[This letter was originally written as an email directly to Michael Whaley, in response to his email on February 26, 2015 entitled “This week”. It is published as I originally wrote it, though I believe that there are many elements of this letter which should be expanded upon.]

Dear Dean Mike,

I would like to let you know that I am offended and appalled by the language of your email earlier today. I do not have the time nor energy to parse the entire contents of your message, nor do I want to, but I would like to emphasize my frustration toward your use of the concept of “bystander intervention”.

You used this term to refer to the divulging of names of other students so that the university could participate in their criminalization and incarceration. While there are multiple reasons why I think these actions taken against my fellow students were morally and ethically wrong, your framing of this incident as a case of bystander intervention is inappropriate and egregious, and you should know that I will not let this slip by.

Bystander intervention is about stepping up to interrupt and stop moments of potential violence. It is about building an attentive, respectful and compassionate community that takes care of each other. And it is most often used in the context of issues of sexual assault and sexual violence. It is NOT about institutional coercion, on the basis of legal and emotional threats, to incriminate and alienate specific members of the community, regardless of their possible possession of drugs.

It is extremely disrespectful for you to use this term to refer to an instance in which our community is being forced to turn against one another and is deeply pained by the physical/neurological harm and incarceration of our friends and classmates.

It is also deeply ignorant and hypocritical to appropriate this language from the discourse of sexual violence prevention, when the university and its administration repeatedly fails members of our community who have been sexually assaulted on campus and by other students.

I hope that you take these thoughts to heart and know that students are not okay with the actions of the administration, nor the language they are using to justify it.

Stevens is a member of the Class of 2015.

  • nah

    please only represent yourself or your group, I am okay with it.

  • k.d. lang’s mangina

    “Bystander intervention is about stepping up to interrupt and stop moments of potential violence.”

    If someone knew a dealer was selling a particularly potent and dangerous batch of drugs, and that this drug had harmed and hospitalized, would that person not be complicit to that crime in the same way as the individual who turns a blind eye or stands idly by as someone is sexually or physically assaulted? I guess I don’t make the distinction between the two.

  • alum

    Elijah Stevens, who the fuck do you think you are? You speak only for yourself – how dare you attempt to speak for others. Additionally, you are entitely off-base. Students were DYING and any effort to find the dealers and what substances were added could have helped with medical treatment. Also, bystander intervention is NOT only for sexual assault. How dare you be so narrow-minded as to not think about anyone but yourself. So the dealers should have been left to their own devices until Middletown police could eventually find theme, after more bad drugs were distributed? Take two steps back and realize what you just said.

    • current student

      you clearly have very little understanding of what went down here and ^ is a really fucked up personal attack.

  • Agreed

    “It is also deeply ignorant and hypocritical to appropriate this language from the discourse of sexual violence prevention, when the university and its administration repeatedly fails members of our community who have been sexually assaulted on campus and by other students.”

    EXACTLY. This is not bystander intervention. I am infuriated at the institution’s appropriation of that language. Your letter is extremely well articulated. Thank you for writing this.

    • k.d. lang’s mangina

      Actually, the “bystander intervention” term is bigger and older than sexual assault advocacy. It was coined first as the name for a model in sociology/social sciences that predicted most people are unlikely to help others when they are a bystander in certain situations–with bystander here being defined as someone who observes an emergency or a situation wherein someone requires help. The term was then appropriated by advocates against sexual assault as a buzz term to define and spread their (obviously worthy) cause.

      Terms are defined and redefined and appropriated by semi-related and disparate groups all the time. Demanding ownership of a term like that and claiming it can only be used to define one thing is akin to demanding tomatoes only be used to make ketchu, because you find their inclusion as a garnish on salads offensive.

    • alum

      It is NOT just about sexual violence prevention. Please. http://osapr.harvard.edu/pages/what-bystander-intervention

  • Wise King

    So, this child of the mid-tier liberal arts academy is worried about “an instance in which our community is being forced to turn against one another and is deeply pained by the physical/neurological harm and incarceration of our friends and classmates”. Does it not occur to him that these “friends and classmates” were poisoning their friends and classmates for profit?

  • DavidL

    Let’s see, Stevens. you are “offended and appalled” by “deeply ignorant and hypocritical” comments by Mr. Whaley. Apparently you are easily wounded by thoughts you disagree with and think a personal insult is necessary in response. Here’s a hint. This kind of rhetoric may appeal to those who already agree with you, but it has a negative impact on the undecided and unconvinced. You might try persuasion based on facts and logic rather than emotion and insult. It is more effective.

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