Last week, the Thresher editorial board published an editorial titled “Proposed CTIS class not a win, but a disappointment.” I find the primary criticism of the article, that omitting certain topics from the mandatory portion of the Critical Thinking in Sexuality workshop to accommodate for certain students “is simply wrong,” is short-sighted and the overall tone of the article is unconstructive.
It is incredibly important to keep in mind this workshop is mandatory, something I think the editorial board is failing to do. The purpose of higher education has never been to mandate students to take courses (in this case, workshops) that challenge their beliefs and preconceived notions, but rather to give them an opportunity to do so. Therefore, when designing a truly mandatory course, it is absolutely crucial to be incredibly sensitive to ALL objections even if we adamantly disagree with and have evidence refuting those objections.
Secondly, blanketing the first mandatory multi-session workshop on sexual and relational safety among U.S. universities as a “disappointment” blatantly ignores progress in a way that only discourages the development of similar programs. While I am disappointed that contraception will not be included in the mandatory portion, I recognize this as but one concession made so we, the Rice community, can see countless other positive changes come to fruition. And while I am disappointed that a discussion of healthy sex and general sexuality will not be included in the mandatory portion, it is nonetheless possible to recognize when sex goes wrong if you are educated on topics of consent and sexual assault recognition, topics the editorial board itself confirmed the workshop will include. While it is beneficial to be critical in most instances, berating this workshop without acknowledging the milestone that CTIS truly is serves only to diminish how people view the course, and thus its efficacy.
As advocates of health, safety and general wellness, we must strive to push the needle on topics like these whenever we can, but we must do so respectfully and recognize when we’ve made a step in the right direction. Forcing certain student groups to challenge their deeply held religious beliefs is not respectful and could potentially make them altogether more averse to the forced content. Furthermore, blatantly calling something a disappointment is very clearly not recognizing it as a step in the right direction.
If the accommodative structure of the workshop bothers you, you could take the full 10-week workshop and engage those choosing not to take the second half of the course in critical discussions. Ask them why they didn’t want to take it, try to understand and then offer your own opinion including what you’ve learned from the course. The beauty of higher education is not that we can force students to learn what will likely benefit them, but that we can engage each other in discourse that benefits all of us.