Workshops, training, should be spread across U of O faculties

Last week, the National Post published an article discussing a sexual assault prevention workshop run by the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Law, common law section that students must attend in order to graduate. The article quotes one recent alumnus of the law school, and several conversations this student allegedly had with current students. While these students claim that a mandatory sexual assault prevention workshop is inconvenient, the reality is that these workshops are a crucial new part of our education system.

The article says that students were mandated to attend one of the 10 sessions the faculty offered, which wrapped up at the beginning of this month. According to the Post, it seems that students were told to complete a workshop in order to graduate, even if  they would have to skip a class to do so. It appears unclear whether that was a message from teachers or the faculty as a whole. The U of O already has similar policies in place that require students to attend certain exams or have a specific attendance record to pass a course.

It’s unclear what the author of the Post article is against. The number of workshops seems adequate, as there would be over one per month with the academic year beginning in September, which offers plenty of time for students to attend one of the sessions. While students are busy, there is plenty of time to find a workshop that you can attend, especially given the importance of the subject matter.

This may shock you, but law students are training to go into the legal profession. This is a profession that handles cases of sexual assault all the time, and to be frank, those working in the field need to do a better job of handling such cases. As a result of their direct involvement with this sensitive topic, it’s a logical that law students should attend a sexual assault prevention workshop in order to graduate.

In fact, rather than asking why law students have to attend this workshop, we should be asking why we only require this of law students. Shouldn’t such training be compulsory for all students? As conversations around sexual assault become more common, having these workshops can serve as a way to further educate and hopefully reduce cases of sexual assault.

The point of the National Post story seems to be that students should not have to attend these workshops as they are not graded or part of a formal curriculum. However for all students, looking to enter a professional field or even just to live as a decent human being, we need to understand the nuances and impact of sexual assault. Just as we encourage students to attend professional development workshops and networking events, we should educate students on the importance of sexual assault prevention as well.