Campus Life

Controversial program gives communication tips

Sixteen women and eight men attended the UCA Counseling Department program “Communicating with Women: A Program for Men” during x-period Feb. 13.

Practicum student and counseling staff member Max DeYoung led the seminar that directed attendees through the beginning and end of both types of relationships.

The program is part of a seminar series that revolves around both platonic and intimate relationships.

DeYoung asked students to take the stereotypes they heard or held about women and forget them.

“Just throw them away,” he said.

DeYoung then went on to explain the best ways to begin romantic relationships, such as getting to know the other person, respecting their boundaries and being sure to communicate intent. DeYoung referenced several “don’ts” when starting a romantic relationship with someone, telling students to not assume, lie or take rejection to heart.

“When maintaining a romantic relationship, be sure to talk about what you need,” he said. “But also be sure not to ignore what [the other person needs].”

DeYoung said it is important to communicate life goals, but equally important to not be discouraged by disagreement on a variety of subjects.

“Accept their faults and opinions,” he said. “And then finally, the most important thing when maintaining a romantic relationship is to build trust.”

When ending a relationship, DeYoung said “to be respectful and use ‘I’ language.”

“I” language refers to speaking from a personal view and in a non-accusatory manner. DeYoung told students to set boundaries and stick to them, but at the same time respecting the boundaries set by the other person.

After speaking on romantic relationships, DeYoung presented a segment regarding consent in a relationship.

“Rule number one: If there’s not a ‘yes,’ that means ‘no,’” DeYoung said. The next rule in the PowerPoint slideshow was the same rule again, but this time in all caps.

DeYoung strongly warned against engaging in sexual behavior while under the influence of intoxicants.

“With platonic relationships, they don’t always have a clear beginning or an end,” he said, although he did present a few slides of advice to students, which included points such as not being afraid to make the first move, express opinions, spend time with them and strive to be a good friend.

Junior Lori Beth Stroderd said she attended the seminar because she wanted to see if what DeYoung had to say about communicating with women was valid.

“I was pretty impressed,” she said. “I think he did a really good job with covering bases and making clear rules in the presentation.”

Sophomore Shannon Caldwell said she wanted to come for the same reason and appreciated the slide where DeYoung reinforced the rule that “if there’s not a yes, that means no.”

“A lot of guys assume that they should try and go as far as they can and wait until she says no,” Caldwell said. “They don’t really know that they should ask or that asking is OK.”

Sophomore Daniel Ryan said he thought it was a good presentation “as far as general information goes” but was disappointed in the lack of information specifically directed at men.

“A little piece of what I thought was missing was, ‘Hey, this is what women are thinking’, and what they’re looking for from communicating with a guy,” Ryan said. “That’s what I think we have a problem with. We’re afraid to say what [men]want to say because we’re afraid of what [women]are going to say or feel.”

Ryan suggested having more men present and having a panel of women up front to better converse about problems between men and women in relationships.

“I was looking to get a little more insight into the women side of things, but overall I thought it was great,” Ryan said.

Junior Erin Anders, a vocal music education major who is minoring in gender studies, criticized the seminar and its intent because of the way it was advertised, although she was not present during the event. Anders did not agree with the idea “that someone could possibly explain how to communicate with any woman in just fifty minutes.”

“Women are not a homogenous group,” Anders said. “Additionally, this seminar was led by a man. This man has never lived a day as a woman and has no right to speak for us. Now, a Q&A format with a diverse panel of women would have been appropriate. Get five or ten women from all walks of life.”

Anders said she felt uncomfortable that the seminar was specifically for men.

“That implies that women already know how to communicate with each other,” Anders said. “It also perpetuates the idea that women are a mysterious creature of emotion that men have the inherent disability to understand.”

Assistant writing professor Jen Talbot also disagreed with the seminar’s advertisement, saying she spoke to DeYoung before the event took place and suggested the title might be undermining its intent.

“I initially contacted [DeYoung] to inquire about the content of the seminar, because, since women are about half the human population and are not interchangeable, it wasn’t clear from the title,” Talbot said. “[Its intention], I assumed, to promote more effective, egalitarian communication patterns between men and women, and that, perhaps, it would be more useful to frame the seminar as ‘Interpersonal Communication for Men’ or ‘Effective Communication in Relationships’.”

DeYoung said the UCA Counseling Center staff collaborated to create the seminar and plan to hold presentations targeted at women and the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in the future.

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