Learning to Lay Groundwork

This conference has been eye-opening and incredibly informative. My tendency is to want to jump in and do all the prevention of sexual assault stuff right away. And given my university’s tendency to fly by the seat of the pants and say “Let’s do this huge event and worry about the structure and planning later,” my wanting to jump in not helpful. 
I realized that more groundwork needs to be done. Basically, we need to assess what state the campus is in – are they (students/staff/faculty/admin) ready for prevention beyond just making sure a box on a form is checked. 

I don’t mean a Campus Climate Survey. That is part of it, of course. But what really needs to be done are interviews with stakeholders and key players to find out what they think, what they know, and what they see as needs. Yeah, I’m sure admin will say sexual violence prevention is important, but what do they think we should do about it at my university. I’m not satisfied with a one dose at freshman orientation. And I’m not confident at all that a plan to have students take on the role of presenting that important information is the way to go, especially since the student group from last semester’s single-event-with-little-structure has basically fizzled out. 

I want to do all of these awesome things and partner with the community and create some social change – but that is overwhelming without a plan and goals in place. It is especially overwhelming when there is little staff and funding.

Maybe those goals and plans are already in place and, as per usual with my university, that is not communicated anywhere. I mean, it is not even easy to find a link to the counseling center through the university website. At all! I am still fairly new, so if I want to use my fresh blood and energy to do something, let’s fucking do something! I want to know exactly where the starting line is with everyone (many of whom are completely new to the university) rather than relying on the word of mouth of what attitudes supposedly are. I am tired of trying to run a marathon while wearing the wrong shoes and having the course suddenly change. 

Case in point: The whole freshman orientation thing was a frustrating clusterfluff and it is by the skin of our collective teeth that we did something just enough to get that box checked. It was a chore to even get it put on the schedule, then I find out that the plans (funding, contracting the group) that were supposed to already be made were not. And there was even talk of eliminating it all together! I was, to put it mildly, pissed. 

I know that I am a professor, not a student affairs person. That’s not my training. What I am trained in is research and I think I can make an impact by doing the assessment research, especially the groundwork. Did I mention that it will also align nicely with next year’s ASA theme about social movements? Nice!

Was this the direction I saw my research agenda heading? I’m not sure. I think I am focused on assessing and changing cultural norms about sex and sexuality, so I believe it fits. 

Of course, there is also the possibility that I will do this work and have it go ignored. However, I am hopeful that by getting the key players involved at the sort-of-but-not-really beginning will make a difference. I am hopeful that getting community resources involved will make a difference. I am hopeful that I will not stand alone in holding my university accountable for social change.