All club leaders must participate annually in bystander intervention training, as the result of a Student Union bylaw amendment officially announced via the club leaders listserv on Wednesday.
The amendment was passed last year but will take effect now, and club leaders will have until the end of this academic year to complete the training. After this point, any club with e-board members failing to comply “will be placed on probationary status, meaning that they will lose their ability to book space or utilize funds until all club leaders have undergone the training,” wrote Paul Sindberg ’18, the Student Union vice president, in his email to the club leaders listserv. Returning officers must be re-trained each year.
Starting within the next few days, students will be able to enroll in a series of sessions capped at around 50 people, according to the email. These sessions run approximately 1.5 hours. Any club leaders who have already been bystander trained this year, meaning on or after Aug. 14, can fill out a Google form to indicate they have “fulfilled the requirement.”
“The point [of the bystander amendment] isn’t to waste people’s time and add an obstacle … The point is to make people more aware of these sorts of issues,” said former Senator-at-Large, Lorenzo Finamore ’18 in an interview with The Brandeis Hoot after the amendment passed last year.
Bystander training is a program that teaches students how to intervene in situations that could lead to sexual misconduct, allowing participants the opportunity to discuss or role-play scenarios involving partner violence, intoxicated hook-ups and homophobic remarks.
Two “trainers” prompt participants to consider how they would approach the situation as a bystander and prevent harm while also thinking about their safety, according to Sheila McMahon from the Office of Prevention Services (OPS).
“Club leaders … have a really important role in setting the tone for the people who are a part of their group,” said McMahon in an interview last fall. This initiative has been a joint effort between the Union and OPS.
Club leaders are “an enormous chunk of the student body that are already engaged in leadership roles,” so training them is “a matter of setting the precedent for future Brandeisians [and] creating that sense of community responsibility to end these issues,” said Sindberg. He is a Community Advisor and works at OPS as the program liaison between OPS and the Department of Community Living.
Sindberg encouraged anyone to reach out with concerns about the training requirement. “We want our sexual assault prevention efforts to be trauma-informed,” taking into account needs of sexual violence survivors and making the program inclusive, said Sindberg.
Ryan Tracy ’17, chair of the Union’s club support committee, helped with the logistics and implementation of the amendment. He compiled a list of club leaders based on who clubs self-report as officers, noting any students who serve on more than one board, said Sindberg. The committee will manage the records of club leaders who have been trained using attendance sheets from the trainings.
Since the introduction of bystander training in 2014, hundreds of students have participated. Groups trained so far this year include Orientation Leaders, RCC Peer Advocates, the Student Union and several Greek organizations, according to OPS. Last year, over 30 groups had trainings, including Greek organizations, sports teams, residence halls and clubs.
Students were also invited to participate in a “train-the-trainer” program to become a bystander trainer. There are about 25 now, and 40-50 more students will become trainers this weekend, according to Yael Platt ’17, the Staff Assistant at OPS.
OPS has also been developing the Bystander 2.0 program, a follow-up training option. A goal of 2.0 is the “psychological steps necessary to encourage people to become prosocial bystanders,” the process people go through when deciding to perform a certain behavior, said Sindberg.
“Something [OPS is] really struggling with is people know this information, they know it’s important to do, but it’s not exactly … happening in the moment when you’re at a party,” said Valerie Timms ’16, last year’s Charles River/567 South St. senator.
The “impression” is often that if you have been trained once, “you’re good to go,” said Sindberg, but research shows that if you undergo multiple trainings, even if they’re the same, then you’re “much more likely to step up when you’re called upon.”
That said, he hopes 2.0 will interest students and they will not see bystander programming as redundant.