Sexual violence is a topic that needs to be talked about, especially on a college campus.
Kaitlin Zies, Ferris’ Title IX Coordinator, is the woman behind the curtain of the sexual and interpersonal violence and response course. She arranges the course and directs questions that are associated with its content.
Every student at Ferris gets a request to accept or decline the course on Canvas. According to Zies, the assignment is a crucial part of their anti-violence prevention. The course is also a component of education efforts to follow federal guidance and state laws.
“Most importantly, [SPARC is meant] to engage the entire Ferris community in prevention and, ultimately, [the] elimination of sexual misconduct on our campus and in our community,” Zies said.
Failure to compete the course does not result in any direct consequences, however, there is talk of making more learning options available for the course, so students will be more likely to participate.
The SPARC assignment consists of three modules that add up to about an hour of completion. This year, 2,331 students at Ferris have completed the course.
“The first module defines consent and forms of sexual misconduct [like] sexual harassment, sexual assault, intimate partner violence and stalking and includes information about recognizing and responding to sexual misconduct,” Zies said.
After this, the course discusses the university’s policies based on sexual violence and provides information for on and off-campus support.
The third module is more hands-on and gives students scenarios that teaches them ways to say no and how to prevent and help others who may be experiencing sexual violence.
“The third module includes information and scenarios to help students be active bystanders and contribute positively to our campus culture and to the communities they are part of in the future,” Zies said.
Overall, the course describes what to do as a bystander and as a victim in these situations, as well as how to acknowledge signs of sexual violence. It also informs students of the resources provided to them on campus.
While this course is helpful and available to all students, the Title XI committee does more to implement education, prevention and awareness of sexual misconduct.
Title IX and the Anti-Violence Alliance work hand in hand to help and educate the Ferris community. According to the AVA’s website, there are many events throughout the school year for students, faculty and staff to engage in. The AVA puts together these events “to promote the awareness, education and prevention of relationship violence,” according to their website. This is just another part of their efforts to make Ferris and Big Rapids a safer place for everyone.
Sophomore Marisol Benitez is just one of the students who has participated in the SPARC course.
“I thought it was a good way to spread awareness on sexual assault on campus, and it’s a good way to inform others,” Benitez said. “It’s a serious topic that I don’t believe gets talked about enough, [and] it’s something that shouldn’t be hidden.”