Staff Members Ought to Play Bigger Role in “Words” Activity

Last year, a police officer had to escort a Hispanic student from the office to guarantee his safety because with a single derogatory word, the student had offended several African-American students to the point of violence.


While the actions of all involved were deplorable, the story is a powerful anecdote to get students thinking about just how harmful words can be.

The “Power of Words” video and activity presented Tuesday, March 18, was a strong step in making students aware of that harm.

Unfortunately, many staff members hindered the Cultural Proficiency Implementation Team’s effectiveness in reaching students with this message by restricting both the video and classroom discussions.

One of the major student complaints about the activity was that the video shown was not provocative enough.

According to team head April Oliver, a similar type of video shown two years ago took nearly a year to get passed by staff. In an effort to win sufficient support from this year’s staff, the team shied away from covering controversy in the new video.

Ultimately it had little effect on the students.

“There should be a video that emotionally affects the individual, a video that will MAKE my heart take action,” junior Elior Ilishah said.

Another staff transgression was that some did not even try to make the “Power of Words” activity worthwhile. One student put it simply: “My teacher didn’t want to do it.”

Thus, not only was the video limited in its effectiveness, but the more important aspect of the activity—the discussion—never even happened in some classes.

Even if the staff members who disapproved of the video and restricted the activity were a minority, the message they have sent is an appalling one. To not even want to promote discussion on a serious subject—one that will follow students for the rest of their lives—is unacceptable.

The issue that the tutorial session began to address is one that deserves considerably more attention. More powerful videos should be shown and more time should be allotted to that students can get a better idea of just how powerful—and destructive—words can be.

But most importantly, next time, all staff members should act like the community figures they are supposed to be by supporting the laudable efforts of the Cultural Proficiency Implementation Team.