Have you ever been concerned about a situation and wanted to help... but didn't? You're not alone! That’s called being a bystander: someone who’s watching a situation, but not involved. Student Life’s new Change it Up! workshop is giving students the tools to make a difference by practicing bystander intervention. We spoke to Taryn Petryk, Co-Chair of the Change it Up! initiative to learn more.
What kind of situations are we talking about here?
Change it Up! addresses lots of different kinds of harmful moments. Pretty much everyone has been in a situation where you realize someone is being excluded, there’s language that’s hurtful, or it could be there’s just this unhealthy dynamic in the room – it could be little acts or words about another person, but to you, the bystander, an alarm goes off. Students come across these situations with roommates, friends, at parties, and even in the classroom. At that moment they need to decide, “Should I interrupt that? Could it lead to something even more unhealthy or hurtful?”
Give me an example of how this would work in a real life situation.
Obviously, intervening in a situation can feel super daunting. So we’ve boiled it down to four “Ds”: Direct, Distract, Delegate, Delay. Let’s say you’re talking with friends, and someone throws out a stereotype, other people start laughing, and you get this feeling that it could spiral off into something pretty bad.
- You could be Direct and say “You know, that’s not my experience with the people you’re talking about.”
- You could Distract, and change the subject to something else — “Who saw that thing on TV last night?”
- You could Delegate, let the situation pass by, but at some point tell someone else who could assist, either to help you figure out what to do, or because they’re in a position to do something.
- Or you could Delay: let it happen, but afterwards go up to the person who made the remark and say, “Hey, I was a little offended by that, just so you know." And if you felt there was someone in the room who was hurt by it, you could also say, “Hey, I just wanted to check in with you, because I really think that wasn’t okay.”
Who’s going through the Change it Up! training right now?
In just its first year, Change It Up! introduced over 4,000 first-year students to the steps and skills for becoming active bystanders. The workshop is presented by staff and student teams, and features interactive performances with the U-M Educational Theatre Program.
And honestly, the response from the students has just floored me, in a positive way! We’re seeing it connect, they really walk away with a better knowledge of what to do. We see students have a lot of these moments where they’re like “Huh! I never thought I could do that!” Change it Up! makes intervening much easier, makes it feel like something you can do.
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