by Hani Yassine
The Lance – Arts Editor
While the first day of classes isn’t until Sept. 6, it didn’t prevent new first year students in receiving an early education on a delicate subject in the midst of Welcome Week proceedings.
The Residence Quad area was littered with young, fresh faces as New York Times bestselling author Harlan Cohen took the floor on the evening of Sept. 4. The keynote, officially titled ‘The Naked Truth about Dating’, delved into forming romantic relationships under a sober environment, essentially tying into the fundamentals of sexual consent. It aimed to inform as well as empower first-year students as they begin an undertaking on uncharted waters.
“As you start your university careers, you’re adults, you’re independent, you’re largely on your own, and as a result of that you have to take responsibility for your behaviour,” said student experience associate Vice-President Ryan Flannagan before introducing Cohen.
Over the past few years, Cohen has worked with the university to inform students on this very subject. In fully understanding its nature and delicacy, he makes it a point to create a dialogue in a way where it’s light, engaging and interactive. By doing so, he wants students to feel they can soundly express themselves without worry.
“I think if it’s done in a way where it’s really encouraging people to meet and to make great choices, they’ll be receptive,” Cohen said.
According to Beth Oakley, director of the Student Success Centre, the keynote is part of a mandate by Ontario’s Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities to provide awareness on sexual assault and consent. The keynote is also well-timed since as of Sept. 1 the university implemented a freshly written 10-page sexual misconduct policy, addressing aspects from the definitions of consent to the potential consequences of the policy’s violation.
While having this kind of conversation on the first day could prove to be a bit discomforting for new students, Oakley ultimately feels not immediately addressing it could be a potentially greater disservice.
“We had a lot discussion about that at our committee meetings, but really we know that, and not just in our campus that sexual assaults on campus do happen the first week,” Oakley said. “We feel it’s very critical to get the message out on the first day.”
Despite the subject, the keynote did prove to be a light, humorous affair as Cohen put students in playfully awkward situations through questions he asked and small observations made. He ensured to not make the speech stemming from fear, but instead to make the students feel truly welcome during the first day of Windsor Welcome Week.
“I want people to get comfortable with the uncomfortable, that they’re always supported here, there are always people, there are always places for community connection whenever they need it,” Cohen said.