Acadia has new plans for orientation week, students' union talking about consent

Published on September 2, 2014

Acadia University is renewing its busy Welcome Week as students return to campus, filling residence rooms and apartments while doubling the population of Wolfville.

Welcome Week, which officially got underway Aug. 30 and continues through Sept. 8, has a couple of notable exceptions amid the usual variety of social events, academic programs and orientation sessions for incoming students.

On Sept. 6, Acadia will celebrate Axes in Action Day, a student fundraising effort that replaces Shine Day (Shinerama), the traditional fundraiser for cystic fibrosis that took place for at least the past 40 years.

This year, according to Acadia executive director of communications and marketing Scott Roberts, students have decided to channel their fundraising into a pair of local charities: the Acadia S.M.I.L.E. program and L’Arche Homefires, rather than taking part in a national fundraising effort.

“I think this is a tremendously positive change that demonstrates the depth of interest our students have in our community, and the compassion they have for community members,” Roberts said.

The other event of note is that for a second straight year, Acadia students will take part in an initiative called Paint the Town Red and Blue, a community event that doubles as a collaborative welcome event.

The town, university, Wolfville Business Development Corporation and the Acadia Students Union are all partnering in the Sept. 13 event, which consists of a StreetFest, Spirit Rally and other activities in the Town Square parking lot.

Also as part of the Sept. 13 activities, a movie will be shown on the front lawn of University Hall, which will be open to students and the public alike.

Starting conversations

Acadia Students Union president Callie Latham says all Nova Scotia universities are about to start conversations about increasing peer support.

Last September’s infamous rape chant at St. Mary’s University had a powerful effect, but Latham says it wasn’t just on one campus.

“We’re trying to spread the conversation around a number of different folks. This is not a Maritime-specific issue.”

“I’m really excited. We’re trying a number of different initiatives and we want to change the narrative.”

Earlier this year Latham took part in launching the Students Nova Scotia education campaign to promote greater understanding of consent among students.

“This campaign is sending the simple message that consent must be clear, confident, enthusiastic, or else it’s sexual assault,” said Lathem. “We are letting students know that there either is consent or there isn’t, and if it isn’t clear it absolutely isn’t there.”

The campaign is informed by evidence from independent researcher Anne Martell’s Student Safety in Nova Scotia: A Review of Student Union Policies and Practices to Prevent Sexual Violence, released back in January. The review’s most important finding was that consent is not well understood by students of all genders and this is a critical factor in many sexual assaults involving students.

It’s believed that as many as 95 per cent of campus sexual assaults occur between acquaintances. The independent review included 21 recommendations for student union programming and advocacy to reduce the prevalence of sexual violence and foster communities where students respect and support each other.

“It’s not top down,” Latham said last Friday. “It’s about peer modeling. I’m very proud of our student leaders. They want to invest the community they want to build.”

The ASU president includes the town in her orbit, noting that students represent half of the Wolfville population.