The topics of sexual violence and the negative aspects of masculinity have been increasingly popular in the media and political sphere. UConn Men’s Project seeks to discuss these topics and educate men in their two hour weekly meetings. The meetings are open to all University of Connecticut students who identify as male, and include discussions on the issues of socialized masculinity, masculine intersectionality, emotional openness, interpersonal violence and much more, according to an informational poster. UConn Men’s Project is facilitated by Rhys Hall and Craig Alejos. Both men are incredibly interested in the concept of masculinity and how it intersects with everyday life, making them perfect and insightful facilitators for the UConn Men’s Project.
The UConn Men’s Project started 10 years ago in 2008 as a research experiment, and has since cemented itself as an annual program run by through the Women’s Center. The two hour-long weekly meetings are discussion based, and encourage members to think on their own lives and the lives of those around them. This gives participants a comfortable environment to discuss these issues openly, encouraging them to make small changes in the world. According to the facilitators, UConn Men’s Project and programs like it give people who want to make a change on campus but may not have the ability or a chance to engage with other students and ultimately make a change.
“By challenging participants with an intimate setting as well as engaging questions, we want to allow people to feel as though they can be truthful without having to search deeply through academic jargon or recall concepts,” said Hall, “all that we ask is that participants are truthful in terms of detailing their accounts and experiences and they are invested in trying to challenge masculinity, not just in an academic setting but also with their friends and with themselves.”
The topics covered are not only extremely important, but also incredibly timely. With movements like #MeToo and Times Up, people are starting to get a look into how toxic masculinity can affect men and women around the world. Hall and Alejos believe that rather than just be mad that it is happening, it is better to start these discussions now in order to end these problems for future generations. Alejos believes that a lot of men are socialized in a particularly problematic way, and that education can help men understand why exactly this behavior is negative. “When do we start educating men that this wasn’t the right thing to do in the the first place?” Alejos said. “Our hopes are that they will be more cognizant of the things that are going on in their life around them.”
The best thing about this program, according to the two facilitators, is that the discussions and events tend to have a great impact on participants. Craig Alejos has been a co facilitator for the program for the past two years, and was actually a participant for in the UConn Men’s Project during his undergraduate career “When I went through the program myself, it was quite life changing. Now I dedicate part of my work doing so. I hope as I continue through my masters to my PhD, I’ll be finding ways to try and fill the gaps,” Alejos said.
While Rhys Hall did not complete his undergraduate degree at the University of Connecticut, he was heavily involved with the Black Male Initiative at the University of Maryland. He said that he could see the progress of many of the other participants, and hopes to have a similar experience with the UConn Men’s Project during his first year as facilitator.
“This is a space that we are going to have to acknowledge a lot of our behavior that we never even thought about as problematic... I don’t think a lot of the subject matter is going to be too unfamiliar, what I do believe is that it probably hasn’t been critically assessed, and within this space we might be able to achieve that” Hall stated.
Applications for the UConn Men’s Project will close on Monday, January 29 at 12pm.
Lauren Brown is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.