SSAC TRAINS STUDENTS HOW TO BE ACTIVE BYSTANDERS
By Michael Eberhart, News Editor
Mason’s Student Support and Advocacy Center (SSAC) has been training students to intervene in a wide range of emergency situations, from drug and alcohol abuse to eating disorders to sexual assault and kidnapping.
The AnyOne Can Step Up! Program began at the University of Virginia and at University of California Riverside as separate bystander intervention programs, but were combined and revamped to focus on Mason’s campus by the SSAC office in 2014.
“I know that we are trying to create a community of responsibility here at George Mason where we all step up and we all stand up for one another,” said Nichole Nicholas, assistant director of health and wellness education at SSAC. “I think that is what makes this program so great is that we can take this information and mold it to situations or scenarios that are happening on campus.”
The one-hour training details the five steps students should take to be an active bystander, including videos depicting different scenarios and interactions with other students to practice how they should respond. Nicholas explained that the first step is noticing the event.
“I think it’s really important to train our students to look for key things,” explained Nicholas. “Noticing that you came with three or four friends and making sure that you’ve either made a pact to stay together and leave together, or if it was okay to leave that friend at a party by themselves…. Alcohol situations are some of the hardest and most ambiguous situations to actually notice because you come to a party and you don’t know how much everyone has had to drink, you don’t know what is in the drinks that are there.”
The training also covers interpreting events as a problem or emergency, how to assume personal responsibility, knowing how to help with available resources, and how to intervene and implement that help. Connecting students to all of the different resources on campus that can help them handle an emergency is an important aspect of the program.
“I think this type of training is really important to our students because we want them to feel like they have the power to step up and do something,” said Nicholas. “George Mason police, the Student Support and Advocacy Center, CAPS – all of these resources are available to you all of the time so you never have to feel like you’re alone and you don’t have to put yourself in harm’s way.”
SSAC provides AnyOne Can Step Up! training to all types of organizations at Mason, and tailors the presentation to the concerns of different student groups around campus. Requests include greek life, athletics, and housing and residence life for example.
“I think what makes our Step Up! program different is that we try to cater towards the Mason community…. We have a really diverse population here at Mason, we have students from all over the world,” said Nicholas.
Due to that diverse population, students often ask about how to intervene or to not intervene when the problem concerns race and ethnicity as well as religious beliefs.
Nicholas says that stepping up does not have to be confrontational. It could be noticing a conflict from a distance and calling the police.
“If you see something wrong in the residence hall that could mean calling your resident director and letting them know… or it could be standing in between an argument that is happening,” said Nicholas.
SSAC will organize the next AnyOne Can Step Up! presentation on
Feb. 6, with other training scheduled throughout the semester approximately every two weeks. Nicholas added that students who are interested in attending should “be prepared to have a conversation and bring a positive attitude.”