Floor meetings invite conversation on substance abuse, sexuality

In an effort to bring issues of substance abuse and sexuality to the forefront and increase awareness, each dorm floor met with a resident director for an informational all-floor discussion during the first week of school. In the past, issues of drugs and alcohol have been addressed in the chapel setting.

Following the soccer home opener on Sept. 8, first and second years congregated on their respective floors to discuss drugs, alcohol and more in a smaller setting. Jake Shipe, the resident director of Yoder dorms, and Keith Graber Miller, professor of Bible, religion & philosophy, met with each male floor for a thirty-minute discussion.

“We know that if you don’t talk about substance abuse and get information out for students early, things happen within the first six weeks,” said Graber Miller, explaining the importance of educating and discussing “sex, drugs and rock and roll” with first year students.

The male discussions centered around alcohol and the reality that alcohol consumption is practiced on and off campus.  “People should take care if they’re consuming substances,” said Graber Miller.  “There are natural and institutional consequences.”

Additionally, Graber Miller explained the importance of holding such talks, stating that date rapes occur on campus on a yearly basis. Graber Miller’s goal is to make students aware of the dangers of substance abuse. Graber Miller also talked about pornography and the harmful aspects of it including the negative affects it has in relationships, also saying that masturbation can be a positive sexual act.

The female discussions were led by Char Hochstetler, director of counseling, and Heather Goertzen, resident director for Kratz and Miller dorms. The conversations centered around similar issues of substance abuse and the dangers of sexual assault and pregnancy.

Two weeks following the discussions, students are still reflecting on the conversations.  Many of them are suggesting that while the information was not new, it provided a platform for future discussions.

“The conversations were generally well received,” said Henry Stewart, a first year, “but I don’t know how much they affected people’s perceptions or how much they changed them.  Instead, the talks were more an understanding of what will happen.”

Hans Weaver, a second year transfer student from Eastern Mennonite University said, “The conversations were the most mature approach I’ve ever seen.”  He explained how the conversation was practical and acknowledged that things happened, presented the risks and educated the students in a helpful way.

“Many of my friends at different colleges wouldn’t have gone to a conversation like this,” added Stewart.  “I think it was important.”

According to a group of first and second year women, the floor conversations followed the same topic flow as the male conversation.

“A lot of it was about substance abuse and the consequences of doing drugs and getting high,” said Kate Friesen, a first year.  Their talks also focused on peer pressure and, like the male conversations, the dangers of alcohol and sexual abuse.

“Char and Heather seemed like they wanted to know what we knew about college life and how it would affect us,” said Becca Yoder, a second year.  “It felt like we were reassuring them that we understood the risks,” added Liz Core, a first year.  The women agreed the conversations could have been more blunt and assertive.

While talks about substance abuse ensue at Goshen College, the men in the Yoder dorms have a more permanent reminder of their discussions:  a handwritten poster taped in their bathrooms that reads “masturbation is a gift but this bathroom is not your Christmas tree.”

Annalisa Harder
Written by Annalisa Harder

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