As questions come in following the PRSM Essentials and Bystander Intervention workshops, we’ll add the most-asked here. 

Why doesn't Oberlin do online education before college starts like most other colleges?

We think it’s a best practice to teach this information in person, and through peer education. Our goal is to help you learn and retain the information rather than just checking a box that we fulfilled a federal requirement. Consent education continues through the entire year at Oberlin, and we believe this system of frequent workshops and reminders about consent is better than doing a single online training the summer before you arrive on campus, and before you know what your life will look like at Oberlin. 

Last summer we started talking about consent with you when we sent home the “Let’s Make Consent A Conversation” brochure followed by a letter to your parents/guardians. Our hope was that you would think about consent and talk to your parents/guardians about how consent fits in with your family values before you ever arrived on campus. We also sent you links to our consent videos to help you visualize what consent might look like for you. 

Students are very busy with orientation activities when they arrive on campus. Everything is new and students end up hearing so much information that they don’t retain it all. I, personally, barely remember my college orientation though I know I went through it. There is an opportunities to learn about consent through The OC and the post-OC discussion with your RAs. OSCA members receive OSCA-specific training related to consent during orientation. We think it’s best to wait a week or so to begin PRSM Essentials workshops until things have settled down. That way you’ll have a better chance of retaining the things we talk about in the workshop. And in fact, when we conducted a climate survey on campus last year, we learned that 98% of the people who responded remembered going through consent training and remembered something about what they learned. Also, anecdotally, we have heard that some students who attend colleges that only offer online training are envious of our comprehensive in-person workshops.

As I mentioned, consent education will continue throughout the school year. In February, you’ll go through another mandatory training workshop called PRSM Bystander Intervention, and in April, PRSM and the Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion will sponsor Consent Month on campus where you’ll have the opportunity to attend even more workshops that will be open to all Oberlin students.

In the Brian Chris scenario, you said they could have realized they were in no state to give consent. But if they were that intoxicated that they didn’t know what was going on, how does that work?

This is a great question! One of the things that the scenario with Brian and Chris does a great job of showing is how using alcohol and other drugs can make it more challenging to recognize our own limits and those of others. The following text is taken directly from Oberlin’s Sexual Misconduct Policy and addresses this question:

“Evaluating incapacitation also requires an assessment of whether a Responding Party, or a sober, reasonable person in the Responding Party’s position, knew or should have known, that the Reporting Party was incapacitated. If the person who wants to engage in sexual activity is too intoxicated to judge another’s communications about consent, that person has an obligation to cease the activity. A person’s responsibility for obtaining consent is not diminished by use of alcohol and/or other drugs. Being intoxicated or impaired by drugs or alcohol is never an excuse for sexual harassment, sexual violence, stalking or intimate partner violence and does not diminish one’s responsibility to obtain consent.” (p. 21)

In this case, it is important to remember that if both parties were incapacitated, both can be held accountable for violating the sexual misconduct policy. It is also important to remember that scenarios like the one with Brian and Chris show how important it is for each of us to intervene as bystanders.

What are the specifics of the medical amnesty policy? Who does it cover? And is there a limit of how many times it is used?

Here is the text of the medical amnesty policy with a summary and some information related to Title IX reports below:

Medical Amnesty Policy: Oberlin College wishes to ensure that students at medical risk as a result of alcohol or substance use will receive prompt and appropriate medical attention. For this reason no student seeking medical attention for him/herself (or another) for intoxication or overdose shall be formally sanctioned for the illegal use or possession of alcohol or other drugs when other college polices have not been violated in conjunction with the intoxication or overdose. Such students will meet with a judicial coordinator in the Office of the Dean of Students or with an authorized hearing officer in Residential Education to discuss the incident. The judicial coordinator or authorized hearing officer has the discretion to refer the individuals for appropriate educational intervention(s), including but not limited to: screenings with members of the alcohol/substance use support team, parental notification, writing reflective essays, AOD assessments at a state certified agency or treatment center, etc. When substance related impairment leads to physically violent or dangerous behavior; disruption to ordinary community function; vandalism/destruction to, or theft of, communal or personal property, amnesty may be granted for the intoxication, at the same time additional charges may be pursued. NOTE: The Medical Amnesty policy will not apply when a student persistently refuses to comply with the request of a college official to seek a medical evaluation to determine degree of intoxication/impairment. When asked by an officer of the college to do so, the failure to provide the name of the supplier of the intoxicating/impairing substance is obstruction and a form of failure to comply. Refusal to comply with in officer of the College in such circumstances will override the recommended staged sanctioning for drugs and alcohol related violations that are outlined in the most current published, Student Regulations, Policies, and Procedures. Students who persist in their noncompliance will be reminded/informed that failure to comply with a Security Officer’s request to go to the Emergency Room for a medical intoxication/impairment evaluation will result in judicial action that may result in suspension.

In a nutshell: we want you to be safe so you (or a friend you call about ) will not be sanctioned for drug or alcohol use if you are seeking medical attention related to intoxication or overdose. Students involved in a Title IX report are never sanctioned for drug or alcohol use related to the incident that has been reported. The college will try to connect you (or your friend) to support resources related to drug and alcohol use. If the college becomes concerned with ongoing substance abuse problems, we will look to take more action to make sure students are safe and well.

Can Title IX give you support for something that didn’t happen on campus/in Oberlin?

Yes! The Title IX office can provide support regardless of where and when an incident may have occurred. You can contact the Title IX office for more information by stopping by Carnegie 204 or emailing rebecca.mosely@oberlin.edu. Also, Melissa Counts, the confidential student advocate on campus, can provide free confidential counseling to anyone who may have experienced harm at any point in their lives. Melissa’s contact information is college_advocate@nordcenter.org or 440-204-4359.