As school started on campuses throughout the nation this month, students of Rutgers University set an example by taking a Day 1 pledge against bullying.
The Tyler Clementi Foundation's Day 1 Campaign urges educators to make a clear statement about harassment in schools and for students to agree to help create inclusive and respectful campus environments.
In advance of the fifth anniversary of Tyler Clementi’s death on September 22, incoming Rutgers students took part in a national anti-bullying campaign to launch the 2015-16 school year. The Day 1 Campaign urges educators to share a universal message with students to make it clear that “any form of bullying, harassment or humiliation will not be tolerated” and to get confirmation from students that they agree. Rutgers University was among the first colleges to participate when the school’s chancellor read the pledge at the August 30 convocation.
“We have been hearing from teachers for a long time that the best way to tackle bullying in schools is very simply and effectively having a person in leadership make a clear statement of what is expected of you and what will not be tolerated,” said Sean Kosofsky, executive director of The Tyler Clementi Foundation. Clementi’s parents started the foundation to help promote safe, inclusive and respectful social environments for vulnerable youth, LGBT youth and their allies.
More than 3.2 million students identify as victims of bullying each year, and suicide ranks as the second most likely cause of death among America’s college students, according to the foundation. Tyler Clementi, a first-semester freshman, ended his life on September 22, 2010, after learning his roommate used a webcam to spy on him during a romantic encounter with a man and later encouraged others via social media to watch.
In addition to the Day 1 pledge being read at Rutgers-New Brunswick, all incoming students received the pledge and information about resources available on campus. Susan Furrer, executive director of the Tyler Clementi Center at Rutgers, worked with the foundation to adapt the pledge for a college audience. “We’re hoping this can be a model for other universities throughout the country, to help create safe and respectful environments for college students,” Furrer said.
More than 1,000 people have downloaded the pledge from Day1Campaign.com. Organizers say the campaign is a simple, inexpensive way to thwart harassment because it requires a person in authority who clearly states what behavior is expected and what behavior is not tolerated at the start of a school year, team season or job. The final element is verbal and/or written confirmation from students.
Participants are urged to share how they are following through on the pledge on Twitter (#Day1 and @TylerClementi) or by emailing the foundation. “There’s something powerful about signing your name to something to make you more likely to do it,” Kosofsky said.
Several educators and celebrities have backed the campaign. The American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association support the effort. Celebrities including Caitlyn Jenner, Susan Sarandon and Sarah Jessica Parker have also shown their support.