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Greek life actively incorporates bystander training into culture

By Zach Cihlar

Section: Features

September 16, 2016

Rushes become pledges this week. Soon, they will begin the process of their incorporation into Greek brotherhoods and sisterhoods, as well as the training process to becoming an active bystander. Bystander intervention training is a bystander-focused way of assault prevention and assuring safety in dangerous situations. It teaches potential witnesses to act in a way that de-escalates situations with growing risk factors in order to ensure all parties involved are safe.

Sexual assault has been brought to the forefront of university discussions across the United States as more students share their experiences and magnify the issue. Many Brandeis fraternities and sororities have taken initiative in helping find a solution to such issues by providing bystander training to their members as well as drug and alcohol prevention programs, according to Nathan Greess ’19, an active brother of the Mass Beta chapter of Phi Kappa Psi.

Phi Kappa Psi, one of six fraternities open to Brandeis students, requires all of its new members to undergo bystander training as part of the pledge process. The program is not unique to Phi Kappa Psi, though. Other Greek organizations have begun the initiative.

Julia Robinson-Rosendorff ’19, a member of Sigma Delta Tau, confirmed that her sorority also requires every member to complete bystander training. Sigma Alpha Mu, another fraternity at Brandeis, recently reinstated its policies of bystander intervention training for new members, according to a brother within the fraternity.

Though the fraternities and sororities do not rely on each other or work together concerning this issue, there is significant overlap between them when it comes to bystander intervention. Greess happened to be trained as an active bystander trainer by another member of the Brandeis Greek community.

Greess explained that bystander training is made more accessible when the trainer is somebody who is known to the group participating in the session. In this way, not only does Greek life make bystander intervention training more accessible, but it also extends the accessibility of becoming a trainer, a person who guides the informational sessions and facilitates discussions concerning the topic. Greess has taken advantage of these connections provided by his fraternity to become a bystander trainer himself.

The overarching organization that represents Greek life on campus, the Greek Awareness Council, does not contribute to this part of Greek life. According to Greess, the fraternities and sororities individually facilitate the training to their members. Greess highlighted that the training involved falls under the initiative of individuals within each fraternity and sorority.

“I hope in the future that the university recognizes the benefits of partnering with Greek life on assault prevention issues,” Greess said. He thinks that the fraternities are ready to coordinate with the administration on issues of sexual assault, and hopes that soon the two entities can work on greater prevention efforts together.

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