After last year’s bias-related incident involving slurs written on white boards in Esbenshade, student groups across campus have joined together to speak out against hateful speech and actions. Noir, Elizabethtown College’s student diversity union, wanted to make a statement in the wake of the bias related incident.
With the guidance of Brandon Jackson, former coordinator of multicultural programs and residential communities, and the help of the Office of Marketing and Communications, the Soar Above Hate decal was created. This image was designed to build community and show that Etown students were above the idea of being hateful toward each other because of identity.
“When I was given the decals this year, I thought about the idea of just giving them to people and that just didn’t seem like enough,” Interim Coordinator of Multicultural Programs and Residential Communities Stephanie Collins said.
Collins did not want the Soar Above Hate decal to become just another thing for students to stick on their doors. “This needed to have a little more meaning behind it,” Collins stated.
She took it upon herself to look into national research about effective ways to combat biases on college campuses. Inspired by the research she found on Safe Zone training and a variety of diversity training methods on other campuses, Collins decided to develop her own Soar Above Hate training program.
Each Soar Above Hate training session lasts for roughly an hour and a half and is broken down into two sections. The first section of the training deals with personal identity, the things that every person finds important within themselves, and how it manifests in everyday life.
Participants are asked to examine and identify the identities that empower them, that cause them anxiety and that they wish other people understood better. The second half of the training educates participants on how to respond to an incident of bias, such as the use of microaggressions.
“If someone says something about a friend of yours, and you aren’t in that same identity group, how do you respond? What do you say?” Collins said. “It’s important to come up with a way to say things that feel natural for a person and can be used to quickly respond, because often in the moment we don’t know what to do.”
Collins gave examples of the best ways to address a biased remark. Respond with: “I don’t like when you use that language” or “Do you know what that means to this person?” or “That’s not right and do you understand why?”
“It’s all about trying to have that teachable moment,” Collins said. “There’s not always a teachable moment, and people don’t always feel safe intervening, and that’s fine. It’s not your responsibility to always be the person intervening but when you have the chance, use it.”
Once participants have completed the training, they are given a Soar Above Hate decal to display on their dorm doors, indicating that they are a safe place for people who are looking for someone to talk to about these issues.
The first Soar Above Hate training was held Nov. 1 at the Mosaic House. Over 10 students showed up to be trained, including junior Aleeyah Colbert.
“I actually didn’t know it was going on at first until I walked over to the Mosaic House and asked about it,” Colbert said. “They explained to me that it was training for how to handle situations when something inappropriate is said.”
Colbert was intrigued to hear about how the program would recommend students go about handling these types of situations.
“I wanted to know if there were ways that I could get better with that or maybe I was already doing the right thing,” Colbert stated.
Senior Lelynn-Junne O’Connor, who works at the Mosaic House under the leadership of Collins, recommends that all interested students participate in Soar Above Hate training.
“I think that a lot of people on campus could benefit from the discussions that we had in these round table settings,” O’Connor said. “I hadn’t even thought about some of these things and I consider myself to be a very understanding person.”
Collins hopes to host more trainings next semester for both students and faculty and to incorporate the program in the spring resident assistant training.
“I can’t force anybody to take the training, but it will be a strongly encouraged option,” Collins said. “Forcing people to do these trainings would negate what it’s all about. You have to really feel like you’re a safe place in order to be a safe place.”
The next Soar Above Hate training will be held Wednesday, Nov. 17 at 7 p.m. in either the Mosaic House or Schlosser Lobby. For more information on the Soar Above Hate program, contact Collins at firstname.lastname@example.org.