A slew of recent news events — along with allegations of rape, destruction, racism and more across campuses nationwide — have cast a negative spotlight on Greek life. The light is so bright it outshines all of the positive contributions fraternities and sororities have made and the positive impact they have had on the communities around them. It’s time to shut down that spotlight. It’s time to lift the shadow and remind us the true reason people join the Greek system: to make a difference and to be part of a community. There are many of us who joined a sorority or fraternity to be a part of something, to give back and to experience college life together. What once began as groups aspiring for unity, philanthropy and a familial-like bond, has grown to have a negative connotation due to isolated issues that get out of hand. It is time take a stand and start speaking up about bad behavior before it gets worse. Let’s take a stand. Let’s speak up.

In light of recent events involving our sorority and many other houses in the Greek community here at the University, as well as on campuses nationwide, the sisters of Sigma Delta Tau are launching a campus-wide initiative called “Speak Up! Michigan.” This initiative is intended to inspire students to have the courage to speak out in the face of a potentially dangerous situation and mitigate the many issues caused by a lack of bystander awareness. Through this campaign, SDT is hoping to forge partnerships with student groups and the University to raise awareness of bystander intervention and to properly educate students on how to react to threatening situations.

While the campaign is only in its startup phase, the feedback has been astoundingly positive. Campus and student leaders alike have come together to back the campaign and speak out about this important issue. While we all would like to say we would know how to react when our peers are acting inappropriately and putting us at risk, we have never taken the opportunity to equip ourselves with the proper tools to take action during an actual situation. Through a series of initiatives, Speak Up! hopes to foster open conversation between groups and individuals alike about the negative consequences of being a bystander. Change never occurs unless you step up and make it — it starts with a simple stride in the right direction.

To launch this effort, we invited producer-turned-campus activist Mike Dilbeck to campus. Dilbeck will work to empower us with “Courageous Leadership,” and show us how to make a difference and intervene in inappropriate situations. He believes that seizing an opportunity to act can dramatically change the campus community and allow students to make a difference. We look forward to working with Dilbeck to gain the tools, resources and confidence to make this happen and to help others Speak Up!

While the semester is coming to a close, the sisters of Sigma Delta Tau and the sorority’s executive board plan to work tirelessly over the summer to plan events to run in the fall before formal recruitment begins. The goal is to educate members of Greek life, as well as other student-run organizations, such as Central Student Government, club sports and others, on how they can appropriately respond to issues that may arise during group functions. Being prepared is your best line of defense, and that is the message that Speak Up! seeks to get across.

With all the crises occurring in the world right now, it has been incredible to be able to see an issue bring so many differing minds together. It’s very rare to find a cause we, as a community at large, can get behind — which is where the importance of the Speak Up! campaign truly stems from. Bystander intervention is a prominent issue across college campuses, rarely getting the amount of attention it deserves. It’s a uniquely gender and politically neutral problem which together we have the ability to solve, and that’s what makes Speak Up! so special.

No matter who you are, what you believe or what issues you stand for, you’ll undoubtedly find yourself a bystander in a situation. Taking the initiative and becoming proactive is the first step of many to mitigating the situation before it gets out of hand. So stand with us and we will stand with you to Speak Up! and make a difference. For more information, visit www.SpeakUpMichigan.com. Mike Dilbeck will discuss “The Revolution of Courageous Leadership” at 8 p.m. on Monday, April 13 at the Michigan Union.

Jordan Halper is a Business sophomore writing on behalf of Sigma Delta Tau.

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