Penn State Intercom......January 17, 2002

Zero Tolerance for Hate
Support Network is
a resource to those
who have experienced hostility

Most headlines focus on visible acts of intolerance such as the receipt of hate mail, ethnic graffiti scrawled on a door or physical violence. But for many, a hostile climate may begin with a rude comment from a fellow student, or a deliberate lack of cooperation from a co-worker.

People encountering prejudice usually want to know who to talk with and where to go with questions, but often are uncertain where to turn. A new program, The Zero Tolerance for Hate Support Network (ZTSN), offers assistance to all members of the Penn State community who feel they have experienced intolerance.

The ZTSN network comprises students, faculty and staff, and community members who are committed to civility by respecting and supporting the rights of others, and providing resources to those in need.

"For the past decade or so, the University community has been dealing with various acts of intolerance and has been engaged in ongoing discussions and dialogue, but awareness has been heightened among students over the last two years with specific incidents," said Erik Malewski, network liaison in the Office of Vice Provost for Educational Equity. He and fellow graduate student Audrey Elion developed the network.

"Sometimes, diverse students and employees are unfamiliar with a local community, resulting in misunderstandings," he said. "They need a supportive person to talk out their questions or frustrations and guide them toward the appropriate direction. As we have seen after the Sept. 11 terrorism, it is difficult to learn or work productively if a person is feeling constant uncertainty or anxiety about their environment. Just knowing there are allies often offers great comfort and relief."

Network members would display posters or stickers with the ZTSN symbol -- multicultural hands connected in a circle of support. "The symbol illustrates the joint efforts of the Penn State community to combat discrimination and hatred," said Malewski.

"The Zero Tolerance For Hate Support Network is among the newest of the many programs designed to enhance diversity and create a more welcoming climate here at Penn state," said Terrell Jones, vice provost for educational equity. "There are hundreds of diversity advocates at Penn State, and this network will help to create those connections needed for diverse people. Creating and maintaining a supportive environment takes more than just a village; at Penn State, it takes whole communities working together."

The Zero Tolerance For Hate Network is modeled after the successful Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Support Network whose members provide information, sensitivity and understanding toward lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues. There are 350 members currently in the LGBT network; Malewski hopes to recruit an equal number for the ZTSN network as well.

"Network members would be knowledgeable about issues of hate and discrimination," he said. "They don't have to be formal experts, but have a good listening ear and a dedication to civility on campus. Members can discuss concerns and give out information about relevant resources that are available, such as key offices at the University or the community."

Students, faculty and staff and community members are encouraged to apply to be network members. Applications are available online at http://www.equity.psu.edu/zero/about.html. A review committee selects network members, who receive resource materials, such as posters and stickers, and brochures such as "Ten Ways to Fight Hate" and "101 Tools for Tolerance" published by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Interested individuals can call Malewski at (814) 865-1773 or e-mail exm22@psu.edu.

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