How to be a hero and fight hate crime on campus

On Wednesday, November 23, 2016, the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) became the latest group to speak out against hate crime on campus. Noting a sharp increase in physical and verbal hate crimes in the wake of the election of Donald Trump, the AAUP called for support for undocumented students.

How will you fight hate and be a hero on your campus?

Hate crime report

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) is dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of our society. Founded in 1971, its mission is to ensure the promise of civil rights for all.

On its website the SPLC has kept a watch on incidents of hateful harassment since Election Day, November 8, 2016. As of November 18, 2016, the site had logged 701 reports from news articles, social media and direct submissions from its own intake page. Many of the reports were anecdotal and so could not be verified. I don’t know about you, but I think that one incidence of hate crime is too many.

According to the site, about 65 percent of the incidents occurred in the first three days following the election and have been dropping steadily.

“Other patterns pointed out previously are holding, too, notably that anti-immigrant incidents remain the top type of harassment reported and that nearly 40 percent of all incidents occurred in educational (K-12 schools and university/college) settings,” the site said.

What is a hate crime?

What is a hate crime, anyway? University of California Berkeley Centers for Educational Justice & Community Engagement offered a detailed explanation of, “What is a hate crime?

“A crime is an act deemed to be illegal, it becomes a hate crime when it is motivated by bias or prejudice against a person or people perceived to be a part of a group, and that is intended to induce fear, scare, terrify or cause psychological harm,” the site said.

Fighting hate on campus

In its resolution, the AAUP urged all colleges and universities to ensure that all members of their student bodies be able to “seek knowledge freely.” Details were reported by Colleen Flaherty in her November 23, 2016, post for, “AAUP Condemns Hate Crimes, Endorses Campus Sanctuary Movement.”

Noting the distinction between free speech and hate speech, the AAUP stated, “The free exchange of ideas is incompatible with an atmosphere of fear. Colleges and universities must be places where all ideas and even prejudices may be freely and openly debated and discussed, but such discussion cannot happen when some members of the community are threatened or excluded.”

Be a hero

I’ve been thinking. So what do you do if you confront harassment or hate crime on your campus?

Here’s the good news. According to Dr. Philip Zimbardo (who gained fame for his Stanford Prison Experiment), heroism is “ordinary people doing extraordinary acts.” He also found through his research that heroes are most effective when they work not alone, but in a network.

His Heroic Imagination Project (HIP) seeks to create a blueprint to help anybody be a hero, form a support network for heroic action and encourage people to make a public commitment to journey toward heroism.

You can hear Dr. Zimbardo explain how HIP works in this YouTube video, “The Heroic Imagination Project.”

Stand up to hate

Elizabeth Svoboda offered, “Eight Ways to Stand Up to Hate,” in her November 22, 2016, post for

Number one on her list reminded me of the quote from Edmund Burke: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

Her number one suggestion is to educate yourself on how to engage in effective bystander intervention. She included links to places to start where you could learn more about how to empower yourself and build your own community to fight hate crime.

Have you witnessed hate crimes on your campus? What is your school doing to encourage heroism? Tell us in the comments.

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