Vigil held to support victims of bullying and abuse

Washburn University students, faculty, and staff stood in the glow of candles, gathered together in grief over the suicides of five teenagers as a result of being bullied.

The Social Justice League, OPEN, and the Washburn Student Government Association came together to organize a vigil in support of every victim of bullying at 6 p.m. last Wednesday at the Kuehne Bell Tower.

The vigil involved students, faculty, and staff members who spoke about thoughts, experiences, and the experiences of their friends who suffered from bullying.

“We were initially inspired because of the Rutgers incident,” said Penny Engler, co-president of the Social Justice League, “It’s not just him you know, there’s tons and tons of kids and adults all over the world that have to deal with the effects of bullying we just want to raise awareness against it.”

Engler also said it was important to know that bullying doesn’t just happen to gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, or nerdy teenagers. It can happen to anyone.

Resa Boydston, the secretary and treasurer of OPEN, said 94 percent of GLBT individuals have reported being the victim of some form of harassment.  The vigil is a start for raising awareness over this issue, and is not a one-time thing said Heather Schimmel co-president of the social justice league.  

“The number one thing students can do is to become aware of what they are doing to their fellow students, fellow people.” said Christy Cheray, co-president of OPEN.

The Ally program is an effort at  Washburn that involves professors training in order to be an ally for students who are struggling through issues with bullying. These professors have placards in their office to show that they are allies and their offices are a safe zone.

“Students can become allies too, so that’s number one. It’s not just for faculty and staff,” said Marsha Carrasco Cooper, director of Student Activities and Greek Life. “The biggest thing I think and probably one of the things that takes the most courage students can speak out whenever they hear any comments that are not supportive of the LGBT community… for students to really stand up… Being the kind of friend to their peers that their peers feel comfortable around them and safe around them.”

There are plans for a no-name calling week in January in order to raise awareness and fight against bullying, according to Boydston.

 “The biggest thing is to think of tomorrow, think positive about tomorrow and that they can come to a safe place, like here at Washburn,” said Cheray. “We have ally zones.”