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Stony Brook’s StandUp Charter Gains Traction on Campus

Standup charter

“Everyone is Gay” Coming to SAC on November 14

Photo courtesy of StandUp Charter

It may be a relatively young club at Stony Brook but the three-year-old Stony Brook StandUp Charter and its anti-bullying message is creating a buzz with students.

Some of the club’s popularity may be attributed to its campaign video (see below) created in 2012 that is now shown at every new student orientation session and at Convocation. The video thus far has generated more than 1,400 hits in its relatively brief lifespan. The club was also instrumental in bringing retired British rugby player Ben Cohen, founder of The Ben Cohen StandUp Foundation, to campus for a Provost Lecture Series — an event that drew a capacity crowd at the Staller Center.

On November 14 the club is bringing the Brooklyn-based Everyone is Gay program to campus for Stony Brook’s third annual National StandUp to Bullying Day. Everyone is Gay founders Kristin Russo and Dannielle Owens-Reid will bring their humor-laced message of kindness and acceptance to the SAC Auditorium at 7 pm. The organization originated in 2010 with a website offering advice to LGBTQ youth who are “confused about sexuality, gender-identity, dating, falling in love or even dressing up like Super Woman.”

Bullying is an issue that resonates with nearly everyone, but it is an extremely personal one for StandUp faculty advisor Jeremy Marchese. “I was bullied basically every day of my middle school and high school life as a kid for being gay,” he said. “Going to school was pretty much torture for me and I couldn’t understand why no one — not the teachers or other students — would ever do anything to help. I think people in education have an obligation to help put an end to bullying and to stand up for those who are being bullied.”

The StandUp Charter’s organization was inspired in part by the example set by Cohen’s foundation. Cohen’s father died from wounds he received while protecting a victim of a bullying attack. Following that, Cohen formed his foundation to raise awareness of the damaging effects of bullying. “I thought it was both amazing and unusual for a straight athlete to be so supportive of an LGBTQ issue,” said Marchese. “I thought it would be interesting to see if we could get some of the students in the Undergraduate College of Arts, Culture and Humanities, where he was an advisor to sign a commitment to end bullying and homophobia.

That initiative not only led to the StandUp Charter’s formalization as a recognized student organization eligible for USG funding, but Cohen heard what was happening at Stony Brook and sent a video message thanking the Stony Brook students who were carrying on his mission. A dialogue led to his invitation to speak at Stony Brook.

Marchese added that the Charter is currently working on a bystander-intervention training program to teach people ways that they can safely intervene if they witness a bullying incident.

“We need to change the notion that bullying is part of growing up and that bullies are just kids being kids. The support that the initiative has received from the Office of the Provost and the Dean of Students has shown how seriously Stony Brook takes this issue,” he said.

You can learn more about the StandUp Charter at the club’s weekly meetings on Wednesdays at 8:30 pm in the SAC.

— Glenn Jochum

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