On Sept. 22, Tyler Clementi took his life after his roommate streamed a video of Clementi having an intimate encounter with another young man. Clementi had not yet revealed his sexuality and felt that he could not turn to his family or friends, so he jumped off the George Washington Bridge. Everyone has heard this horrifying story that has sparked a nationwide movement to prevent future suicides of gay teens. After the number of gay suicides rose, Dan Savage began the It Gets Better project, which promoted the gay community and gay allies to create videos that contained supportive messages to teens struggling with bullying, harassment and their sexuality.
Rollins, however, took a different approach to the It Gets Better Project. Dr. Lisa Tillmann, who is facilitating the contest, explained, “I hoped Rollins would participate in this dialogue but with a somewhat different message: ‘It gets better if we make it better.’ Simply saying ‘It gets better’ runs the risk of relocating the problem from the structural, as in family, education and civic contexts of inequality, that invite bullying to the individual, who, even in the face of abuse, must be resilient and ‘hang on.’” Tillmann decided to include anyone who has been bullied for any reason, not just for his or her sexuality. “I also thought it important to address bullying on many bases—sexual orientation, of course, but also gender identity and expression, body size or weight, etc.”
Funding and technical support for Rollins’ version of the It Gets Bett er video contest come from the Critical Media and Cultural Department, Strategic Marketing, the Office of Student Involvement and Leadership (OSIL), the Economics Department, the Dean of Faculty office, Graduate Studies in Counseling, and several other academic departments. Tillmann is thrilled that so many departments and offices on campus are willing to help her with this project and to achieve her ultimate goal. “I want to work in service of changing the structures: more open families, more inclusive education environments (including Rollins), full civic equality.”
Videos may be submitted by an individual or by a group. There are four requirements for the entries: you must identify yourself or your group in the video, you must identify Rollins College, you must communicate how you and your group are welcoming and inclusive, and the entry must convey your promise to interrupt harassment, prejudice, and bullying whenever you see it. An award of $1,000 will be awarded to the best video made by an athletic team, the best video made by a Greek organization, the best video made by a non-Greek organization and the best video made by a member or members of an academic department or other unit on campus. The videos must be no longer than seven minutes and are due by Dec. 1.
For more information regarding the video contest or to seek help from bullying, contact either Tillmann or Dr. Sue Easton. Remember that the It Gets Better contest should not be about winning money; it should be about spreading equality and support throughout the entire community.