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Union rolls back bystander requirement as OPS looks to improve policy framework

The Student Union is rolling back the requirement for all club leaders to undergo bystander intervention training, as the Office of Prevention (OPS) considers best practices to improve the implementation of this type of policy. OPS is seeking a more organized system for measuring compliance as well as ways to make the program more trauma-informed, according to Paul Sindberg ’18, the Coordinator of Community Engagement at OPS.

The bystander requirement came out of collaboration between the Union and OPS. It first took effect last fall, having been approved the year before. The rule, a Union bylaw, stipulates all members of a club’s E-board need to complete the training annually or the club risks de-chartering.

OPS came to the Union early this semester asking them to roll back the mandate, and they are now conducting research and brainstorming ways to improve the program.

“I’m really proud of all the work that we put into that initiative…and of a lot of the different results we got,” said Sindberg, but staff identified certain areas where the program needed to improve.

Last year, OPS held bystander trainings designated specifically for club leaders. These students registered with a Google form and signed in at the training. “We were able to…piece that implementation process together, but we faced a number of challenges,” said Sindberg.

One issue with the system was that it is difficult to compile a complete and accurate list of Brandeis club leaders—or even chartered clubs for that matter, said Sindberg. Much of this effort fell to Sindberg, who was Vice President of the Union last year, and Ryan Tracy ’17, last year’s chair of the Senate Club Support Committee.

The office also hopes to make any future requirement program more trauma-informed. Sindberg’s message announcing the program last year read, “We want our sexual assault prevention efforts to be trauma-informed, so please feel comfortable contacting our team with any concerns.”

There was a “no questions asked” opt out process for students who were not comfortable with the training, but there were still issues of confidentiality, according to Sindberg.

“There are certain implications that come with an exemption. So if a student has access so data and see that oh this person received an exemption…that’s a confidentiality issue,” said Sindberg.

He also said that, if there is going to be a database of club leader participation, he would like a professional staff member to handle it. He hopes this would be a new staff person, as opposed to assigning this duty to the new head of OPS.

OPS has released a survey asking club leaders who participated in the program last year to describe their experience with the training itself, and asks them to rank how informed they were about the requirement, whether it was stressful, how well they felt it was implemented and how well the requirement “center[ed] the needs and voices of survivors of trauma.”

OPS also intends to host a series of focus groups this semester. For now, they are leaving things “open ended,” planning to gather research and brainstorming new structures.

The club leader requirement will not necessarily come back, said Sindberg, but there could be a new initiative that has similar goals of reaching a wider audience with the material.

The Union and OPS introduced the bystander bylaw with the intention of spreading the training to more people on campus, specifically student leaders. The idea stemmed from the realization that bystander training was “self-selecting,” and mainly students who were already passionate about these issues signed their clubs up for training. The bylaw helped to “included people who might not otherwise have gotten involved,” he said.

“Club leaders…have a really important role in setting the tone for the people who are a part of their group,” said Shiela McMahon, then-director of OPS, in an interview in fall 2015.

Student Union President Jacob Edelman ’18 said he is pleased with the statistics on how many club leaders completed training under the requirement but said he is open to new ideas about the program.

“[OPS] suggested…it would be the best possible course again to not require every club leader to be trained, but to still recommend, to still push it as a great practice for clubs and student groups to take up,” he said.

Edelman also said he liked the system where clubs would schedule trainings for all of their members. “A lot of people base their social experiences through their club,” he said, which can make it beneficial for students to be trained “among their clubmates, rather than in sort of randomized groups.”

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