SUNY started an initiative to offer bystander intervention training to all its campuses, but Plattsburgh State started offering voluntary training to students before that initiative took place.
PSUC has a program called “Step Up!,” which Director of Student Conduct and men’s lacrosse volunteer assistant coach Larry Allen said was based on the University of Arizona’s NCAA program for student athletes. However, PSUC has adapted that program to suit the needs of all its students.
“Administrators and Student Affairs folks participated in learning about this, attending some training sessions, so that we can help facilitate moving forward,” Allen, a trained facilitator, said, adding that this program will give more people the confidence they need to be effective bystanders.
Allen said if a student is charged with a violation of the Student Code of Conduct, they are referred to Allen to discuss the charges and the student’s rights and process.
“Students at that time decide whether they want to offer a plea of responsible or not responsible,” Allen said. “If the student feels they’re responsible, then I speak with that student about what the appropriate sanction will be, and then if they feel they are not responsible, then they would sign as such, and we would arrange a hearing for them.”
Allen said the process is set up so that all parties involved have due process, or fair treatment through the college’s judicial system. He said PSUC has been ahead of the game.
“I will always presume that it (instances of sexual violence and sexual assault) happens more than we know,” Allen said. “I think that is an important way to approach it, … so that we stay hungry to learn more, to do more, to be better.”
PSUC senior biochemistry and psychology double major London Woodfolk is a health peer educator on campus, and as such, she helps instruct all players on sports teams, leaders of fraternities and sororities and clubs on how to be effective bystanders on campus.
She said she reviews types of assault, hypothetical situations, definitions of affirmative consent and available resources for students on and off campus. She, with other health peer educators, focuses on different health topics to address with students every month.
Woodfolk said her experience in her position has helped her talk to students about difficult topics.
“It gives me a lot more knowledge that I wouldn’t have had if I hadn’t gone through the training,” she said. “If something happens to someone they happen to care about, and they don’t know where to go or what to do, it’s a terrible feeling, so it’s nice to be able to help people.”
Title IX Coordinator Butterfly Blaise said she agrees with Allen in that PSUC is ahead of the curve of SUNY in bystander intervention.
Apart from clubs, fraternities and sororities, athletic teams, resident directors and assistants, Blaise said intervention is not mandatory but voluntary.
However, she also said there are mandatory bystander intervention measures in place.
“Our athletes must have education specific to gender violence, sexual violence (and) interpersonal violence before the first scheduled game,” Blaise said.
She said she has received emails from former students in bystander intervention training sessions that describe detailed events where they saw something happen, and they were able to make a difference because of what they learned.
“We have been using bystander intervention for a couple of years now,” Blaise said. “In order to change the culture, we need to engage our campus community members to not be bystanders.”
Email Tim Lyman at firstname.lastname@example.org