February 3, 2013

Cornell Students Must Speak Out Against Hazing, Speaker Says

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As a part of a presentation Thursday to new members of sororities and fraternities,  Mike Dilbeck, founder and president of the Response Ability Project, encouraged Cornell students to speak up in dangerous situations.

In his presentation, Dilbeck talked about bystander intervention, or being in a dangerous situation where you “wanted to intervene and didn’t.”

Speaking from personal experience, Dilbeck said that he became aware of bystander behavior around him when one of his close friends did nothing when Dilbeck was bullied in middle school.

Dilbeck said that all of his stories — relating to bullying, hazing, sexual violence, alcohol and drug abuse, discrimination or just “everyday life” — could be taking place on Cornell’s campus right now.

He also noted that these types of behaviors are not limited just to Greek life, but could take place in all types of student organizations. He added, however, that his information was important for members of the Greek community to hear because of recent chapter closings, hazing allegations and hospitalizations within Cornell’s Greek life.

Travis Apgar, associate dean of students for fraternity and sorority affairs, agreed with Dilbeck, saying that the presentation “could not be any more relevant to the campus culture and community at this time.”

Apgar said that the new member period should be an orientation rather than a pledging process.

“[New members] should be welcomed on a process built on respect,” he said.

Apgar also reminded the audience of the importance of medical amnesty policy. He said that the closing of the Tau Epsilon Phi fraternity at Cornell was not due to a medical amnesty call, but due to a longer history of hazing-related incidents.

Apgar said that he does not use medical amnesty to target fraternities on campus. Instead, he said, “[the medical amnesty policy] works, and we’re really committed to it.

Students said that they benefited from Dilbeck’s talk, which they said was timely and relevant to the Cornell community.

“Although [Dilbeck’s] own personal anecdotes felt very make-believe and clichéd, the speech was impassionate and personal,” said Vikram Kejariwal ’16, a new member of the Delta Phi fraternity.

Samantha Weisman ’15, who is a Sun Blogs writer and new member educator for the Alpha Chi Omega sorority, said that she wished the talk had been taken more seriously.

“I really think people can benefit from bystander education,” Weisman said. “Much more often than not, sexual assault goes unreported, and bystanders really have the power to prevent this from occurring.”

Weisman also noted the importance of implementing such a program at Cornell.

“I thought the idea behind it was great because I think bystander education is extremely necessary, especially on our campus,” she said.

Kejariwal said that he had initially been skeptical of the talk and saw it as a formality. However, Kerjariwal said that as Dilbeck began his presentation, his doubt faded.

“I was fascinated by the speaker’s acute passion for the subject of responsibility and support. He wasn’t against the Greek system, but rather, stood for the principles of mutuality and brotherhood,” he said.

Dilbeck highlighted the three tools he said help fight bystander behavior: target the problem, transcend barriers and take action.

He closed his speech by encouraging everyone in the audience to take the “Everyday Hero Pledge,” an agreement to stop being a bystander in dangerous situations.

Original Author: Dara Levy