Bystander intervention programme launched for UCC students

Orla Dwyer

“This programme will help build a culture of zero tolerance to prevent and combat sexual harassment and violence, both on and off campus."

An online bystander intervention programme against sexual harassment and violence was launched in University College Cork on January 28th.

The programme was launched by Minister for Higher Education Mary Mitchell O’Connor. It is an online project taught through six one-hour workshops available to 22,000 UCC students.

“This programme will help build a culture of zero tolerance to prevent and combat sexual harassment and violence, both on and off campus,” said Mitchell O’Connor.

The programme introduces students to the idea of an active bystander – a person who recognises an objectionable event or behaviour and intervenes in some way. It will teach the key issues of consent and the boundaries surrounding sexual assault, rape and abusive relationships.

The programme was developed by Dr Louise Crowley from the UCC School of Law and funded by the UCC Student Charges and Fees Forum.

“By raising the conversation amongst peers, we hope that there will be a greater awareness of the absolute unacceptability of unwanted behaviour, and the expectation of zero tolerance at UCC,” Crowley told The College View.

“At present, the programme is voluntary. Students can self-enroll through the UCC Blackboard platform. We will pilot this approach for a year and review,” she said.

Five of the workshops are available to be taken individually by students online and the final one takes place in small student groups with a UCC staff member present.

“The bystander approach engages with all participants as bystanders, persons not directly involved but who, if properly informed, educated and upskilled, can make an educated and appropriate decision to make a safe intervention to stop or adjust the behaviour and actions of others,” said Crowley.

Students are required to answer questions and share their reflections over the course of the programme. After the final session, participants must submit either a 1,000-word essay, a piece of creative writing or a piece of art such as a painting which reflects their learning from the programme, said Crowley.

“We regard the bystander intervention programme as unique in a number of respects. Most importantly, it regards both the issue and some of the possible solutions as a societal matter, something that everyone can play a role in addressing,” she said.

A mural was also unveiled against sexual violence in colleges on January 28th in UCC as part of the university’s first Bystander Intervention Week.

Orla Dwyer

Image Credit: Pixabay