Freshman orientation modules will soon be available to all undergraduates, a move by the administration to address issues raised by the results of the Association of American Universities' Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct.
In the next few months, all undergraduates will be able to participate in Thrive at Penn, the pre-orientation module that previously educated only incoming freshmen about college life. The program covers four topics: thriving at a research university, wellness and health, the risks associated with alcohol and other drugs and healthy relationships and sexual violence prevention.
“The expectation is that everyone is doing to do it over winter break,” said Rob Nelson, executive director for education and academic planning, adding that the program may become mandatory if not enough students complete it before the spring semester.
Nelson said that the change was prompted by a lack of knowledge among students about resources available on campus, a problem highlighted by the results of the AAU survey. Making the Thrive at Penn program available to everyone, he said, is designed to combat the fact that many students do not remember information presented during New Student Orientation.
According to the , only 10.7 percent of respondents knew Penn’s definition of sexual assault, and only 12.6 percent knew where to make a report of sexual violence. Compared to peer institutions, students at Penn were relatively pessimistic about the University’s ability to handle complaints of sexual violence.
Students at Penn were also less likely than average to believe that a victim of sexual violence would be supported by fellow students in making a report, that campus officials would take the report seriously or that the safety of the victim would be protected.
“The question of what work can we do was asked,” Nelson said. “And so this is the answer that we came up with.”
The administration collaborated with the Undergraduate Assembly in making the switch, incorporating student feedback into the decision to expand the program.
“Students have agreed that this is an important step to take,” Nelson said.
The administration raised by the AAU survey results in other ways, such as through conversations with deans and student groups.
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