The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Friday February 3rd

Class Opens Eyes on Women's Violence

Last year, a UNC professor noticed something missing from the University's Undergraduate Bulletin.

Political science Professor Donna LeFebvre said she felt the University needed a course dealing with a legal perspective on domestic and sexual violence, and she filled that need with a course that began this fall - "Violence Against Women: A Legal Perspective" (Political Science 76).

"I assumed there was a course like this for undergraduates, but there

wasn't anywhere, and there are a lot of myths out there that need to be dispelled," LeFebvre said.

LeFebvre's class is sponsored by one of the Ueltschi grants, which are monetary donations given to encourage courses involving service-learning at UNC.

The course is a part of the APPLES program, which pairs academic learning with community service projects that are relevant to the subject.

Along with the service-learning portion of the class, LeFebvre said she uses alternative techniques to engage her students in the subject.

In an effort to create a "victim's journey," LeFebvre guided her students on a series of field trips, including the police department, the Orange County Rape Crisis Center, the hospital, prison and a domestic violence court case.

Students in the current section of Political Science 76 said they appreciate the hands-on learning that the service projects provide.

There are various volunteering options for the 45 students in this class, including working in the domestic violence section of UNC Hospitals, the rape examination center at Student Health Service or the rape crisis center, among other places.

One student in the class, senior English major Naree Sinthusek, volunteers at the rape crisis center by helping the center's director, Margaret Barrett.

"(The class) allows us to volunteer in the community, which shows us that what we learn in class affects the community," Sinthusek said.

Barrett agreed that the class was practical and relevant to community issues.

"It's been a great partnership," she said. "The volunteers feel that it's opened their eyes to the problem of violence against women in ways that they didn't even expect."

LeFebvre said that while the APPLES program requires students to volunteer for only five hours a week, several of the service options that members of her class have chosen entail more time and dedication.

A few of her students were trained as guardians to represent abused children in court, and others were trained to be domestic and sexual violence educators in elementary schools.

These options require an initial training period as well as a commitment to continue volunteering for an entire year.

LeFebvre's grant requires that the course be offered for a minimum of three years, so she said she plans to teach it again next fall.

She said her current crop of students is diverse and is 25 percent male. In the future, she encourages almost any student to consider registering for the course.

"I think that anyone interested in the law, interested in male violence or women's issues would enjoy this class," she said.

Sinthusek also said the class would be interesting for anyone who signed up for it.

"This is the only class I don't want to skip," she said. "Every day you go, you learn something important."

The University Editor can be reached at udesk@unc.edu.


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