Dear Trinity Students,
For the past two years, I have participated in parts of the New Student Orientation in August. I absorb the various skill sessions designed to equip you to deal with the reality of college life and Trinity University. I write today to ask you to think about ways you can deploy your "bystander intervention" skills more broadly.
I have had students of color come forward to talk with me about the national climate around issues of race, and how they feel less valued and less respected in our society. They want to see more support for them around issues of race in our country and awareness of their experiences on campus. We have recently had incidents that concern me. One student had a symbol of her religious heritage stolen from her door. Another student had a slur keyed into his car regarding sexual identity. It is up to all of us to speak up as bystanders.
I ask you to think about the "bystander intervention" skills more broadly, beyond the sexual assault scenarios they are designed to address. In its simplest form, bystander intervention does two things. First, it asks us each to become aware of the wellbeing of everyone around us—to observe, to listen, and to be sensitive to situations that seem off balance and could leave someone vulnerable. Second, it asks us to each imagine ways that we can change the dynamics of the situation, usually by speaking up and adding a new and unexpected element to the scenario. Imagine some of the exact words or phrases you might use. Once you've imagined them, heard your voice saying them in your mind, it's much easier to take the next step and speak them, even if it might seem awkward. We all need each other to be strong as a community.
I have great faith in our Trinity community, but we are not immune to the social dynamics that occur off campus. Please step up to help us address behaviors and language that may be bias related. Defacement of property is not acceptable in our community. Actions meant to belittle, intimidate, or harass are not acceptable in our community. The University condemns these actions that undermine our sense of shared community. I ask each of you to help us keep our connections strong.