Stuyvesant Introduces Sexual Misconduct Seminars

The Student Union and guidance department have initiated new sexual harassment workshops as freshman guidance seminars.

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“No longer should we stay silent about our traumas, no longer should anyone hide their trauma. They should be able to tell others about their stories and go through this emotional journey where they are able to discover themselves and the answer to their trauma. We are trying to enforce this mentality that this will never be okay, that you should always keep your hands to yourself,” senior and Student Union (SU) President William Wang said.

In March, Stuyvesant announced the introduction of sexual harassment workshops that will be implemented in April and May. These sessions will replace freshman biology free periods and serve as seminars hosted by the guidance department.

The sexual harassment courses were proposed by freshmen and SU External Affairs delegates Theo Kubovy-Weiss and Neve Diaz Carr. Kubovy-Weiss and Carr first proposed these ideas to SPARK Coordinator Angel Colon. With the help of Colon, the idea was then brought to the SU, guidance department, and Principal Eric Contreras.

Kubovy-Weiss initiated these courses to spread awareness about and prevent sexual misconduct. “Both Neve and I have experienced or at least witnessed sexual misconduct, and it’s really prevalent in both [...] Stuyvesant and our society as a whole,” Kubovy-Weiss said. “That’s something that we wanted to combat. It’s obviously very destructive and traumatizing to any victim of sexual misconduct, and it’s a problem that we think is very important to prevent.”

Wang also stressed the importance of adolescents understanding the consequences of sexual harassment. “Right now, we just want to make sure that the future generations know how to keep their hands to themselves unless consent is given or [...] deal with the emotional pressure when touched or assaulted by someone,” he said.

The courses will be led by guidance counselors Joseph Feola, Paul Goldsman, Sarah Kornhauser, and Kristina Uy. Kornhauser attributed the development of the courses to the students involved. “[Though] the guidance department had some say in the courses, the students have created the entire course and will be running the course. The guidance counselors will be streamlining the course[s] by teaching the curriculum on behalf of these students,” she said.

The SU and guidance department designed two sessions. The first workshop will be dedicated to introducing students to sexual misconduct. “This would be more of an educational, informative session in which we would go through exactly what sexual misconduct is, its different forms, what kinds of responses [you can] have, [and] how to help someone,” junior and SU Vice President Vishwaa Sofat said.

The second workshop will further prompt students to think critically about sexual harassment. “We [will] use hypothetical situations and get a dialogue started in which students bounce ideas off each other and use information they learned from the previous session [to discuss] what they can do as a bystander, as a victim, [or] as a survivor,” Sofat said.

Kornhauser specified that the curriculum will educate students and spread awareness about the realities of harassment. “Within the courses, there will be both statistical information and preventive measures students can take as bystanders or victims of harassment. We will clear up misunderstandings and myths that tend to come up during conversations of misconduct,” she said.

Kubovy-Weiss emphasized that misconceptions of sexual misconduct can make it difficult to identify. “In general, people associate sexual harassment with rape or violence, but […] it comes in a wide variety of forms. These can be jokes that were made with poor taste, whether it’s from a friend or a significant other, someone you don’t know, or a classmate,” he said.

A recent survey conducted by the SU reported that 82.8 percent of students believe that Stuyvesant would benefit from education surrounding sexual behavior. In addition, students have expressed interest regarding these workshops. “I am very excited for these workshops since they will be a great opportunity to start a conversation. I believe many students will feel empowered knowing that these classes are there to support students who have experienced misconduct and to teach bystanders to stand up for them,” Freshman Caucus Co-President Emma Wong said.

Sofat hopes to use these seminars as a pathway for teaching other social issues. “The short-term goal is to kind of start a dialogue, not only about sexual misconduct but other social problems that exist within Stuyvesant [and] in the community outside that we, as students, want to address and should be prepared to take on. We do a great job learning the textbook knowledge, but we often don’t get [non-textbook knowledge] in classroom settings,” he said. “A long-term goal would be to continue working with the guidance department and other projects they take on and other presentations, workshops, [and] sessions that they do with the freshmen.”

Similarly, Kubovy-Weiss hopes to expand this program to other schools in the future. “Stuyvesant is known for [being] where a lot of initiatives start,” Kubovy-Weiss said. “We hope that moving on to the future, [...] we can expand this to other schools because this is such an important issue.”