Building a culture of respect and consent

Students attending one of the workshops

Following the recommendations by the NUS Review Committee on Sexual Misconduct in June this year, the University developed a compulsory module “A Culture of Respect and Consent” for all students and staff. The course has already been rolled out as first priority for students staying on campus, who will have to finish it within a month. Students who are not living in hostels can complete the course, which offers the option of online or in-person, within a year.

The course aims to raise awareness and educate the NUS community on an inclusive and respectful campus, workplace culture — as well as to sustain a conversation on issues related to these topics.

“Engaging with students to build a culture of respect and consent is not new to NUS. Several communities within NUS, such as the University Scholars Programme and Yale-NUS College, have been conducting courses, workshops and discussions about respect and consent for several years now. The recent recommendation of the NUS Review Committee that such a course be made compulsory is timely and builds upon these pre-existing efforts,” said NUS Law Vice-Dean, Student Life & Global Relations Associate Professor Eleanor Wong, a member of the team that developed the module.

The course content is based on those existing workshops and modules. Participants may choose to do a 90-minute face-to-face workshop or a 45-minute online module. Face-to-face workshops are conducted by faculty members and staff who are trained to facilitate candid and open discussion. The online course also includes opportunities for students to express their views and receive feedback.

Discussions and reflections on scenarios such as cyber harassment, power relationships, sexual advances of a physical and non-physical nature, past and present consent, will offer participants a chance to contemplate their own individual perspective on these issues as well as those of others. These real-life scenarios are aimed at stimulating self-reflection, and to tease out learning points. As many of the issues do not have obvious answers, questions are designed to reinforce common values and provoke thinking.

NUS Arts and Social Sciences PhD student Philip Boafo, who recently took part in one of the workshops, said they were useful in apprising students of the need to be more conscious of respecting others and when to seek consent. “It has widened my understanding and appreciation for living with other people who come from different backgrounds and cultures. It has also boosted my sense of awareness on when to seek consent and the possible ramifications when consent is disregarded,” he added.

Other areas include defining key terms such as consent, respect and voyeurism; actions that could contribute or be detrimental to a consent culture; as well as policies and resources that NUS has in place to address sexual misconduct.

The Office of the Senior Deputy President & Provost told NUS News that this course is part of a series of initiatives being put in place to build a safer NUS campus.