Health Education Services has postponed required Sexual Assault Prevention trainings and AlcoholEdu, an alcohol safety course, for incoming students until mid-September.
HESs postponed the two online safety trainings for first-years and incoming transfer students until the week of Sept. 13, a university spokesperson wrote in an email to The Hoya. In past years, HES required incoming first-years to complete these online workshops prior to arriving on campus. Now, incoming first-years will not receive these online trainings until the fourth week of classes.
The trainings are a part of the HoyUS program, a tiered educational module about interpersonal violence designed for incoming undergraduates and student leaders. The trainings, which students complete asynchronously, seek to educate students about how to build safe, healthy interpersonal relationships, as well as safely navigate alcohol and other substances.
Currently, some first-year students do not know how to report sexual assault on campus, according to first-year student Steven Chung (COL ’25).
“I barely have any insight or any information on where to get help for sexual assault, where to report sexual assault or where to go,” Chung said in an interview with The Hoya.
Students are the most at risk for experiencing sexual assault during their first year on campus, and more than 50% of all sexual assault on college campuses takes place between August and November, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network. Further, students are particularly vulnerable to binge drinking and unsafe alcohol practices during their first six weeks on campus, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
Many first-year students are also unfamiliar with U.S. legal procedures and resources, according to Chung, who is from South Korea.
“For international students who don’t really know a lot about American culture, ways that we can deal with sexual assault or just where to get help or deal with law, we’re just thrown into the deep end, and we don’t know what to do, and we have to kind of figure out on your own,” Chung said.
Upperclassmen are also uneasy about the delay. According to New Student Orientation Captain Elena Evans (NHS ’22), who organized orientation programming for incoming students, alcohol safety training is also imperative to first-years’ safety.
“Especially this year knowing the dangers of alcohol is critical because many students have been cooped up and unable to go out and test their limits. Many students experience alcohol for the first time in college so they may not know that it needs to be used with care,” Evans wrote in an email to The Hoya.
Resident Assistant Lily Rubinstein (COL ’22) said the university should provide students with the proper sexual assault reporting training prior to beginning classes.
“They’re morally and ethically obligated to teach students so that they know, whether it’s for themselves or a friend,” Rubinstein said in a Zoom interview with The Hoya. “Those are really important things to know when you get on campus, and it’s something that I’m really glad that I know so well and have been able to learn from other people.”
Due to the virtual 2020-21 academic year, all first-years, sophomores and transfer students — who had not yet experienced an in-person semester — will also be required to complete in-person bystander training. In the past, only first-years and transfers were required to attend. The university will host bystander trainings this semester, though the university has not set an exact date, according to a university spokesperson.
Sara Collina, professor of women’s and gender studies and Title IX expert, said these trainings should take place at the beginning of each semester.
“I think that the very first week of school would be the ideal time or in the context of orientation,” Collina said in an interview with The Hoya.
The fall 2021 New Student Orientation occured in-person from Aug. 19 to 24. The schedule listed panels about racial justice, Jesuit values and health and wellness, but no events were explicitly devoted to sexual assault prevention or alcohol safety training.
The sexual assault and alcohol safety trainings are important tools to help keep students safe and to help students support their peers, according to Rubinstein.
“It’s super important that students are receiving that training to not only keep themselves safe, but part of bystander training was learning how to be a pro social bystander and support your peers — your friends,” Rubinstein said.
UPDATE: On Sept. 16, a university spokesperson emailed The Hoya to clarify why HES was unable to host trainings before students arrived on campus.
“The online training programs referenced in this article were delayed due to operational matters outside of Health Education Services’ (HES) control, including changes to the third-party training platform that required additional training and technical updates to ensure a high quality education program,” a spokesperson wrote in an email to The Hoya.