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Students reflect on Critical Thinking in Sexuality pilot

By Jaecey Parham     4/18/17 9:51pm

As the last week of classes unfolds, the pilot course for Critical Thinking in Sexuality also comes to an end. CTIS, which will become a mandatory class for next year’s incoming new students, was piloted as an LPAP section this semester.

The pilot was taught by Director of Sexual Violence and Title IX Support Allison Vogt and Title IX Resource Navigator and Student Wellbeing Specialist Jordan Everett. According to Vogt, the pilot was used to test material to be taught in the CTIS program, of which there are two parts: a UNIV CTIS Workshop that is required for all incoming new students and a LPAP CTIS that is optional.

“In the five-session CTIS workshop, we will focus on the topics of healthy relationships, consent, sexual violence and bystander intervention. The workshop will be required of all students,” Vogt said. “[The LPAP] will be lengthened to the entire semester and the material will be expanded upon. For instance, while we addressed sexual health in the pilot, it was brief. During the LPAP, we will have more time to unpack the information.”

Duncan College freshman Gillian Culkin, who is enrolled in the CTIS pilot, said the course defied her preconceived expectations.

“I read the articles that raised concerns about the class and I went into the class with those thoughts in consideration,” Culkin said. “However, I felt like the only way I could really form an opinion was by taking the class itself I was surprised by how comfortable the classroom atmosphere was and by the interesting discussions we had.”

Culkin said the CTIS pilot has filled in gaps of her high school sexual education. For her, the course is a benefit for incoming freshmen.

“New experiences and situations in college that are relevant now were not relevant in high school, so I did not learn about them then, but I am glad that I have taken CTIS because it has upgraded my knowledge to the mature, college level,” Culkin said. “Since I am a freshman, I can say I found this class to be something a freshman should learn, especially the 14-week extended course.”

According to Everett, the CTIS workshop and LPAP course will educate students about new information. She said the goal of the CTIS workshop is to decrease unhealthy attitudes about sex, sexuality, relationships and consent while working to increase gender equality, healthy sexual communication and empathy.

“[CTIS is] not the sort of thing that is discussed in high school,” Everett said. “Having worked for an agency that went into high schools, the style is very different than what you would typically see.”

Henry Barring, another student in the pilot, said the course lived up to its name — it promoted critical thinking about issues not traditionally curricular.

“Too often are the problems in our culture, in the messages we hear, and in the language we use pushed under the table and not talked about,” Barring, a Lovett College freshman, said. “Open discussion is a crucial step towards social justice and equality for all, and this class promoted that kind of dialogue.”

According to Barring, the course could be improved by including more Rice-specific discourse.

“The more people see how rape culture, racism and unhealthy mindsets are everywhere and that Rice has these problems too, the more likely they are to fight against them,” Barring said.

Vogt said the pilot’s success cannot be fully determined until the course’s conclusion and upon receiving student feedback.

“I believe preliminarily — as the class has not finished yet — that students have learned from the pilot and we are very grateful to them for allowing us to test programming with them.” Vogt said. “We know we have a lot to learn from their experience and we will make changes as appropriate to both the workshop and extended class.”

According to Alex Addy, who is also enrolled in the CTIS pilot, with benefits of CTIS also comes precautions about potential problems.

“I do think new students will learn a lot of important information from the class though, especially those that came from areas that lack in sexual education,” Addy, a Martel College sophomore, said. “The only thing that I could see being a problem before the implementation in the fall is the scale of the class.”

Addy said a certain learning environment is necessary for CTIS. In order to cultivate an effective experience, he said the Title IX office will need to seek instructors who can create this environment.

“This will only be a problem if the teacher is unable to foster the environment needed to have the class,” Addy said. “Allison and Jordan, who teach our class, are fantastic, but an ineffective teacher combined with insensitive or disruptive freshmen students will lead to a bad experience.”

Vogt said one change for the CTIS workshop has already been determined: The workshop will include more extensive information that initially was solely for the LPAP. However, Vogt said feedback from students in the pilot course will be an influential determinant.

“We are excited to read their feedback and to make changes as needed,” Vogt said. “That is the point of the pilot. We cannot expect that we were perfect to start, nor do we expect to be perfect going forward, but we will certainly try.”

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