OPINION: What K-State can do better with ASAP training

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This academic year may be the last year for Kansas State’s Alcohol & Sexual Assault Prevention Program as I know it. As a rising senior, a student since 2016, I’ve had to take the ASAP training module three times, and the content of the training has stayed mostly the same throughout that time.

Change may be in store for the 2020-21 school year; K-State will possibly transition to a another program, changing from the Campus Clarity “Think About It” program to a different course by EverFi, which recently bought out Campus Clarity.

In this transitory period coming up, I want to share my takeaways from my experiences with the ASAP program. The rule that only first-time K-State students have to complete ASAP one time only was just implemented for this coming school year, so I have not experienced ASAP this year. However, I noticed some areas for improvement in my three times through, when it was mandatory for all students every year.

Here are the concepts that should stay or should be nixed when K-State considers its next online alcohol and sexual assault risk prevention program.

To change: The consent video

In the sexual assault portion of “Think About It,” the training prompts the user to watch a video that explains different scenarios when consent isn’t or cannot be given. A person’s phone takes the place of sexual consent — the woman in the video encounters different situations in which she tries to borrow someone’s phone, with some people consenting and others not.

I get that there’s way more to consent than just “yes” or “no,” and the video tries to explain that (you can’t give consent while drunk, consent comes with conditions, consent can be revoked and so on). But likening a person’s will to consent or not to a physical object like a phone is not only patronizing to the viewer, but also makes it feel impersonal.

The students completing this program are adults. The program shouldn’t beat around the bush; students should be shown clear examples of how to ask for and evaluate a sexual partner’s choice to give or not give consent. Include the nuances of conversation. Show real people having real communication — nothing too risque, of course, but a scene where two sexual partners talk about boundaries while sitting on the edge of a bed would be infinitesimally better than pretending our bodies and our rights are equivalent to phones.

To keep: The one-time-only nature of the training

Though this means I’m not able to click through the ASAP program to verify my likes and dislikes this year, I’m glad students are no longer required to complete the ASAP training every year. Beginning this summer, it’s only mandatory for new K-State students.

As a senior, that’s such a relief, and I hope this policy stays through the implementation of a new program. Especially since the ASAP training hardly changed during my time as a student here, having to complete the program again as an upperclassman made me feel that I was not trusted enough to make good, reasonable decisions for myself.

For new students — particularly ones who just got out of high school — the information in ASAP is valuable. For returning students, completing the program again is an annoyance. I’m glad K-State’s on the right track to have students complete ASAP just once, and then students can seek guidance from other campus resources if they have more questions or need help.

To change: Bring back the Alcohol By Volume calculator

I really hope I didn’t dream this up, but one of the modules within the “Think About It” program did change between my freshman year (2016) and my sophomore and junior years. I recall during the alcohol portion of the program, the user could input information into an alcohol by volume calculator to show how different factors influence how alcohol will affect them; the calculator considered how many drinks were consumed in an hour plus the person’s sex and body mass and showed the approximate ABV for those factors.

The calculator demonstrated what counts as one drink when you compare a bottle of beer to a cocktail. It gave users the opportunity to learn the parameters of pacing and responsible drinking for themselves. I learned with that calculator what would probably be my maximum rate of alcoholic drinks per hour before going too far, and that’s knowledge from freshman year that I’ve implemented since turning 21 several months ago.

I hope the next ASAP program includes an ABV calculator. It’s a great interactive tool to help students learn pacing and setting limits when drinking.

To keep: Links to laws and resources

As someone who actually does read contracts sometimes, I appreciate all the links to Kansas law regarding alcohol consumption and sexual assault/harassment in the ASAP program. Students need to know how these laws affect them and how they can navigate themselves to different legal resources if need be, like in the instance of reporting sexual assault or handling a minor in consumption charge.

Understanding the law can empower us to use our rights, especially when it comes to sexual abuse and harassment. Everyone deserves the right to be free from mistreatment like that, and if that right is infringed upon, it’s crucial to know how to best care for yourself and seek justice through avenues like reporting the crime and accessing therapy when needed.

To change: The gray area with sexual assault

This portion of the column details a sexual assault scenario presented in “Think About It.”

The most frustrating aspect about the current ASAP program so far is how the sexual assault vignette is handled. I will caution that since I can’t take the training this year, I can’t go too far into specifics. However, I do know that the vignette that involves a man and a woman meeting at a house party that later leads to the man raping the woman was distressing to me for reasons beyond the subject matter.

The vignette follows the perspective of both the man and woman in the situation. The woman was too drunk to consent to any sexual acts and falls asleep at the man’s residence. She wakes up without clothes and does not remember what happened, but discloses to a friend that she believes she was assaulted. In another scene, the man talks with a friend about that night and how he and the woman hooked up. Hearing details, the friend expresses concern that the man might have committed assault.

I know this program is designed with sensitivity as to not remind users about sexual trauma they might have faced in their lives. However, it is ridiculous how well the man in that scenario is treated. He violated somebody but it’s brushed off on his part as a mistake. Though the vignette does troubleshoot some aspects that could have prevented the situation (such as a bystander at the party stepping in), it is so clear that the man did in fact understand that the woman he took home was too drunk to talk coherently, let alone consent to sex.

The vignette portrays a man knowingly assaulting another person and getting away with it. And I fail to see how that is helpful.

If we truly want to combat sexual assault and harassment, we can’t just rely on helpful bystanders and self-defense methods. We need to actively shame people who knowingly commit rape and assault, who know full well they did not or could not get consent from the other party. The ASAP module fails at this by treating what the man did as some mistake on his part. It’s handled well for the woman, whose friend helps her consider her options with reporting and counseling. But for the guy? He’s back to his own life, moving on.

And that’s the sad truth about assault: too many perpetrators of rape and sexual assault continue with their lives without repercussion, often without guilt of that incident. The next ASAP program needs to be proactive in shaming the perpetrator and calling out the patriarchal systems built into our society that keep victims from reporting these crimes and keep perpetrators from feeling the guilt of their harmful, inexcusable actions.

In conclusion

All in all, the ASAP training does a lot of things right, and it covers topics that are important for college students to be aware of and critically consider when it comes to their own lives. But with a new program potentially coming for the 2020-21 academic year, there are some aspects that should carry over to the new K-State class, and some things definitely need improvement.

Dene Dryden is a senior in English and copy editor for the Collegian. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to opinion@kstatecollegian.com.

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Dene Dryden
I'm Dene Dryden, a junior in English creative writing and the managing editor for the Collegian. I love practicing the art of editing and writing stories about interesting people. I also work with the Kansas Science Communication Initiative and the National FFA Organization. My cat Robyn is the light of my life, and I take my coffee black.