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Server training program revamped to include bystander intervention

Changes part of larger emphasis on consent promotion, community culture

This August, over 1,200 students underwent a new server training program at McGill in preparation for their roles as Open Air Pub (OAP) servers, Frosh leaders, and Orientation Week staff. The program, developed as a joint project between Campus Life & Engagement and Healthy McGill, was meant to put a stronger emphasis on bystander intervention and the role of alcohol in sexual violence.

The changes to server training come as a part of a series of changes happening on campus with regard to promoting consent, as well as changes to how Frosh is run in general. Liaison Officer (Harm Reduction) Bianca Tétrault ran a bystander intervention workshop during McGill’s Safety Week, and has a consent campaign in the works for October.

Joyce Chong, who underwent the training in preparation for her role as a Science Frosh leader, was pleased with the training. “It was very applicable, it was very helpful, and it was very intensive,” Chong told The Daily. “I feel like they really upped it this year.”

According to Amanda Unruh, Health Promotion Coordinator at Student Health Services and one of the designers of the new training program, this restructuring has been in the works for a while. “I’ve been aware of the fact that there are consent issues relating to alcohol for quite some time, but it wasn’t until last summer, in 2013, that we decided to do a revamp of [the training] based on what are called bystander intervention programs,” Unruh told The Daily.

Unruh explained that bystander intervention programs, active at other Canadian universities such as the University of Toronto and the University of Windsor, are meant to train students to be comfortable intervening in situations where alcohol is present that could potentially lead to violence, particularly sexual violence. “Alcohol is very prevalent in cases of university sexual violence,” noted Unruh.

Clare Knutson, an orientation week staffer, noticed the difference between the 2014 server training and the server training she underwent at McGill in 2011.

“The first round seemed very McGill-oriented […] and the second round seemed more community-oriented,” said Knutson. “2011 seemed to be more about school, and this year seemed to be more about culture, [in the sense of] drinking culture on campus, especially within the context of Frosh.”

Nicholas Proulx-Jones, who also underwent the training, agreed with Knutson’s sentiment.

“They brought up McGill at the end […] they went over consent and the effects of drinking in more detail, and more of what your role as an ethical person in a drinking environment should be,” Proulx-Jones said.

The training placed heavy emphasis on the ‘3 Ds’ of bystander intervention: to directly approach someone and check in on the situation, to distract someone who is causing a potentially unsafe situation, or to delegate someone else to intervene in a situation.

“I know a lot of people really connected to the feeling of ‘well, I don’t want this to happen, but what can I do,’ and so we provided really tangible things that they could do,” said Unruh.

While Knutson learned a lot at the training, she was not sure that it made her more empowered as a bystander.

“I feel, for me, it would be really hard to cut somebody off [from drinking] especially with Frosh and OAP,” said Knutson, who noted that more focus on this type of intervention could be helpful in future training.

Last week, Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning) Ollivier Dyens noted that this year’s Frosh included more intensive staff training and increased communication with the Milton-Parc community, with which Frosh has historically sour relations.

Overall, Unruh is satisfied with the training changes. “I often get calls from other universities asking, ‘How do you run that, that’s so incredible.’ Concordia used our server training program as a basis for a lot of their leader training this year. I think its a great program.”