York sociologist explains ‘bystander effect’ in murder cases

A story about two murder cases where witnesses failed to call police, in the Toronto Star Aug. 2, included comments by Desmond Ellis, a York sociology professor who conducts research at York’s LaMarsh Centre for Research on Violence & Conflict Resolution. The response – or lack of – may seem shocking, the Star wrote, but research suggests that the failure to react in such a situation is not unusual. It is a phenomenon known as bystander effect or Genovese Syndrome, after the 1964 New York City stabbing death of Kitty Genovese. It was later determined that 38 residents heard her screams and some saw her being attacked over a 30-minute period. Only one called police and she was likely dead at that point. “It is the opposite of the Good Samaritan,” said Ellis, who also attributed fear of getting involved, mistrust of police in some communities and diffusion of responsibility in a large crowd as among reasons why people don’t always help.

Ready for the next challenge

Joining a police force dominated by men didn’t scare then 22- year-old Gwen Boniface (BA ‘82, LLB ‘88), reported the Orillia Packet and Times Aug. 2. “I grew up in a family with eight kids,” she said, smiling. “When you grow up with four brothers, you learn to be pretty tough.” The Ontario Provincial Police’s first female commissioner began her journey by studying law and security administration at Humber College. In 1977, she joined Downsview OPP as a constable, and was one of just three women in her detachment. Women had only been serving as members of the force for three years, recalled Boniface, who went on to study at York’s Atkinson School of Liberal & Professional Studies and Osgoode Hall Law School.

Recently, Boniface received an opportunity she couldn’t pass up. She has resigned her post to join a newly established three-person panel to provide oversight of Ireland’s 13,000-member national police force. They will advise Ireland’s justice minister on policing practices and ways to reform the organization. “I’ve always wanted to work at the international level. It’s a lifelong dream for me,” Boniface said.

After 19 years, Coach Wise leaves York

Graham Wise, one of the most successful coaches in Canadian Interuniversity Sport history, will leave York University after almost two decades with a mission to revive Ryerson University’s hockey program reported The Globe and Mail Aug. 2. “I view it as a real opportunity and decided to take it,” Wise said. Ryerson’s hiring of Wise creates chaos in York’s program one month before classes resume, wrote the Globe. The school only learned of Wise’s decision yesterday (Aug. 1). “I’m still stunned,” said Patricia Murray, York’s director of sport and recreation. She said the Unviersity will find an interim coach for a year while a national coaching search is conducted.

On air

  • Brian Hood, league and marketing manager for the Ice Gardens at York University – and a sometime Zamboni driver – was one of several people with “cool” jobs, featured on Global TV News Aug. 1.
  • Rory Mullin (BA ‘94), athletic therapist and a graduate of York’s School of Kinesiology & Health Sciences, Faculty of Health, spoke about the comeback of a body builder from serious injury on Global TV News Aug. 1.