Last spring at Pub Nite, a guest of a Swarthmore student waved a Confederate flag around, and continued to do so even when people requested that he stopped. It is this kind of scene in which bystanders may feel a need to do something, but don’t know the best ways to defuse the situation.
To address this, the Dean of Students division of the College is organizing and sponsoring bystander intervention workshops on September 28 and November 16. Dean of Students Liz Braun said the trainings are “in direct response to student concerns we heard last year about wanting more support and skill-building about how to intervene in difficult situations,” such as a conflict or unacceptable behavior.
“Students reported that these types of issues often come up in peer-to-peer settings such as campus parties and the residence halls,” said Dean Braun. She believes the bystander training can provide a good model “since it focuses on strategies for assessing the most appropriate response.”
The bystander intervention workshops include two three-hour sessions, one for staff in the morning and another for students in the afternoon on both of these dates. About 15 to 20 staff members and 40 to 50 students are expected to participate.
The staff members are from the Dean’s Office, Environmental Services, Public Safety, Athletics, and the Lang Center, and the student representatives are from groups like the Party Associates, Resident Assistants, Student Academic Mentors, Intercultural Center, Student Council, Sexual Misconduct Advisors and Resource Team, Drug and Alcohol Resource Team, Phi Psi, Delta Upsilon, Not Yet Sisters and more.
“I am especially pleased that Dean Braun has opened up the training to various organizations on the campus,” said Tom Elverson, Alcohol Education and Intervention Specialist at the College. “Participants will be trained how to intervene in a correct and vigilant manner.”
Vijay Pendakur, Director of the Office of Multicultural Student Success at DePaul University, will conduct the training sessions.
“[Pendakur] has also done work specifically applying the bystander model to issues of homophobia and racism, which I thought was particularly timely based on issues from last spring,” Dean Braun said.
Those workshops “will be highly interactive and give participants an opportunity to enhance their own skills in cross-cultural communication and bystander intervention,” she said. The workshops will also provide another way to build community and establish new connections between student organizations and departments.
Party Associate Coordinator Ben Kapilow ’13 expects that the workshops “will shed light onto the various types of events that could disrupt the safe and comfortable party atmosphere that Swarthmore seeks to achieve.”
Since his freshman year as a Party Associate, Kapilow has witnessed some incidents and heard about others in which “party-goers were placed into uncomfortable and sometimes unhealthy situations either directly or indirectly.”
“Though Swarthmore parties are comparatively tame, there have certainly been many harmful or at least potentially harmful situations at parties in the past in which bystander intervention was or would have been helpful,” Kapilow said. He believes that after this workshop, the participants will have a stronger understanding of what they should do when disruptions happen.
As a member of many sexual misconduct prevention groups and an organizer of sexual misconduct related activities on campus, Lisa Sendrow ’13 will go to this training due to her affiliation with the Sexual Misconduct Advisors and Resource Team (SMART). “I want to see the issue through the lens of other groups and see how our campus is training students to have more of a role,” she said.
Charles Tse ’13, representing Delta Upsilon Fraternity at the workshops, is also “looking forward to engaging in discussions with other participants on keeping Swarthmore a comfortable environment for all.”
Dean Braun hopes the training will be successful and continue to be offered.