Cheng: Ticking the Box

AlcoholEdu and Haven damage students’ first impressions of the College.

by Christopher Cheng | 9/22/17 12:30am

What were your first memories of Dartmouth?

Many students, posed with that question, would fondly recount their admitted student gatherings, First-Year Trips, pre-season trainings and everything in-between. I suspect, however, that very few would fondly recall one first encounter in particular: the mandatory online AlcoholEdu and Haven programs on alcohol safety and sexual assault prevention, respectively.

That’s not to say that either of these programs are unimportant— far from it. In fact, between 2011 and 2014 the number of forcible sexual offenses committed on campus property at Dartmouth increased by nearly four times and recorded liquor law violations increased by over five times. Though those figures decreased in 2015, it’s too early to tell if any improvements are for good. The College must therefore keep working on solutions of corresponding efficiency and feasibility. To that end, Safety and Security and the Hanover Police Department do incredible work, but their efforts are undermined by our AlcoholEdu and Haven programs, which are outsourced to a company named EVERFI.

We’ve all been told how important first impressions are, and to incoming first-years at Dartmouth, these programs represent the College’s stance on alcohol consumption and sexual assault. Unfortunately, they do not reflect the school’s dedication to preventing over-intoxication and sexual assault to any reasonable degree of accuracy. For one, many of the topics covered in the programs are redundant and lecture students on common sense topics such as not drinking and driving and intervening when your friend is being sexually assaulted. This, coupled with the fact that many videos spent too much time on such topics, provoked boredom and disengagement with the entire program, thus discrediting it.

More importantly, the Haven program in its current online form cannot truly emphasize the extent to which sexual assault is presently a problem on college campuses. To incoming students who have never encountered a sexual assault situation in which they would need to intervene, it thus becomes easy to dismiss the training scenarios as implausible, prompting — again — disengagement with the topic.

These safety programs shape students’ critical first impressions of the College’s stance on sexual assault and alcohol safety in a way that is unfair to the effort the College actually puts in to prevent these issues on campus. During Orientation, I witnessed the engaging energy and enthusiasm of the alcohol safety and sexual assault prevention presenters. Unfortunately, the digital safety orientation services provided by EVERFI fall short because they aren’t actually made to guarantee any statistically significant decrease in campus sexual assault and over-intoxication cases. The laundry list of safety issues covered in the program, to the ridiculous extent of there being a part 1 of part 1 of part 1 of the Haven program, show that, in these programs, EVERFI is just trying to tick off a checklist of required topics. The program is made to fulfill a bureaucratic necessity, and the previously mentioned rates of sexual assault and liquor law violations show that they do little, if anything, to help decrease violations.

AlcoholEdu was introduced in 2002, and Haven has been in place since at least 2014. Yet despite how long they’ve been around, there has nevertheless been a net increase in forcible sexual offense and liquor law violation incidences from 2011 to 2015. The blame for these figures, of course, can’t solely be laid at the feet of EVERFI, but the College must understand the impression — or lack thereof — these programs make on incoming first-years. Before Orientation, the College should more actively engage incoming students in discussions on how to prevent sexual assault and over-intoxication on campus. Any virtual initiative couldn’t possibly replace the extent to which a face-to-face engagement would drive a point home with students. For example, the online program could be incorporated into a group discussion during Orientation, with the students split up by the new house communities system. Regardless of the solution, we can do better.

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