Sigma Pi Fraternity organized a week-long campaign called Hoos Standing Up encouraging University students to be better active bystanders. The campaign comes in light of a series of negative bias-motivated incidents which recently occurred on Grounds.
Students who sign a pledge promising to be an active bystander against discrimination and use the University’s “Just Report It” system will receive a “Hoos Standing Up” wristband and get discounts at local Charlottesville restaurants including the College Inn, Cafe Caturra and Take It Away.
The pledge will be available to sign at several locations around Grounds and on the Corner until Thursday.
Jared Schulman, a fourth-year College student and Sigma Pi philanthropy chair, said he was inspired in part by one of his professors.
“In one of my social psych classes, we talked about effective social intervention that will encourage people to promote change, and a simple way is to get people to sign a pledge and wear something to remind themselves of the pledge,” Schulman said.
Schulman was additionally inspired to plan the campaign after discussing the possible effects bias-motivated acts were having on students.
“I’ve talked about it with friends and in my classes, how much of a negative impact it has on students marginalized by these incidents, especially younger students who are striving to find their place and become a part of the University community,” Schulman said.
Priya Kurani, the assistant general manager at Cafe Caturra, said she hopes the petition and its accompanying discounts will help to raise awareness of the negative bias some students may face.
“We just want to see more people signing the petition and more people standing up for each other, each other’s rights,” Kurani said. “It’s nice that a fraternity started it, it’s kind of a grassroots movement instead of top-down. We’re all about small business in Charlottesville, so I think it’s a great program.”
Kurani and Schulman said they are both hopeful that even more local restaurants and organizations will collaborate with Sigma Pi in the future to encourage more students to become active bystanders.
“I hope it will serve as a reminder for people that these acts are not acceptable anywhere, and it’s really easy to stand up to these things,” Schulman said. “It’s really easy to look the other way, but you can make a big difference by standing up or reporting it, so people will be less motivated to do this in the future.”
Tom Bowe, owner and manager of Take It Away, said the goal of the Hoos Standing Up campaign aligns with Take It Away’s current participation in the safety pin initiative, which aims to demonstrate support of diversity and tolerance.
Bowe decided to join the safety pin initiative after the Nov. 8 election to support diversity found both in the restaurant’s staff and Charlottesville community at large.
“There’s a lot of diversity within our staff, and there always has been,” Bowe said. “We are what America looks like.”
Currently, the blackboard sign outside Take It Away has a drawing of a safety pin above the word “Diversity.” A photo posted on Facebook has received over 1,500 likes.
Bowe said he believes the overwhelmingly positive response to the Facebook page demonstrates support for the campaign.
“Clearly there’s a lot of energy out there,” Bowe said. “We certainly must have connected with the community well beyond Charlottesville. When you have 1,500 likes, it’s not here, it’s everywhere.”
While this is the first year of the Hoos Standing Up campaign, Schulman said he hopes the campaign will become an annual event. Three hundred people had already signed the pledge by noon on Monday.