In an effort to facilitate and drive conversations of consent to the forefront, President of Panhellenic Council senior Libby Richmond and President of Students Against Sexism in Society (SASS) sophomore Eden Sarkisian teamed up to host the first student -run consent dialogue on campus.
“Consent and sexual assault are on everyone’s mind right now, especially in the wake of the Me Too campaign and especially in the wake of what’s happening in politics today with the Trump administration,” Richmond said. “It’s really come into focus lately and I think as it relates to the Knox College campus, everyone knows we have issues with it.”
The dialogue, titled “Just be F***ing Nice,” was held last Monday in Taylor Lounge with around a group of 15 students in attendance. As part of the dialogue, students watched an explanatory video comparing asking for consent to asking if someone would like to have tea. Aftwards, students filled out and discussed a worksheet regarding issues with consent and sexual assault on campus.
“I think that it’s important for Greek life to be working more with other organizations on campus, because I think that’s something that we’ve failed to do in the past,” Richmond said. “Especially after what happened with Take Back the Night last year, when a Greek organization was involved in derailing the conversation around sexual assault. I felt it was really important as a head of one sect of Greek life to show SASS that we’re standing with them.”
Richmond also mentioned that one of the issues discussed at the dialogue was how certain topics regarding sexual assault on campus are not discussed enough.
“Everyone knows sexual assault happens at Knox, but we don’t talk about it. Everyone know’s that we were on that federal list of Title IX violations and we don’t talk about that,” Richmond said. “We don’t talk about where our shortcomings are and where we can improve. I think things are getting better at Knox, but I think there’s a ways to go and I don’t think that you can ever talk about consent enough.”
According to Richmond, this was only one of the first few workshops Panhellenic and SASS plan on hosting. The goal for this one was to meet with everyone to see where they were at regarding the topics of consent and sexual assault on campus as a way to feel out the crowd and go from there. They hope to eventually make the workshop a part of the curriculum that peer educators are able to participate in.
While she thinks the escalation workshops this week are great, Richmond exppressed dissapointmed that they are not student created. She emphasized the uniqueness of having a consent workshop created by students, because she feels it is better able to define those gray areas left out by policy-heavy dialogues hosted by the Knox administration.
“The policy talks about guilting people into sex, or coercion and power imbalances, but I think it’s still kind of vague in how it works in practice,” Richmond said. “Toxic masculinity is obviously something policy isn’t going to talk about that we can talk about. Consent not being awkward is also something we can talk about that policy doesn’t.”
Concerns regarding the lack of men or male identifying people at consent workshops is a problem Richmond noticed at the dialogue and would like to address in the future. Reaching out to men and masculine identifying people and asking them to be apart of the conversation is a goal for future workshops.
“Men don’t want to talk about sexual assault and I get that entirely because it’s really hard to talk about a s****y thing that you’re apart of,” Richmond said. “Men don’t come to the conversation, but they also don’t feel comfortable coming to the conversation because maybe they think it’s something that doesn’t involve them or maybe they think it’s something that’s easier to not talk about Ð I don’t know what it is, but making it a place where we want [their] opinion and we want [them] to become an ally for us in conversations going forward.”
Eden Sarkisian is the discourse editor for TKS.