Following the release of the Survey of Unwanted Sexual Experiences results, Rice Health Advisors are incorporating discussions on consent and sexual assault into the usual residential college talks preceding Wiess College’s Night of Decadence public party this Saturday.
RHA Student Coordinator Renata Wettermann said RHAs should spend at least half of the NOD talk discussing wellbeing topics, including consent, safer sex and alcohol. In the past, talks have generally focused on alcohol and discussions of what to expect at the party.
“NOD talks have had the tendency to devolve into practical ‘how-tos’ for the party itself,” Wettermann, a Baker College senior, said. “While this is valuable to include and certainly useful to new students in particular, we want to make sure that people who attend the talks come away with information that’s useful for more than one night a year.”
Duncan College President Colin Shaw said Duncan’s NOD talk will address the survey results and bystander training, and wellbeing discussions will continue after NOD.
“Duncan is also looking to bring in programming from the Wellbeing Center over the next couple weeks to address topics from what healthy relationships look like to stress management,” Shaw said.
Hanszen College President Angela Masciale said she addressed consent discussions at student government meetings and wants RHAs to prioritize consent in their NOD talks.
“I made it a point to make sure the RHAs added an increased focus on sexual experiences and what defines a good versus a bad sexual experience,” Masciale said.
Separating NOD talks by gender, which has been practice at some colleges, has recently become a topic of discussion on campus. Sid Richardson College will begin combined-gender NOD talks this year as a result of the success of having smaller, all-gender group talks during Orientation Week, according to Sid Richardson College President Lauren Schmidt.
“Our NOD talks used to be separated based on gender, but [the Sid Richardson RHAs] instead wanted to bring them together and be more inclusive of different people’s backgrounds,” Schmidt said. “They think that having perspectives of multiple different backgrounds will help the discussion.”
Brown College held a discussion about the SUSE results separately from its upcoming NOD talk. The SUSE conversation was divided into male and female groups, a decision that became a point of contention, according to Brown College junior James Carter.
“My largest concern is that in separating this talk, we are creating an environment that says members of the opposite sex can’t discuss consent together and [that] in order to protect people’s feelings, we should keep these conversations separate,” Carter said. “It seems that as a college, we are not confident in our abilities to foster a safe or comfortable environment in which men and women can speak together.”
Carter said he was concerned the conversations were different in the men’s and women’s discussions, citing differences in the topics listed in the official minutes from each discussion. However, Brown’s NOD talk this week will be gender integrated, and the college RHAs released a survey to Brown residents asking for feedback on the structure of future talks.
Colleges have also addressed Student Association President Jazz Silva’s proposal for a mandatory sexuality course for new students. Masciale said Hanszen government discussed the course at a recent Cabinet meeting.
“Most students are in favor of the spirit of the proposal,” Masciale said. “Most other concerns I have heard have been upon the logistics of the class [including] discussion framework, time considerations, [and] class sizes.”
Shaw said Duncan College government also discussed the proposal, and some students were concerned about the effect the class would have on Rice’s public image.
“Students voiced concern about what happens if parents don’t want their children to come to Rice because we teach sex-ed,” Shaw said. “Obviously, the proposal will need some fine-tuning, but the core idea ... is absolutely necessary.”