Saturday, June 22, 2024

Wellness Week: Talks, games, freebies

By Aleksandra Sidorova

Wellness Week is shaping up to be an event steadily hosted every semester. This Wellness Week, from Feb. 27 to March 3, highlighted the resources available to students in regards to their mental, physical and sexual wellbeing through talks, walk-ins, games and a fair full of freebies.

The Student Health and Counseling Center held a three-hour walk-in session for sexually transmitted infections testing. Students can request testing for STIs such as chlamydia, syphilis, gonorrhea, hepatitis A and B and more by calling the SHCC. Nine students attended the walk-in session, which is a turnout the center is “happy” about, Assistant Director for Medical Services Susan Sand said. The Center for Disease Control recommends that sexually active adults test for STIs once a year, and Sand said it is important to test because some diseases can be present without any symptoms showing. 

Continuing the theme of safe and healthy sexual encounters were two sessions about consent Wednesday, March 1. The first, at noon, focused on basic Title IX regulations and information about New York state’s “Enough is Enough” law with Casey Belrose, Enough is Enough Coordinator at Planned Parenthood of the North Country.

“Enough is Enough” is the nickname of Article 129-B, which regulates policies on sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence and stalking across all colleges and universities in New York. The law, in part, requires all colleges to use the same definition of consent in their policies: “Affirmative consent is a knowing, voluntary, and mutual decision among all participants to engage in sexual activity.”

“My hope is that none of this is new or shocking to anybody,” Belrose said after describing the conditions under which consent can be given.

Six people attended Belrose’s session, including two community advocates, Joe LaPeter and David Batista. Both took notes on their phones during the event, which they attended for professional development. LaPeter said it’s a “good idea” to be familiar with consent, and as a CA in Wilson Hall — a first-year dorm — he wants to be confident that the information he gives his residents is complete, correct and current. 

Batista, a CA in deFredenburgh, said learning more about consent would make him, as someone responsible for informing his residents, more valuable to them. Belrose’s presentation prompted Batista to research laws similar to “Enough is Enough” in other states.

The second presentation at 7 p.m. in the Warren Ballrooms at Angell College Center— “Wanna Make Out?” — featured Lori Bednarchik, a professional speaker on sexual communication. The event saw a turnout of more than 250, as Chair of the Consortium and Community Director of deFredenburgh, Hood and Kent Halls Zane Bazzano estimated based on sign-ins online and on paper. Attendance was so high that extra chairs were brought in, and some students sat on the floor. The majority of attendees were Greek life members.

Bednarchik explained the requirements for consent, including that it should not only be clear but also enthusiastic, and spoke about consent in situations familiar to students, emphasizing that consent is, in itself, “sexy.” At the end of the program, attendees participated in an activity where they evaluated consent in various situations, raising a red, yellow or green card in response to the prompt. Some situations saw all three colors raised, and the room came alive with discussion.

Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Allison Heard attended both events. At Bednarchik’s session, she spoke about the importance of education and awareness in preventing sexual violence, stating the goal of her division is to “work ourselves out of a job.” 

SUNY Plattsburgh, like any other college or university in New York, is required to mandate consent training for athletes, Greek life members, first-years and transfer students and provide other students opportunities to learn about consent, such as Belrose’s and Bednarchik’s presentations.

Students were able to learn about health resources on- and off-campus as well as get a variety of freebies at the Wellness Fair in the Warren Ballrooms Thursday, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Freebies included treats, coloring pages, lip balm, keychains, stickers, skincare masks, sleeping masks and stress balls, which students could get from tables set up by Planned Parenthood, SHCC, Chartwells’ Resident Dietician Sarah Yandow, the Student Assistance Program, University Police and more.

Today, March 3, students can attend a Speed Friending event hosted by mental health counselors Fran Francis and Inga Karpenko at 3 p.m. in the Warren Ballrooms. The event aims to help students with social anxiety through exposure therapy. Students will have two minutes to discuss an assigned question or topic with someone new. The questions are designed to be answered without thinking “too much about it,” Francis said.

“It’s low-pressure, it’s low-stakes,” Francis said. 

The recently established Wellness Consortium planned this Wellness Week’s events with a focus on areas that members thought needed the most attention. Bazzano said his goal is to host Wellness Week, complete with a Wellness Fair, every semester. Wellness Weeks in previous semesters did not have a Wellness Fair, but saw visits from therapy dogs and therapy donkeys.

Bazzano co-founded the Wellness Consortium with Director of Campus Housing and Community Living Jim Sherman. The Consortium comprises departments such as Housing, Student Health and Counseling, Athletics, Fraternity and Sorority Life and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, with more departments showing interest.

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