Thoughts on “Think About It”

Georges Sakr

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As of this semester, all AUB students, undergraduates and graduates, are required to complete the online “Think About It” training offered by Campus Clarity.

Those who do not “disadvantage themselves with respect to AUB processes such as registration,” as per the periodical AUB email reminding students to complete the training.

While the idea itself is much appreciated and direly-needed by most of AUB’s self-aware students, the application itself is disastrous. Many students have shared their opinions on the training with us, and their opinions are exposed here anonymously.

It is one thing to impose a training such as this one on continuing students.This training can provide much-needed basic guidance to people with no experience living and studying on campuses. However, imposing it on graduating students, who will never set foot on a university campus again as of summer, will do little more than force them to skim through, click “next” randomly while doing something else, and waste time they may consider better off dedicated to studying for finals.

On another hand, such a training is highly interactive and the content is well-explained. For students who happen to have hours between two classes, or those willing or able to spend time on campus, this may not be a bad thing – after all, internet connectivity is amazing at AUB. Most of the time.

For the rest of the student body, including those who don’t live on campus, have a two-day week, or have to work part-time to cover the exorbitant tuition fees, the training will need to be taken at home. Since this training is mostly video files, which consume considerable bandwidth and can take quite some time to load, that’s not usually feasible unless they have brilliant connectivity. A good solution to this problem might be an option to read the content rather than to show it in videos – after all, most of the videos consist of text flashing across the screen as someone joyously reads it out.

With regards to the content, it is fair to say that the course covers three major areas rather well for its length: discrimination on xenophobic grounds, substance abuse, and physical abuse. The three topics are important for university students to take note of, but in some cases, the information presented is not very relevant. In other cases, the way it is presented is not completely relevant to the socio-cultural context of AUB.

The discrimination chapter opens by introducing four American students, with American biographies and American dreams. The opinion of some AUB students is that they are stereotypical characters from American soap operas or TV shows, and we have to agree that out of four people, it isn’t very likely that one has to be a gay sportsman who comes out to all of his friends, one has to be a vegan, one has to have lived everywhere, and so on. This representation of the student body may possibly hold on a campus in the USA, but it does not represent the AUB student body.
Some of the questions asked in the chapter could benefit people who are xenophobic at heart; but how does the administration imagine a member of AUB’s LGBT+ community would receive the question “are homosexual relationships different than heterosexual ones?” In fact, why does the non-discrimination training not include a B or a T out of the LGBT expression?

The substance abuse chapter is very interesting, but it does give a lot of thought to drinking when you think that, for a large part of AUB’s student body, religion theoretically forbids drinking. That aside, even for those of us who drink conscientiously, it isn’t very likely that we, (mostly) non-Americans, and therefore, taught and tested in the metric system, would think in terms of fluid ounces (oz).

As for the whole part in which they explain the “proof” system – if you haven’t taken the training yet, “80 proof” means “40 percent alcohol” – who amongst us actually asks their bartender to see the bottles they use to mix a drink? Besides, most young adults might find it somewhat patronizing to have people dressed as bartenders stand behind a bar to explain smart drinking throughout the chapter.

To someone who spoke to us about the training, the physical abuse chapter brought back traumatic memories. This chapter is perhaps the most relevant to our socio-cultural background, and yet it does have a major flaw: most of the storytelling in the chapter involves some form of alcoholic incapacitation.

And yet, again, a large proportion of our student body does not – whether for religious purposes or for the simple sake of going back to their dorm and overnighting – drink to the point of complete incapacitation. Even if some do, a world of other possibilities could lead up to rape. Many times, the aggressor is simply more physically powerful than the victim. In many cases, there is a considerable amount of psychological manipulation involved.

Yes, alcohol and rape drugs are often the incapacitator, but why is most of the chapter on rape discussing alcohol if the society we live in often turns a blind eye on domestic violence?

Dear administrators, we’re all for training the student body to recognize marginalization, intoxication and abuse. These are facts of life and we definitely need to be prepared to face them. But is it really fair to say you’ve trained us if you’re uprooting a culturally irrelevant training and forcing us to take it out of nowhere in the middle of a semester?

What of those of us who have experienced intoxication or rape firsthand? Are the counseling center’s half-hour sessions with a same therapist for the 8000-some-strong student body supposed to suffice?

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