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The Student News Site of Quinnipiac University

The Quinnipiac Chronicle

The Student News Site of Quinnipiac University

The Quinnipiac Chronicle

The Agency launches bystander intervention campaign

Aidan Sheedy

Quinnipiac University students working for The Agency — the School of Communications’ full-service student-run advertising and public relations firm — and Stephen Sweet, director of student conduct and community standards, created “Defend the Den,” a bystander intervention campaign.

The campaign, Sweet said, aims to reduce harm and encourage kindness on campus by addressing concerns and looking out for students who may need mental health support, intervening in situations where it is required and simply encouraging students to make safer choices in the moment.

“Defend the Den is a bystander awareness campaign created by students for students,” said Khearwoot In, a senior advertising major who works as the account executive for Defend the Den. “By increasing empathy between us we can create a more positive and inclusive community where Bobcats can rely on each other.”

The bystander effect refers to the psychological phenomenon where individuals are less likely to help or intervene due to the ambiguity of the situation, the presence of multiple bystanders and the social influence of other people’s inaction, per the American Psychological Association.

Bystander intervention involves a bystander becoming an upstander in discriminatory or emergency situations.

“The idea is something that came out of a project that I worked on when I was enrolled in the graduate program in the School of Business here in the organizational leadership program,” Sweet said. “My final capstone was to create a project that could be implemented in an organizational environment. My professional career has always been in student affairs, and I have worked at a few different universities that have had similar programs.”

Sweet presented his idea to the Quinnipiac Marketing and Communications Department in the spring of 2023. The department suggested he work with The Agency, which in Sweet’s opinion was a “brilliant idea.”

That was when senior public relations majors Brianna McEldowney and Isabella Baird took on his project.

“We worked with nothing but his idea,” McEldowney said. “We came up with the name and the messaging behind it and ways to get it involved on campus.”

McEldowney and Baird, who this semester are interning in the Dean of Students Office, are now in charge of the peer education part of the project.

“We’ve been going to (first-year seminar) classes, talking with students and getting their input on what they know about bystander intervention and what they think about it,” McEldowney said. “With peer education, we are hoping to train these students so they can then go on and teach their organizations, other classes and so on.”

As they did at this year’s first-year orientation, the pair presented a PowerPoint to students about various situations they might encounter.

“One of the scenarios is what would you do if you were out at a party on campus for example, and you see someone that had drunk too much and someone is trying to give them more,” Baird said. “What do you do in that situation? We show them the three steps that might be the best way to go, the three D’s, so maybe latching on to that person or giving them water and other ways to intervene.”

The “three D’s” of bystander intervention are: direct, distract and delegate – if it is safe, take a direct action to intervene; find a creative way to diffuse a situation or distraction to help someone out and enlist the help of your friends or other bystanders to help you.

Amid their teachings, McEldowney and Baird said they hope to enlist more students to become student ambassadors for Defend the Den. The two are in charge of training nominated students to become “den defenders,” as Sweet calls them.

In and Natalia Liberato, a senior English major and the senior account executive for Defend the Den, work on the initiative’s public relations campaign in The Agency.

“We are tasked with coming up with new ways for students to get involved,” Liberato said, noting that her and In have created a social media page, hosted a trivia night and made custom shirts. 

In said they have been creating campaign content that should be ready to roll out in a few weeks, but noted that there have been a “few bumps” that they still need to work out before launching the content.

“If students see something they are worried about they should say something,” Sweet said. “And it can be as simple as tapping someone on the shoulder and asking if they’re okay. What we don’t want is for people to not say anything at all.”

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About the Contributors
Alexandra Martinakova
Alexandra Martinakova, Editor-in-Chief
Aidan Sheedy
Aidan Sheedy, Photography Editor

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