Student Leader Retreat

Yesterday there was a gathering of administrators and the leaders of student organizations.  They do a student leader retreat at least once a year and its a time to gather the students on campus who lead their respective groups and work on a campus issue or initiative.  Because I was student advising yesterday I missed the first half of the retreat, but came in for the second half, which was about increasing campus pride and the bystander effect.

First, campus pride. The students and administrators talked a lot about how to increase campus pride.  This could take any number of forms – wearing WFU apparel on campus (as opposed to other schools, particularly our rival schools), having students stay for entire sporting events (not leave at halftime and not come back), to having “Black and Gold” Fridays before big games.  The students had a lot of interesting suggestions for more than just athletic topics – they wanted to encourage attendance at more events on campus and seemed focused on increasing cultural competency for things like the arts.  It was a productive discussion – rest assured we have some great student leaders.

The end of the retreat featured a guest speaker named Mike Dilbeck, who is from the Response Ability Project.  His organization’s goal is to try and empower student leaders to take active responsibility on their campuses to improve pride, safety, community, tolerance, etc. by combating what is known as the “Bystander Effect” – someone sees something going wrong, but they fail to take action for some reason (fear, thinking its someone else’s responsibility, etc.)

Mike’s message to the 60+ student leaders was that “you cannot be a leader and a bystander at the same time” and he gave the group some tools to help understand Bystander Effect and why it is so important that leaders intervene in issues (be they large or small) that might undercut campus pride, sense of community, and certainly safety.  The Response Ability website describes it like this:

“There are moments in life where you want to make a difference, where you want to be an ‘everyday hero’ — to help someone and take care of them — and you don’t. You are frozen. You find yourself unable to do or say what you want to do or say. This is bystander behavior and, in that moment, you are being a bystander. Being a bystander doesn’t mean you are a bad, awful person. Being a bystander simply means that you are a human being experiencing a very common phenomenon: bystander behavior. Most of the problems in our society today involve bystanders – those who know about a problem and do nothing. Say nothing.”

He gave three rules for people to use when they see something that they feel is wrong:

1. IDENTIFY the situation as a problem

2. GO BEYOND just your immediate thought.  In other words, if you see something wrong but no one else is doing anything about it, don’t assume that it is not a problem or that someone else will handle it.  We all have the power to do the right thing.


After the session, he emailed all participants a 3 Tools Handout to explain his message in greater detail.

Mike’s message was that we all have the ability to positively impact people, and that as community members it is our responsibility to look out for our fellow classmates and people on campus.  It was a pretty powerful session, and with so much campus leadership in the room, I feel very encouraged that his message will spread throughout those students’ respective organizations.

For more information about the Response Ability project, visit their website.

Categories: campus lifegreek life


Recent Posts