we had never learned how consent is treated at Hopkins. What are the school’s policies on behavior and reporting harassment? What about consent in non-sexual situations? How do we navigate these grey areas? Lots of important questions were going unanswered. We decided to find those answers.
As we began our junior year of high school last year, and our first year as heads of ERRO, we had to choose what we really wanted to focus on. Ekphrastic writing, physics tests, and AP US DBQs all competed for our attention. Prompted by the hearings of Judge Kavanaugh , the three of us decided the most essential thing, the issue we felt most urgently needed to be brought up, was sexual assault and harassment, in all of its forms.
We knew if we wanted to try to change the culture we’ve experienced in our time at Hopkins – that is, many mistakes are made simply because we make assumptions instead of asking and communicat-ing about boundaries--the first step would be to bring more consent education to campus.
Fast forward several months, and we were finallyable to put together an Assembly for both the Upper School (in April) and the Junior School (in May). We were supported by our classmates, faculty, and Yale’s CCE student and administrative fellows (Consent Communication Educators) in these two projects. The Yale CCEs were extreme- ly useful to us, as they guided us through our research and aided in presentation planning. We learned the importance of providing clear cut definitions to aid discussion, using affirmative consent (“yes means yes”), and addressing the grey areas of personal communication. Together, these elements help create a healthier sexual culture, especilly in school environments. Each Assembly had equal amounts of information, advice, and resources, but focused on different stages of relationships, from friendly and social to sexual and romantic. To supplement these Assemblies, we also held a workshop for the Upper School which was led by members of the Yale CCE. The workshop was a kind of a pilot, allowing ERRO to hear back from you all on how we can improve our workshops: what was beneficial, whatwas irrelevant, and what was the most thought-provoking.
This year, to continue to promote healthy communication and relationships, we aim to foster conversations through ERRO meetings and more workshops led in partnership with the CCEs. The CCEs primarily use discussion-based workshops to talk about consent. The workshops cover how to read social cues, the effects of alcohol on your brain and how that relates to consent, the role of social media and peer pressure in our lives, and much more.
As always, there will continue to be an abundance of resources here at Hopkins such as Ms. Romanchok, Mr. Brant, and Dr. Cox to talk to, whether you felt uncomfortable, frustrated, confused, or just want to think things through some more.
We are not attempting to solve rape culture and end sexual harassment within the extended Hopkins community in just two years. Tackling issues such as this takes time and consistency. We know these more serious issues need to be covered because unfortunately, they are already relevant to many of us. We also know talking about or presenting violent sexual situations to large audiences can be triggering and emotionally daunting, in addition to being mostly ineffective.
To properly address consent, we need to start small. This coming year is the next step on a long road to having a healthy understanding of consent, and to continue successfully with this, we will need your support and feedback through- out this year and beyond.
Over the last year, we have had many conversations relating to time: What do we have time to do? How much time will something take to put together? Is there enough time to do what we want to? The answers were sometimes yes, and sometimes no – we learned very quickly that if we want to do something well and with the support of our busy administration, we have to go slow. Nonetheless, that has not stopped us in pursuing what we feel we have a responsibility to do, and we hope it will not stop you in helping us either. Consent culture will only change if we work as a community, and we hope that work will still continue after we graduate.
Whether you want to do your own research, bring uncomfortable topics up with your extended friend groups, or engage with someone who holds a different opinion, we encourage you to do it. We are determined to change the culture of consent at Hopkins, no matter how long it takes, and we can only do it with you.