Boundaries on campus

Why they’re important and how to talk about them

Boundaries are an important skill to learn, and the Anti-Violence Alliance is set on teaching students their value with new workshops.

The AVA is a coalition of both faculty and students designed to talk about tough topics like assault, boundaries and communication. The aim of the project is to help people navigate complicated relationship issues with peers and with  those in positions of power. Workshops, like the one hosted this week about boundaries, are used to educate.

Darby Dean, a peer educator for the AVA and student at Ferris, was first interested in the organization after hearing Raven Hills, the project director for the Office of Violence Against Women, speak on topics related to healthy relationships and the importance of concepts like consent, trust and boundaries.

With people being in such close contact in college and really coming into their own, she felt it was important to help spread the message and educate on these topics.

“I think one of the biggest misconceptions of boundaries is that people are feeling anxious about bringing up a boundary so early,” Dean said. “They’re afraid of someone’s judgment, and if we can break down that barrier, the earlier we do that, the healthier and more long-term the relationship is.”

The boundaries workshop was in large part focused on talking about the ways people engage with setting up barriers for themselves physically, mentally and digitally.

In regards to navigating these properly, Dean said the most important aspect of any of these three categories is continuing to communicate about them, as they do not end when the subject is done and dropped. They must constantly be talked about in order for both people in a relationship to feel comfortable and safe. This extends to not just romantic partners, but to any kind of peer-to-peer relationship.

“That’s the whole idea of college; it’s to develop relationships, and we’re all jumping into new friendships,” Dean said. “It’s really crucial to educate yourself on boundaries and where they lie, so that when you go out into the real world, you have those resources already…”

In addition to Dean, Hills was also present at the workshop. She contributed additional information about what she felt was important, both about boundaries and the impact of college and people’s backgrounds on learning about these concepts.

“You are learning so much as a college student, and [you] tend to be more open-minded and willing to engage with information that might run counter to the ways you were raised or what you’ve always taken to be true,” Hills said. “I have found college students are more willing to rethink what they have taken for granted and to think critically about how they draw conclusions.”

Hills’ role as director puts her at the forefront of the prevention of crimes like assault, stalking and other harmful actions taken within a domestic or dating setting on campus.

Her passion for the role came from her time as an undergraduate student. Ever since she has wanted to help create spaces for survivors of interpersonal violence and provide support to make sure others don’t experience the same trauma in the future.

For Hills, she hopes both herself and the AVA are a good place to start with helping students and giving them a place to talk about these important topics.

“These issues are so complicated, and there is always room for improvement, but the fact that the AVA has support from the administration at Ferris is a huge leap forward,” Hills said.

Hills hopes that these workshops and other resources will be helpful for Ferris students looking to learn more about these subjects and unlearn toxic and harmful ideas that can be present in TV shows, cartoons and other media. With greater access to resources, she hopes that others will work to include better ideas of communication and establish standards for their relationships that will help them in the future.

“My hope is that they think about ways to incorporate the information in their own lives and develop healthier relationship dynamics and continue to engage with the work of the AVA,” Hills said.