First, a disclaimer: today’s column is not about Salt ‘n’ Pepa, so please do not read on in expectation of an informative piece concerning ’80s hip-hop. Now you can’t say I didn’t warn you. Second, I have an important question for you. It’s really easy, I promise. Just give me a “yes” or a “no.” Are you ready? Okay, here it is: have you taken the Sexual Conduct Survey yet?
If you said yes, thank you and good job. I really don’t have anything else to say to you. Please accept my blessing and go frolic through a sunlit field made of gumdrops and children’s smiles and self-gov.
If you said no, we need to talk. And by talk I mean that I will systematically deconstruct all the possible excuses you have for not taking the survey and thereby prove that you should take it. But first, I want to address the one scenario in which not taking the survey is okay. In the case of a person who is a survivor of sexual assault/abuse, the survey could be triggering—if taking the survey would legitimately be a very negative experience for you, you should not take it. That is completely and totally alright. Of course, if you are a survivor and choose to take the survey, that’s totally alright as well. It is worth noting here that you can choose to stop taking the survey at any time, and you can skip any question you don’t feel comfortable answering. While everyone’s input is very valuable, it should not come at the price of distress on the part of those taking the survey. Moving on to poor excuses…
1) “I didn’t know about it.” I hope this isn’t a real excuse, because I’m not sure that you can go to school here and not know about the survey. We received an email and a note in campus mail telling us to take it; posters were put up; a link was available on Pweb; people were talking about it—sending emails to classes and making announcements and having conversations and posting links on Facebook and Twitter. The survey was readily available and highly publicized; there’s literally no way you could have not known about it.
2) “I didn’t have time.” The survey webpage says that it takes “approximately 10 to 20 minutes to complete.” I absolutely refuse to believe that your life is too busy for you to spare twenty minutes of your time. Period.
3) “It’s not relevant to me.” Do you go to Grinnell? Then it is relevant to you. The point of the survey, according to its webpage, is to “identify strategies to make [Grinnell] a more welcoming campus,” strategies that will “reduce the likelihood of future sexual misconduct and violence.” This applies to everyone, and it should be an issue that is important to everyone. If you want Grinnell to be a place where people feel safe, where consent is clearly defined, and where sexual partners respect each other (and I dearly hope that you do want these things), then the survey matters.
4) “I haven’t experienced any type of sexual misconduct.” Re-read my answer to excuse #3.
Also, they can’t accurately determine how many people have experienced sexual misconduct if no one who hasn’t experienced it doesn’t respond. That’s science. And keep in mind that the survey is about more than just your personal experiences—it also asks about your definition of consent and how you feel about intervening in certain situations, among other things. The bottom line here is that everyone’s opinions and experiences are important to form a complete picture of the situation.
5) “I don’t want to/I don’t care.” Re-read my answers to Excuses #3 and #4, then take a good hard look at both your life and your choices. Make an effort to care about an issue that is very important on this campus, one that affects many people here—maybe even some of your friends.
Obviously, I think you should take the survey—but this one survey isn’t the issue. It’s an issue, but not the issue. The real issue is caring enough about the things happening on this campus (i.e. sexual harassment) to be a part of the dialogue surrounding them. That’s part of self-gov. It doesn’t work if people don’t care. So please care, please do the small things that prove that self-gov is still alive and kicking.