For many NYU Abu Dhabi freshmen, busy preparing for midterms and confirming last minute spring break plans, a compulsory workshop is probably the last thing they want to attend. However, as highlighted in recent emails from Dean of Students Kyle Farley and Associate Director of Mental Health Promotion and Sexual Misconduct Support Services Tina Wadhwa, the school has decided to mandate a one and a half hour Falcon Facilitator session for all first-year students.
After hearing about incidents in which students felt uncomfortable by those around them or were left alone in dangerous situations, Farley and Wadhwa concluded that the school should roll out this mandatory pilot program that combines elements of AlcoholEdu and the Bystander Intervention workshop. Based on my experience, these two important educational trainings are not taken seriously enough. I know that many students breeze through the mandatory AlcoholEdu, and that the Bystander Intervention training that REACH and the Health Promotion Office offer twice a semester has had a low turnout
historically. But bystander intervention still needs to be emphasized. So if discussing it requires obligatory attendance, then so be it.
As we navigate our way through college and beyond, we are bound to find ourselves in situations that require bystander intervention. For example, I walked into my room this past Wednesday, extremely exhausted because I had only eaten one proper meal in two days. Noticing that something was wrong, my suitemate asked if I was all right and offered me some food. An example of a situation that required more professional assistance took place when I was in high school — I had to dial the school counselor at 2 a.m. for my friend who was trying to hurt themself.
In one scenario, someone was an ally for me, and in the other, I was an ally for someone else. One scenario was low-risk, while the other was high-risk. One intervention took a direct approach, while the other took an indirect one. These are only two examples of the many ways to intervene and stand up for your friend, roommate or perhaps a stranger that you just met at a party. The goal of this program is to discuss different approaches you can take so as to prevent things from simply unfolding and perhaps taking a turn for the worse.
The core message of the Falcon Facilitator workshop is to create a supportive community and recognize that it is our duty to speak up when we notice that something is wrong. And becoming a Falcon Facilitator is my way of assuming that duty. I am leading this discussion with other student leaders to voice the thought that we can make this a better community. This sense of responsibility for other NYUAD students needs to be reinforced more and more as class sizes become bigger.
To be fair, I am not an advocate for mandatory workshops. If they were to happen, I would not have them during an exam week. But on an ideal campus, this program would not exist because everyone would already know and feel empowered to practice bystander intervention. Until everyone understands that intervention is not a theoretical term that floats in an abstract realm, we have to keep talking about it.
Intervention can be as simple as what my suite mate did: offering some food and water when you feel like someone needs it. It doesn’t require being a superhero. Fortunately, we have so many resources here at NYUAD, whether that is your Residential Assistant, REACH, the Health and Wellness Centre or Spiritual Life and Intercultural Education. Directing a person to these resources is an effective form of intervention as well.
Intervention does not require grandiose action or direct confrontation. It starts from your everyday choices and behaviour. It starts from me. It starts from you. It starts from us. So don’t consider these 1.5 hours as just another mandatory program. Instead, think of the Falcon Facilitator program as an opportunity to learn how to change our campus culture. When one person person stands up and says, this is wrong, it helps others to do the same.
So, I challenge myself and you to be the one that speaks up — because it’s on us, all of us, to stop something bad from happening.
Brian Kim is a contributing writer. Email him at email@example.com.