Be an active bystander

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Dear Twin Cities students,

This week marks the 104th annual celebration of Homecoming, a tradition dedicated to honoring the spirit of the University of Minnesota on the Twin Cities campus. Many of us will participate in events and share experiences that reflect our collective pride around the choice we each made to be Golden Gophers.

We know that Homecoming brings days of celebrations. We also know that a higher number of on-campus activities increases the chance you may witness risky or unsafe behavior that could be diffused by your intervention. When you chose to be a Gopher, you joined your classmates, faculty, staff, and me in expecting the best from each other and ourselves. That means we need to watch out for each other as active bystanders at all times, and this week in particular.

While active bystanders can diffuse a variety of situations, two particular areas that need our collective attention are sexual misconduct and excessive alcohol consumption. We all share the responsibility for a safe campus, and we know active bystanders are key to achieving that. If you find yourself in a situation where your intervention can make a difference, you can step up by following the three Ds:

  • Distract – Interrupt the situation
  • Delegate – Seek help from another
  • Direct – Intervene in the moment

In taking these steps, please always ensure your own safety, try to dissipate emotion, and consider the other person’s perspective.

The recently-launched “It Ends Here” campaign, part of the President’s Initiative to Prevent Sexual Misconduct, promotes being an active bystander. Actions of bystanders are critical to preventing sexual misconduct and to establishing a culture that demonstrates we as a community do not tolerate these behaviors.

In applying these principles to alcohol consumption, please remember that if you or a friend need help, immediately call 911. Minnesota law, and the University’s Student Conduct Code, offer medical amnesty to the person in need of help and those taking action to save a life, provided the student is the first person to make the report, provides contact information, remains on the scene until help arrives, and cooperates with authorities.

I also encourage you to explore the University’s wide variety of programs and services aimed at keeping you and our community safe. You can read more about those on the SafeU website.

I’m looking forward to a fun Homecoming week here on the Twin Cities campus, and I hope you are, as well. Please be safe, look out for each other, and help us maintain the campus community of which we can all be proud.

Eric W. Kaler