Most of you know that I am a member of the Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center (SAPAC) since I shamelessly promote our events in class sometimes. Caveat: I am not writing this as a representative of SAPAC because that would mean that this is our official response as an organization, and it is not, this is just my take on something that has been very frustrating the last few days.
This year, SAPAC has been introducing a new freshman workshop to the campus. All freshmen are required by the university administration to undergo a SAPAC workshop during first semester in order to teach them some basic things about consent, sexual assault, and safe sex. The dedicated individuals in charge of those workshops noticed some negative feedback over the last couple of years and overhauled the workshop over the summer, basing the new one in research, narrowing the focus, and making it more interactive. The result was Relationship Remix, a one and a half hour long exploration of consent, respect, and safety in romantic relationships. We have gotten fairly positive feedback from participants about if they learned new things, or had gained new perspectives. Obviously, nothing is perfect, and any workshop we do is subject to improvement, but we do have a good thing going .
The Michigan Daily, our university’s main student publication, apparently disagrees. The Daily has chosen to publish two articles within four or five days of each other, one an Op-Ed piece, and another a Letter to the Editor, disparaging SAPAC’s efforts. I would not even be mad if either article gave even a speck of constructive criticism, but the authors (both freshmen who recently received a workshop) were less than what one would consider constructive. The first, the Op-Ed piece, stated that our workshops are a waste of time, as freshmen already know all about these issues. The second, a Letter to the Editor (yes, I am aware that this person was probably not on the Daily staff, but they did choose to print it) condemning the workshop because it helps foster a culture of “free sex” and if we all stopped having “free sex” sexual violence would be eradicated. This was also a response to the fact that, as SAPAC collaborates with Sexperteam on this workshop, we provide free contraceptives to promote safe sex. The letter writer was horrified at the prospect of free condoms on a college campus, and ended his letter by questioning the moral compass of the entire university.
I could spend this entire blog post writing furious, well-written counterarguments, and taking cheap shots at the writers for being freshmen, and other crimes against humanity. As my roommates can testify, I have already done this at length. Instead, I would like to discuss journalistic responsibility, the conscious choice to repeatedly print pieces bashing a student group that deals with sensitive topics, and the fact that when one writes an article for a newspaper, it should be more than spouting off about your own whiny opinions without any backup or purpose beyond venting. That is what blogs are for (natch).
But wait! Isn’t the Op. Ed. column and letters for the editor strictly designed for people’s whiny opinions? Yes, I suppose. I am only asking that a measure of accuracy, relevance, and respect be taken in the writing and publishing of these articles. Just because you can publish anything you want doesn’t mean that it is ethical or worthwhile. One article was titled “U mandated Relationship Remix program is a joke.” Thanks Michigan Daily. Thanks. Though the Daily, to its credit, did allow a member of SAPAC to provide their own article in response to the first one, the printing of the second just seems a little ridiculous. Neither article provides research, neither provides specific criticism besides “Don’t bring condoms” and both authors just seem annoyed that they had to take time out of their schedule to listen for a little while. That isn’t journalism, it isn’t news, and it certainly isn’t helpful. If the Daily wants to report on Relationship Remix, can they at least write something serious about it?
Response to first article: http://www.michigandaily.com/opinion/viewpoint-importance-relationship-workshop