Students lead talks on men, masculinity
On Sunday, Nov. 13, students from Professor and Director of Education Mark Tappan’s Boys to Men class—WG217—led conversations open to the entire campus about men and masculinity. WG217 students were divided into co-ed pairs and each pair was responsible for leading a discussion with their peers.
Tappan has taught the course since 2004. He modeled the class on the Education Department’s course, Women, Girls and the Culture of Education. At the time, students taking that course were required to meet weekly with a group of middle school girls and facilitate a conversation about issues they might be facing. Likewise, students enrolled in WG217 are required to meet weekly with a group of middle school boys to get them thinking about masculinity and to encourage them to develop resistance to common stereotypes about men.
Furthermore, students must use their experience from leading the boys groups to lead a discussion, Colby Conversations On Men and Masculinity (CCOMM), with their peers at the College. Tappan modeled these conversations off of Social Class Awareness Week and Colby Conversations on Race (CCOR).
The Nov. 13 conversations took place simultaneously in 12 residence halls around campus. “It was important to me that CCOMM happened in residence halls because it gives students the opportunity to integrate academic life and residential life,” Tappan said.
The conversations happened at a time when much of the campus community was already engaged in a discussion on sexual assault, but Tappan said that this was just a coincidence, as the CCOMM conversations had been scheduled at the beginning of the semester.
“Every semester, something comes up that has to do with the class. Fall 2004 was the semester when a young woman from Colby was abducted,” Tappan said. “Of course, this was an extreme example. Most often, we have seen events that are not as serious,” he said. “But there is always some sort of discussion of gender issues happening on campus,” he said.
Still, students were not required to talk about sexual assault. “I wanted to leave it open to the students to decide what they wanted to talk about,” Tappan said. “But sexual assault did come up [during the conversations].”
Veronica Foster ’12, a student in WG217, noted that sexual assault came up in her CCOMM event. “I was especially glad to hear input from first-years and from women who have experienced sexual harassment or assault firsthand, because I think that those are voices that are sometimes missing in our campus discussions,” she said.
As part of their final paper, WG217 students will be required to reflect on how they think the conversations went. “Of course, the conversations were meant to help the students solidify what they’ve learned by leading discussions. However, the primary goal was for them to contribute to the conversation,” Tappan said.
Foster believes CCOMM was important for all students. “I think the CCOMM conversations were a much needed opportunity for a diverse group of people to share how they were feeling about important campus issues,” she said.
Tappan was very grateful to Assistant Director of Campus Life Katrina Danby and the Community Advisers for their help with scheduling the conversations.