In the fall semester of 2014, a former University of Rhode Island student-athlete and graduate student Keith Labelle (2000-03) started a student organization to increase awareness of relationship violence.

The organization, URi-STANDers, is part of the Office of Community, Equity & Diversity on campus. Students are trained and chosen to serve as interns under Labelle where they provide workshops and programs that increase awareness regarding sexual assault, stalking, relationship violence, sexual harassment, date-rape drugs, community, equity and diversity.

“URi-STANDers was created from the peer advocates program in the women’s center,” Labelle said. “The national movement was to create bystander intervention programs. While the peer advocate programs focused a lot on that, there was no program specifically suited towards bystander intervention.”

Labelle has spoke and trained a variety of athletic teams and organizations on campus, including Greek life, Greek 101, student-athlete orientation, every university athletic team and the ROTC program.

“People have really been receptive to standing up, speaking out and helping out with spreading the message,” Labelle said. “It’s important to know what sexual assault and dating violence really looks like and what students can do to prevent it. It’s not the way it comes across on TV.”

Recently URI student-athletes and students of Greek life that have taken Labelle’s classes have created videos with the campaign pledge, “It’s on us,” trying to provide extra publicity in showcasing the purpose of the program.  

“I want students who have not heard much about us to know that it is a great program,” Labelle said. “You learn a lot and it’s a great class that I encourage students from all walks not just athletics or Greek life to take the class. I have had great success with student-athletes because I am housed down here and I was a student athlete on this campus, but we want more Greek men and women, ROTC members, people from all around to enroll in the course to educate themselves about these topics.”

In 2013, Labelle was awarded the diversity award from the multicultural center and last year, six members of the program participated in the Atlantic 10 basketball championships in Brooklyn, N.Y.  

“Receiving the diversity award out of the multicultural center was a big accomplishment. I think athletes can play a big role because they are role models on this campus. However anyone can step in, speak out and stand up against something when they see it is not right,” he said.

“I think people have a huge misconception as to how often these situations happen with athletes versus non-athletes or the general public. It is everybody. We hear about athletes being involved in domestic violence crimes all the time on ESPN – it’s just a lot more reported than the typical instance but professional athletes do it at a rate that is 50 percent of the general public” Labelle said. “It is important to train everybody and recognize that athletes are not the bad guys here but they are under the biggest microscope.”

In order to be involved attend one of Labelle’s weekly classes to gain a further perspective and have the necessary knowledge to apply for an internship.

“Students are required to take my CSV 302 class which I teach Tuesdays and Thursdays 11-12:15 before they are eligible to apply to become a part of URi-STANDers. I teach the class both semesters, and once students learn about all the laws, facts and stats in a full semester class, they can then apply to become a URi-STANDer online,” Labelle said.

For any further information on the program, contact Keith Labelle at klabelle@uri.edu.