Purdue professor Patricia Boling is attempting to educate her students about rape culture by addressing sexual assaults on campus.
Boling teaches POL 222: Women, Politics and Public Policy almost every year and after students made her aware of the recent surge in sexual assault allegations on campus, she decided to change her curriculum to highlight the issues of rape culture.
Boling divided up her curriculum into two parts, with the first semester covering “policymaking processes and political institutions.” The other half discusses three real world issues women face, or as Boling called them, “case studies.”
“Two of them this semester were going to be the same as always. One was the gender pay gap, and one was reproductive choice,” she said.
The last case study had been sexual assault in previous years, but Boling decided to change it this semester because it was a challenge to discuss.
“It’s a hard topic to teach. It’s embarrassing. It makes people squirm,” she said.
Boling instead switched the topic to women in sports, but the change wouldn’t last very long.
“A month ago, my students made me very aware that sexual assault on campus was a pretty front-burner issue,” she said. “I started to think about this decision to jettison talking about rape culture and sexual assault and notions of pleasure.”
Boling said she knew sexual assault would always be an issue on college campuses such as Purdue. However, with the recent surge in cases and the revival of a campus wide #MeToo movement, she believed she retired the topic too early.
She said that she was particularly enthusiastic about the fact that the movement on campus stemmed from women in sororities.
“I had thought that I would just swear off it because this is such a hard topic to talk about, but I’m gonna bring it back,” Boling said. “I’m trying to be topical. I’m trying to really say something, I think, matters to my students.”
Boling said she believes sexual assault awareness and prevention is something her lecture halls of mainly women are passionate about and hopes her curriculum change conveys the severity of sexual assault.
“(I) feel like it’s important for my students to hear their own voices, and to feel like what strikes them as alarming and serious problems is taken seriously,” she said.
Boling said she has seen a primarily positive reaction to the syllabus change from her students.
Mark Schueler, a senior in the College of Liberal Arts, said he believes the change was beneficial, adding that it’s “important that we’re talking about current and relevant issues to our campus,” he said.
College of Liberal Arts sophomore Sarah Trepanier agreed that it was a conversation that needed to be had.
“Political conversations are often based on the whims of how people believe the world works, so it’s super helpful to be given actual examples and language on these things,” she said.
Trepanier said that the change in the curriculum has helped them start discussions about sexual assault with peers.
“I think it’ll give me the tools to talk about how Purdue’s police department is handling these cases, but also how women’s cases are dealt with in general,” she said.
Boling also hopes to keep the same curriculum for POL 222 in the spring and is excited to see what the movement brings to the Purdue campus.
“Sometimes life just gives you teachable opportunities, and you need to just confront it.”