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New Creative Approach to Social Consulting may be the Missing Link

Countless man-hours and resources have been directed towards combating the ever-relevant issue of sexual violence across college campuses, nationwide. This year, the Skorton Center for Health Initiatives and Office of the Dean of students are hoping that a new strategy will make a difference. Most students have been exposed to the consent education and alcohol safety programs, but, according to the article, studies have found that these initiatives have had a limited impact so far at ameliorating the issue.

The Cornell Social Consultants program hopes to provide a new perspective and different approach towards prevention of incidents on our campus. They will be hiring at least 20 students to provide social situations for students that are simultaneously more fun and also safer. The heart of the idea of the initiative is that the students will be drawn from an extremely wide-range of communities across the campus to provide many different perspectives. The breadth of experience that will, theoretically, exist across the community will help to shape new social situations that have not yet been explored. Historically, the programs in place have been run by either adults across the university, or a small subset of the student population.

In our class we have studied social networks and a Facebook example is a good way to visualize the effect of who runs these social programs. On Facebook everyone has specific groups, or networks, of friends. Usually the friends are broken into several smaller groups that are all connected by some common interest, education, or workplace. Say a person on Facebook is very passionate about the proper way to cook scrambled eggs. If they post a status about their passion, in an effort to educate others, the only people who see the status are their friends. The person’s message will only travel through a few smaller networks until it eventually reaches an end. The adults who run programs across the campus, although very well-intentioned, will not pass along messages with as much traction as those who have stronger bonds with the students by being in their existing networks and friend-groups. When you only have a small subset of students running the education programs, the ideas for campus improvement have a similarly hard time entering other different networks of students across the campus. By putting such a diverse group of people in charge, who have stronger bonds with a much wider range of people, this program might stand a chance of making more positive societal change across the Cornell campus. The program is still in its infancy, so we will have to wait to find out if the Networks theory behind this holds true in execution.


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September 2015