Senior Trevor Molin is one of two new healthy masculinity and relationship student assistants, dedicated to teaching and expanding upon consent, healthy masculinity and gender-based violence education at Elon University.
A joint position with the Gender and LGBTQIA Center and women’s, gender and sexualities program, the roles were created for the fall 2022 semester and align with the GLC’s goal of marketing training and education to more male-indentifying students on campus.
“It’s partially on us, but I think it’s also on people that we’re trying to present to, and to masculine folks and men to be open to and be curious about what we’re trying to say,” Molin said. “If we’re not all looking at each other with respect and compassion, it can kind of fall apart at times.”
Junior Oli McGowan, manager of the Coalition of Learning for Empowerment and Anti-violence Resources at Elon and who goes by he/they pronouns, emphasized the importance of engaging everyone at their own pace as well as ensuring that communication is open and free with students and faculty on campus.
In McGowan’s own experience, he said his female-identifying friends are more enthusiastic to engage in conversations about consent because, statistically, sexual assault affects more women than men.
“From my male-identified friends, most of them are open to the conversation but aren’t super excited about it, and I do have some guy friends who are like, ‘No, absolutely not,’” McGowan said. “We’ve also found that it is difficult to create this programming and have meaningful engagement from fraternity groups and stuff because the term ‘healthy masculinity’ feels kind of scary.”
Becca Bishopric Patterson, associate director of the GLC, said she believes that utilizing peer educators is the best way to initiate much-needed progressive conversations. According to Bishopric Patterson, the GLC has already had some presentation requests from Elon’s Panhellenic Association and varsity athletic program.
Although a slow and sometimes frustrating process, Bishopric Patterson and McGowan stress the need to gradually build relationships with the community in order to open the door to communication and understanding.
This is also something that Molin, who goes by he/they pronouns, is focused on in his new position.
“A big part of what we’re trying to do is lay groundwork and create relationships with organizations,” Molin said. “Something I really would like to do in this role is be able to meet more one on one with particular people in athletics, fraternity life, acapella and other social organizations … Being able to talk to their leadership and actually better understand what people think when they hear something like healthy masculinity.”
Molin, McGowan and Bishopric Patterson all said they feel that male students and faculty should be aware of the privilege they have and use their positions to create an environment where everyone feels safe.
“White, cis, het men on campus hold a very, very large responsibility to contribute to the environment on campus,” McGowan said. “With the privilege of being a man comes responsibility to ensure that you’re creating an environment that is safe for everybody and not contributing to any toxicity or any aggression.”
According to junior Madeleine Hollenbeck, a peer educator for the GLC, a member of the Alamance Youth Connected Project and a part of CLEAR, the GLC is first targeting groups who it feels will respond well to training, such as the Gender and Sexuality Living Learning Community, classes within the women’s, gender and sexuality studies minor and professors that are strong allies with the GLC.
Once the GLC has gained a foothold with these groups on campus, Hollenbeck said it will focus on Greek life, athletics and Elon 1010 classes.
“Educate the people who need it rather than the people that will just agree with us,” Hollenbeck said. “You want to reach the people who don’t share your opinions and values, so that you can give them another perspective.”
As a woman, Hollenbeck said she also feels that including the men on campus in conversations and education efforts is crucial to forming an environment and culture that promotes safety and understanding. One example where Elon still has room to improve, according to Hollenbeck, is catcalling.
“It’s frustrating because yelling back at them is just more antagonizing and could lead to something worse than if you just ignore them and keep walking,” Hollenbeck said. “I don’t know how to dismantle that kind of culture around Elon. I feel like it should be easier with such a female-dominated population that we have here. … As women, we shouldn’t be responsible for changing the culture. They need to. They need to do that work.”
While there are some mandatory trainings, such as the online consent education that all incoming Elon students have to complete, Hollenbeck is hesitant to implement more mandatory education opportunities — largely because she feels most men are not actively engaged in changing the culture.
“I think it should be mandatory, but I think that if it’s something that people are forced to go to, they might not absorb the information as well,” Hollenbeck said. “The way that they’re so passive, often about consent education, really doesn’t help the culture … We need to involve men as often as we can because if they’re often the problem, they can be the solution.”
Bishopric Patterson also said she wants to be clear that most men are not perpetrating sexual violence, but she feels the passive majority need to be educated and engaged.
“That means that there are a whole lot of other men … who aren’t perpetrating violence and can actually create a lot of good by holding other men accountable and promoting messages that are talking about consent, talking about supporting survivors, talking about equality and respect and how to use your privilege for good,” Bishopric Patterson said. “I think that’s really what we want to focus on.”
While there is always room for improvement, Bishopric Patterson, Hollenbeck and McGowan feel that Elon has numerous quality resources in the realm of consent education and sexual violence. For the 2022-23 academic year, their main focus is making these resources more visible to the rest of campus.
“There’s always things to improve on, but I think that there are the right people making the right efforts in attempts to ensure that students have resources and education,” McGowan said.
Through contacting the GLC or submitting a request form on Phoenix Connect, people and organizations in the Elon community can request training presentations, given by trained students, on topics such as consent education or gender-based violence.
Students and faculty can walk into the GLC, located in upstairs Moseley room 209, at any time between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. during the week or email at GLC@elon.edu, as well as follow its social media pages @elonglc on Instagram and @ElonGLC on Facebook.
Bishopric Patterson and associate director of the GLC for violence response AK Krauss also serve as confidential reporters, where they are not mandated to report anything to the university if students wanted to talk privately or ask for guidance about sexual violence experiences. Bishopric Patterson is located in the GLC, while Krauss is located on the second floor of the Koury Athletic Center in room 213.
Students can also call the SafeLine number on the back of their Phoenix Cards, which is a confidential violence response resource.
“The goal is to make sure students feel like they are safe and they have resources that they can go to, should something happen,” McGowan said. “I think that education across the board is getting better. There’s always work to do.”