On Bystander Intervention, Community Standards and Yik Yak

I have a blog, so I’m required by law to say something about the YikYak controversy swirling around the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) National Convention.

We teach our students to model bystander intervention. It’s a key component of Title IX training and paramount to student leadership and conflict management. We teach bystander intervention may cause you to lose friends. It’s hard to speak out. You’ll be called out for being sanctimonious and holier than thou. Others won’t understand why you ratted them out. You may find yourself shunned by certain circles of “friends.”



When comments like this were seen on yik yak, other administrators modeled the way and called out the behavior.They shared what they felt were community norms and shared community values. Administrators monitored their own community. They are and were demonstrating they very bystander intervention behaviors we claim to teach.

Sure, there are plenty of people who are screaming “moral high horse” and accusing people of being “sanctimonious.” But isn’t this what we’ve trained our students for? Isn’t this exactly what we said would happen?

Isn’t this exactly what we want?

On Bystander Intervention, Community Standards and Yik Yak

One year later…

I was walking through the Boston Common this morning and found myself gasping for air. I realized I hadn’t taken a breath since getting off of the train.

I took a moment by the pavilion and took a few deep breaths. For the first time in a year, I thought about breathing.

What happened April 15, 2013 took us all by surprise. No one could have known what would happen or what would come next. No one could know how we’d all react in the days, weeks and months to come.

I didn’t know while on vacation to Mackinac Island with my family I would have flashbacks due to a cannon being set off.
I didn’t know the first time I walked by the finish line that I would need to vomit.
I didn’t know six months ago I would finally break down and cry about it… at a bar, of all places.
I didn’t know that opening TimeHop this morning would be as stressful as it was.
I didn’t know when I saw one of the Boston Strong founders this morning I would fight back tears as we hugged.

But, this is what I do know –
Two days after the bombing, I blogged about it and said “People come first.” I still believe this to be true. I believe this to be true with all of my heart.  I closed that blog with a quote that has been near and dear to my heart for almost 15 years –

“See, in all our searching, the only thing we’ve found that makes the emptiness bearable, is each other.”

-Carl Sagan

I know we’ve come together – friends, family members and strangers.
I know we’ve united and connected in meaningful and beautiful ways.
I know we’ve laughed and we’ve cried.
I know we were there for each other, arms open.
And I know our doors, our arms and our hearts are still open.

And today, I take a breath.

One year later…

An impostor no longer

True story – I’ve been hesitant to write for the better part of two months.

Two months ago, I wrote a blog post about how I have struggled for 20 years with anorexia. The comments came pouring in over email, facebook, twitter, text message and on this very blog. While the majority were supportive and encouraging, there were a few internet trolls who snuck in with awesome comments like:

“Real men don’t have anorexia.”

“I hope you starve to death, fag.”

Its fine. Those were most likely random internet trolls who stumbled across the blog. But then came the anon trolls who clearly knew me and followed me on twitter or facebook:

“So, your status about eating an entire pint of Ben & Jerrys was a lie?”

“Just another desperate grab for retweets.”

And suddenly, my voice was gone. The positive comments didn’t matter. I couldn’t write any more. Someone who knew me was trolling me. Was it worth the message? At that point, I decided no. It wasn’t worth it.

I gave it another try on National Coming Out Day with the reasons why I don’t celebrate the “holiday.” And again, internet rolls reared their ugly heads and my decision to stop writing was cemented.

But something happened in the last week. I went to a conference and attended a session based on the book Lean In. While the lessons are geared to women, I couldn’t help but be moved by the idea of Impostor Syndrome. I couldn’t internalize my own worth or accomplishments. I couldn’t get lack of worth out of my head because of this impostor syndrome. I was hesitant to take the lead on a project at work concerning masculinity and leadership because of these internet troll voices in my head.

But by putting words to what I was feeling, I found a way to get over it. I had to get out of my head space and start being me again.

So take that, internet trolls. I’m here and I’m ready to take you on. Let’s get writing again.

An impostor no longer

Help us tell a story

April 15 started out as an interesting day. By noon, I had already talked to The Barefoot Contessa on the phone (no really, it was a weird morning), did a ton of work for our end of the year leadership banquet and had been tracking one of my student leaders as she ran the Boston Marathon. I was thrilled to see her cross the finish line.

Within hours, all of us in the city had been shaken to the core. Things were rearranged and altered.

In the coming days, students, faculty and staff across the city of Boston reacted with a swift and sure hand, despite our general unease and confusion. We reacted with care, compassion and creativity. We reacted in the best way we could to help each other.

Today, three staff members from three Boston-area institutions want to tell this story. I want to share how three Emerson students started a movement called Boston Strong and in turn, started a healing and grieving process none of us expected. My friend Gordon wants to share how Boston University altered and evolved an admissions event by using social media when the city was on lockdown. My friend Amma wants to share how students at her college made their response expectations loud and clear.

The three of us want to present at Austin’s South by Southwest EDU. To do it, we need you to log on to their site and vote for us.

Take a few minutes and register at the SXSW PanelPicker and give us a comment and an upvote.

We want to share this story. It’s a story worth sharing.

Besides, you should just click on this because Robin Thicke wants you to do it.

Listen to Robin Thicke.

Help us tell a story

How I stopped being bothered & started listening

It’s August.
I get it. You’re busy. I know you are. We all are. And that’s my rub.

I won’t lie.
Every time I saw a higher ed person tweet or update their Facebook status about how busy they were, I’d roll my eyes and wonder if they had any idea about what career field they were in. I’d go on a mental rant about how ridiculous it was to see my newsfeed flooded with the exact same garbage from so many people. I’d imagine my snarky responses to all of them.

I was so annoyed at people proclaiming how hard their jobs were in the month of August and September. I rationalized if all of these professionals spent less time complaining about how busy they were, they’d have more time to do their job and get home at an earlier hour.

This week, I checked myself. After swimming in so much negativity, I had no idea why I was tired and crabby all of the time. After a night out with some Squirrelfriends on Tuesday, I realized this was getting to me. I had to check myself.

People post whatever they want on Facebook and Twitter because they need to…

  • They need to get something off their chest
  • They need to encourage themselves
  • They need some assistance
  • They need someone to understand
  • They need someone to listen

Instead of over-reacting, I had to realize people are doing what they need to do. We all walk a hard road. People post how busy they are because they need someone to hear them… not someone to judge them. I can be a part of their solution, or I can be a tired brat.

While I’ll always be a brat, I choose to be a positive force.

How I stopped being bothered & started listening

When Robots Attack

#SATechBOS is an experience.
Literally, its an experience… a free-flowing, fly by the edge of your pants experience where if you’re not thinking fast enough, you’ll be left to fend off robots. Yes, Robots.

Let’s backtrack.
For those not familiar, #SATechBOS is a two-day unconference I was lucky enough to attend last week. Topics are vetted by participants and by the end of two days, teams of participants create a working tech-focused project.  If you don’t move fast enough, cylons invade.

So, after a few un-sessions, topics started to emerge… and soon, a tech-focused project was conceived. Our small group talked about it for no more than 30 minutes. We had an idea and liked it… and suddenly, our facilitator (and visionary behind #SATechBOS) Ed Cabellon buys us a domain.

Wait. What? WE’RE NOT READY. 
“Robots,” Ed said. 

We weren’t ready. It wasn’t perfect. But Ed moved fast to avoid the cyber-fishers that would snatch up our domain. You see, we searched for the domain on google… and that’s where robots hide, plotting their evil doings and stealing our medicine (thanks, Hunter).

Many of us were uneasy. I was certainly leery… but there was a beauty to the speed.

If Ed hasn’t forced us to move on it, we probably wouldn’t have moved on it. It would have been another one of those ideas that never came to fruition. We had a unique thought worth sharing… a unique product worth developing. By moving fast, Ed pushed us to create. He believed that each group had a vision worth sharing with the world. There was no turning back.

If nothing else, here’s my takeaway – too many times we don’t move on beautiful ideas because they’re not completely fleshed out. Force yourself to move even if you’re not ready. Don’t let robots stop your ideas from taking root and turning into something amazing.

In the upcoming days, I’ll be sharing some of the ideas created at #SATechBOS, including our own. I hope you follow along, and if you see one worth getting involved in, I hope you find a way to contribute.

Just be careful of the robots.

When Robots Attack

The unwritten blog

There are many things in life I’m good at:

  • Sleeping
  • Eating
  • Rambling
  • Hunting for Unicorns

What I’m not so good at is self-censoring.

Those who know me well understand I don’t have a poker face, I can’t not say something and I can’t not respond when something is really bothering me. These things combined makes having an active and positive presence on social media a difficult thing.

How many times have you opened up Twitter, let loose some anger and then deleted the tweet before hitting send? There’s something beautifully cathartic about putting it out in space and then deleting it before you have the chance to hit send. It’s the modern day “write your anger on paper, crumple it up and throw it away.”

As I was prepping to leave work last night, I had the chance to read the result of a assessment from a program I was affiliated with… a few comments in the assessment were so inflammatory, so outrageous I immediately jumped to my blog and wrote a scathing post. There were 500+ words of pure fury. It’s now sitting in my drafts, never to see the light of day.

Because at the end of the day, publishing a flame isn’t helpful. The constant spur of the moment Facebook updates and Tweets designed to incite feelings of anger accomplish no good. They don’t move the issue further or help make a situation better. Instead, nasty, aggressive statuses only allow you to wallow in that anger… and make the situation even worse.

It was a moment for me. A chance to reflect, check myself, move forward and find some positive things from the situation. It’s our responsibility to model positive behavior on social media, even when we’re in the thick of negative feelings and emotions.

And you can bet there’s going to be an Educational Session about this… we’re looking at you NACA National Convention 2014.

The unwritten blog