Students pose with Stand for State materials.

Green dots are not a decorating fad at Penn State York

The color green is all about the Stand for State program. Activities offer a lighter side but the message of bystander intervention and the three D’s, direct, delegate, and distract, are serious ones.

By: Barb Dennis
Stand for State

Green dots, large and small, have appeared on the walls, doors, furniture, and even on the Nittany Lion at Penn State York.  It’s not a new decorating fad; these green paper dots are a way to pique the interest of students, faculty, and staff at the campus, and remind them about the Stand for State initiative that began in January 2016 across the University.  Stand for State is an initiative aimed at empowering Penn Staters to stand up for one another.  

The culmination of two years of planning, Stand for State promotes bystander intervention and emphasizes its importance in preventing sexual and relationship violence. It is a fact that people make decisions and continue behaviors based on the reactions they receive from others. Bystander intervention encourages others to intervene and promotes a sense of responsibility, which gives the bystander motivation to step in and take action to prevent sexual misconduct.

At Penn State York, information tables and activities explaining the bystander intervention program were once again set up in September to encourage members of the campus to learn more about the program and become involved in training.  A lighter side of the event offered prizes to students for answering questions about the program and participants had the opportunity to write their thoughts on a green paper dot to explain how they could make a difference.

 “The Stand for State initiative is important because power-based personal violence is an unfortunate reality at our campuses and in our communities,” said Patrick Tanner, director of student engagement at Penn State York, and a point person for Stand for State at York. ”This simple program encourages students, faculty, and staff to not only claim our personal space and campus communities as safe spaces, but also to understand that there are often warning signs and opportunities to intervene before bad situations occur.”

A unique aspect to York’s Stand for State initiative is that Nick Silveri-Hiller, community outreach advocate, ACCESS-York/VAC of the YWCA in York, Pennsylvania, has been trained and is an integral part of the program. 

“Collaborations between local victim service agencies and universities are a key component to reducing the rate of violence and supporting survivors,” said Silveri-Hiller. “Prevention is possible when agencies and institutions work together to bring evidence-based and comprehensive programming to our communities.”

Stand for State uses a bystander intervention curriculum created by Green Dot, a national leader in violence prevention education. Green Dot is built on the premise that in order to measurably reduce harm in a community, a cultural shift is necessary. The Stand for State program encourages the replacement of harmful behaviors (red dots), with new behaviors to reduce violence and harm (green dots).  The key tactics for intervening and removing someone from harm’s way are Green Dot’s Three D’s: direct, delegate and distract.

“Rolling out Stand for State is meaningful for all of us,” said Tanner. “We all know someone who has been negatively impacted by sexual assault, stalking, or relationship violence.  This program reminds us that our care and concern for others’ needs can be as simple as asking a friend to talk, or making a call to someone else that can help. The simple and common sense approach makes this tangible for each of us.  We all have a role to play, and I’m pleased that we are all encouraged to consider what that means for us as individuals. We care. We act. We are!”

Green Dot provided four-day training sessions in June and November of 2015, educating a total of about 200 faculty, staff and administrators. The workshops focused on providing participants with the skills to recognize potentially problematic situations, step in to diffuse the situations when appropriate, and seek help when needed.

Those trained are now implementing bystander intervention workshops for student leaders across the University. The plan in coming years is that Stand for State will expand to cover bystander intervention for mental health-related issues, bias-related incidents, and risky drinking and drug use. Stand for State is part of a University-wide effort to combat sexual assaults.

Michelle Cruz, a sophomore and student leader at Penn State York, participated in  the Stand for State training and found the information eye-opening and impactful.

“Stand for state brings awareness into the community, “said Cruz. “It taught me to be aware of my surroundings and others as well; one decision might save a life forever,” she said.  Cruz plans to share the information she learned with friends and encourage them to take part in the program.  “Sexual violence is real and we need to stop it.  It is the eyes that see, the mouth that speaks, but we need the people that do in order to stay true so the worst will never come.”   Cruz ,a biochemistry and molecular biology major, will be moving on to University Park next year to complete her degree.

As the program continues at York, the paper green dots on campus offer words of encouragement and information on how to participate in the program. For more information, follow #StandforState on social media or email standforstate@psu.edu.