Consent Team educates new students

Every fall, incoming first-year Carleton students are presented with information they need to adjust to university. On Sept. 2—the first day of Fall Orientation—students and parents met the “Consent Team,” a new initiative to fuel a conversation about consent and sexual violence on campus.

The team was championed by Kelsey Gilchrist, the co-chair of Our Turn Carleton, a student-led sexual violence prevention initiative. The idea then received additional support from Equity Services and the Student Experience Office. According to Jenna Lambert, the program co-ordinator of Sexual Assault Support Services at Equity Services, the team is made up of 16 student volunteers.

Lambert said in an email that the team aims to inform students and their parents about campus resources and to help educate Carleton’s community about issues such as consent. They’re also present to support any students that may disclose their experiences of sexual violence.

“We recognize that it can be both exciting and overwhelming to start university. We want to ensure that all Carleton students especially our incoming first year students; feel safe and welcomed on our campus, and that they are aware of the many resources that are available to them, should they need support,” Lambert said.

According to Lambert, Consent Team members along with Fall Orientation co-ordinators, select frosh facilitators and team leaders received 14 hours of peer support training over two days in August.

Clad in teal t-shirts—the colour representing sexual assault awareness—the team made its debut appearances at frosh events such as Canal Games, the Much Music Video Dance Party, Expo Carleton and the headphone disco.

Shannon Clarke, Carleton’s director of student affairs, said the timing of the team’s introduction was crucial.

“With over 5,000 new students starting at Carleton this fall, having conversations about consent during Fall Orientation ensures that our new students are informed about campus services,” Clarke explained in an email.

Lambert added that the Consent Team also aims to “firmly and actively situate Carleton University as a safe space, which values the rights of every student to a safe, welcoming student experience—and one which is free of sexual violence.”

In 2014, frosh leaders received widespread condemnation after some leaders wore tank tops bearing the words “Fuck Safe Space” at an off-campus party. The university’s administration and student leaders have since worked to improve Carleton’s attitude and responses to sexual violence, through updates to the Sexual Violence Policy and the inception of Our Turn Carleton.

According to Zameer Masjedee, the Carleton University Students’ Association president, the team’s logo is a chat bubble with an ellipses, which he said encourages students to consider issues surrounding consent.

“. . . Consent is about a conversation. It’s not a one time thing and we’ve had really good reception from students with that,” Masjedee said.

Lambert said bracelets were handed out to students, printed with the message “Consent is…mandatory…proactive…ongoing…enthusiastic…revoked at any time.”

She added that pamphlets, hats, buttons and cell phone wallets featuring information about Sexual Assault Support Services were also distributed.

Masjedee said the Consent Team is planning to extend beyond Fall Orientation. He said the team’s next goal is to attend the Capital Hoops Classic in Febuary, while a continued presence at large student events is being considered.

“Fall Orientation was a pilot for the team and the initiative. They wanted to make sure the success continues over the year. It’s not a one-off thing, but rather the Consent Team always being present on campus,” Masjedee said.

Photo by Aaron Hemens