Two in three freshmen have not taken Haven, a “mandatory” sexual assault prevention course

Two in three freshmen have not taken Haven, a “mandatory” sexual assault prevention course

Two in three freshmen have not taken Haven, a “mandatory” sexual assault prevention course
April 26
15:52 2017

One of the many requirements for every new student who comes to UNT is to complete the university’s sexual assault prevention course. The course is supposedly mandatory — but there are no consequences for not completing it.

The university calls the program “mandatory training for new undergraduate and graduate students” in the MyUNT portal. The way UNT counts completion is when a student finishes only part one of the course. Two in three skip the program altogether.

The 2013 Campus Sexual Violence Elimination (SaVE) Act of 2013 recommended universities make these courses a requirement. But the act left the final decision of whether to mandate students’ participation up to individual institutions.

Some other Texas universities have penalties in place for students who leave such courses incomplete, such as the University of Texas at Austin, which places a hold on grades so those who have not completed the course cannot view their final grades for the semester.

At UNT, consequences exist only for those wishing to join Greek life: no student can receive a bid without having completed Haven, a requirement which has been in place since fall 2014.

Dean of Students Maureen McGuinness said Greek life, athletics and ROTC would be the only avenues to target Haven to male students, since students are not identified by gender in any other organizations. The DOS office is in talks about how to increase athlete participation, and may institute lab sessions for athletes to take Haven between practices.

“I think as a university we need to have conversations about healthy masculinity as well, as part of conversations around sexual health and the behavioral health of our students,” said Title IX Coordinator Inya Baye.

UT Austin has seen a rise in completion rates since it introduced holds on grades, said Jessica Wagner, manager of the office of health promotion at UT.

While all the universities mentioned above use Haven – Understanding Sexual Assault to educate students, Southern Methodist University uses a course called “Think About It” by Campus Clarity.

SMU places a hold on students’ accounts if they don’t complete the program, administrative assistant Kathleen Hayden said. This means students cannot register for courses for the next semester until completing “Think About It.”

What Haven is

Haven is a third-party online sexual assault education and prevention program from the education technology company Everfi, which the University of North Texas uses to educate students on the topics of various aspects of sexual violence. The university instructs incoming freshmen and transfers of all ages to take Haven before First Flight Week and holds sessions that week for students who have not yet completed it.

“Mandatory” or not?

Some UNT students, like social work junior Kendra Manning, take issue with the use of the word mandatory.

“It’s a loose use of the word mandatory because obviously it’s not a requirement if there are no consequences,” Manning said.

The dean disagreed.

“Mandatory doesn’t necessarily mean there’s a consequence to it, but that completion is an expectation for our students here,” Maureen McGuinness said.

McGuinness is cautious to move too quickly in regards to penalties; she is considering the impact on campus culture if students treat Haven like a chore.

“We have to remember the focus of this is to do a lot of education on sexual violence,” McGuinness said. “I feel like we’re kind of losing that perspective. I worry about having a consequence. We should be doing it for the right reasons. As a student, I should want to take it to learn more. The goal is you as students hold each other accountable.”

Nevertheless, McGuinness is considering recommending the introduction of consequences for students who do not complete Haven, though the final decision rests with the President’s Cabinet. The cabinet is led by President Neal Smatresk and composed of the vice presidents for nine core administrative areas, and one presidential faculty fellow.

“I’m gathering information from other schools to see what the best course of action would be for our institution,” McGuinness said. “I was surprised to see how many people were holding grades.”

McGuinness said she is in favor of the method of placing a hold on viewing semester grades, similar to the UT system and Texas Tech University. As for barriers to instituting such a hold, McGuinness said there are none other than administrative approval.

“Barriers should not be the reason we make decisions, so however we’re affected, it’s going to be my office that’s affected,” McGuinness said. “It’s going to take more work and I’m totally fine with that.”

McGuinness anticipates a need for an increase in staffing if the change takes place. While she has not yet made a recommendation, McGuinness said the change, if approved by the President’s cabinet, would take place this summer for the next class of new students.

Another way the university may attempt to raise Haven completion might be to introduce a Haven completion program in residence halls that would allow students access to computers and guidance in the process of accessing Haven. UNT’s Survivor Advocate Renee McNamara said this practice could also make taking Haven more of a campus norm.

While both UT Austin and the University of Texas at Dallas administration said holding grades has increased Haven completion rates, the plan might not have an immediate effect.

One in ten students in the last incoming class at both universities were not able to view their grades online last semester and have still not completed Haven, according to completion numbers from the institutions.

How UNT students perform on Haven

Overall, UNT students exceed the national average on knowledge of sexual violence. McGuinness credits the results to both UNT’s orientation programming and high school and middle school education on the topic.

Thirty-six percent of those who took Haven for the 2015-2016 school year were male, while 62 percent were female, although females generally make up about 52 percent of the overall UNT undergraduate population.

“I don’t know why there are less males taking it,” McGuinness said. “We’ve had the conversation about targeting males. It’s difficult to get a bunch of men together that aren’t part of certain groups.”

Pre and post-survey data from Haven indicated that after taking the course, more UNT students said they had been in an abusive or threatening relationship, a bump Baye said might suggest that students are gaining new knowledge with which to evaluate their relationships.

“Students might not always have the language to evaluate the behavior that they have experienced,” Baye said. “But even when you have that terminology there’s that self-evaluation that has to happen to say, is this really how I would describe it?”

Participation decreases significantly between part one and part two of Haven, with a 72 percent decrease from parts one to two. The second part of Haven consists of follow-up lessons and scenarios, and students are asked to complete it more than a month after the first part.

McNamara looks over the Haven results each year and considers ways to use that information to better target programming, as well as which areas might require more attention.

For the last year of results, she said students were least confident about knowledge of campus resources, how to play a role in addressing sexual misconduct issues and their comfort in intervening in a situation where misconduct may be occurring.

How the university targets the “Unhealthy Minority”

Young. Male. Freshman. Athlete. Greek member. Underage or high-risk drinker.

These are the student populations which Haven says are more likely to be in the “unhealthy minority,” based on their answers to surveys included in the course. Haven gathers the data from more than 800 partner universities nationwide.

Haven classified 40 percent of students as part of this minority in the 2015-2016 data, and 35 percent in the year before.

“The number is of concern, but for me, it’s not the number,” Baye said. “Even one assault is one too many. If it’s a situation where we have a percentage of students who don’t have an understanding of the issues and it could lead to an assault, then that definitely is of concern.”

Climate Survey May Initiate Changes

UNT is taking part in a federally funded program, “Cultivating Safe College Campuses: A College Sexual Assault Policy & Prevention Consortium” with eight other Texas universities, led by Texas Woman’s University. One component of the consortium is to conduct a campus-wide climate survey to determine attitudes and knowledge about sexual violence, aside from being required to create a sexual assault response team and a task force with student members.

The survey includes questions about students’ confidence in how UNT would handle sexual misconduct reports, whether students have been subjected to harassment from faculty or other students and perceptions about sexual violence on campus, among many others.

The survey was administered in spring 2017. UNT received 2,324 valid responses to the survey, more than double the initial minimum goal they set to achieve statistical significance. The responses constitute about 7.5 percent of the undergraduate student body.

McGuinness said results are being analyzed now, and she hopes to receive them this summer. As for releasing the results to the public, McGuinness said she has no reason not to.

The survey results will be used to examine how well educational resources are being communicated to the student body and how can UNT can be creative in incorporating it into events it’s already doing, McGuinness said.

Graphic by Sarah Sarder

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Sarah Sarder

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1 Comment

  1. student17
    student17 April 27, 13:00

    Is there any empirical evidence that an online training seminar actually prevents rape? This sounds like a feel-good nonsense measure to be frank — “Well, I was planning on date-raping a woman, but I took this online quiz because there was a hold on my account, and it really opened my eyes.” Why not a mandatory course to prevent theft or whatever else is obviously held in contempt?

    Reply to this comment

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