SFUAD Pays Attention

ProjectPayAttention marks the latest social change initiative to come to SFUAD, this time prompting students to be more aware of their actions and words on social media. Following on the heels of online college safety program Think About It: Campus Clarity, which was rolled out in early September, PPA focuses on another national issue: social media bullying.

“It’s a pledge to stop bullying online,” says Rachel Shuford, president of Student Voice.

When signing the pledge, students swear to: speak up for others, choose their words wisely, track online behavior, inquire why, challenge yourself and spread the word.

Rachel Shuford, the president of Student Voice. Photo by Amanda Tyler

Rachel Shuford, the president of Student Voice. Photo by Amanda Tyler

“We wanted to implement something where students know that they have the power to say ‘hey that’s inappropriate, you shouldn’t have said that,’ and it empowers the students and people to be able to stand up for themselves online and also for other people,” says Shuford.

Originally started at Rutgers University following the suicide of Tyler Clementi after his roommate live-streamed Clementi’s sexual encounter with another man, the project soon spread to NYU, where resident assistants encouraged students to be more aware of what they posted online and said to others on a daily basis. According to the official PPA Tumblr page, more than 12,500 people have already signed the pledge. Now SFUAD is the latest to join the national conversation regarding online bullying and student safety.

So far, more than 200 SFUAD students and faculty have signed. But student opinion of the initiative is somewhat divided.

“It’s a good initiative, but it has to be dealt with carefully, because people may not take it seriously and can say things that fall on the wrong side of the line, and other problems can arise from that,” says Sandra Schonenstein, an RA who learned about PPA during Resident Assistant training.

“There’s been a mixed response,” agrees Shuford. “There are students that are totally for it, and there are some students who are really confused by it, which makes sense, because it can be controversial and it was started by something that was severely controversial. But many people have taken it upon themselves to research it and learn more, and we’ve gotten a lot of positive results and no one has been openly rude or angry.”

John Rodriguez, director of campus and residential life, was also thrilled by PPA’s ideals, specifically the involvement of faculty.

“We all should practice what we preach, especially from a faculty and staff side. If we’re not living, eating, breathing this, how do we expect students to do the same?”

Shuford stated that she does not believe bullying, either online or otherwise, to be an issue at SFUAD.

The main initiatives for Project Pay Attention are outlined on the door of John Rodriguez, the director of Campus and Residential Life.

The main initiatives for Project Pay Attention are outlined on the door of John Rodriguez, the director of Campus and Residential Life.

“I don’t think it’s a problem, but I do think it’s something we should all learn to be a little more cautious about. We do sometimes have an issue with people speaking their minds without thinking about others, such as on the Student Life page. I’m not here to squelch anyone’s opinions, but I don’t think it’s appropriate to vocalize your opinion at the expense of another person.”

In agreement, Rodriguez affirmed that to his knowledge, bullying is not an issue at SFUAD, but that it should be addressed before it could escalate to that point.

“If just one of these initiatives helps one person or even saves one person’s life, then we’ve done our jobs. We just want everyone to be safe.”

When asked how signing the pledge had affected her social media presence, Shuford said that the initiative has empowered her to stand up for others whom she sees being discriminated against around campus or online. She also urged students to sign the pledge, and then go by Mouton to pick up their complimentary PPA wristband, magnet, and sticker.

“This is a great time in student’s lives to say, ‘think about it, talk about it, pay attention to what’s going on,” says Shuford.