Combating Bystander Effect on Campus

By Mary Sprague
Elm Staff Writer

In difficult situations, the choice to act is often the hardest one. Social pressure — acknowledged or not — and fear of negative judgement are factors that are difficult to counter.

“We all have been in these positions routinely, where we see something that is probably not going the best possible direction, and yet we don’t involve ourselves,” said Director of Public Safety Gerald Roderick. “Stepping in … could pull them out [of the situation]. …. A lot of bystanders don’t know how to interact in a constructive way in situations to prevent things from occurring.”

Rachel Boyle, director of prevention education and advocacy, said the “Bystander Effect,” is a social psychological occurrence where people diffuse responsibility. This can occur because someone is uncomfortable in a certain situation, and/or they assume someone else will take care of it, she said.

Boyle is working with a program called Step UP! to develop a Bystander Intervention Training Team. According to Boyle, the team will include staff members from various departments who will work on training student groups and organizations in bystander intervention skill development.

“In the training, students will work on several aspects of intervention strategies and work to support identifying and defining an individual’s intervention style, working through the 5 decision making steps of intervention … along with considering helping factors and handling high emotions,” she said.

Roderick said redirection is one of the most important and effective tactics an intervening bystander can use.

Boyle named several more strategies for bystanders to use, including interrupting, distracting, and delaying when a situation is becoming dangerous. Additionally, bringing the situation to the attention of a faculty, staff member, or peer can be immensely helpful. Boyle said that in case of an emergency, students should contact 911 and Public Safety.

“A lot of times we see this with consumption of alcohol,” Roderick said. “You have to have the confidence to be able to step in and do it.”

Students are encouraged to contact Public Safety with any concerns at 410-778-7810. Additionally, the LiveSafe App is available for download, and in addition to acting as a personal safety app, facilitates communication between students and Public Safety.

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