UC Berkeley students to take mandatory sexual violence refresher course

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All campus students will have to complete a mandatory sexual violence refresher course by Nov. 6, according to an email sent out Thursday by Dean of Students Joseph Greenwell.

Undergraduate, graduate and professional students must complete this annual sexual violence and sexual harassment, or SVSH, prevention course on CalCentral. The course is estimated to take five to 20 minutes to complete. According to Greenwell’s campuswide email, it is part of UC Berkeley’s goal to create and support a campus culture free from all forms of sexual and relationship violence, stalking and sexual harassment.

“This initiative is a result of Berkeley’s continued commitment to effectively prevent violence and harassment and in alignment with requirements from the 2014 California State Auditor’s Report, the Clery Act and UC SVSH Policy,” Greenwell said in the email.

Failure to complete the module will result in an issuing of further instructions from the Office of the Dean of Students. The only potential exception is made for survivors of SVSH violence, who may find the content triggering; they can contact a confidential advocate through the PATH to Care Center to potentially seek out other options, according to the center’s director Mari Knuth-Bouracee.

The content for the aforementioned course was compiled via a collaboration among multiple campus offices, including UC Berkeley’s department of Student Information Systems, the Berkeley Graduate Division, the Office of the Dean of Students and the PATH to Care Center. To develop the course, these offices reviewed material with which students have already engaged while providing new information and key reminders.

“We know the population here is pretty diverse, so for some, it will be a refresher, and for others, some parts will be entirely new,” Knuth-Bouracee said.

The content for this upcoming course will vary based on whether the student is a graduate or undergraduate.

The course intends to expose undergraduates to resources in order to support them in the early stages of their professional development. It will focus on creating a healthier campus culture by portraying scenarios that are more familiar to students, such as campus organizations and housing, according to Knuth-Bouracee.

Graduate students, however, will see their curriculum geared toward involvement in professional organizations. If students also serve as graduate student instructors, the course will include curriculum promoting SVSH prevention in the classroom setting.

The ASUC Sexual Violence Commission chair Ezra Alanis and assistant chair Erika Casey said in an email that the commission had been pushing for an annual refresher course and called the training a “great move in the right direction.” But they criticized the organization of the course and said it did not sufficiently encourage students to interact with the information provided.

“The training fell short of its potential and purpose,” Alanis and Casey said in the email. “The information was not presented in a way that was engaging or explicit.”

All incoming undergraduates have been already exposed to some prevention-related material through online training on CalCentral, called “Think About It,” as well as an in-person training called Bear Pact as part of orientation. Both trainings discussed sexual violence and harassment prevention, mental health and alcohol use.

According to Knuth-Bouracee, violence and harassment prevention requires students to have repeated exposure to resources and ways to intervene when they witness such violence.

“We want this to be helpful to the student community,” Knuth-Bouracee said. “We are always thinking about survivors — of which there are many in our community. We recognize that just the awareness or dialogue (about sexual violence) can be difficult or triggering. We want everyone to know the significant role they play in setting the tone of awareness for others.”

Contact Alexa VanHooser at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @dailycalexa.