Framingham State’s police department hosted a third self-defense class for students who couldn’t secure a spot in the two previous sessions hosted in September, according to the police department’s Facebook page.
Sergeant Karen Nicholas directs the sexual assault domestic violence and crime prevention units and is a certified Rape Aggression Defense [R.A.D.] instructor. Nicholas organized the self-defense classes the last two years with Jeanne Donnelly and her daughter Erica Lee Daloia. Their dojo, Makoto-Do, offers programs such as women’s martial arts, self-defense, tai chi and more, according to their website, makoto-do.com.
Donnelly said in a phone interview she has been trained in martial arts for over 30 years. She added she has a fourth-degree belt, and Lee Daloia has a second-degree belt in taekwondo.
The “most important” lesson Donnelly and Lee Daloia teach their students is how to physically get out of a difficult situation. Donnelly said at the self-defense sessions at FSU, they taught the participants how to get out of grabs, block strikes and also knife and gun defensive maneuvers.
“We have students partner up. … We’re careful about nobody getting injured, but at the same time trying to make it realistic, because prevention is always ideal, and that’s always the number one goal – to prevent,” said Donnelly.
She added, “What my ideal situation would be is every month, people continue to train to do more advanced techniques. … The classes we’ve been teaching have been a bit more basic, but ideally, that’s what we would do.”
Donnelly said she thinks most students feel safer after taking the class and the general responses she has received have been positive.
Nicholas said for the first class of the academic year, 27 people were interested and, because of additional requests, the second class was filled while she was still receiving emails.
She added a larger number of people requested to attend the class last year than years before, as well.
“It just seems like, from what the other officers were saying, that it was a good turnout and they’re getting a positive response,” said Nicholas.
Dean of Students Melinda Stoops said self-defense classes have been offered at no charge to students, and the University has had “some sort” of self-defense classes offered for more than a decade.
Nicholas said she believes the classes are paid for out of the FSU PD budget.
“Usually what they do is they bring in someone from the outside where this is their business doing self defense. … It’s a great opportunity for students in one or two classes to get the basic self-defense training,” said Stoops.
Previously, the University offered a R.A.D. class. Stoops said, “The problem is they have classes, with all female and male, and it was hard to get a class going just for all males. … So we’re offering non-R.A.D. self-defense classes now, and it’s going to be co-ed, so it will allow everyone to participate.”
Donnelly said for the three classes she and Lee Daloia taught this semester, a couple of male students attended.
Stoops said the University plans on offering a couple of self-defense classes per semester. “When we had the demand, they added a third one, so I don’t think that it’s planned that we’ll offer them once a month, per se, but I think we will try and offer as many as feasible in a given semester based on space needs, availability of the company, our budget, but then also based on demand, too.”
As for the rise in popularity, Stoops said she thinks it is due to an increased awareness among students. She added the issue of sexual assault on college campuses is getting more attention in the media and from students.
“I think that it’s in people’s minds in just a more active, conscious way, and as a result, I think more people are taking the time to consider whether to go to a training,” she said.
Stoops said she has heard about concerns from students about lighting on campus, and added SGA has been working with administration to set up a safety walk around campus at night to address any lighting issues.
The safety walk with administration occurred Tuesday, Nov. 17 and several administrators attended. Student Trustee Fernando Rodriguez organized the event.
Monique Lundy, a senior, took one of the self-defense classes and said it was helpful. “I learned a lot and found it beneficial with all recent events happening in our world and on our campus. I wish there was an option to have it for more than one night to cover more topics and increase learning, or perhaps even offer it as a course here at FSU.”
Freshman Julia Cunneen took two of the self-defense classes. She said the class was “very informative and interactive. There was never a dull moment.”
Cunneen added they learned how to get away from an attacker rather than how to fight one. She feels safe on campus, and the classes she took made her feel even safer. “I signed up for the class because I would rather have some knowledge of what to do if I was put in a situation where I needed to use self-defense rather than not knowing anything at all.”
Grace Cook, a junior, took one class and said Donnelly and Lee Daloia “were very realistic and took the concept of self-defense seriously. There were a lot of moves that we had to learn in a relatively short amount of time, but they really took the time to explain why each one works, why it’s effective, and even certain situations where different moves would be especially helpful. I would definitely take another class if they’re offered again.”
Cook said she took the class to give herself “a little extra peace of mind” when she is on campus at night, but she thinks overall, it is safe. “Since it’s so small, it’s hard to be beyond the reach of other people for very long. The only thing I’ll point out is that there are a few areas of campus that should be better lit – the outlying areas of the parking lots, for example.”
Alumna Colleen Wilmot took a self-defense class every year from 2012 to 2014. “I absolutely loved them. I’m a strong advocate for women’s self-defense and loved the sense of empowerment. Plus, it felt really good knowing how to take care of myself. Everybody needs to know how to defend themselves – plain and simple. You never know when you’re going to be in a tough situation, and these classes can save lives.”
Sophomore Cecilia Terral said she took self-defense classes in high school, but encourages others who haven’t had the opportunity to take the classes offered at FSU. “It seems to be a big issue on campus, and just in general. … It’s good to feel like you’re safe somewhere, and isn’t that what college is about – learning future life skills? This is something that is going to carry on with you and definitely help you.”
Jodie Noone, a senior, said she thinks the most dangerous places for students are at off-campus parties. “All those houses are dangerous because it’s all underage drinking.”
Autumn Evers also expressed concern about safety, especially parking lots. “If you have to wait down there at certain hours, they should have a place where you can feel safe and secure in the dark,” adding that a secured bus stop similar Union where students can swipe their ID’s to stay in a locked room to wait for the Ram Tram would be good.
Sabrina Clover, a sophomore, said she has a blue belt with a stripe in Kanto Sho Karate. “I can defend myself, but I wouldn’t want to. The campus is too dark. … I think it’s good, but I think they need to work on the lights.” She added she hopes students who take the self-defense classes learn different scenarios.