Don’t just be a face in the crowd

By Jill Weisensel – I had the amazing opportunity to present at a National Verbal Defense instructor’s conference this past weekend. I spent no less than the past three months of my life relentlessly researching bystander intervention strategies and ways in which we could improve and integrate them on our campus to make it a healthier and safer environment for everyone. I addressed everything from verbal abuse and bullying, to toxic workplace discourse, and physical assaults and sexual violence. I discussed several ways in which everyone can step up, take action, and work as a community to prevent and overcome these toxic behaviors, because as you know, “bystanders” greatly outnumber the number of violence “victims” or “perpetrators.” I presented for almost two hours on how to mobilize bystander “witnesses” in all of these scenarios.

Interestingly, I addressed a related topic at the Student Leadership Summit last weekend. I discussed the importance of having an ethical presence through the credibility of personal character, and I stressed the need for personal integrity and action by all members of the campus community. One of the key take home points from this presentation was the importance for leaders to “be what you represent,” by acting consistently in line with their values, and the values of the community they represent.

Additionally, in an effort to define “our community” and the ways in which our campus community can work to overcome the “biases and ‘isms” that create dangerous “in-group/out-group” thinking, Coordinator of Alcohol Programs Sara Johnson and I addressed a “Community Call for Civility.” We discussed not only what rights we have as part of this “Marquette community,” but also what responsibilities we have to each other as members of the community. The student’s feedback from this presentation was overwhelmingly positive and inspiring, and there is no doubt in my mind that Marquette is moving towards a “new excellence” in community responsibility.

“And I am reminded, on this holy day, of the sad story of Kitty Genovese. As you all may remember, a long time ago, almost thirty years ago, this poor soul cried out for help time and time again, but no person answered her calls. Though many saw, no one so much as called the police. They all just watched as Kitty was being stabbed to death in broad daylight. They watched as her assailant walked away. Now, we must all fear evil men. But there is another kind of evil which we must fear most, and that is the indifference of good men.” (Boondock Saints, 1999)

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