December 3, 2016

Sexual assault prevention course pulls low numbers

Six-hundred-forty two of Webster’s 3,002 undergraduate students took a required prevention course the university hopes will combat sexual assault.

Webster is combating the lack of  participation with different strategies. The university sent out another round of emails Sept. 11 encouraging students to take the course and to remind students the course must be completed by the end of the fourth week of classes.

Residential Assistants are holding floor meetings for residents encouraging them to take the class in a group setting. Supervisors have been asked by the university to make sure their student employees have completed the course. 

In the Webster 101 class for new students, it has been mandated that the sexual assault course be completed to pass. According to Dean of Students Ted Hoef, the university is considering what other options might be possible to get the highest completion rate for the course.

Shannon Plunkett, a Webster student and a victim of sexual assault when she attended Missouri State, thinks having a prevention class is of the utmost importance. Plunkett considers a better strategy the university could have applied is to have professors make sure students complete the course before they moved on with their own classes.  She said she believes prevention classes are essential in educating students on an issue they might think they know a lot about, when in reality there is a lot to learn. Plunkett believes after her assault she blocked the incident out, and she thinks her attacker should have known better.

“That was a situation where not until about two months ago I realized I was a victim of something that was horrible. He should have known that. I should have had the confidence and know about in my own mind to say that was wrong and that’s what scares me. I don’t want other people to have to go through that,” Plunkett said.

As of Sept. 24, on the university’s connection page, under personal announcements, an outdated message states the course is strongly encouraged and not a requirement of all undergraduates.

Caitlin Vanover, a student athlete at Webster, said her volleyball coach forwarded emails  advising the team to complete the course. She said most of her team completed the online class.

Riley Flynn, a sophomore at Webster, said he received emails for the sexual assault class but felt because there were no repercussions for not completing it he did not need to take the course. He said he understands the issue enough, but he thinks students on campus should be required to complete the online class.

“On campus that would be good because you don’t get to choose who you are surrounded by necessarily,” Flynn said. He also said it would be wise to have students complete the course if they work for the university.

Hannah Merrick, who lives on campus in West Hall, said she received emails about taking the online course but was told by other students she did not need to complete it because there were not any consequences listed.

“There are a lot of people who haven’t taken it, so if they do plan to discipline us, that’s going to be a lot of people,” Merrick said.

Merrick said she was not worried about sexual assault at Webster. She said at her hometown college, the University of Montana, rape reports against football players led to a revamp of the school’s sexual assault policy under the Justice Department.  Although Merrick said she feels safe at Webster, she is  concerned the university is not taking the issue as seriously as they appear.

“They should be more specific about it.  If they want it to be important, they have to make sure we know it’s important to them.  They’re not doing that,” Merrick said.

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