This past Welcome Week, McMaster introduced a new series of lectures for incoming first years, centered on consent and rape culture.
The consent discussions came in many different forms: a workshop entitled “Cookies and Consent,” a supporting role in the annual IRIS production, and graphically displayed across buttons and posters on campus. It was a clearly important part of the week.
As a first year coming to Mac in 2011, some of the lessons shouted at me during Welcome Week were close to the opposite of those greeting this year’s freshmen. While I knew better than to disregard consent as an important and necessary part of my life, hearing reps from my own faculty insultingly scream “virgin” at other students, along with representatives of another faculty chanting “no means yes,” I was startled by what was considered a normal part of Welcome Week at McMaster.
After the controversial Red Suit Songbook was unearthed during the 2013-14 school year and a series of similar incidents occurred on campuses across the country, I am happy to see that our university is making an effort to give students a proper education on what consent means, and why it is a necessary part of our actions and decisions.
During my time as a student, I was lucky to be part of the SACHA Welcome Week training provided for faculty and residence representatives. I was excited to see that SACHA was also involved in this year’s programming for first years. While educating an already keen group of student leaders is important, cementing McMaster’s zero-tolerance policy for rape culture and language into the minds of incoming students can be a much more important asset.
I am proud of our university for taking this step, but while it is easy to look at this situation and think that McMaster is years ahead of other universities, it is important to remember that assault is not something our campus, or any other, is immune to. And whether you were part of this year’s Welcome Week or not, there is still a lot that needs to be said and done before the consent conversation becomes something that we all already agree to.