Courtesy Photo | Yukie Murphy

Cal Poly opened With Us: The National Network for Peer Accountability Feb. 2. With Us is a new research center that will address student deaths and develop plans to prevent harm to students in the future.

The center will focus on issues concerning hazing, alcohol and drug abuse, sexual assault, hate and bias and other forms of violence. It will be run in the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs.

“As this effort … is based at Cal Poly, but designed to be a research-based center that serves all colleges and universities, its location will likely shift over time as this movement grows,” Vice President of Student Affairs Keith Humphrey said.

Led by a team of researchers and students, With Us will gather research on bystander intervention. The goal is to turn this research into resources that can be used on college campuses throughout the nation.

“Cal Poly has seen significant success in its peer-to-peer bystander intervention approach,” President Jeffrey Armstrong said in a press release. “With Us provides us new opportunities to engage others beyond our campus in support of students around the country.”

With Us was founded through Aware Awake Alive — a non-profit organization that focuses on alcohol poisoning prevention. It has since been widely adopted throughout the California State University system and at various other universities and high schools.

With Us will be funded by a gift from Scott and Julia Starkey, but Humphrey and the With Us team plan to seek additional philanthropy to sustain the center.

Aware Awake Alive was founded by the Starkey family after their son, Carson, died of alcohol poisoning in a hazing incident during his freshman year at Cal Poly in 2008. The Starkeys wanted their son’s story to be remembered, thus inspiring their global outreach initiative.

“Over the past nine years, as we gained experience through our hands-on work at Aware Awake Alive, it became evident to us how the misuse of alcohol was commonly involved in many other issues,” Scott and Julia Starkey said in a press release. “We wanted a way to reach more people and save more lives from tragedy.”

Humphrey said the Starkeys’s campaign was as much a part of With Us as their donation.

“Aware Awake Alive’s peer-led approach to intervention was the inspiration for creating With Us,” Humphrey said. “We want to bring together the best minds and research in bystander intervention that will put an end to high-risk substance misuse and all forms of campus-based violence.”

By opening this new research center, With Us intends fulfill its commitments: outreach, research, resources and education. For more information, visit the With Us website at

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