A room full of students eager to improve IU’s campus culture gathered in Global and International Studies Building 1128 Thursday to learn about Culture of Care.
"What we're trying to do with our callout is increase morale," said sophomore Drew Ficociello, Culture of Care vice president of internal affairs.
Disney music and boxes of Aver's pizza welcomed students as they signed in and chatted before the meeting. After introducing themselves, the board started the meeting by playing their video "The Bystanders," which many freshmen recognized from New Student Orientation. Actors in the video staged homophobic comments, anxiety, sexual assault and falling in order to see how people responded as bystanders.
With somber yet motivated attitudes, the board members then displayed several screenshots of news headlines run within the last six months announcing rape charges and sexual assault on IU’s campus.
Noting these as pressing problems, the board members passed around white pieces of paper for students to list issues on campus that could be solved through a change in culture.
Answers included sexual assault, unsafe alcohol use, hazing and discrimination.
“It’s all about creating a new campus where people are safer, happier and more well off,” Culture of Care President Tom Sweeney said in his presentation.
Culture of Care has four focus areas: sexual well-being, drug and alcohol awareness, mental health, and respect. Corresponding committees plan events related to each topic.
This semester, events including the Drug & Alcohol committee’s coffee crawl and the Sexual Well-being committee's Valentine’s Day event will culminate in Culture of Care week in April. The week-long event will have members of the club tabling and organizing a mixture of activities and events to promote Culture of Care's mission.
After the board members explained the club’s purpose and showed examples of past events, students broke into rotations to hear a five minute pitch from each focus area.
The time constraint added even more urgency to the committee chairs' passionate explanations of the changes their committees plan to inspire on campus.The students then signed up to work for whichever committee most appealed to them.
Ficociello said the club currently has around 50 members, with about 10 members on each committee.
“We just want to make sure everyone has a role, everyone feels important and everyone knows that they're making a difference,” Ficociello said.
Culture of Care holds a few club-wide meetings throughout the semester, but most of the work is done in the focused committees. Committees are responsible for tabling and creating interactive activities to hold on campus.
Sophomore Shawn Coughlin, co-chair of the Respect committee, beamed and placed his hands over his heart as he showed a clip of acclaimed social researcher Brené Brown’s viral video "The Power of Empathy" during his pitch. The animated video portrays a bear and a fox to explain the difference between empathy and sympathy.
Coughlin said he became interested in the concept of respect as a freshman, when he tried to figure out an appropriate way to meet people of diverse backgrounds and interests.
“Sometimes joining a group, becoming part of a group, isn't the right way to interact with them,” Coughlin said. “Connection doesn't mean mix.”
While Coughlin himself is interested in meeting different people, he said he struggled last semester to spark the same enthusiasm in others.
He plans to organize more social events for his committee this semester in order to focus on connecting with each other first, while building skills to then connect with people outside of the committee.
"I want my committee to be interested in programming," Coughlin said. "But I've learned that I also want my committee to be interested in each other."
Freshman Camille Cornils said she was most inspired by the respect component when she saw Culture of Care at the involvement fair.
“The categories that fall under respect are important to me,” Cornils said. “I want to do something that's important to me and can benefit other people.”
Freshman Preeti Alluri, who joined the club fall semester and is eager to continue, said participating in Culture of Care has taught her the importance of mental health.
"I had no idea that we had so many resources," she said.
Preeti said that the tools she has learned through attending Culture of Care events and tabling have helped her direct friends who may be struggling with mental health challenges to appropriate areas for help.
“It's like a chain effect,” Alluri said.