direct edit

EMU Speak UP! Active Bystander Program History

The Active bystander program at EMU is an interactive program that focuses on teaching pro-social behavior by providing a safe space for university students and staff to:

  • Gain a better understanding of the bystander effect
  • Understand what influences a person’s willingness to help, and
  • Develop skills for analyzing and responding to bystander behavior. 

This program developed out of focus groups that were intended to address bystander issues specific to EMU as well as the community at large. Several years ago, Drs. Woodiel and Rosenblum met with student-athletes, resident assistants, student organizations and Greeks to talk about bystander issues in their communities. Following these meetings, the two decided against using a national program and instead tailored the education/training with scenarios that were specific to each group. We are happy to share that with each successive year, this program has grown in popularity as there is such a tremendous need, and subsequently the number of requests have tripled in the last academic year.

Active Bystander Program History

On March 13, 1964 a woman by the name of Kitty Genovese was walking home to her apartment in Queens, New York and was subsequently attacked, stabbed and assaulted. People were outraged and confused as to how this could have happened with reportedly 40 or so onlookers. Social scientists eventually termed this seemingly anti-theoretical phenomenon “the bystander effect,” meaning the more people who are present in an emergency situation, the less likely they are to act. Thus begins the story of the much needed “bystander intervention”.

In recent years, universities have specifically come under scrutiny for their treatment of interpersonal violence cases and efforts at prevention. On March 7, 2013, President Obama signed a Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act that included requirements to educate students on appropriate and healthy measures for intervening in bystander situations. As a result, active bystander intervention programs have been taking root all across the country, particularly on university campuses. Active bystander programs may primarily address interpersonal violence, but here at Eastern Michigan University we have created a program that addresses injustices all across the spectrum (e.g., racism, sexism, homophobia, ableism).