Are you a good bystander? Reply

By Megan Palumbo & Holly Feola – Co-Editor-in-Chief & 1851 staff

Bystander Intervention trainings were held in Stoller Room on Nov. 1, during common hour to build awareness around microaggressions and inclusion on campus. The program was run by Assistant Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer Jesse Tauriac’s student workers, seniors Emily Huynh and Lane Sulzer, who are both educated in various diversity disciplines. 

The session started by establishing ground rules and encouraging open discussions. Next, Huynh and Sulzer presented PowerPoint slides, defining terms such as ‘bystanders’ and ‘microaggressions’. 

The leaders played a video showing different situations where microaggressions could arise. The discussion that followed the video led to more candid conversations that were interactive and insightful. 

Students wrote on large pieces of paper the microgressions they have witnessed on campus, and why people should step in and become a good bystander. Showcased were responses from prior groups which added different perspectives to the paper. 

Tauriac said the event would be most beneficial for the campus at this point in the semester. He believes that “…between the Halloween season and [midterm] elections, we felt like it would be a good time for people to develop some skills to make a meaningful difference,” said Tauriac. 

Tauriac added, “The hope with the intervention workshops is to help people to understand what would be off-putting to others.” His goal is to have more of these trainings on campus to improve the climate for students so they do not feel marginalized and to “empower people to be able to speak up and do something if they witness these kinds of interactions.”

“I think being a student worker with Jesse puts me in a really unique position,” said Huynh. “It’s really cool that Jesse allows us to have that [freedom] and ability to say what the campus needs and then do what we need to change it.” When it comes to diversity, Huynh said people think about quotas and race. “We’re trying to focus on inclusion and how do we have every student be the best student they can be, and how do we provide the resources for that kind of thing, considering all their identities,” said Huynh. 

Huynh and Sulzer taught the Bystander Intervention trainings six times—four for the general public and two for classes. One class was a human services 101 course, while the other class was a first year seminar (FYS). 

According to Sulzer, they talked to roughly 120 to 150 students, faculty and staff. “Each presentation had their own unique aspect,” Sulzer said. Students from the FYS class were “coming to the presentation with questions on how to apply [bystander intervention] in different situations in their own lives.” Whereas the human services class “took a different aspect with it in terms of what they’re looking to do with it in their careers,” Sulzer said. 

Professor Sarahbeth Golden brought students from her Human Services: Systems & Strategies course and said, “I think the training opened students’ eyes to the vast range of experiences people have on campus. Many students indicated that they felt less alone and could relate to each other.”

When asked why they came to the Bystander Intervention training, senior psychology major Molly Parrot said, “The topic was interesting, and I’ve been to a couple other similar workshops. I feel like you can never go to enough [events] even if there’s overlap, there’s always at least one new thing you can take away from it.”

Freshman education major Kelsey Toomey said she attended the training because, “I’m very interested in the whole standing up for other people… and also it’s really important for future teachers to realize the stereotypes out there and how to fight against it.” 

Although Huynh and Sulzer have been running the trainings, they both learn new things each year. “When certain people bring their different experiences and different perspectives,” said Sulzer. “I don’t think I’m teaching people, but I think we guide the conversation.” Huynh was able to support Sulzer’s claim further by saying, “All I can really do is stand up there and ask questions and guide a conversation that hopefully people will come out with something beneficial for them or the people around them…it’s fulfilling to see people actually be like ‘wow I’m glad I went.’”

When it comes to advocating for diversity and inclusion, Toomey said, “People expect other people to take care of it.” This event has taught her the event taught her to get more involved with “Finding ways to stand up and convince other people to stand up with you.”

Students from the HS101 class, “suggested that there should be a Part 2 to the training, where they can practice strategies for intervening when they witness or experience microaggressions,” said Golden. “We need to deeply consider our impact on each other and work hard to come together to make Lasell as welcoming and inclusive as possible.”

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