Opinion

Brandt: ‘Thinking About It’ isn’t enough

Online courses alone aren’t going to stop sexual harrasment.

JoeBrantt
It’s time for some innovation in the way Temple teaches students about drinking and sexual assault, as well as the appropriate ways to talk about each one.

Every freshman had to take the online course “Think About It” that addressed responsible drinking, healthy relationships and sexual assault, but how many students were actually paying attention? There is no way to know immediately. Only time will tell whom the program really reached, but large-scale attempts to convey an idea to Temple’s student body, no matter how serious the topic is, seem to be met with some resistance.

“Think About It” is run by a company called Campus Clarity that “takes a harm-reduction approach that resonates with students and results in a healthy campus culture that fosters learning and growing intellectually,” according to its website. A few schools in the area, including St. Joseph’s University, require it for freshmen. Temple offered $100 in Diamond Dollars to the first five students to complete the program with a high score.

The program is an interactive slideshow with animated and real life videos about the topics at hand. A few videos are exactly what students need to see, particularly one featuring a remorseful sexual predator. However, these videos are a small percentage of the three-hour presentation.

Between video segments, questions about the issues at hand will pop up, and the user gets points for answering the questions correctly, though points can also be acquired just for completing the course. To get the most bonus points – and the shiny badges with creative names like “Drug Lord” – the user has to click on all of the bonus sources, such as a link to Pennsylvania’s rape laws. Flashy hypothetical situations take the front seat; the reality of the law is, for the most part, in the back.

The fact that the program’s effectiveness relies on one’s willingness to learn is its most glaring fault, as the students who are willing to hear about why rape is serious seem to already have some knowledge about the topic.

“I knew about that stuff already, but it was good to hear about it again,” freshman geology major Shelby Guercio said.

What about the students who don’t already know about this stuff? Educational programs of this nature should connect with those students on a more personal level to ensure that some lesson is being learned.

Moreover, the results don’t seem very promising so far.

Since the start of the semester, there have been five sex-related crimes reported around Main Campus, a comparatively large number for a single month at Temple. Furthermore, there have been 190 alcohol-related arrests or citations in the first three weeks of the current semester, compared to six during the same time frame in 2012. Under the tutelage of “Think About It,” these numbers should be going down, rather than up.

Offering badges and extra points to those who click on the “bonus parts” of an interactive presentation distracts from the overall message and further trivializes the serious topics at hand. Marketing a class that is already required further divorces the two things that need to come together: powerfully important knowledge and students’ brains.

Finally, offering $100 in Diamond Dollars to the first five people to finish “Think About It” with a high score is practically telling them to rush. To get all of the questions right, one would need some prior knowledge anyway, so the likely winners did not have as much to learn from the program as others. The students who could benefit from the lessons in the program, however, are inclined to rush through to be the first to get that prize at the end. One hundred Diamond Dollars can buy a lot of Slurpees.

The most powerful statistic in “Think About It” is that one in four women on a college campus is a victim of rape. To make our anti-assault efforts even more effective, we should engage in hands-on activities that show just how prevalent sexual assault is instead of spouting facts at random for pure shock value.

It is unfortunate that we should have to try so hard to reach students about serious issues, but they must be reached.

Joe Brandt can be reached at joseph.brandt@temple.edu.

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