Carmel Kookogey | Col­legian

The student affairs office is pro­viding Hillsdale College stu­dents with new pro­grams on sexual assault and its pre­vention this school year. 

College admin­is­trators have added the content to their existing series of infor­ma­tional ses­sions for stu­dents. The expanded training comes after a group of stu­dents, staff, security per­sonnel, and law enforcement members con­vened last semester to discuss student safety on and off campus, including sexual assault.

The goal of these efforts, Dean of Women Diane Philipp said, is to provide addi­tional edu­cation to stu­dents and to maintain a safe, healthy envi­ronment on campus. She empha­sized that dealing with sexual mis­conduct and other inap­pro­priate behaviors ulti­mately needs to be a part­nership between stu­dents and staff, a part­nership, she said, in which each person works together to strive for what is morally right and good.

“We have to work together to solve problems,” Philipp said. “Everyone wants stu­dents to be safe, healthy, and happy.”

Over the summer, the deans also spoke with a number of stu­dents about “ways they could further educate stu­dents on safety and security in par­ticular” and “review the sexual mis­conduct policy and reporting pro­ce­dures,” according to Dean of Men Aaron Petersen. These pro­grams also work in con­junction with the college’s new student booklet on proper conductwhich includes school policies.

About two weeks after ori­en­tation meetings, freshmen men and women met sep­a­rately with college staff members and outside pro­fes­sionals to review sexual mis­conduct policies and pro­ce­dures, as well as emo­tional and physical health. The meetings addressed the content of the student booklet, which include the impor­tance of part­nership and the pur­poses of the college. 

Director of Health Ser­vices Brock Lutz addressed all of the freshmen men in Markel Audi­torium. Mean­while, the freshmen women met in smaller groups, and each group met with Dr. Nichole Ellis, a local pedi­a­trician. These talks also addressed topics including the dangers of sex­ually trans­mitted disease, pornog­raphy, and alcohol abuse.

Ellis said these meetings were good oppor­tu­nities to be honest with the female stu­dents. While her talks touched on dif­ferent issues regarding sex­u­ality, her main focus was on well­being and healthy rela­tion­ships.

“To have a rela­tionship with someone — espe­cially a sexual rela­tionship — should be some­thing that is not flippant,” Ellis said. “We’re in a society where the impor­tance of that is dimin­ished.”

When it comes to alcohol con­sumption and sexual mis­conduct, Ellis said stu­dents need to be watching out for each other. If someone drinks to excess, that person’s friends should help protect them from being taken advantage of.

Ellis said stu­dents were receptive to the con­ver­sa­tions. While the subject matter was dif­ficult and sen­sitive, she said she enjoyed speaking with the stu­dents, and she tried to lighten the mood with a little humor in her pre­sen­ta­tions.

Reagan Cool, a senior, was working on campus over the summer, and she met with the deans every so often to talk about ways to expand ori­en­tation pro­grams for freshmen. She also spoke to groups of freshmen women on the impor­tance of part­nership with the admin­is­tration. In talking with the deans, they all thought it would be best to have more edu­cation for ori­en­tation “all the way around,” Cool said.

“That included a more direct con­ver­sation on sexual assault,” she said. “The con­ver­sation was well-rounded.”

Cool said Hillsdale’s emphasis on part­nership among everyone involved is, in many ways, what makes it such a unique insti­tution.

“There’s this mis­con­ception that part­nership is a scheme,” Cool said. “We’re learning how to be self-gov­erned. When it’s evident to those who know better than us that we don’t know, they’re going to reorient us.”

For the freshmen men, Lutz said he wanted his talks to focus on the pos­itive aspects of rela­tion­ships before looking at neg­ative sit­u­a­tions. While pro­ce­dures for han­dling sexual mis­conduct have been in place for years, Lutz said, he believes it is important to sit down with stu­dents to talk about sexual deci­sions and the dangers of pornog­raphy.

“We’re also seeing it as an oppor­tunity to say, ‘Let’s talk about what we want to be right about your sexual rela­tion­ships and healthy relation in general,’” Lutz said. “A lot of schools talk about sexual assault; I think it’s also important that we say, ‘Look, we’re not going to buy into the lie of low expec­ta­tions of student sex­u­ality.’”

In talking with freshmen men and male ath­letes, Lutz said he empha­sizes that healthy rela­tion­ships progress from friendship.

“Mean­ingful rela­tion­ships and mean­ingful intimacy is based on friendship, getting to know people, and physical attraction,” Lutz said.

At Hillsdale, people talk a lot about what love is, Lutz said, and when it comes to sexual mis­conduct, one of the things he wants to get across to stu­dents is the idea that sexual assault is one of the worst ways to dis­honor and dis­re­spect another person.

If sexual assault does happen, though, Lutz said the college included contact infor­mation in the student booklet so someone can get in touch with college or law enforcement author­ities right away.

“We wanted people to have a clear message of ‘let someone know as soon as pos­sible,’” he said. “Let’s get you help as soon as we pos­sibly can.”

He also noted that the six coun­selors at the health center also want to help stu­dents who have expe­ri­enced sexual assault in the past.

“If anyone has ever had a sexual assault, whether on this campus or at home over a break, or when they were 10 years old, those are important things to talk about,” Lutz said.

The deans also held a meeting for stu­dents in Greek life to review sexual mis­conduct and respon­sible alcohol use. Also, in the annual off-campus meeting on Sept. 4, lawyers, local law enforcement offi­cials, and Lutz spoke further on safety and pro­ce­dures for reporting sexual harassment and mis­conduct.

Each of the college’s ath­letic teams also met this week to review sexual mis­conduct policies and reporting, as well as other topics per­tinent to overall health.

The deans employ the same pro­ce­dures for dealing with mis­conduct as they have in the past, but their goal this year is to offer addi­tional infor­mation to a greater number of stu­dents. Petersen said they worked with student leaders, including res­ident assis­tants, to determine how to deal with issues as they arise. Their goal for RAs was to encourage their res­i­dents to treat people with respect and friendship, Petersen said.

In han­dling issues that come up, whether regarding sexual harassment or not, Petersen and Philipp said they see coop­er­ation between them­selves and stu­dents as key to nav­i­gating any sit­u­ation. One case is one too many, Philipp said, and they always want to know the facts and help resolve problems.

Petersen said the deans’ doors — as well as others’ — are always open for stu­dents who want to come and talk. He said they rec­ognize that these are sen­sitive issues. The deans can’t and won’t go public about any inci­dents for the sake of privacy for those involved.

While the college works to keep stu­dents safe, everyone has a role in pro­moting campus safety, the deans said.

“We have to be good to each other,” Philipp said. “We have to look out for each other.”