respond to precursors of sexual assault, as well as how to build a healthy relationship and how to reach out to someone who appears to be in an unhealthy relationship.
“For the relationship violence portion, we’re going to spend a lot of time talking about how relationships are framed in our culture: what are the norms around them, what are the expectations, like the fairytale relationship everyone always talks about,” Warren said. “Having a healthy relationship, no one ever talks about the skills you need, so we’re going to delve into that and to identify some of the warning signs of unhealthy relationships.”
Warren hopes her sessions will help to bridge the gap between students’ desire to offer support to others and their concern about confronting others about struggles that are both painful and personal.
“[We’ll cover] ways to intervene that feel natural and that don’t feel intrusive, because I think that sometimes that can be a barrier for people,” Warren said. “‘Well, that’s their relationship, that’s their business; I don’t want to get involved.’ So we’re going to talk about breaking through some of those barriers.”
Mantie will be co-teaching two sessions each on “Be Quicker Than the Liquor: Alcohol Physiology” and “Social Event Hosting and Management.” He echoed Warren’s goal of facilitating student intervention.
“We’re not trying to do Alcohol 101 and lecture people on drinking; we are trying to give people the tools, and empower them, and help them see what they can do in certain situations where they might be able to intervene,” Mantie said. “[We are] providing the knowledge and skills to intervene in potentially dangerous situations before others make choices that could have a profound effect on their lives.”
Mantie also sees the program as an opportunity to foster positive interactions between students and Public Safety officers on campus.
“Another piece of the program that we’re trying to get in there, too, especially as it relates to Public Safety, is, ‘What does Public Safety do when they show up, and what do we expect from others when we show up?’ So we’re trying to set that up, too, so people can help understand Public Safety’s role in some of these situations,” Mantie said. “[We’re] looking at people having safe parties, and trying to set them up for success on their night so that they have a good night and they avoid some of the problems.”
The Leadership @ Wes planning committee received additional support from the Athletic Department and from a group of student-athletes, including Donald Cimino ’15, Susan Pardo ’16, Rachel Hobert ’16, Jackson Arnold ’16, Taylor Wells ’14, Henry Karmin ’14, Hans Erickson ’16, Benjamin Toulotte ’16, and Benjamin Bratt ’15, who all feel that the program will be both meaningful and appealing to other students.
Hobert, who said she also learned about collaboration, advertising, and reaching out to the Wesleyan community through her involvement, explained the value of Leadership @ Wes from a student perspective.
“[These issues] are something every school struggles with, and I think if we can address [them], it will benefit our school and the student body,” Hobert said. “And it’s stuff that seems so simple, but yet not that many people know much about it.”
Backer remains grateful for the student input on creating incentives for other students to attend.
“As I learned from the students involved in the development of the program, the best incentive is good food!” Backer wrote in an email to The Argus. “There will be great conversation (over food), great information and knowledge sharing (over food), and students will leave feeling empowered to make a difference on campus (after enjoying some good food).”
Students will be recognized for completing the program and will have the choice to include each session on their resumes. According to Warren, however, the greatest reward as an attendee is one’s impact on the University community.
“The most compelling reason [to participate] is to improve our community,” Warren said. “One of the things I really like about Wesleyan, or that I’ve noticed since I’ve worked here, is how tight-knit the student community is, and how the students really seem to band together and support each other, and I think this is another way of doing that…. You’re looking out for people that you care about, and it’s not just the people that you know or who are in your immediate friends circle, but the whole Wesleyan community.”