Freshman orientation offers new Domers a whirlwind of opportunities to make – and awkwardly hang out with – new friends. The social butterflies avail themselves of every chance to add a whole slew of new people to their friends on Facebook, while those of a shyer disposition rejoice in the news that relatively few of the first week’s events are actually mandatory.
The relatively limited number of compulsory events during Frosh-O lends those that are required a certain gravity. Of all the activities on the orientation brochure, only 8 are marked mandatory; and of those 8, one is in error (LaFortune’s Open House), two are obvious (move-in and the beginning of classes), and three involve dorm life. Thus, the university labels only two events that are not directly necessary to the move-in process as mandatory: a computer security session and “College HAS Issues: Hook-ups, Alcohol, and Sexual Assault. “
“College HAS Issues: Hook-ups, Alcohol, and Sexual Assault” stands out for a number of reasons. Students generally consider the issues addressed more grave than computer hacking. Statistics demonstrate that Notre Dame undergraduates will encounter these issues in some form or another before graduating.
According to a National Center for Health survey looking at 2006 through 2008, only 25 percent of graduating seniors claimed to have never had sexual contact with another person. In 2002, the percent was slightly lower, 22 percent.
The Core Institute found that, in 2005, the average male college freshman had 7.39 drinks a week, while the female average was 3.86. The same survey found that 31 percent of undergraduates had missed class due to alcohol, and 22 percent had bombed an exam or tanked an essay as a result of it.
On the issue of sexual assault, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 25 percent of women will experience attempted or completed rape while in college. This statistic becomes grimmer still when one notes that only 30 percent of attempted or completed rapes are ever reported to the proper authorities.
Various organizations have conducted surveys examining these issues holistically. The New York State Coalition Against Sexual Assault Victims claims that victims of sexual assault often confuse their experience for a hook-up. They report that 48.8 percent of victims of sexual assault “did not consider what happened to them rape,” despite the fact that the sexual experience constituted rape in the legal sense. As for the influence of alcohol, College Drinking Prevention reported that 74 percent of perpetrators and 55 percent of the victims of sexual assault consume alcohol immediately prior to the incidents.
Given these statistics, the compulsory nature of “College HAS Issues: Hook-ups, Alchohol, and Sexual Assault” becomes readily apparent, given the frequency and seriousness of the issues.
While not ignoring the seriousness of the issues, student reactions to the seminar itself were mixed. When asked for his opinion, freshman John Sontag said, “(It was) useful, and provided you with a realization of what occurs. In another sense, most of all the stuff they talked about was common sense things, which most of us could have figured out beforehand.”
Two upperclassmen, both of whom wished to remain anonymous, offered their reflections on how they perceive the seminar.
The first responder was a female. “Honestly, I probably don’t remember much because most of it didn’t apply to me; in which respect, I’m not your typical female listener.”
When pressed as to why, she continued, “Because, from what I DO recall, it was a lot about the dangers of drinking, and being assaulted while drinking, which is a situation I avoid anyway. The problem with sessions like that, I feel, is that those who take them seriously don’t usually need the talk, and those who do, don’t take them seriously. But I don’t know if that’s a resolvable problem.”
The second upperclassman offered a male’s perspective. “Yeah, I don’t remember walking away from it having really learned anything substantial. I heard about a few different groups on campus, like Men Against Violence or the Gender Relations Center, but neither seemed like something that I planned on becoming too involved in. The Men Against Violence talk seemed sincere and serious, and I remember my roommate thought about joining. But really, I think most of us went there to pick up our football ticket applications. We heard a lot of stuff about how serious sexual assault was, but I at least already knew that.”
David Moss, interim director of the Gender Relations Center, could not be reached for comment before the publication of this article.
Dale Parker recognizes the value of educating people about these issues, and strongly encourages readers to stop and reflect on the statistics herein. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org