IU Student Association plans to increase its campus-wide efforts on the Culture of Care initiative this semester.
This campus outreach project intends to spread awareness of stigmatized issues such as mental health, drug and alcohol abuse, sexual assault and harassment or discrimination.
Culture of Care is a $10,000 budget item for IUSA, according to documents released in October.
The initiative began last year as a week-long event during Little 500. Each day focused on a different aspect of Culture of Care.
“We wanted to encourage bystander intervention … looking out for your fellow Hoosier and making it your personal responsibility to make sure that people around you are being safe and being healthy,” said IUSA President Kyle Straub. “What we want to do this year is take what we learned from Culture of Care week last year and use that to make it more effective.”
Dia Sharma, Culture of Care co-chair, said last semester was “mostly legwork.”
Last fall, IUSA invited presidents of major organizations on campus to a leadership summit.
“We want to encompass and understand a lot of problems on this campus, so we reached out to other student unions,” Sharma said. “We want to make sure they’re on board.”
“Culture of Care is all about getting students to be proactive and avoid problem situations before they arise,” said IUSA Chief of Staff Augustin Ruta.
In the upcoming semester, Sharma and her co-chair Katy Flanigan hope to do more to involve IU’s student body.
“We’re hoping to host a speaker series featuring speakers that are related to each of our focuses,” Sharma said.
They are also working on a website that would make information available to students.
“Some people might not feel comfortable coming to the events or might not have time,” Sharma said. “It’s still in the development stages, but we want to make these resources available online.”
Sharma and Flanigan want to reach out to students and ask them which issues they think are important in relation to the Culture of Care.
“A lot of times students will come to us with issues, but one thing we want to work on is going to the students,” Sharma said.
Straub is worried about the number of incidents related to Culture of Care issues that could have been prevented if students were aware of their rights and resources.
There are growing numbers of incidents where people aren’t intervening because they aren’t sure if it’s acceptable, they aren’t sure what to do,” Straub said. “Some of these issues are really stigmatized, and they’ve never really been addressed by our student government.”
Straub said he believes the initiative is already making a difference through projects like the Hoosier PACT and Lifeline, broader legal programs, which were largely achieved by last year’s administration to encourage people to report medical emergencies related to alcohol abuse without the deterrent of legal consequences.
“We’ve seen at the local hospital that the number of alcohol-related incidents in which other people have intervened have skyrocketed. I don’t think people are drinking more. I think that the number of reported incidents has gone up because people have felt more empowered to intervene,” Straub said.
“We want to create a conduit between groups on campus that have these problems in their communities and the services on campus that have the resources to help and combat these issues,” Sharma said.
Although not many events related to the Culture of Care are scheduled for the upcoming semester, Ruta said that the focus is to change students’ mindsets and teach them to take preventative measures.
“I think it’s easy for people to say that there’s nothing happening, but not everything is tangible,” said Ruta. “It’s a long-term initiative, it’s not going to be finished in two months.”
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