Informative training sessions on discrimination and sexual harassment policies, which have long been required for all student employees, may soon be mandatory for all incoming freshmen.
A pilot of what’s been dubbed “CU 101” began this fall involving students enrolled in residential academic programs on the CU campus. The program focuses on alcohol and diversity issues.
“I think this pilot has a lot of potential,” said Mebraht Gebre-Michael, a senior sociology major and member of the Blue Ribbon Commission on Diversity. “It sounds like it’d be boring and a waste of time, but we need to make sure that the sessions are interactive and relevant to current issues. We need to help promote awareness as to how it directly relates to the student environment.”
The original idea for “CU 101” was inspired by many voices from student leaders, including the most recent Blue Ribbon Commission on Diversity. The Commission was established by University President Hank Brown and is made up of both students and administrators. It is another administrative effort to alleviate racial tensions among students.
“It’s especially key for freshmen students, since I think the courses would have a much more profound impact on the new students, so they’d reflect on the issues as they worked through their college careers,” Gebre-Michael said.
While the “CU 101” sessions are still being tried among a select group of students, those that are required for all paid student-employees are still being held regularly with Mark Schwartz, the sexual harassment training and education coordinator for the Office of Judicial Affairs. They provide basic information on the technical definitions of harassment and discrimination, and the unacceptable behaviors associated with them. The workshops last about 45 minutes.
“I’m not exactly sure about making these workshops mandatory for all incoming freshmen – I guess in a perfect world that’d be nice, and they’d all participate. I just know it’s a pilot in the workings,” Schwartz said. “As for now, my position exists because the university somehow developed a reputation, along the way, of being an unsafe environment.”
Schwartz described how enjoyable he finds being able to reach out to the students and guide them into issues that most of them consider to be blunt common sense – he said if that were the case, he wouldn’t have his job.
He encounters a lot of students who unconsciously practice values and judgments that may have been acceptable in their high schools or their homes, but are definitely not acceptable in a university or professional environment.
“You know, there are over 29,000 students on this campus, and chances are not every single one is going to think alike,” Schwartz said. “They’re all going to come from different backgrounds, different views and upbringings, and we need to learn how to live with each other properly and with respect.”
Floating around has been the prospect of introducing the freshmen to these workshops through CU residences, but it was not confirmed.
“I know there’s a pilot called ‘CU 101’ going on, but I don’t know anything about its success or what official decision is going to be made in relation to all the dorm students,” said Gina Tirella, director of Resident’s Life for Housing and Dining Services.
After one of the student employee workshops with Schwartz ended, an attendee offered his perspective on the program’s effectiveness.
“I definitely think these sessions seem helpful; it seems like it’d be relevant to a lot of people in the workplace,” said Taylor Matthews, a junior humanities major. “But I don’t know about making something like this mandatory for all incoming freshmen – I mean, maybe it would affect some kids, but on the grand scale, I don’t think it’d really make that much of a difference.”