Manchester University
Oak Leaves
February 19, 2016

'Let's Talk About It' VIA Stimulates Controversy

Carly Kwiecien

The Communication, Consent and Sex VIA presented by the Title IX team sparked controversy among a substantial student audience on Monday, Feb. 2.

East Hall Director Letha Parrott and Title IX Coordinator Allen Machielson led students in a program to address the kinds of communication necessary in order for there to be consent before engaging in sexual activity. Program presenters hoped to educate students on the importance of consent, of expressing boundaries and of respecting the boundaries of others.

“It is our goal that the presentation would be to help students think about the different situations that they might find themselves in and how to communicate more effectively and clearly with one another,” Machielson said. “When we talk strictly about a sexual relationship, we want students to be clear about what consent is and how important it is to have a clear and unambiguous consent during every activity that they choose to engage in.”

Although Machielson had anticipated an attendance of 60–90 students at the VIA, the final numbers were closer to 100–150. Although unexpected, the large crowd may have contributed to more audience participation in the end.

Parrott and Machielson presented a PowerPoint that reviewed the basics of Title IX, including its purpose and to whom one may report an incident of sexual misconduct. The presentation also explained how a person may file a formal complaint, as well as the procedure for the investigation of sexual misconduct and the presenters also introduced the Title IX Deputy Coordinators. The first half of the program included true-and-false questions, allowing the audience to answer as a whole.

The second half of the program provided the audience with possible scenarios of sexual misconduct, and called for more audience interaction. This opportunity allowed students to state their opinions on what consent is, and how it should be effectively communicated.

With nearly every question, the room was divided by the answers revealed in the crowd. Some students booed at answers, while other answers were encouraged.

“I was a little disappointed in the way the answers to the scenarios were presented,” said junior Katherine Clauser. “There were many in the room who were blaming the victim.

“There was a lot of argument on the effectiveness of communication and I didn’t think that they elaborated enough on what is effective,” she continued. “I, personally, think that a clear, verbal ‘yes’ is consent; however, there were many in the room who thought otherwise [that a verbal ‘yes’ wasn’t necessary] and it troubled me greatly.”

Machielson reinforced the University’s mission statement of no discrimination on the basis of sex, and he is committed to providing students an environment free from sex discrimination.

“I really hope that students will begin talking more openly about what they do and do not want from each other in any type of relationship that they are in,” he said. “Open communication is the key to any successful and healthy relationship,” Machielson said.