Not every relationship forged in college (or life) is destined to last, which means college students occasionally face a difficult task: breaking up. A recent student-run workshop at Bowdoin, Breaking Down Breaking Up, offered guidance on ending relationships — whether with a friend or a romantic partner.
Lisa Peterson, associate director of gender violence prevention & education, helped advise the students who led the workshop. “We typically don’t talk a lot about how to respectfully end relationships here and that was a gap in programming that students seemed interested in addressing,” she said.
The first task for attendees at the recent workshop in Sills Auditorium was to define the qualities they want, and don’t want, in a partner. They grouped these traits in one of four categories: the essentials (e.g., “they have to get along with my family”); the bonuses (“they’re into the environment”); the tolerables (“they get up at 5 a.m. every day”), and the deal-breakers (“they’re unwilling to admit their faults”).
After establishing this personal criteria, the students leading the workshop moved into the second task: dealing with that “deal-breaker” category. They offered advice on the best ways to break up, and things to avoid. Then attendees practiced breaking up based on different scenarios, and shared insights into navigating this challenging process.
The workshop was the culminating project of Bowdoin’s first-ever Gender Violence Prevention and Education Leadership Institute, a leadership training program established last year by Peterson for students who want to help end domestic and sexual violence.
At the end of the program, Peterson asked the thirteen participants to design a capstone project, and the students opted to offer a hands-on workshop on strategies for breaking up. “It’s a way to bring people together to have a conversation that doesn’t often happen,” Peterson said.
Anna Martens ’20, one of the first Institute participants, said she joined the group to satisfy her need for “real-world feminist action.” She added that she found especially valuable “the discussions of how gender violence is addressed at Bowdoin, and the different perspectives one might take on an instance of gender violence….If we are able to recognize the diversity of experience, we can more empathetically respond to issues on campus.”
A new cohort of Gender Violence Prevention and Education Leadership Institution students start their training program this week. This year, Peterson has extended the training sessions from five sessions to eleven. Once the program is finished in March, the students will again be asked to create a new capstone project on a topic they choose.
Peterson said the students who apply to her program are both interested in “digging deeper” into issues, and are also “are committed to Bowdoin as a community, and they want it to be as safe as possible.”
The thirteen students who were part of the first Institute were Anna Martens, Danielle Horne, Darlene Ineza, Elyse Veloria, Grace Cawdrey, Ishani Agarwal, Marina Stam, Pauline Unietis, Philip Pikus, Reimi Pieters, Sadie LoGerfo-Olsen, and Taran Sun.