Bystander intervention training now mandatory for first-year students

February 12th, 2015

As part of the John Carroll University’s Ignatian commitment to curas personalis (care of the whole person), JCU, the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center, and Recovery Resources are conducting bystander intervention training sessions this semester for underclassmen. Freshman students living on campus next school year are required to complete this training in order to receive a housing selection date and time.


The bystander intervention trainings are conducted by Alex Leslie, director of prevention and outreach programs at the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center, and Colleen Fitzgibbons and Ashley Hartman, certified health education specialists at Recovery Resources. Two of the three lead each training session.


The trainings began on Monday, Jan. 26 and will occur each Monday and Wednesday until Wednesday, Feb. 18. The sessions are scheduled at 2 p.m., 6 p.m., 7 p.m. and 8 p.m.


When asked why the program was started, coordinator of Health Promotion and Wellness, Megan Dzurec said that’s all about making JCU a safer and more comfortable place to live.


“There is a great amount of research that indicates that students will positively intervene when they have learned skills in assisting others. We want JCU students to recognize their abilities in making the JCU community a safer, healthier place,” explained Dzurec. The skills learned at the bystander sessions are lifelong skills that will hopefully seem applicable and pertinent in the future, whether that means this weekend or ten years from now.”


Before this semester, bystander intervention training was offered and continues to be offered to other student organizations such as Greek life, athletic teams and other student organizations. In extending the reach to rising sophomores, Dzurec said that it “is another avenue of providing information and skills-based training in an effort to enhance our prevention efforts.”


“In our meetings with them, we determined that rising sophomores were a good population to reach because you’ve been on campus at John Carroll for a while,” said Stephanie Cerula, program coordinator at the JCU Violence Prevention and Action Center.


Cerula also said that bystander intervention training involves learning to look for warning signs. “We’re talking to students and they’re coming up with ways that they can intervene in situations regarding sexual violence, mental health, [and] substance use,” she said.


The mandatory training is one-time only, but Cerula said, “We’re doing bystander intervention training with other groups on campus.” She cited Greek life, athletics and as examples.


In theory, a student could receive this training as a freshman living on campus, then again in the extracurricular organizations they participate in.


Cerula cited Alcohol EDU and the “Sex Signals” talk that freshmen attend as examples of how students are already being educated on these issues.


“We have those touch points already set up. To me, this is just kind of building on the comprehensive model that we have in place,” Cerula said.


During the training, the students participate in anonymous polling about bystander scenarios. This way, students can voice their opinions on sensitive subject matters in an honest and non-threatening way.


“Someone may be shy, may feel like they can’t say something directly to intervene so they’ll tell one of their friends,” Cerula said. “They’re coming up with a plan that’s right for them.”


At the end of each session, students are asked to evaluate their experience. When speaking with The Carroll News, freshmen voiced an unfavorable opinion of their experience.


Freshmen Katie Neary said, ““If they want to make an impact, they would need better speakers. There was so little interaction with the crowd. It felt like they were talking at us.”


Similar to Neary’s response, freshmen McKenna Cordier was displeased with her experience.


“I think that while the program had good intentions, students coming to John Carroll are expected as young adults to know how to react in these situations and a one hour program is too little, too late,” said Cordier.


Marlon Robertson echoed a variation of Cordier’s opinion. “I liked the program, but I wished they had gone over the material more because we went over these same issues during orientation,” said Robertson.


Regardless of whether or not the feedback has been positive thus far, the program remains required and aims to better our campus community.


Editor’s Note: If you are a freshman student living on campus this year who has not yet registered for bystander intervention training, please go to to sign up. Freshmen students who do not attend the training will not receive a housing selection date and time for next year.