First-Years Required to Undergo Bystander Intervention Training

Jenn Marshall

Colgate has implemented Bystander Intervention Training as a mandatory program for first-year students. Its goal is to stop cycles of negative behavior with a focus on gender bias and sexual assault.

“It is a response to the power dynamics on this campus. Issues like hierarchies, social groups, race, homophobia and bias create a rape culture that allows for gender bias and sexual assault,” Director of LGBTQ Initiatives Khristian Kemp-DeLisser said.

The program is designed to empower community members in ensuring the safety of their peers and to play a role in changing the culture. The phenomenon of sexual assault nationwide on campuses has gained attention as of late due to the federal government cracking down on specific institutions that are letting incidents go unpunished. Colgate decided to make a commitment to educating students about sexual assault with its mandatory online course and the bystander intervention training.

First-years will undergo mandatory training on September 15. The program consists of a two hour-long presentation following a slide show about rape culture that provides advice to avoid potentially dangerous situations and information about clear consent and support. It aims to get all the facts straight while engaging the students in interactive activities. This includes role-plays of acting out different scenarios and asks the question, “What are the different factors that allow individuals to intervene or prevent them?”

Director of Women’s Studies Meika Loe led the initiative to bring the training to Colgate. Loe’s goal is to get a critical mass on campus willing to stand up for each other.

“Even if the training doesn’t resonate with everyone, there will be people in that room who it will. You only need 30 percent to make it a safer party,” Loe said.

She wants first-years to be aware that it is a campus priority. The implementation of the program is due to public demand from students.

Loe tested the program out on her women’s studies class and students responded extremely well to it.

“This is a social movement of students, faculty and staff coming together to create a safer community,” Loe said.

The training is mandatory for first-years specifically because they have never been exposed to an environment like the one in which they now find themselves. 

“At this point in their lives, they are not as comfortable with themselves and might not intervene like an upperclassman. That is why there is so much value in this program,” member of Link Staff sophomore Zoe Smith said. “It teaches them that it is never not our business; it is our duty to involve ourselves.”

The issue of sexual assault is prominent on campus.

“Until you can get everyone involved, the behavior will continue,” Kemp-Delisser said. “This program is just the beginning but it is a step in the right direction… [We] must share the responsibility.”