Greek life encourages inclusivity and safety training

While an influx of new members join Greek life this semester, Interfraternity Council and Panhellenic Council will be encouraging the new members, as well as any currently untrained members, to participate in Bystander training and Gator Safe Zone training.

As part of the recent Action Plan for Diversity and Inclusion released by president James Mullen on Jan. 23, Bystander training and Gator Safe Zone training were to be encouraged, and perhaps eventually required, specifically groups and organizations on campus including Greek life, Allegheny Student Government and Gator Athletics.

In a move designed to target the largest groups of the Allegheny community, the Action Plan reads:

“To ensure that training reaches not only the ‘choir’ but every student and all employees, we will require specific student and employee groups to attend Bystander training, starting with leadership groups such as ASG, Greek life, Athletics, etc.”

Devised at the University of New Hampshire, Bystander Training is an attempt to prevent sexual assault by creating positive, safe method for intervention in potentially harmful situations.

Originally created out of a $75,000, two-year grant to the Women’s Services of Meadville from the Pennsylvania Department of Justice, the Bystander program brought trainers associated with creating the original curriculum at UNH to train faculty and staff at Allegheny. Allegheny’s future trainers underwent a 13-hour program to prepare them for teaching members of the Allegheny community the “Bringing in the Bystander” program.

In the program’s first year, academic year 2012-2013, 231 students participated in training. The next academic year saw the training of 38 staff members to be facilitators with 656 students and 11 staff members going through the training. Another 22 first-responders, such as those with Residence Life and Safety and Security, also underwent the training.

However, as the original grant has run out, Katie Pope, Allegheny’s Title IX coordinator, will be potentially re-designing the formatting of Bystander training, according to Jacquelyn Kondrot, associate dean of students for wellness education. While specific Bystander training sessions were planned for the fall of 2014, no sessions are currently planned for this semester and training will likely be conducted on an as-requested basis, according to Kondrot.

On the other hand, Safe Zone training, designed to provide a support network for Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Queer Plus students and members of the Allegheny community, already has a schedule for the spring semester. The Action Plan describes the training:

“The three-level training…allows participants to gain valuable resources and knowledge over time while creating supportive networks for all identities.”

Again, the Action Plan outlines its goal of reaching student beyond the ‘choir,’ including the Faculty Council and the Administrative Executive Committee as required audiences along with Greek life, ASG and athletics.

Greek life in particular has shown great dedication so far to this future plan as it is currently being discussed in IFC and Panhel. Steve House, ’16 and president of IFC, is continuing the work of previous IFC President Marcus Webster, ’15.

“I know Marcus Webster encouraged it last semester, I’m just continuing to encourage it more strongly. I think that it’s important for people to get trained,” House said.

As for sororities, Panhel will also be strongly encouraging new and current members to attend training sessions, according to Panhel President Brianna Martig, ’16.

“We, as [Panhellenic Council] are going to try to facilitate the chapters to do it. We’re going to see what the chapters are thinking and we’re probably going to go from there,” Martig said. “Greek life in general seems to really support Bystander and SafeZone training.”

Jayne Piskorik, assistant director of student involvement and adviser to Panhel, believes that working through the Greek system is a strong method for training those who might not otherwise seek the training out.

“I think it encourages more people to do it if they’re doing it with their Greek organization…There are a couple fraternities and sororities that do that, they’ll have the whole chapter go through Bystander or Safe Zone Training,” Piskorik said.

This was demonstrated by Jake Ballinger, ’16 and member of Phi Gamma Delta, who expressed that he felt his chapter should seek to be trained both in Bystander and Safe Zone training.

“I literally just made a Google Doc of everyone in the fraternity and said ‘Safe Zone trained: Level One? Level Two?’ and ‘Bystander trained: yes or no?’ I sent it out and said, ‘fix it,’” Ballinger said. “I literally said, ‘this should be done.’ Most of them went to Safe Zone Level One and we went to Bystander training as a group.”

While not every member of FIJI ended up with full training, Ballinger feels that the vast majority of the members received the training and hopes that it makes Greek life more accessible for the rest of the community.

“There’s sexist and heteronormative attitudes, the domineering group mentality of masculinity that you get with fraternity life…I think that [Bystander and Safe Zone training] would be a formal gesture of saying, ‘we want to be open to people of different backgrounds and just because you identify some certain way doesn’t mean we’ll exclude you because that can be not helpful to both of us,’” Ballinger explained, hoping make the Greek community more accessible to the general Allegheny community as Ballinger is also in charge of public relations for IFC.

As part of the nationwide conversations regarding sexual assault and LGBTQ support, Ballinger expressed the hope that encouragement of these training sessions would create a more positive environment on campus through addressing a large percentage of students on campus.

Mullen expressed positivity toward these changes as pivotal movements that will only increase the safety and well-being of the campus.

“I think that’s a real statement of leadership that [Greek life is] going to do that. I think the fact that they’re stepping up to do that is what leadership in a community is about. I’m very pleased by that,” Mullen said. “We want to extend that to other key groups on campus and we’re talking about who are those other groups and how they can become part of that process.”