Bystander Intervention and Shared Responsibilities: Tools for Fostering a Healthy Community During COVID-19
As we prepare for the start of the academic year, we each will have an obligation to help make sure our actions match our words when it comes to COVID-19 health measures. At some point, most of us will find ourselves in a position to remind a campus community member about the importance -- and the expectation -- to wear a mask, social distance, or to ensure other healthy practices. This might involve a friend, a colleague, or it may be a situation you observe involving people you don’t know.
While the subject of these interventions may be new -- mask wearing, social distancing, etc. -- the responsibility of speaking up is not. As a community that cares deeply for one another, it is in our DNA to respectfully and directly intervene when we see people engaging in actions that are harmful to themselves or others. Still, finding the words and finding the agency to say something can seem difficult. But it need not be, and the best way to overcome those concerns is to remember, as Denisonians, that the intentions of these interactions are positive and anchored in goodwill toward one another. Interventions should be approached with calm and kindness, and the best answer when someone reminds you, for example, to wear a mask or to maintain social distance, is “thank you” and to put on a mask and resume social distancing.
Here are some further suggestions for when a reminder or intervention about health practices is needed.
- Lead by example. The most effective way to influence others’ behavior is through our own actions. So wear a mask, physically distance, practice good hand washing hygiene, clean up/sanitize after yourself, and socialize responsibly, including by avoiding dense gatherings of any size where mask-wearing and social distancing are not observed and especially indoors.
- Be responsible for your own environment. You are in control! You do not have to engage in any situation where you feel at risk. If someone approaches you without a mask or invades six feet of distance, every member of our community is empowered to ask them to practice our community’s health measures, to walk away from a situation yourself, or to ask them to leave the situation (the classroom, common space, office, etc.)
- Respectfully engage. When you do need to remind or intervene with someone or a group of people, engage from a place of respect, not anger. Here is some language you should feel comfortable using without fear of retribution:
- Masks are required indoors – can you put one on please?
- I’d love to talk, but I need you to put on your mask first.
- We all need to take breaks from wearing our masks – but they are required indoors. Please feel free to step outside if you don’t want to wear a mask right now.
- Let’s go outside, I’d feel more comfortable meeting there.
- I’m going to back up so that we can maintain 6 feet of distance between us.
- I want you to be able to continue socializing, can you put your masks on/stand six feet apart?
- You are exceeding capacity for this room – you can continue to socialize but you need to move outside.
- It looks like everyone is having fun - but not wearing masks/distancing is unsafe - we all want to stay on campus so please socialize responsibly. [this could be used in responding to photos you might see on social media]
- I think you forgot to sanitize just now, can you please do that before you leave?
- I would love to see you all in person but our Return to Work guidelines indicate that we should still be conducting meetings virtually. Can you schedule this on Zoom or Hangouts Meet instead of live?
If someone says these things to you, say “thank you” and take the follow-up action needed. These interactions are grounded in good intentions and reminders will be shared out of concern for themselves and for you.
- Seek support. If someone refuses to cooperate after confronted or if you witness an egregious violation (a large gathering in a residence hall, a large group not distancing or wearing masks outside or off-campus, someone who repeatedly violates guidelines) you should:
- Call campus safety or use the Blue Whistle on My.Denison if the situation involves students.
- Contact a faculty or staff member that you trust to advise you on an approach.
- Contact HR if the situation involves a faculty or staff member.
- Consult with your CA, or CC if you are in the residential communities.
Non-retaliation and anti-harassment: With all Denisonians being empowered and encouraged to foster healthy community during COVID-19, it is also important to remind all members of the community that retaliation or harassment against anyone engaging in appropriate intervention will not be tolerated, and bullying or harassment of any member of the campus community will also not be tolerated. The vast majority of needed interventions will be resolvable through a friendly and calm reminder, which is why we encourage all Denisonians encountering a need for intervention to engage (and to do so regardless of their position within the University or the position of the person or people needing a reminder -- as Denisonians, we all will be living equally under the standards required to keep ourselves and our campus community healthy). Where intensified interventions are needed for a situation, call Campus Safety or engage the support measures described above.
A few additional points are worth noting:
Cooperation with health and safety measures is required: All employees and students are responsible for reading, knowing, and abiding by the health and safety measures that have been issued this summer in preparation for the academic year, and for any updates that are issued. Employees who fail to comply with required COVID-19 health measures may be subject to corrective action, and students who fail to comply may be subject to discipline, including removal from campus or suspension or separation from the University.
Intervention is required by certain employees: Through the guidance in this document, all members of the Denison community are empowered and urged to do their part in fostering a healthy campus, including through bystander intervention. Certain employees are required to respond to observed or reported non-cooperation with COVID-19 health measures and supervisors are instructing those employees with response obligations. (For example, Student Development staff, Residential Communities team members including CCs and CAs, Campus Safety team members, employees responsible for shared spaces, and others) will be required to properly and promptly respond to non-cooperation with health and safety measures and, particularly, to act promptly to address serious violations.