Two terms since consent training became a subject of contention amongst Imperial students, the Consent Matters pilot has finally been launched. Consent Matters is an interactive course aiming at educating students on areas of sexual consent, communication and relationships, and bystander intervention. The creators of the course , epigeum, claim it “shows students how to seek consent, how to recognise it and how to identify situations where it can’t be given.”
Bringing Consent Matters to Imperial was an initiative spearheaded by ICU and supported and financed by College. Though discussions around the training course have been going on for two terms, the pilot is only now being launched due to difficulties with integrating it into blackboard.
DPW Emily-Jane Cramphorn told felix that “putting it on blackboard means acquiring more anonymised data without students having to manually fill in a lot of the information themselves.”
Unfortunately a series of unexpected difficulties with the integration of the course into blackboard and the staffing of the project has meant that the effort was abandoned and the students will have to use the epigeum platform at least for the duration of the pilot.
As part of the pilot, 300 students representing a cross-section of the Imperial community were selected and invited to trial the training course. Though progress seems promising and Cramphorn herself has found the training very informative, she is cautious.
“I don’t know how people will take it. I do think some people will ignore it and others will be resistant to it. Earlier in the year there was a lot of resistance and a lot of debate and if you look at other universities there has been a lot of backlash against consent training.”
Many universities have made consent training mandatory (last October freshers at Oxford had to attend compulsory sexual consent workshops), yet students who protest the training remain, usually characterising such measures as patronising.
The pilot should yield feedback by August, meaning freshers in October might be welcomed by a compulsory training course before they take up their academic responsibilities. “Ideally we’ll be able to launch it as part of the startup session in October,” says Cramphorn. “We’ll have a big media campaign around it and potentially make it compulsory. I know other people in the discussions are against this so we might have to discuss it further.”
Cramphorn is referring to several student voices who protested the expenditure last November. During one of the first council meetings of the year Lloyd James, RCSU president, criticised the £5,000 College expenditure, and subsequently in a comment piece published in felix he said that “this purchase will contribute nothing to the student experience on campus,” and referred to the funds that went into the licensing of Consent Matters as “£5,000 completely and utterly wasted”.
The RCSU General Committee also voted unanimously to condemn the expenditure, which they described as “a wasteful and ineffective method of informing students on the important issue of consent.”
Either way, it’s exciting to see College tackling consent and sexual violence, according to Cramphorn. “It does go hand in hand with the work we’re doing with the catalyst fund which is moving more quickly. We’re already training people to be sexual violence liaison officers and Consent Matters will only help to strengthen that project and make it an all encompassing project.”