BERT Failing Within Social Justice

headshotMarissa Jasso is a junior English major.

When little Tommy got pushed off the swing by Barbara Joe, he knew that telling the teacher would only get him into deeper trouble. Being known as the tattletale makes a situation far worse for those who seek justice, especially in the eyes of the person committing the crime. As children, it is important to learn defense mechanisms without needing to involve an adult for protection. Learning how to stand up for others and ourselves, is a huge part of what growing up is all about; what is truly being developed is the confidence in our abilities to defend our beliefs, morals, and values.

College, one of the most transformative periods in our lives, symbolizes that change between young adults who think they know it all and young adults who want to know it all. USF is held to a higher standard than most universities when it comes to aiding students in this transformation, as our campus preaches a mission of social justice. Though these are loaded words, social justice is relative. In a highly liberal city that embodies all that our university strives for, it is understandable how one would feel swept up in the idea that our college is doing everything right. Our school is our city and cities don’t make mistakes, right? It can be difficult to believe the people, or the city, we stand with can have fundamental flaws because why would we willingly side with something in the wrong? There is talk about how our university creates social justice warriors, but who are we fighting? USF will not suddenly make us all capable people a few minutes after enrollment. It is not the University’s job to play the role of a parent, either. This is where I take issue with the recently implemented Bias Education and Resource Team (BERT).

BERT is a newly created program at USF designed to take in, assess, and support victims of bias-related experiences reported on campus. One of its initiatives is to hold classes and information sessions around the specific topic of bias. These classes will also be used as a method of personal support for the victims so they are able to leave the situation knowing that the person who committed wrongdoing understands exactly what was so wrong. Incidents could range from overhearing a homophobic comment said by a staff or faculty member, to being told to drop one’s dream of becoming an actress based on looks. A small team of USF faculty is now acting as the protective mama bear, when us cubs need to learn that being a bear is fear-instilling enough. Within each of us lie all the strength we’ll ever need.

Within each of us there is a protector, and it will never come out without opportunity. College is supposed to be taking off the training wheels, not putting them on. The college experience is preparation for the real world, and when someone insults my sexuality, I know our conversation and my experience will only strengthen my ability to combat that same type of ignorance in the future. In life, there are problems we cannot report. So I ask you, fellow social justice warriors, are we warriors or reporters?

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