By Katie Sittig-Boyd
On Tuesday, March 1, the Diversity and Inclusion Council (DAIC) held the first event in its biweekly “Talkin’ on Tuesdays” series. Tuesday’s event was a workshop on effective and active bystander intervention, and was held by Assistant Dean of the School of Nursing and Health Sciences Jodi DeLibertis.
DeLibertis began the event by addressing the goals and ideal outcomes of the workshop; bystander intervention training typically centers on raising awareness and providing participants with the skills to change behavior in situations which could benefit from active bystanders.
“Bystander training fits with the Simmons mission,” DeLibertis said. “We want to bring purpose and passion to the community, and create an environment where as many people can participate in this as possible.”
DeLibertis requested that participants brainstorm the meaning of what it is to be a “bystander.” Answers included “a witness”; “an observer, not involved”; “a passive role in the situation”; “can choose to be involved”; and “has the connotation of innocence.”
“We don’t have the choice to be involved, but when we become involved, we do have the choice of how involved we want to be,” said DeLibertis, emphasizing that bystanders can play an important role in de-escalating tense situations.
Participants were asked to consider a time when they wished they were an active bystander, or a situation in which they wished someone else had been an active bystander on their behalf.
“Knowing when a situation needs a bystander often comes down to gut feeling,” DeLibertis added.
The event also highlighted research that has been conducted on the “bystander effect,” which indicates that as groups get larger, individuals become less likely to intervene or seek outside help.
“The power of the group is really, really potent,” said DeLibertis. “People don’t intervene because they’re uncertain. The more we practice in low-stakes situations, the better we can do in high-stakes ones.”
DeLibertis also stressed that if a situation seems physically or emotionally dangerous, getting appropriate authorities involved is ideal, in order to protect both the involved party as well as the bystander.
Some participants were concerned with situations that blur the line between a bystander and an authority figure, such as the role of a professor in the classroom. DeLibertis suggested taking on an active bystander role before adopting a more authoritative stance.
DeLibertis also emphasized the importance of community building, rather than “correcting” the offending party. “It is not about ‘fixing’ the offender,” said DeLibertis. “Sometimes it opens the opportunity for someone else to speak, and most importantly, it takes the pressure off the person being targeted by the situation. It tells the community that we have each others’ backs.”
The “Talkin’ on Tuesdays” series highlights issues of diversity and inclusion on campus and is open to anyone who wishes to participate.