Stop the Hate program builds activism on campuses

Stop the Hate program builds activism on campusesKristin Louderback2004-09-0150Association Newsfalse

The Prejudice Institute estimates that one out of every four or five adult Americans is harassed, intimidated, insulted, or assaulted for reasons of prejudice during the course of a year. On college campuses, only between 15 and 30 percent of student victims report bias incidents and hate crimes to campus officials. Several studies have indicated that the leading reason students give for not reporting incidents is that they think the school cannot or will not do anything about it.

ACUI's commitment to reversing these disturbing trends and breaking the silence about hate-related incidents by promoting diversity and respect across cultural and racial boundaries led to the creation of Stop the Hate Campus Bias and Hate Crime Prevention Program in 1998–99. Stop the Hate's mission is to support colleges and universities in their fight against hate on campus in addition to serving as the leading source for training on preventing and responding to bias and hate crimes on campus.   

Recently, Stop the Hate has teamed up with Tolerance.org, an award-winning online resource packed with information for those dedicated to stopping prejudice and hate crimes on college campuses. Together the groups are producing an instructional guide, titled "10 Ways to Fight Hate on Campus: A Guide for Collegiate Activists." The guide, which will be distributed to all members of ACUI, offers instructions on crisis management immediately following a hate crime, as well as how to deal with the long-term issues present after an incident.

"One of the most effective ways to prevent bias incidents and hate crimes is to have a comprehensive response, and the campus should advocate that response broadly, so everyone knows that bias-motivated hate will not be tolerated," said Shane Windmeyer, educational program coordinator for Stop the Hate. "This guide will provide '10 Ways to Fight Hate'—something that all of us can do."

Administrators, directors, and students alike can put the guide's contents to good use; all that is required is the desire to implement necessary changes within a campus community. Especially relevant topics include: what makes a crime a hate crime, campus administrators' obligations after a crime has been committed, how to support the victims of a hate crime, and what to say to the media.

Stop the Hate is also prompting change on college campuses by encouraging leaders to take what they have learned in the Train the Trainer curriculum and apply it directly to their schools. Gerald Lang, building manager of the Bonnie E. Cone University Center at the University of North Carolina–Charlotte, was so motivated by the Stop the Hate Train the Trainer program that he more than lived up to the challenge of putting together six Stop the Hate programs within a year by planning 10 events after only two weeks.

Lang said the response he has gotten from students has been positive, and interest in his programs continues to grow. "It takes off by itself," he said. "People are so open and receptive to it."

Lang said his favorite program thus far is one that tackled the topic of religious intolerance immediately after the attacks on Sept. 11. The program, Hate and Religion, brought together a student from Tunisia with a Christian and Islamic background, an elder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and a student from India with a Hindu background. The three spoke freely about their individual religious backgrounds and the conflicts and challenges they encounter because of their faith. Lang and other program facilitators highlighted the differences between the individuals, emphasizing that embracing these differences is the only path to tolerance. Lang held two of these programs, the second of which included a question-and-answer segment with the panelists.

In addition to encouraging Lang to become a vehicle for change on campus, Stop the Hate has also challenged him to evaluate his own biases. "The most important lesson I've learned is that it starts with me," he said. Lang keeps in mind a quote from Gandhi that has become a motto in his fight against hate: "You must be the change that you wish to see in the world." Motivated by these words, Lang has become more conscious of how his actions influence those around him. "It made me take a good look at myself and my behaviors," he said. "We can affect people when we don't even realize it."

Paul Wolcott, a student at Portland Community College as well as the school's campus affairs assistant, has had a similar experience as a result of attending Stop the Hate's Train the Trainer program in April. Wolcott said that his status as a 55-year-old, straight, white male has somewhat limited his understanding of prejudice, but—in addition to sparking his interest in the subject of hate crimes and prevention—the Stop the Hate program served as an eye-opening experience because it caused him to become more aware of diversity and bias. "You can't ever see a needle that's on the floor, but when you find it, you see it all the time," he said.

Wolcott is currently active in planning Portland Community College's Hate Hurts Conference, a one-day workshop combating hate crimes, which will take place on Oct. 3.

In addition to several workshops and films, the conference will feature Morris Dees Jr., co-founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center, as the keynote speaker.

The college is also applying Stop the Hate's message by developing a Hate Crimes Response team. Mandy Ellertson, Portland Community College's student leadership coordinator, has examined focus groups in an attempt to assess the hate climate on campus. Ellertson said she believes the campus has a lot to gain by openly addressing and actively combating hate crimes. "It seems on the surface like it's not a problem, but there is underlying tension," she said.

A sign that momentum is growing, Stop the Hate has trained more than 120 students, faculty, and staff on college campuses across the United States this year. The program also received a $10,000 educational partnership grant from the Southern Poverty Law Center, and recently released a poster and postcard series titled "Hate Does Not Discriminate." Stop the Hate is also recommended as an effective campus bias and hate crime prevention tool in a document in the works, called "A Framework for Violence Prevention in Higher Education: Moving Toward a Comprehensive Approach." Windmeyer was one of 24 experts in the field of violence prevention to attend the review meeting of the publication, hosted by the U.S. Department of Education's Higher Education Center for Alcohol for Other Drug Prevention and Violence Issues and the Education Development Center, Inc. The team of experts gave feedback on the framework document, which is the first of its kind to address issues of violence on campus comprehensively to create safer learning environments. Publication is scheduled for October 2003.

"There is so much work to be done. Our Stop the Hate trainers have the energy, the knowledge, and the passion to make a difference," Windmeyer said. "The momentum continues to grow."

Updated Nov. 9, 2012