Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, a basic psychological theory proposed in the mid-20th century, depicts a pyramid of requirements for human growth and development.
At the base of this pyramid lie physiological needs such as air, water, food and shelter — all the elemental prerequisites for survival. Next comes safety: health and well-being, personal and financial security. Love and belonging, esteem and self-actualization round out the pyramid’s peak.
Fairly basic stuff. So basic, in fact, that the University of Maryland orientation director, Gerry Strumpf, invoked Maslowian geometry when outlining the summer freshman orientation program.
“When you first get here, you’ve got to worry about your physiological and safety needs to get up higher to your emotional needs,” Strumpf said in an interview with The Diamondback. “We see our summer programs as meeting those basic needs: ‘Where am I gonna sleep, where am I gonna eat and what classes am I going to take?'”
Protection from sexual misconduct and medical and legal resources for assault victims, apparently, lie among the emotional needs to take a backseat to course scheduling and dining plans.
The two-day summer orientation programs required for all freshmen don’t address this university’s sexual misconduct policy whatsoever, and they provide only a passing reference to the Office of Civil Rights and Sexual Misconduct.
Strumpf provided a variety of reasons why she feels orientation programming isn’t the proper place to raise awareness of sexual misconduct, including the following:
1. “We’re not going to change the world by talking to 4,000 students at one time and lecturing at them.”
2. “When they come to [UNIV100: The Student in the University], we’re going to talk about it at a very high level.”
3. “Also — and I’m going to be gender-specific — but I think it’s more a women’s issue, that they’ve got to be really careful.”
Let’s operate under the assumption that the last reason — an all-too-pervasive myth that activists and this editorial board have struggled to bust time and again — was merely a verbal misstep on the part of Strumpf, who elsewhere in her interview acknowledged the importance of sexual misconduct training for all freshmen.
Still, less than half of this year’s freshman class enrolled in a UNIV course this semester, according to the schedule of classes.
What’s more, administrators didn’t email out the mandated sexual misconduct training module until Sept. 1, six days after move-in began. As of Sept. 17, just 35 percent of students had completed it.
When and where will students — especially those not enrolled in UNIV100 sections piloting the sexual misconduct training — receive the nuanced education they need regarding consent?
The “red zone,” the period between freshman move-in and Thanksgiving break, places female students at their highest risk for sexual assault. And at a time when the usual 1-in-4 statistic has faced a rising number of critiques, more than 25 percent of female undergraduates at 27 well-regarded universities said they were victims of sexual misconduct and assault, according to an Association of American Universities survey released Monday.
Most high schools don’t account for such dialogues in their curricula, and if this university doesn’t reinforce the topic of sexual misconduct early and often, students might never take heed.
This university needs to reach both potential perpetrators and victims as soon as they set foot on the campus, and that starts with summer orientation.
Student orientation leaders, often the first upperclassmen newly enrolled students encounter, need to level with freshmen as peers on the topic of sexual misconduct in the same ways they do drug and alcohol abuse. Administrators need to champion the Title IX office and other resources for victims of sexual misconduct.
We need to start saying more, and it needs to start at orientation. Strumpf promised she would find a way to work in the topic of sexual misconduct next summer, and her office must develop concrete plans to deliver an in-depth discussion. Course scheduling and dining plans are important, but protecting our most vulnerable students has to come first.