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Week of Welcome workshop opens consent dialogue

As students wander between Week of Welcome events to learn directions to classes, attend interest meetings for clubs and find endless options for free food, they can now also examine their understanding of consent — sexual and otherwise — on a college campus.

Omega Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. will sponsor “From Blurred Lines to the Green Light: Exploring Consent” in the Student Union Wednesday night.

Carla Salas, programming director for Omega Phi Beta, said she hopes participants will learn what consent is, when it’s necessary and how to ask for it.

“The purpose at the end of the program would be to have a better understanding of consent and be more comfortable talking about consent,” she said. “On a college campus specifically, but pretty much anywhere as well, consent is not something that’s always talked about.”

If students are encouraged to talk about consent, Salas hopes they will see consent as an important conversation instead of a mood-killer.

Kelli Raker, the sorority’s adviser and a student violence prevention coordinator for Student Wellness, said in an email that she wants students to see consent as communication. Raker also works with One Act, which, unlike Wednesday’s event, addresses consent from a bystander’s point of view.

Salas said her sorority was inspired by UNC alumna Ariel Eure’s work with the Sadie Nash Leadership Project, a program for high school women in New York City. Eure designed a consent workshop for project participants after realizing they rarely encountered the topic otherwise.

“If they had sexual education at all in their schools, consent was definitely not the key that was talked about,” Eure said.

Eure said becoming comfortable discussing consent is important in all areas of college students’ lives.

“When you’re going out on Franklin Street, when you’re in class, when you’re in your dorm room — what’s consent then?” she said.

“To ask for consent for something, to give consent for something — I think everyone could benefit from it, whether you’ve grown up talking about consent or whether this is the first time you’ve ever had a conversation about the topic,” she said.

Eure also saw a need for the workshop based on her own experiences.

She suggested the idea to Omega Phi Beta, which decided to adapt it for UNC students.

“I went to school not understanding consent,” she said.

“I think what was really frustrating ... that things that were happening to me, around me, and I didn’t have that understanding of what that was and why it was important.”

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