Anti-bullying, LGBT youth get show of support from undergraduates
May 28, 2012
A group of Ryerson students are taking a stand against bullying.
The Bystander Collective is a campaign that puts the focus on bystanders who passively watch as others are bullied. The collective includes 11 third-year RTA School of Media students, led by Dolena Matthews and the group uses social media to engage the community in anti-bullying messages. The student group uses Twitter and a blog to build awareness about the notion that bystanders are part of the bullying issue.
Bullying has increasingly been in the spotlight with teen suicides making the news in recent years. From May 30 to 31, Ryerson and Egale Canada Human Rights Trust are co-hosting the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Questioning (LGBTQ) Youth Suicide Prevention Summit on campus. Look for another article on the conference in an upcoming issue of Ryerson Today.
The Bystander Collective was created as part of a final assignment in the students’ advanced digital media program. In addition to social media, the group ventured out into the city and stood on street corners with signs to get their message across. Although class is over, the collective continues to get messages and plans on moving past this first phase to reach out to the community and further build awareness.
“All the [previous] campaigning [we researched] was factual and informative and we wanted to take a more creative, interactive approach to make people think twice about their actions the next time they saw something,” Matthews said.
Child and youth care students Stephen Page and Lee Kedar also took a class project to another level when they were inspired by the work of Ontario Catholic school students fighting for gay-straight alliances (GSAs). GSAs are student organizations intended to provide a safe and supportive environment for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth. Page and Kedar reached out to Catholic Students for GSAs to partner with them and support their fight.
Their collaboration resulted in a March 26 press conference at Queen’s Park where students rejected the respecting-difference guidelines released by Catholic trustees. A respecting difference group means students can’t display rainbow flags, give out information on gay issues, offer pamphlets on safe sex, hand out condoms or hold anti-homophobia events.
In an article for Xtra!, a gay and lesbian national magazine, Page said this has become more than a class project. “We plan to stand beside them for however long this takes. It has changed us,” he said.