The UMatter at UMass initiative affirms the UMass Amherst values of care, compassion and active engagement.

Active Bystander

What is an Active Bystander?

  • Every day we witness many things (both good and not so good). This makes us all bystanders.
  • We also make decisions about how to respond to what we see. Our choices can turn us into active bystanders.
  • An active bystander witnesses an act that is harmful (such as name-calling, derogatory joke-telling, rumors, property damage or physical violence) or potentially harmful (such as “hitting on” someone who is too drunk or otherwise incapacitated to consent) and doesn’t just passively observe or walk away.
  • An active bystander DOES SOMETHING ABOUT IT!

Why is it important to act?

Taking action early – before a situation escalates – can be effective and safer for everyone involved.

When we take action, we …

  • positively impact not only the people experiencing, but also those committing a harmful act.
  • help give others the confidence to speak up or act. contribute to creating a community where people care about and help each other.
  • improve our own lives by supporting a culture that values healthy relationships and offers help when needed.

When we …

  • stay silent
  • do nothing
  • look the other way
  • say, “It’s none of my business”
  • think, “someone else will deal with it”
… we support hurtful behavior and unequal treatment.

…we participate in a system that allows violence, discrimination and suffering.

The Three D's

1. DIRECT: Step in and interrupt a harmful situation by pointing out the problem and engaging participants in conversation about better alternatives.

Say things like:

“That’s not funny!”
“What you said [or did] isn’t cool.”
“That type of language [or behavior] isn’t OK.”


“Is this person bothering you?”
“Is there anything I can do to help?”

  • Stand next to someone so they know they are not alone.
  • Look disapprovingly at a person who is harassing someone else.
  • Don’t join in or laugh.
  • Tell someone (either right then or later on) why you thought what they did or said was uncool.
  • If a person is mistreated, tell them it wasn’t okay and you’re sorry it happened.

2. DISTRACT: If you aren’t comfortable calling out the problematic behavior, try interrupting a risky situation by distracting and redirecting the people involved.

  • Ask an unrelated question about a class assignment, a TV show or even the weather. The goal is simply to change the subject!
  • Tell them you think someone is looking for them.
  • Ask them to show you where the bathroom is.
  • Say something positive (like, “Hey, nice shirt!”) to anyone involved.

3. DELEGATE: If you can’t do it alone, involve others.

  • Attract “allies in action.” (Call attention to the situation and get others to help you speak up, prevent or interrupt.)
  • Tell your RA, RD or another staff person right away.
  • Seek out appropriate campus resources.
  • In an emergency, always call 911.

Medical Amnesty

Never let fear of getting yourself or a friend in trouble keep you from seeking help in an emergency!

Although you may be reluctant to report these situations, obtaining medical help is imperative. If you seek help for someone under the influence of alcohol or drugs who needs medical attention, neither you nor that person will be charged with a Code of Student Conduct or Residence Hall Community Standards violation. If that person is a UMass student, they will be required to attend BASICS and pay the associated fee.

Downloadable Tools

Downloadable Tools | UMatter at UMass


New Students Guide

Date: Fall, 2017
Description: An overview of campus resources and general support services for incoming UMass Amherst undergraduate students


Grad Student Guide

Date: Fall, 2017
Description: An overview of campus resources and general support services for incoming UMass Amherst graduate students


Parent Guide

Date: Fall, 2017
Description: An overview of campus resources and general support services for parents of UMass Amherst students (16-page PDF, 4.5x7")

Maroon Folder

Date: Fall, 2015
Description: a resource guide for recognizing and assisting students in distress. 


UMass Community Postcard

Date: Fall, 2015
Description: A reminder about UMatter values and resources, for returning UMass students (2-page PDF, 


UMatter Presentation

Date: Fall, 2014
Description: a PowerPoint presentation introducing the concepts and goals of the UMatter initiative.



"What is an Active Bystander?" Poster

Date: Fall, 2013
Description: an oversize color poster outlining the basics of Bystander Intervention. (PDF, 38x27")


Additional UMatter resources are available at