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NCAA needs engaged dialogue for sexual violence prevention

Elizabeth Bonin, Managing Editor

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A few weeks ago, all Luther athletes (to the best of my knowledge) received an email from the NCAA Sport Science Institute. The email stated that recipients were required to complete two online courses: Understanding Student-athletes and myPlaybook Sexual Violence Prevention.

The first was a survey asking questions ranging from “Do you feel good about yourself when you have multiple sexual partners?” and “Do you believe women should be subservient to men?” I am not completely sure what the NCAA was trying to understand about me regarding those questions, but my focus in this article is on the second course we were required to complete.

The sexual violence prevention course hit upon a wide range of topics. The online course covered statistics of sexual assault, defining consent, recognizing why certain language contributes to sexual violence, identifying situations in which a partner is “out of line,” and developing strategies to prevent acts of sexual violence. I truly believe Luther and the NCAA had good intentions in requiring student-athletes to complete the online course. If one was paying attention, the course was informative and seemed correct to me. That is, if one was paying attention.

I feel that because the sexual violence prevention course was online, it seemed like a band aid on the problem. First of all, it is all too easy to sit and click through the course without listening or watching. A student-athlete could potentially not learn a single thing from the course. I was definitely guilty of trying to switch tabs to work on my senior paper, although the course does stop if the user switches tabs. Part of the reason why I tried to do so was because I felt like I was just getting talked to instead of feeling engaged in a conversation. It was like I was in high school health class again: listening to my teacher drone on and on and on. The course was simply not interesting.

This is not to say that a sexual violence prevention program should be exciting or entertaining. Sexual violence prevention education needs to be interactive, engaging through dialogue, and be thought-provoking. The little interaction that was available was fairly easy. Yes, it turns out that a man who thinks his date owes him sex because he paid for dinner is an “out of line” situation. Who would have thought?

After completing the course, I am not sure how effective such an online program is for student-athletes. Clicking and dragging a bubble with sexually violent language to a trash can icon does not exactly make me feel safer on campus. It was easily forgettable, and it should not be. Sexual assault is a problem on all college campuses that should be addressed in a way that will impact students. To be honest, I do not have a perfect solution to this problem. Maybe that is hypocritical of me to say after just criticizing this particular course, but I do have a few ideas.

An in-person discussion could be more beneficial, especially if it is within the particular teams (i.e., women’s golf or men’s basketball). This way, student-athletes will be more likely to engage in dialogue, identify problems, and create solutions. Teams can also keep each other accountable for their actions, or lack thereof.

In addition, the teams can make the dialogue specific to Luther’s problem, whereas this online program was made for any college and was therefore a little vague at times. There was a bystander training for athletes last semester, however it was not required or well-advertised. Perhaps this was my own ignorance, but when I got the email about bystander training I thought it was about bullying and blew it off. Such a course should be required and specifically advertised as sexual violence prevention, like the online program.

There is an online course all first-year students are required to complete before arriving on campus, however this course was also unmemorable and vague. I do think that the student-athletes should have one specific to them because sexual assault is especially a problem in the NCAA, as shown by Jessica Luther and Erin Alberty’s lecture last week.

Again, I do not have a perfect idea of what this sexual violence prevention program should look like. While the required online program is a start, Luther still has more room to improve in working towards sexual assault prevention education.

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