UG should make MeToo training mandatory for everyone, both students and staff

The University of Maastricht has made MeToo training mandatory for first-year students. Should the UG do the same?

This shouldn’t even be a question, said several students and staff members after UKrant placed a call for responses; everyone at the UG, not just first-years, would benefit from this sort of training. Emmanual Oliveiro writes: ‘It would be a good idea to make this kind of training mandatory at the UG. It wouldn’t just benefit the internal workplace culture, but also make for a healthy workplace culture outside the uni.’

Bad experiences

When Sophia Badhan gets together with her female roommates, they regularly end up talking about sexual harassment. Each and every one of them has experienced it, and ‘our stories are all similar’, she writes.

She also talks to her male friends about it. ‘They’re very supportive, but I don’t think many of them know how deeply rooted the problem really is or how many of us experience harassment on a daily basis.’

‘While people can only truly understand what it’s like when they’ve had a similar experience themselves, I think it could be really valuable to talk about this in a constructive way’, she feels.

Useful and productive

Maria Magas agrees with this. ‘I think it would be great if our universities provided workshops or lectures on the topic’, she writes. ‘This kind of training could really contribute to stopping and preventing sexual harassment.’

Kristin McGee, associate professor of music, agrees 100 percent. Training for new students during the first week of the academic year would be ‘very useful and productive’.

Open debate

To be really successful, the training should be ‘open format’, D. Toews suggests. ‘It should engender discussion and allow people to voice their opinion.’ It would be even better if the training is for both students and lecturers. ‘I think both parties face the same issues.’

The UG already provides active-bystander training, which teaches people how to recognise sexual harassment. That could be a starting point, someone else writes. ‘I can imagine people revealing some very personal stuff during that kind of training. It might be a good idea for the UG to hire an external organisation to provide a safe space for people to take the training and share their experiences, if they so desire.’

It affects everyone

‘We should definitely re-examine the ‘don’t rock the boat’ attitude at the UG’, writes M. Geers. The problem doesn’t just affect first-year students, but everyone at the university.

‘We should start with all managers (the board, department heads, sector managers, research supervisors, etc.) and make it part of their training that they should confront employees if they display inappropriate behaviour and teach them the best way to do that. They should also tell the employees about the consequences of repeating the behaviour, such as potentially getting fired. It’s important that everyone learns to confront perpetrators, even if they’re a close colleague.’

Bad

Sociology student Ronnie Huisman has an entirely different opinion. He worries that making MeToo training mandatory will do more bad than good. ‘Where is the proof that training helps to diminish sexual harassment or sexual violence? What will the training entail? Who will provide the training? Why only target first-years?’ he asks.

He continues: ‘For people who are the victim of something as horrible as rape, I hope the system works as designed and the perpetrator is punished and that the victim receives proper help. If this is not the case, let’s put our time, money, and energy towards improving the system so inappropriate behaviour has fitting consequences.

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