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GROUP THINK is the DP’s round table section, where we throw a question at the columnists and see what answers stick. Read your favorite columnist, or read them all.

This week’s question: Is Thrive At Penn (TAP) effective?

Background info: TAP was a previously optional, now mandatory module that needed to be completed on Canvas before students are cleared to register for Spring Classes. TAP asks questions related to drugs, alcohol, sexual health, assault and grade-specific problems. An email was recently sent to the student body recently informing them that this was mandatory.

Reid about it! | Amanda Reid

Is it effective? Not really. I'm aware of how necessary it is for the school to disseminate information to their students, especially when it comes to preventable social problems. But it's a waste of time for a school that sanctions organizations like frats, which tacitly and begrudgingly allows institutions of drugs, alcohol and sexual abuse to thrive on and off campus. Think about it: what does it mean to thrive at Penn? To be challenged and well-worked but consciously happy and unharmed? Not many of us in that respect make it out fully thriving. Consider the events of this week: the Wild Wednesday email and the Penn Masala audition questions are examples of a campus culture still fixed in a mindset that TAP directly tries to tackle against and revise.

Drug abuse, alcohol, sexual assault and mental health are factors that splinter off into many different dimensions of student life. There is no way eight different one-minute quizzes can be substantially effective. Personal social issues can't be handled on a mass level. Making some initiatives "mandatory" validates neither efficiency nor change. Oftentimes, as is seen with the recent flyer-aided backlash against campus rape culture, the only ways to support our community is by letting the community speak for and educate itself.

Keen on the Truth | Jeremiah Keenan

OK, so I know that some parts of TAP are a joke. But for a moralizing life lecture produced by the biggest private bureaucracy in Philadelphia, the course as a whole isn’t bad. Here are three reasons why:

  1. The course provides a clear starting-point for students who unexpectedly find themselves victims of some form of relationship/sexual violence. Even without remembering all of the details, freshmen will at least know where to start if something should happen.
  2. For students willing to listen, the alcohol and drug awareness discussion does provide basic information useful to students with no drinking experience. Before coming to Penn, for instance, I had no solid notion of the discrepancies in alcohol content of different kinds of drinks.
  3. Passing the course does not require watching its videos. Select the Canvas Dashboard, click “View Grades” on the right hand side of the screen. Select “TAP 2017 Thrive at Penn” to get links to all the quizzes you have to complete. If in a hurry, submit the quiz without answering any questions and then fill in the provided solutions on the second attempt. When you have 100% on all the quizzes, you are done.

And a closing point: you might be thinking that the important information in TAP could be compressed into a third of its current volume. Very true. But the fact of life is, navigating bureaucratically inflated requirements efficiently is an essential skill for any student who hopes to Thrive at Penn. If the course were naturally streamlined, students might not learn what TAP is, unintentionally, best designed to teach.

Small Talk | Alessandro van den Brink

There probably isn’t a single student who enjoyed filling out the quizzes on the Thrive at Penn (TAP) Canvas page over the summer, but at the end of the day the program is necessary as it shows an effort on the part of the school to tackle prevalent issues on campus such as sexual assault and alcohol abuse. While most of us will forget the material as soon as we complete the quizzes, some of the information may stick in the heads of students. In particular the alcohol amnesty policy, which encourages students who have drank too much to call for medical assistance knowing they will not get in trouble for doing so, is a piece information that’s likely to stick in students’ heads.

It bothers students a lot that TAP is now mandatory, but in reality this is the only way to get them to complete the course in the first place. I criticized Harvard’s response to sexual assault on campus through sanctions on final clubs and fraternities, but TAP requires at most 15 minutes to complete and isn’t nearly as frustrating as many students make it out to be. At the very least, I can applaud to see that the school is actively trying to do something about the alarming rate of sexual assault and harassment at Penn, even their efforts could possibly be concentrated in a more effective program.

Good Luck | Harrison Glicklich

The first time I saw TAP was in the courses tab on Canvas. I thought I was going to fail a course which I hadn't ever attended. Fortunately, it's just a short quiz to which I don't even remember the answers. If only my memory were stronger, I wouldn't have any problems relating to drugs, alcohol, sexual health, assault and grade-specific problems. Woe is me.

Fair Enough | Alec Ward

Not having completed the TAP module yet, I can’t say for sure whether or not it’s effective. But the fact that the administration has chosen to make participation mandatory under threat of a registration hold is itself a pretty good indication that it’s not. Momentarily ignoring the irony of turning a mental health initiative into a stress-inducing obligation, the very fact that few students opted to participate voluntarily clearly indicates that students don’t perceive Thrive at Penn as filling a need that or satisfying a desire that they actually have. The outcry over mental health last year proves that there is real demand for effective mental health tools, and one would therefore expect a tool that students found useful to — pardon the pun — thrive on its own. As it is, the module has clearly failed in the open market.

Cup o’ Joe | Joe Tharakan

Thrive at Penn is a poorly implemented, imperfect solution to a very serious problem. Despite all its flaws, I think Penn is doing the right thing by making these modules mandatory. While a 90 minute online course is an inconvenience, Thrive at Penn contains correct and necessary guidelines. Many students are not aware of the info regarding alcohol safety or sexual assault prevention and response. Forcing people to go through this module encourages students to learn this information to stay safe, despite the grumblings of students.

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