Binghamton University’s restructuring of this year’s freshman orientation will result in the elimination of 20:1, a program designed to educate students on sexual assault awareness and prevention.
The 20:1 program was named in dedication to the approximately 20 women per hour who are sexually assaulted in the United States and has educated thousands of students since its conception at the University 15 years ago, according to its official website. The program uses a peer-to-peer model where students on campus educate other students on the topic of sexual consent. Their website states that they place an emphasis on educating young men involved in Greek life and athletics.
“The main goals are to: raise awareness of what constitutes sexual assault, define and explore consent, challenge perspectives and deeply held biases, challenge victim blaming and rape myths, explore and encourage bystander behavior, provide information on how to support victims and highlight available resources both on and off campus,” the 20:1 website reads.
Gregory Orlando, a sophomore majoring in political science, conducts presentations as a part of 20:1, and wrote in an email that the program makes a strong impact on students.
He said he is concerned about the message BU is sending by cutting the program from orientation.
“It is reassuring for people to know that their university will have their back if push comes to shove, whereas many other universities try to push incidents of sexual violence under the rug to save face,” Orlando wrote. “Removing 20:1 from orientation says that [BU] cares more about artificial appearances than the safety of their students.”
Orlando praised 20:1 for being a pioneer program, as he said it began conversations surrounding consent before others were comfortable discussing the topic. Orlando said the program will be replaced with a webinar, which he feels will be insufficient.
“These discussions cannot be replicated at home on a computer screen,” Orlando wrote. “Some aspects of consent can be confusing for some people. The interactive presentations allow those people to ask questions and clarify any misconceptions they may have. The presentations also make people aware of the resources that are offered to survivors of sexual assault, which may be hard to find otherwise.”
According to Johann Fiore-Conte, associate vice president for student affairs and assistant vice president for health and wellness, the entire orientation is currently in the early stages of being reworked. Fiore-Conte wrote in an email that 20:1 will continue to be a part of regular campus programming.
“We are always looking to improve our existing programming and are in the early stages of that process in regards to orientation,” Fiore-Conte wrote.
Madison Gowett, a senior majoring in biology, said she considers the 20:1 presentations to be an essential part of orientation because it shows incoming students how the University and its organizations care about preventing sexual assault.
“Most incoming freshmen are coming straight from high school, and I know most high schools never teach students about consent or sexual assault,” Gowett said. “The 20:1 presentation is truly one of the first times students may be learning about what consent is or isn’t.”
During her experience as vice president of the Pre-Physician Assistant Society, Nikita Narsingh, a junior majoring in biology, was required to attend a 20:1 informational training. Narsingh said she is proud that BU requires students in positions of power to attend these trainings and found the 20:1 presentations to be insightful and memorable.
“I remember the 20:1 session I attended during my freshman orientation,” Narsingh said. “It was incredibly informational … and also offered so many outlets for students that might come into contact with interpersonal violence.”
Narsingh said she was upset to hear that 20:1 was being cut from orientation, highlighting that the program is especially important for students who are away from the comfort of their homes for the first time.
“Incoming classes need to be educated about interpersonal violence especially on a college campus their first time living away from home and being adults,” Narsingh said. “Not only do they need to be educated on the intricacies of interpersonal violence, but they need to know the resources available on this campus should they be subject to it.”
Without the 20:1 program presentation at orientation, Gowett said she fears students will be ignorant to the resources available to them.
“It’s a great way for victims to learn about support that they have both on campus and in the Binghamton area,” Gowett said. “I think cutting 20:1 at freshman orientation would reflect very poorly on the University, and I’m very disappointed that they would even consider it.”