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The PACE Project and sexual assault education on campus

May 10, 2021

While the PACE office was a sponsor of SAAM, the office operates in a much broader regard on Baker’s campus in dealing with sexual assault. The PACE Project, or the Prevention, Awareness, and Campus Education office, is based upon a $300,000 federal grant from the Department of Justice provided for prevention and education and response to sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence and stalking.

“It allows us a lot of resources to work with all different kinds of campus and community partners to look at our policies and make sure they’re working the best that they can,” Gadd-Nelson explained. Partners that the grant allows include local law enforcement and the STAAC.

Dean of Students and Title IX Coordinator Cassy Bailey expanded on the value of the PACE grant.

“Prior to the grant we said we had a commitment to this–we don’t care if it’s a federal regulation and/or not depending on what administration, we’re going to do something about it. We know this is a big problem on campuses, and so we started to do, and continue to do, education, We now just have funding to go with the education initiatives, which is a really big deal,” Bailey said. 

The PACE office’s operations on campus include prevention education and victim services. Gadd-Nelson also clarified that, as part of student affairs, she works with student affairs and student life to integrate programming across campus.

“When it comes to sexual assault awareness and education, it can feel like an overwhelming topic, and so it’s my job to make it feel easier to engage in this topic that maybe we’ve been told by society that we’re not supposed to talk about,” Gadd-Nelson stated.

Overall, she offered, the goal of the project is a balance of providing tools to prevent sexual assault and recognizing preexisting sexual assault survivors.

“How do we create an environment where they feel believed and supported? Sometimes what that can look like is letting people know about the different services that are available to students. Sometimes it’s talking about how to support your friend that has experienced sexual assault,” Gadd-Nelson said. 

One of the large elements of the PACE Project’s operations is the education it provides to various groups across campus. One such group is BK100 classes, which are mandatory for all freshman. Within this context, the primary focus is consent education.

“Consent is not just about how it applies to our sexual relationships. It’s also about, say, how we hug our friends, and if they don’t want to be hugged we need to respect that. There’re a lot of nonsexual applications to consent conversations. Ultimately, it’s about understanding your boundaries and understanding another person’s boundaries.” Gadd-Nelson explained.

Gadd-Nelson also elaborated that the education includes discussions on complications that arise in such feelings as being nervous or being under the influence. Overall, she explained, the goal of this programming is to encourage students to think about consent in various situations.

“There are lots of different ways that we can incorporate and normalize consent conversations in everyday life,” Gadd-Nelson said. 

Another facet of education provided by PACE is that given to Greek life on campus.

“Historically, we have done a lot of education around rape culture and consent culture,” Gadd-Nelson explained. Other topics of education include conversations about healthy relationships and masculinity and how masculinity intersects with violence prevention. 

Other groups that receive sexual assault education are athletics, who have discussions on bystander intervention and orientation.

“A student sees one to three presentations. They’re different, but the same message. If nothing else, the importance of that is that the person who is involved understands that this is an important aspect for the university,” Bailey summarized.

Gadd-Nelson also clarified that one of the roles of the PACE coordinator is to examine the policies in place and adjust as necessary. “We’re in the process right now of looking at these different educational opportunities we’ve had on campus and how we can improve them for the future.”

In this process, she expressed a hope for student engagement in identifying what systems are most effective. “There’s a lot of room for creativity and so we’re excited to get to work.”

Beyond policy reexamination, Gadd-Nelson emphasized that there were a variety of venues for interested community members to get involved. These venues include staff and employee training, as well as involvement with Title IX, victim services and more.

“This is a project that’s not just the PACE office. It’s not just me doing all of this. It’s something that we’re partnering with campus and community partners to make this possible, and students are going to be a really crucial part in that,” Gadd-Nelson stated.

One other way students can get involved, she provided, is joining BRAVE.

“The BRAVE student group is a great way for students to get involved and focus on supporting survivors and promoting a culture of consent,” Gadd-Nelson highlighted. 

The school also offers a course each interterm that provides education and training for students to become peer leaders. The class features 13 days of education that covers psychological trauma and can help in developing skills that can be used as a peer mentor or as a member of BRAVE.

In multiple facets, the PACE Project encountered setbacks and obstacles in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Gadd-Nelson stated that Greek life education for the school year was hindered by this.

Furthermore, Bailey explained that “COVID put a wrench into the grant nationally for everybody. In fact, last February, right before we were all closed down, a good number of us were in Atlanta for our first training. So we came back ready to change the world and couldn’t because of COVID.”

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