As part of efforts to build a welcoming culture supportive of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging, the college offers resources and opportunities for all members of our community to learn about how to be a better Ally to underrepresented/underserved groups and diversity in general.
Resources for Allies, Advocates, and Accomplices
Readings for Everyone
Allyship is a lifelong process of building relationships based on trust, consistency, and accountability with marginalized individuals and/or groups of people and of ongoing learning about how we can all change our behavior to make people from marginalized groups feel safe and included. Allyships is not something we can self-identify with, it must be recognized by the communities we seek to support. Increasingly marginalized communities encourage people who wish to support them to go beyond allyship and to become advocates and active partners, rather than passive supporters.
We all add diversity to our community and we all have learning to do about how to interact with and think about groups to which we ourselves don’t belong. Here is a list of resources you can use to learn more.
- Teaching Tolerance.org Ally Toolkit – This brief overview and toolkit is a great place to start!
- What does it mean to be an Ally? Definition and Characteristics
- Guide to Allyship – An open-source guide “contributed to by people from all walks of life…, a resource where anyone who is considering becoming an ally understands the pros and cons of what being an ally entails.”
- Being a Good Ally – In this Diverse Issues in Education Magazine Blog, an Asian American ally of the African-American community notes that “a good ally takes care to avoid appropriating another person’s suffering.”
- Moving for Ally to Accomplice: How Far Are You Willing to Go to Disrupt Racism in the Workplace? – Diverse Issues in Higher Education – “Allyship is not enough. In order to disrupt racism and work on achieving equity, one must be willing to move from ally to accomplice. As an accomplice, you will walk the talk and take the steps necessary to dismantle the power structure of White privilege and supremacy and create substantial and sustainable societal and institutional change that treats all persons with dignity and respect.”
- 35 Dumb Things Well-Intended People Say – Dr. Maura Cullen
- A Note From Your Hearing-Impaired Colleagues: Just Use a Microphone Already – The Chronicle of Higher Education – “It’s not about how you feel using a microphone. It’s about how others can best hear.”
- Ableism/Language – This post discusses the way Ableist Language perpetuates systems that are oppressive to some people and is experienced as a type of violence. It is meant to help us be aware of how our language and the ways those of us who can, can work the change our language to be more inclusive.
Black and African Americans:
- We Need to Talk About Digital Blackface in Reaction GIFs – A short article by Teen Vouge that covered the potentially unforeseen harm caused by the use of black people as reaction GIFs, part of what is called “digital blackface.”
- White people assume niceness is the answer to racial inequality. It’s not – This article talks about how “nice” doesn’t equal not racist and how our ideas that “nice” people cannot be racist is a major obstacle to dealing with problems around race
- GLSEN Safe Space Kit – Is a 48 page Guide to Being an Ally to LGBT Students.
- Straight for Equality – Materials include a number of free downloadable resources including Guide to being a straight Ally, 10 Things You Can Do to Be an Ally, Equality Literacy 101, and other materials.
- Explore: Allies – Learn how allies can help make the world more understanding and supportive for the LGBTQ community.
- Coming Out as a Supporter: A Guide to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Americans Human Rights Campaign – Produced by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation in Partnership with PFLAG (the nation’s largest family and ally organization), “this guide is designed to help build understanding and comfort.
- An A-Z Guide to Being a Muslim Ally – This is a short article from Huffington Post provides a list of ways people can help support Muslim-Americans.
Native and Indigenous:
- ALLYSHIP – The Anti-Oppression Network is a coalition of individuals and groups dedicated to working towards liberation, decolonization, anti-oppression and intersectionality (representing diverse minority groups). This page lays out roles and responsibilities of people seeking to engage in allyship.
- Changing the Narrative about Native Americans: A Guide for Allies – This is a 44 page long guide to help people unlearn false and harmful narratives about Native American Peoples, learn history and ways to support positive new narratives.
- Indigenous allyship: An overview (and Toolkit) – “This document will act as a resource for non-Indigenous people seeking to become allies to Aboriginal people. To help allies understand the struggle for decolonization and nationhood and what eﬀective allyship to Aboriginal peoples means.”
- How to Be An Ally To Indigenous People – Indigenous Perspectives Society: “While a few Indigenous people have taken on the task of educating all of us about our collective history, while at the same time healing their own deep wounds, this work is not their responsibility alone. Allies need to take on the task of social transformation, and share the responsibility of ensuring we move into a future built on integrity, good relationships, and trust.” Includes a link to an “Ally Bill of Responsibilities” and a list of resources.
- What Every Teacher Needs to Know to Teach Native American Students – This article discusses the cultural learning styles of Native students in relation to classroom environments that often interfere with the way Native students learn, and offers promising practices.
Women and Gender:
- How some men are challenging gender inequity in the lab: Offering support to female colleagues can trigger a culture change that makes science and engineering more equitable for all – In this article in Nature international journal of science, six male researchers describe their efforts to support their female colleagues.
For Further Study: Books and Additional Materials
Micro-aggressions: Derald Wing Sue
- Sue, Derald Wing. (2010) Microaggressions in everyday life: Race, gender and sexual orientation. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
- Sue, Derald Wing. (2010) Microaggressions and marginality. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
- Best Practices in Diversity Strategic Planning Workshop: Derald Wing Sue Presentation – link to workshop and materials, including a radio interview and a brief introduction to microaggressions.
Implicit Bias and Interventions:
- Steele, Claude. (2010). Whistling Vivaldi: How stereotypes affect us and what we can do. New York: W.W. Norton & Company.
- Distinguished Lecture on Engineering and Humanity: Stereotype Threat and Identity Threat: The Science of a Diverse Community by Claude Steele – site lists resources about implicit bias (Note: The site requires Penn State access ID login. EMS distributed copies of the book and conducted a series of discussions.)
- EMS has partnered with Penn State’s Stand For State Program to offer a series of scenario-based discussions for faculty, staff, post-docs, and graduate students to “build awareness of situations that are problematic” and “brainstorm proactive choices that lead towards creating a more inclusive and supportive environment for all.” Visit the Bystander Intervention webpage.
Inclusive Instructional Environments:
- Best Practices in Diversity Strategic Planning Workshop: “Improving Courses and Curricula by Including Diversity” by Thomas F. Nelson – Materials, including session recordings are available online.
- Schreyer Institute for Teaching Excellence – offers workshops on Creating Inclusive Courses and other topics
- John A. Dutton e-Eductaion Institute – offers learning design and faculty development services supporting diversity, equity, and inclusion in both online and resident instruction.
Workshops, Discussions, and Training
If you are interested in increasing your facility with diversity, equity, and inclusion, there are several options for learning more.
- Penn State Learning Resources Network – offers a number of courses at no cost, both online or in-person. (Access ID login required). Under “Browse for Training,” click on “Business Skills” then “Diversity/Inclusion” Or use the search bar.
- Affirmative Action Office Diversity Education Services – offers workshops for faculty and staff. View website for a list of available professional development programs. Customized programs can also be developed to suit the needs of individual departments.
- Safer People Safer Places – offers regular workshops, including the pre-requisite “Safer People Safer Places – LGBTQ Foundations Workshop.” Visit website to view available workshops.
- Stand for State – Penn State’s bystander intervention program focusies on sexual and relationship violence, mental health concerns, acts of bias, and risky drinking and drug use, with workshops open to students as well as faculty and staff. Stand For State promotes a simple methodology of 3Ds: Direct interaction, Distraction, and/or Delegation to guide responses that bystanders can undertake in any situation.
Helping a Student in Distress
At MUIH, we strive to support students with emphasis on caring for the personal, intellectual and ethical growth of students. All members of the MUIH community (faculty, staff, and students) are dedicated to the highest standards of education and share the responsibility of maintaining a safe learning and living environment.
The campus community is committed to helping students grow both intellectually and personally so that they develop emotional resilience that enables them to respond to life events in ways that support their well-being and integrity. It is important that faculty, and staff recognize and acknowledge when a student is experiencing distress.
You might be the first person to notice, or you might be the first person who is in a position to assist the student. It is important that you consult with campus resources, speak directly with the student or refer the student to an appropriate resource. If you encounter a student who exhibits problematic behaviors, you can contact the appropriate resource(s) listed below.
If you believe the situation is an emergency: Call 911
Identifying Students in Distress
As a faculty or staff member interacting with students, you are in an excellent position to recognize behavior changes that characterize the emotionally troubled student. A student’s behavior, especially if it is inconsistent with your previous observations, could well constitute an attempt to draw attention to their plight: “a cry for help.” Your ability to recognize the signs of emotional distress and your courage to acknowledge your concerns directly to the student, are often noted by students as the most significant factor in their successful problem resolution. When considering the signs for online students, use your knowledge of whatever interactions you have with students, knowing that you cannot observe everything due to the nature of online classrooms. When in doubt, please consult with CRS staff regarding students of concern. Below is a list of signs that may indicate that a student is in distress.
- Significant shift in quality of work
- Missed assignments or appointments
- Repeated absence from class, exams, and other activities
- Continual requests for unusual accommodations (late papers, extensions, postponed exams, etc.)
- Essays or papers that expresses hopelessness, social isolation, rage, or despair
- Lack of engagement in participation-oriented classes
- Inappropriate disruptions or monopolizing classroom time
Physical or Psychological Signs:
- Excessive anxiety or panic
- Apathy, lack of energy, a change in sleeping or eating habits, or dramatic weight gain or loss
- Marked changes in personal hygiene, work habits, or social behavior
- Mood elevation
- Isolation or withdrawal
- Overtly suicidal thoughts, such as referring to suicide as a current option
- Giving away treasured personal possessions
- Increased irritability or aggressive behavior
- Bizarre thinking, seemingly at odds with the reality of the situation (such as paranoia)
- Excessive use of alcohol or other drugs
Other Factors to Consider:
- Direct statements indicating family problems, personal losses such as death of a family member or the break-up of a relationship
- Expressions of concern about a student by peers
- Written note or verbal statement that has a sense of hopelessness or finality
- Your sense, however vague, that something is seriously amiss
What You Can Do
Taking the step to assist a student can save a life (or many lives). An individual who is distressed often wants help but doesn’t know how to ask. You can begin the process by expressing your concern in a caring, nonjudgmental way. By offering assistance, you can play an essential role in maintaining the health and wellness of our students in their pursuit of academic excellence.
- Find a private, comfortable place/time to talk. Give the student your undivided attention. It is possible that just a few minutes of effective listening on your part may be enough to help the student feel comfortable about what to do next. Ask if the student has ever talked about this problem with anyone else, including a counselor. Try to get an accurate understanding of the issues, and, if appropriate, encourage the student to talk about the situation with a professional.
- In your own words, express your concern using statements like, “I’m concerned that…”.
- Ask open-ended questions. The student may choose not to answer, but may feel relieved to know you are trying to understand.
- Don’t feel compelled to find a solution. Often, listening is enough.
- Suggest that the student can get more help if needed.
- Don’t hesitate to ask for support from the the CRS staff.
How to Make a Referral
Do not attempt to make a referral when the student is so upset and confused that they cannot understand or listen to you. Wait until the student has calmed down enough to be able to converse and respond to your suggestions.
- Suggest that the student make an appointment with a professional. Let them know that the first step to feeling better is getting help.
- If necessary, you can help the student make an appointment.
- If the student is hesitant to make an appointment, explain to the student that:
- Professional counseling is confidential. This means that information about the student cannot be released to other offices, family members or faculty without the student’s written permission (except when the student is in danger of harming himself or herself or others).
- The cost for counseling services depends on their health insurance coverage, and some providers will offer a sliding scale to offer more affordable options.
Students In Crisis
A crisis is a situation in which an individual’s usual style of coping is no longer effective, and the emotional or physiological response begins to escalate. As emotions intensify, coping becomes less effective, until the person becomes disoriented, nonfunctional, or attempts to harm themselves or others. If a student is in a serious mental health crisis, you might see or hear the following signs:
- Suicidal statements or suicide attempts
- Written or verbal violence or acting out violently
- Destruction of property or other criminal acts
- Extreme anxiety resulting in panic reactions
- Inability to communicate (e.g., garbled or slurred speech, disjointed thoughts)
- Loss of contact with reality (e.g., seeing or hearing things that aren’t there, expressing beliefs or actions at odds with reality)
- Highly disruptive behavior (e.g., hostility, aggression, violence)
What to Do When You Suspect a Serious Crisis
If you believe there may be imminent danger of harm to a student or the community, as evidenced by these crisis symptoms, get help immediately: Call 911.
If you need help in assessing the situation during business hours, contact CRS at or the Director of Student Services. If you need help in assessing the situation outside business hours, call the Community Mental Health Crisis Line at 211.
Special thanks to Cornell University for language borrowed from their handbook on “Recognizing and Responding to Students in Distress.”