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University of San Francisco

Interview with USF Vice Provost Peter Novak [Part 1 of 3]
Posted by On Wednesday, September 24, 2014

CampusClarity recently interviewed Peter Novak, Vice Provost of Student Life at the University of San Francisco, about Student Life’s harm-prevention programming this Fall. The interview sheds light on how one school is approaching these important issues. We’ll be publishing the interview in three installments this week.

In this excerpt from that interview, Vice Provost Novak discusses how to use data collected by “Think About It” along with elements and themes from the course as a basis for expanded programming on sexual violence and substance abuse on campus.

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Peter Novak Talks Think About It and Creating an Ethic of Care on College Campuses
Posted by On Monday, August 25, 2014

The University of San Francisco and Peter Novak, USF’s Vice Provost for Student Life, were recently featured in an article and video from the National Catholic Reporter. The pieces go into detail about Think About It and how USF uses the program.

Vice Provost Novak and USF collaborated (and continue to collaborate) closely with us on developing the Think About It program.

In a recent opinion piece for the San Francisco Chronicle, Novak discussed the challenges schools face in eliminating campus sexual violence and substance abuse and the steps his university is taking to achieve this goal.

“Creating a new culture is the single largest challenge,” Novak writes, “as universities must contend with the many societal norms that have helped to shape students’ expectations of the traditional college experience. We must push ourselves to break new ground in the prevention of harmful behaviors.”

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Free Workshop on Consent
Posted by On Thursday, August 14, 2014

We’re excited to release today a consent workshop developed by our friends at the University of San Francisco’s Division of Student Life.

The workshop would be a helpful addition to any orientation program or a stand-alone refresher course for later in the year. It covers the definition of consent and gives some important statistics about sexual assault and intimacy in the campus community. It also gives students the opportunity to practice communication skills related to asking, giving, and denying consent.

Here are the downloads:

Although this workshop was developed for women, it can easily be adapted for students of any gender. In fact, we hope schools will tailor these resources to fit their unique needs and we encourage you to make refinements and improvements as you see fit. We do ask, however, that you share any changes you make to a workshop and make them freely available to the whole student conduct community (that’s why we use a creative commons license).

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2 Minutes Will Change How Your Students Think About Consent
Posted by On Tuesday, July 22, 2014

One of the most important things you can do to change the culture on your campus is to get students talking about consent. Today, we’re excited to publish a video that can do just that, from our award-winning online program Think About It:

Teaching students about consent is an important piece of any sexual violence prevention program.  Indeed, consent was at the center of the White House’s recent PSA announcement — “If she doesn’t consent – or can’t consent – it’s a crime” — and in California, the state legislature is debating proposed legislation that would require colleges to adopt a policy that defines consent to sexual activity as an affirmative, conscious, and voluntary agreement.

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Free Healthy Relationships Posters
Posted by On Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Healthy_Relationship_RespectLast year, 9.5% of college students reported being in an emotionally abusive intimate relationship, and 2.3% reported being in a physically abusive intimate relationship, according to the latest data from the National College Health Assessment survey. Helping students identify potentially abusive relationships and modelling healthy relationships should be an important part of every school’s prevention program.

To that end, we’re putting up a series of three posters that were part of a healthy relationships campaign at the University of San Francisco. The posters, designed by Jennifer Waryas at USF, draw on ideas from the “Healthy Relationships” section of Think About It, each highlighting a different key component of healthy relationships: attraction, enjoyment, and respect. These tabloid size color posters are available as PDF files suitable for desktop printing.

Healthy Relationships = Respect

Healthy Relationships = Attraction

Healthy Relationships = Enjoyment

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A Powerful Message
Posted by On Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Don’t let her slight stature fool you. Katie Koestner, who led the initiative to establish The Take Back the Night Foundation, delivers a powerful message, telling students to “speak up and stand strong” against sexual violence.

This week she was the keynote speaker at a Sexual Assault Awareness Month event at the University of San Francisco. Koestner told the audience her story of being date raped when she was an 18-year-old college freshman. She recalled vivid details like what she was wearing, what her date was wearing, how he ordered champagne for them at a French restaurant in French, how they went back to her dorm room and danced, and how he pushed her to the floor and raped her.

Though she reported the assault to college administrators and her attacker was found responsible for a student conduct violation, the punishment meted out was merely to ban him from her residence hall for one semester.

Instead of staying silent at a time when sexual assault was rarely talked about, Koestner was the first survivor of date rape to speak out nationally. She has appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show, NBC Nightly News, MTV, CNBC Talk Live, Larry King Live, Good Morning America, CNN, and many other news programs. In 1993, HBO made the docudrama “No Visible Bruises: The Katie Koestner Story.”

At the USF event, Koestner told the audience that after the assault her life hit rock bottom, but “I am fearless now” because “I have felt like a nothing … nonexistent.” Her goal is to reach the point where speaking out about sexual violence and respecting those who have the courage to tell their stories is the norm. More than twenty years later she is still passionate about motivating students: “advocating for our own self-respect will change the world.”

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On Naming Violence
Posted by On Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Earlier this month, we attended a brown bag session at the University of San Francisco, “On the Importance of Naming: Being More Aware about How We Talk about Sexual Assault.” The session was held by professors Annick Wibben and Shawn Doubiago, who head the Women and Violence Research Group at USF.

The discussion focused on the ways language can both oppress and liberate survivors of sexual violence, and thus how important it is that we speak deliberately and carefully about sexual assault.

At a high level, our language can steer conversations in certain directions and towards certain conclusions. We spoke about the problems associated with focusing exclusively on legal definitions or the push to report, which, though valuable, also exclude or potentially trivialize experiences and feelings outside those definitions or that emphasis. Similarly, conversations that focus exclusively on heterosexual, female survivors can marginalize the experiences of survivors who are male, genderqueer, or transgender.

(See Ann Jones’s chilling and, sadly, still-relevant article on how our attitudes towards sexual violence can silence survivors.)

Our language poses similar traps at a more day-to-day level as well. For example, one participant suggested that there is a difference between saying ‘someone has been victimized’ and ‘someone is a victim’. The first acknowledges the violence, but does not make it the defining experience of the person. The second creates an equivalence between “someone” and “victim,” as if the label defines that person’s entire experience.

Indeed, there was considerable discussion around the appropriateness of terms such as victim and survivor. Some participants felt that “victim” could mire a person in a position of disempowerment, while others thought that the term powerfully acknowledged the violence done to them — something “survivor” does not necessarily do. Others floated the combined term “victim/survivor” as one that would allow individuals to self-identify with the term they found most appropriate.

Participants, many of whom were also advocates, shared the language they use to acknowledge the violence without forcing a label on it:

•    “It’s okay to call it this…”
•    “It sounds like…”
•    “What you describe sounds like…”
•    “Other people have called similar experiences…”

The key takeaway was the importance of clearing time and space in our discussions for individuals to express and explore their experiences and feelings without being restricted or limited to one narrative or label. Indeed, as was pointed out, an individual may not even recognize an experience as violent or abusive until long after the attack. Giving people space to rescue their own narratives from a difficult experience empowers them, which can be a liberating experience.

to conclude the session, we talked about ways to help students create their own social scripts to bridge the emotional and physical in relationships, and the healthier narratives we can provide men and women that emphasize the healthy, appropriate, and consensual pleasures of sex.

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What Happened at NASPA
Posted by On Friday, March 21, 2014

This week part of our team attended NASPA’s 2014 conference in Baltimore. Beside some brief snow flurries, which frightened our California sensibilities, the conference was immensely helpful and interesting.

Peter Novak and his colleagues presented a panel discussion on Think About It to a packed audience on Monday. As the session started, ushers had to turn away people because there were no seats left. In addition to the 170+ in the room, another 100 or so participated online, asking questions as the session was streamed to them.

In addition to Peter, the panel’s speakers were Carol Day, the Director of Heath Education Services at Georgetown University, Cori Planagan, the Director of Orientation at University of Idaho, and Deeqa Mohamed, a Student Peer Educator at University of San Francisco. All of the presenters were excellent, sharing the ways they’ve used Think About It as the foundation for their drug, alcohol, and sexual assault awareness and prevention education program at their universities.

We were particularly impressed with Deeqa Mohammed, who was presenting at her first conference. She spoke about using the course during brief motivational interviews. She uses the course’s videos and interactions as launching points for more in-depth conversations with her peers. For example, she might play some of the “hook up” culture video to a student to encourage them to talk about their expectations around relationships and hooking up, helping them become more aware of the pressures they face.

We enjoyed meeting with and talking to other attendees who had valuable insights into new resources and pressing issues on college campuses.

For instance, we spoke with an administrator from Purdue’s Military Family Research Institute about the importance of meeting the unique needs of veterans on campus. Meanwhile, a representative of the National Center for Responsible Gaming explained the dangers of gambling addiction among undergraduates.

Changing campus culture and educating students about how to stay safe during their college years is an ongoing process that requires delivering information, having conversations, exchanging ideas, and creating a community of engaged and enthusiastic participants. We saw a lot of that at NASPA.

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Think About It at NASPA 2014
Posted by On Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Next week the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) will be holding their annual conference in Baltimore. We’re excited to announce that Peter Novak, Vice Provost for Student Life at USF, is coordinating a presentation on Think About It at 10 am on Monday, March 17th.

Think About It is a comprehensive online training program that we developed in collaboration with USF to help schools reduce sexual violence and substance abuse. The course won the 2014 Gold NASPA Excellence Award for Violence Education and Prevention.

The session is called “Beyond Compliance: a comprehensive, interactive, and engaging campus-wide alcohol/drugs and sexual violence prevention curriculum.” The presenters include Carol Day, the director of Health Education Services at Georgetown University, Cori Planagan, the director of orientation at the University of Idaho, and Deeqa Mohamed, a Student Peer Educator at USF.

They will discuss their experiences integrating Think About It into a diverse range of campus prevention programming, covering topics from digital peer mentoring and social norming to creating community partnerships.

Ultimately, Think About It and our follow-up courses should augment a larger set of ongoing campus initiatives. That’s why we’ve been developing materials alongside USF — such as workshop guides and posters — to help schools move beyond compliance with the SaVE Act and Title IX to encourage deeper student engagement with the issues of sexual violence and  substance abuse.

As we hope this presentation will show, the online courses themselves, with their rich media interactions and compelling stories, also provide administrators with invaluable tools for engaging their students in innovative ways.

For instance, we’ve talked to residence hall advisers who use the BAC Apparatus during orientation to lead conversations with incoming students about smart drinking. We’ve also talked to first-years who have used the videos and stories as touchstones for their own discussions about these important issues.

If you miss the presentation, we will also be hosting a poster session on Tuesday from 9 to 10:15 as well as running a booth in the exhibit hall.

We’re excited about the opportunity to share more at the presentation. We hope you will join us.

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