Members of the Plattsburgh State community have begun to voice concern over the recent implementation of the program Haven as a way to educate PSUC students on sexual assault.

As reported in an earlier issue of Cardinal Points, the PSUC administration has partnered with online media literacy outlet EverFi on a trial basis in response to increased conversations about the prevalence of sexual violence on college campuses.

Haven was implemented as a two-part program. Students were expected to complete the first portion by Oct. 17, while the second part will not be due until Dec. 5.

PSUC Vice President for Student Affairs Bryan Hartman said students could expect to complete surveys, which would help personalize each student’s experience. The survey responses are confidential and the college will receive information only about the entirety of the student body, not any answers from individual students.

Since completing the first part, students and faculty have reached out to the campus with both positive and negative feedback.
Simona Sharoni, former chair of the PSUC women and gender studies department who is currently on leave, sent several emails to PSUC faculty members and Cardinal Points to voice her concern.

“Unleashing this program is not only a slap in the face of survivors but also disrespectful to our department and the work that we have been doing on this issue, especially in the past five years since we introduced the peer education program and a popular one credit course ‘Sexuality, Power, and Relationships,’” Sharoni said in the email. “We have had over 1,000 enroll in this course and describe it as ‘life transforming’ in exit questionnaires.”

Sharoni also said she did not approve of the school’s use of Haven as an educational tool, as she felt it was insensitive toward survivors and lacked coverage of accountability.

In response to such feedback, Hartman said PSUC is still unsure whether they will be using Haven as an educational tool in the future.

“The jury is still out,” Hartman said. “We are not wedded to this particular tool.”

Governor Andrew Cuomo’s recent announcement of a SUNY-wide effort to combat sexual assault means that PSUC, along with every other SUNY school, will be required to meet upcoming mandates, Hartman said.

“It will be up to us, through these mandates as well as our own desires, to change the culture and raise awareness of this topic,” he said.

The SUNY Board of Trustees is expected to release its series of new policies by early December, Hartman said, causing the school to reconvene its President’s Task Force, which was developed in 2011 to broaden the scope of sexual assault awareness at PSUC.

Along with Hartman, PSUC Sociology Professor Lynda Ames has worked with this group and will continue to do so in the spring semester.

Ames said she believes PSUC will need to implement a variety of different avenues for its students, as some people do better with online work, while others may be more successful in face-to-face scenarios.

“A lot has changed since 2011,” she said. “This has become a much bigger topic, and the focus is very welcome.”

Email Maggie McVey at news@cardinalpointsonline.com.

<a href="http://cardinalpointsonline.com/byline/maggie-mcvey/" rel="tag">Maggie McVey</a>