Online campus safety course addresses key issues

Student Empowerment Plus course excels in certain areas, disappoints in others


Photo by Meghan Hosely

UW-Eau Claire Students recently received e-mails with links to an online course offered through the University of Wisconsin System titled “Student Empower Plus,” which aims to educate students on campus safety hazards.

According to the email from Eau Claire’s chancellor, James C. Schmidt, the training is intended to cover several topics including sexuality, drug and alcohol use, and sexual assault.

I was intrigued to take this course, but also a little wary. Overall, though, I was impressed by what the online course had to offer.

The course is separated into five sections: Let’s talk, Party wise, Sexual violence, Positive relationships and Know your rights.

Each section includes video clips, “101” lessons, quizzes, matching games and info-graphics.

Animated video clips accompanying lessons has hilarious dialogue at certain points. “WHOO!” screamed a girl in one video.”It’s Freshman year! Look over there! A hook-up’s brewing!”

There are also facts the course incorporated that surprised me. For example, it states that “20 percent of college students don’t drink”. For incoming freshman disinterested in partying, that information may be just what they need to hear to avoid succumbing to peer pressure when they feel alone in their preference to abstain from alcohol.

One program the course introduces is “Men as Allies,” which encourages men (as well as all genders) to avoid the bystander effect. Tips and tricks are offered for how to help someone if it looks like they may be in trouble, and it was exactly the direction I was hoping the course would take.

Too often the idea is projected that we should learn how to avoid trouble rather than how to help someone or yourself if you find yourself in trouble.

The beauty of this course is that it made bystanders accountable as well as highlighted repercussions for those who intend to cause trouble in the first place.

The course also offers appropriate resources and advice for students. Survivors of sexual assault were given tips on how to spot trigger warnings as well as contact information for help and resources.

However, there were also several aspects of the course that left me seething.

In the sex safety portion, one of the slides was titled “practice abstinence,” which encouraged students to avoid having sex. Clearly this is the safest course of action for college students.

We see what you did there, Coach Carr.

While it is true that some students may not be interested in having sex in college, there are a lot of students who are. Abstinence education is old-fashioned, and with the lack of proper sex safety comprehension, incidents of STD infection and pregnancies result more than anything else.

Because we already know that unlike what Coach Carr said, we won’t “get pregnant and die” if we have sex.

I believe it was ignorant of the university to take this stand regarding their college audience.

It is ridiculous to present the idea to college-aged students that they cannot simultaneously express themselves sexually and be safe while doing it.

Another negative aspect of the course is simply how long it took to complete. I understand there was a lot of content to present, but after two and a half hours of staring at a computer screen playing matching games and watching video clips, I was done.

When the course finished, I took a final quiz and was able to see the results compared to my pre-test. It turns out I had learned quite a bit in those two plus hours.

Last week, an article in the New York Times stated that one in four women will be sexually assaulted in college.

Looking at this statistic in regards to the 10,000 students enrolled at UW-Eau Claire, that number is too high. Even one report of sexual assault is one too many.

As the university seeks to prepare students for the excitement and dangers of college, I believe this course should (after a few edits) be mandatory to complete rather than voluntarily as it stands currently.

All college students should have the right to both a safe and fun experience while at college which students can learn how to do from this educational course.