Maddy Dillon, Staff Writer and Mariah Parker, Echo Online Writer
Dean of Students Deb Myers has shortened the length of fall orientation due to student feedback and budget concerns, leaving many concerned that Let’s Talk About Sex will be omitted or altered from the program.
The RISE Project has been in charge of facilitating Let’s Talk About Sex (LTAS) since the crew’s inception. Originally a mandatory part of first-year orientation, the program presents information on sexually transmitted infections (STIs), safe sex, harassment, condoms, sex alternatives, bystander intervention and statistics from on-campus epidemiology surveys.
This spring, Let’s Talk About Sex became optional for incoming first-year and transfer students. The presentation was shortened from its previously allotted hour-and-a-half slot to one hour. This was the first time the program was optional since RISE received its start-up grant four years ago.
Although Myers could not be reached for an interview, in a community meeting on Tuesday, March 29th, Myers told students she was unsure of whether or not the program would be cut under the new orientation schedule.
“It can look the same, or look different,” Myers said.
However, community support for the program is strong.
Senior Victoria Weiner, a member of the RISE Crew said, “I’ve seen such significant change in the four years that I’ve been here in terms of attitudes and mindsets surrounding sex and relationships. More people are using condoms and dental dams and, according to the epidemiology survey, STI rates on campus have dropped dramatically.”
According to Professor of Environmental Studies John Brock, who organized the survey, one in six Warren Wilson College students had an STI eight years ago. The figure has since dropped to one in twenty .
“When we first looked, very few students had been tested for HIV. Now more than half of our students have been tested,” Brock added. “It’s a tremendous improvement.”
In addition to educating students on health issues, Let’s Talk About Sex marks students first experience with subjects like consent and queer identity.
“[Before Let’s Talk About Sex,] I’d never seen my sexual identity affirmed,” Weiner said. “People just told me to hide it away because it made others uncomfortable.”
“I’d never heard the word consent before [attending Let’s Talk About Sex],” RISE Crew member Cody Goss said. “I felt really empowered.”
Sophomore Sam Stewart shared a similar sentiment, “I had been in a lot of situations before where I felt guilty and unsure about consenting. Then I saw Let’s Talk About Sex and finally realized I shouldn’t feel guilty; I have rights.”
Other students have had less positive experiences with Let’s Talk About Sex.
“I feel like Let’s Talk About Sex blindsides a lot of students with the way it alternates between humor and seriousness. It made me uncomfortable, and if it isn’t taken out, it should definitely be revised,” sophomore Michael Curley said.
According to Goss, RISE is continually reviewing LTAS and is open to student feedback or suggestions on improving aspects of the program.
“We aren’t saying everyone should have sex,” Weiner said. “We throw condoms into the audience at the end, but we also show skits where people choose abstinence because they aren’t looking for a relationship or they’re waiting for marriage. We’re telling people: make the choice that’s right for you.”
As the RISE crew is unsure when their next meeting with Myers is to discuss specific changes to Let’s Talk About Sex, they will continue to release information as they become available.