The Undergraduate Student Government introduced a resolution Tuesday that will require all recognized student organizations to send representatives to an annual bystander intervention training for student leadership. This follows recent incidents of sexual harassment and assault at USC, including alleged sexual misconduct by former campus gynecologist George Tyndall.
“Bystander training is a really effective tool in combating those causes,” said Co-Chief Diversity Officer Shany Ebadi, who co-authored the resolution with senators Diviya Gupta and Jillian Halperin and senator and Speaker Pro Tempore Matthew Crane. “[We need to take] a step back and [realize] what is the environment, what are the factors that are cultivating the environment for sexual harassment and assault to occur, what communities are perpetuating it and how we can better educate each other and ourselves and [make] sure it doesn’t happen.”
According to the resolution, current sexual assault intervention training standards are not applicable to much of the student body. The proposed training will require RSOs to send representatives beginning in Fall 2020, the resolution said. One individual will be able to represent up to two RSOs. Crane said there will be multiple training sessions throughout the school year to accommodate the over 1,000 RSOs on campus.
“Priority No. 1 — always protect your students because if they’re not protected, how can we learn? How can they grow?” Sen. Shayan Kohanteb said. “How can they make friends? How can they do anything? So, I think it was the first step that was so needed — years ago. This is going to be what really propels us into fixing the process of making this a safe place for students.”
USC is expecting 15 student leaders and 25 faculty and staff members to attend the Bringing in the Bystander event on Feb. 23. The program will focus on providing an evidence-based, train-the-trainer model to teach bystanders how to intervene in high-risk situations.
“We’re going to have professionals come in and train key student leaders and then hopefully have those student leaders pass on their knowledge to their organizations and hold everybody accountable,” Ebadi said. “Knowing we can have a point person at each RSO that is certified and are able to combat that kind of assault is going to be really helpful for us.”
The resolution has received support from 67 student organizations, including the Academic Culture Assembly, Student Assembly for Gender Empowerment and the Black Student Assembly. It has also received support from Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention and Services.
“The University of Southern California has seen recent institutional turmoil through a number of scandals involving response to sexual assault or sexual harassment and has resolved to respond through institutional reform and policy development,” the resolution read.
USG intends to transition leadership of the initiative to RSVP and the Student Affairs Goal 4 Committee during the 2019-20 academic year, the resolution said. USG will put $5,000 toward funding the initiative.
“As soon as we started participating in that conversation, it became clear that just doing small things wasn’t gonna be enough,” Crane said. “We had to really tap into existing social structures with student organizations. We want to make it wide-reaching. RSVP was a huge partner for us … They helped to fund it.”