Event focuses on community-building

Abington is the nation’s first No Place for Hate campus
Stacey Graham

Guest speaker Stacey Graham is a child abuse survivor who told Abington students that her healing process includes using her skills as an attorney to help protect children.

Credit: Pam Brobst

Penn State Abington students clearly were busy and a little anxious last week as they rushed to take midterms and deliver projects due before spring break. But many also made time for healing and community-building by participating in No Place for Hate (NPFH) experiences aimed at preventing violence, abuse and bigotry directed at children and all members of our society.

Four days of workshops, dialogues and other activities focused on religious tolerance, team building, anti-hazing, and recognizing and preventing child sexual abuse. The experiences open to faculty, staff and students included:

-- Students learned during an anti-hazing workshop that hazing isn’t just a “Greek problem.” Sports teams, clubs and organizations of all kinds also use extreme bullying as an excuse to build loyalty.

-- Participants in a Day of Silence wore placards and carried journals to call attention to bullying and harassment in schools. They took a vow of silence to illustrate the silencing effect of harassment on those perceived as "different.”

-- Two days of team building exercises created stronger bonds among Abington’s diverse campus community.

-- A fellowship service and film was intended to engage and engender respect for all religious beliefs.

-- Guest speaker Stacey Graham, legal counsel for a Philadelphia city councilman, told the story of the horrific abuse she suffered in the child-welfare system. Her healing process focuses on using her legal skills to help protect the next generation of children.

-- Suzanne Stutman, professor of English at Abington, facilitated a sharing circle following Graham’s presentation. Stutman and Graham were joined by others who discussed the healing process from the variety of perspectives including as a professional working with victims, survivors and parents.

As the sharing circle came to a close, the students were encouraged to “let no child be invisible.”

Each spring, Abington students organize a week of meaningful NPFH experiences for the campus community. Abington became the first college campus in the nation to be named a NPFH campus by the Anti-Defamation League in 2006, and it has been recertified each year. Anti-bullying and anti-bias projects supplemented by policies that emphasize inclusion have been vital to Abington’s continued development as an NPFH campus.