“Consent. All the cool kids are doing it.”
This past weekend marked the halfway point of the “Red Zone”, or the first six weeks of school when students are statistically most vulnerable to sexual assault and violence.
I sat down with WSA President Rebecca Hutman ’17 and Vice President Nila Ravi ’17 (with a brief interjection by Lizzie Shackney ’17, who was also chilling in Pi) to find out more about the project and its trajectory for the rest of the six weeks and beyond.
What is Project No Red Zone (PNRZ)? Where did the idea come from?
Rebecca Hutman ’17: The impetus of this project was a conference I went to this summer with the outgoing WSA president Kate Cullen ’16. There, we met a woman named Jess Davison who was the vice president of the student body at Denver University last year. A big part of her platform was combating sexual assault and violence in their student body. She told me about a project they did, which was also called Project No Red Zone.
The “Red Zone” is the first six weeks on campus when there are a disproportionate number of sexual assaults that occur. On their campus, the answer to that was only confined to orientation. They made sure that people had allies to walk them home, and that the RAs were trained in bystander intervention, and that was the extent of their program.
But what she really drove home for us was the importance of looking at your own campus, identifying where the holes are in terms of access to resources, and just general awareness of consent culture, and filling in those spots.
After learning from her and thinking about what we could do with the Red Zone, we all thought collaboratively about how we could address it on our campus.
Have you been able to see an impact of the project over the course of the past couple of weeks?
Nila Ravi ’18: I don’t know if there has been a decrease in the number of reports or that kind of information, but I do know that a lot of different areas of campus have approached Project No Red Zone about how their organization can get involved, or how groups can attend the trainings we had. So in terms of just spreading the message, there aren’t lots of tangible progress markers that we can check off, but that’s something that we’re happy with.
RH: I think that change in campus culture is always hard to measure, like, there aren’t any metrics on that. If the metric is actual cases of reported assault—I don’t know if you saw, but this past Friday, the report for the past year came in—so we get those statistics a lot later. They remove a lot of the identifying information (as well they should). Because of this, it’s harder to pinpoint the exact causation and what effect we have.
The numbers we do have are: 67 people attended our resource training. 137 student groups all thought about how they could implement a culture of consent throughout their student organizations. We had 286 people who were following our Facebook page where we posted daily action items. There was a really well-attended Blacklight Consent Party that Alpha Delt hosted.
I wish that we had a tangible metric, but I think we just set these mini-goals for ourselves and hope that that translates into a safer campus culture down the road.
Alpha Delt’s Blacklight Consent Party
Photo Credit: Junior Nguyen
What’s been some of your favorite Project No Red Zone programming so far?
NR: I think I just really like the component of wearing the button to indicate that you care and know what is happening around sexual assault.
RH: I think what’s been unique about this is that it’s brought a lot of different segments of campus together and a lot of different resources together that don’t usually communicate with each other. We had 67 people come to this resource training. It was a very administrative training, the nuts and bolts of how reporting works, how filing a no-contact order works, how academic accommodations work—very granular-level information that we want a lot of people to know, but we usually only get a certain type of person in the room.
I think what was exciting about this program was that we used people who related to our message on social media, or are friends with us, or really wanted a button (because we said you could only get a button if you came to the training). We used all those things together to bring more people into this conversation, and in a way that they hadn’t been before.
I think the other thing we want to emphasize is that it’s not over. We’re halfway through. It’s called Project No Red Zone, and yes, we want to drive home the message in this period, but we want it to keep going throughout the year. If it stops after six weeks, we haven’t done a really good job.
How do you see it carrying forward once the targeted programming is over?
RH: All of the different student organizations that attended our re-registering training made small plans for how they were gonna create a culture of consent within their organization, so our next phase is following up with all these groups and helping them facilitate this programming. Now that they’re thinking about it, we want to make sure all of these different groups are talking about it.
Now that we’re out of the re-registering process, now that we’re out of the first three weeks of school, it’s unrealistic to think that we’re going to be able to disseminate information in a centralized way that we can in orientation and the first three weeks of school when people are a little bit more free and willing to go to meetings. Now it’s the point where we need to reach people where they’re at, whatever that space is.
Izzy Linzer ’17 and Key Session ’17 were really instrumental in putting that training together, and they’re gonna work to help facilitate this programming in groups, and also to help highlight groups that are doing particularly well to inspire other groups.
Is this something you see the WSA doing in future years?
RH: We have to reevaluate, I mean, I hope so—
NR: And I think it could progress every year and keep molding to what is happening on campus, not just being the same kind of programming every year, but really changing as it continues.
RH: Yeah, and I think the other thing is, it might sound like we’re being ambiguous about the ideas we’re having for it. That’s kind of intentional, and it’s kind of not, in the sense that we have 50 or so people who have all signed up who have said that they want to be a part of shaping what Project No Red Zone looks like next.
We’re going to have a meeting this week where we get all those brains in a room and see what people are passionate about and what initiatives they want to lead. We just want to be the catalyst here, and we want to see what other directions people want to take this in. So it’s not as if we have all these plans that we’re holding close to the chest; we’re excited to bring more people into the planning phase and see where they want to take it.
I know there’s been a critical view of how the University views sexual assault when it does happen. Does this project have anything to say about that? Is it trying to make that process easier, trying to impact the administration at all, or is it really just student based?
NR: I don’t think that this project has a direct connection to how the administration is handling policy, but there are other initiatives on the WSA that have connections. I definitely agree with what you are saying. That is a component of sexual assault on campus and Title IX that needs to be addressed.
I’m the student chair of the policy committee, so a lot of the conversations that happen there are streamlined through the WSA. Also, last year, something that we implemented was the process advisor training for students to become process advisors for students going through the reporting process.
I don’t think that Project No Red Zone has a direct policy/administrative component—we’re more addressing student culture on campus—but I think that’s a really interesting way to potentially go moving forward.
RH: Which doesn’t mean that the people involved in it aren’t individually critical, because many of them are, and we embrace and appreciate that, and think that’s necessary to get policy change. It’s just that this project itself is more directed at campus climate and is less policy-driven.
Have you heard any critiques about Project No Red Zone from the student body?
NR: We’d love to hear more!
RH: Yeah. I think the biggest complaint I heard was after our resource training, people were hoping it would come from us.
NR: I think that the administrators that presented didn’t realize how many people were coming, and were a little thrown off by that. It was more structured, like with a power point, than student driven, where we’re able to be like, “This is how it is,” but also be critical about it.
Kind of like the Bystander Intervention Training?
RH: Yes. We generated too much demand! Not the worst problem to have, but still a problem.
NR: So definitely moving forward, that training could be improved.
I know you said there were a ton of student groups that signed up. Were there any that were kind of surprising, just based on what their missions and focuses are?
RH: Izzy and Key are more in charge of the student org component of this project than we are, so she would be able to speak more to that aspect of the project.
I’ll also let you know that Izzy has done awesome outreach with the student athletic advisory committee. She did presentations for the new Fall, Winter, and Spring athletes to talk about the unique role of sexual assault and violence in that community. So she’s been doing those wonderful initiatives as well.
Anything else you want to say about the project? Any questions for us?
RH: Are there critiques you have heard about the program that we can respond to in this?
I mean, I haven’t really heard anything negative about it, which is why I was wondering, just because, to me, I think it’s a great initiative and I don’t see problems with it, but I also haven’t been engaging with it as actively, like I didn’t go to the training. I really just saw it on Facebook and was like, “Yeah, I’m behind this!”
NR: The only thing I would say that I’ve been thinking about it is it is like a great initiative, and lots of people can get involved, but that people aren’t just like, “Oh, I’m involved with Project No Red Zone,” and that it actually translates into action when it’s important to. We don’t know the actual reports, or if the actual number of assaults within the first couple weeks of school have gone down, but I’m hoping that people are grasping it in a really tangible way.
Something I noticed at the Blacklight Consent Party was that Alpha Delt had monitors around, and just having designated bystanders just seems like a good idea to have at large events like that. I had never seen that before, but it seems like that could be something that program houses and the Greek houses could implement as a standard of hosting an event.
NR: Exactly. So things like that are really tangible impacts. It doesn’t ruin the mood or anything, it’s so chill, and it just makes it safer.
Have you seen any difference in campus culture surrounding sexual assault with Psi U having their house back?
NR: Psi U actually reached out to me about Project No Red Zone, and a bunch of their members attended the resource training, so for their first event, they actually all wore buttons.
RH: The band Chef that performed also came to the training and wore buttons.
NR: Yeah, so we’re talking to them about how Psi U as a group can institute a culture of consent within their organization. At their first event I think they were also really on top of that, not with specific monitors, but I think that it was a similar type of environment.
I’m a sophomore now, so last year there just wasn’t a Greek life presence on campus, so as they’re coming back, I’m interested to see how that changes campus culture, or doesn’t. Thoughts?
RH: I think what’s exciting about it is that it’s not the return of the same Greek life we had before, it’s an exciting opportunity to see what Greek culture looks like now, and hopefully have Project No Red Zone be a part of that.
Lizzie Shackney ’17, who helped create and implement Project No Red Zone, chimed in at the end with this:
“I think that we underestimate the difficulty of making something like this into something ubiquitous, and we tried our hardest at a time of year when it’s hard to be all together. At the beginning of the year I think it’s really powerful, and I think the amount of participation that we had was great, but I think ideally everyone would have been posting about it, like you couldn’t turn around without having a reminder that consent is the norm, and that’s how you start to shape campus culture. But that’s what we want, is for this to be something that you can’t avoid, and you don’t want to.
RH: Consent, all the cool kids are doing it! Wait, can we say that? We’re kind of dorks…
NR: We don’t mean the cool kids in high school at the lunch table where you’re not allowed to sit. We’re talking about the people you look up to and respect.
RH: Yeah, we struggled in the last interview to not describe this as trickle-down culture, because we don’t want to advocate that ethos, but just the idea that if the people who create spaces on this campus, and set tones of meetings and parties are imbuing those spaces with consent, then we feel like we’ve done a good job.
You can check out the Project No Red Zone Facebook event for information, action items, and other tips about promoting a culture of consent at Wes.