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August 31st, 2011

Bullying on campus: stop the harassment



By Glenn Rosenberg

Bullying is something that many associate with elementary school; however, it is a form of harassment that can continue well past high school into college. Bullying most often occurs where adult supervision is low or absent. Categorizing bullying at the college level becomes a bit different, but it is still defined as any deliberate act of intimidating or abuse in any form, of another person.

Bullying in college has historically been defined as "hazing," harassing behavior targeting students seeking membership to Greek organizations, sports teams, academic societies, military-related programs and other clubs.

However, bullying is not limited to organized groups. It could happen to anyone, of any age, race, color, religion, sexual orientation or national origin. Some forms of bullying, such as harassment of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students or harassment of members of religious groups, may violate antidiscrimination laws.

Hazing or bullying does not always involve physical contact. Social media, email and texting are all outlets through which bullying occurs.

The effects of bullying can be devastating. Students who are bullied often avoid classes, cafeterias and social events, are often emotionally and physically harmed and tragically can turn to suicide.

Bullying in college can also fall into the following forms according to BullySolutions.com:

• Sexual bullying includes unwelcome touching, taunting, comments, suggestive jokes, advances, requests for sexual favors and threats. It may also include spreading malicious rumors about a person’s supposed promiscuity; sexually suggestive pictures and writings including those online; and unwanted physical contact up to and including rape.

• Racial harassment is defined as unwanted or unwelcome contact based on a person’s race, nationality or ethnicity which is offensive to the recipient and creates a hostile or unsafe working or studying environment. Examples of racial bullying include offensive jokes; ridicule or assumptions based on racial stereotypes; exclusion; hostile or malicious rumors; offensive graffiti, cartoons or other propaganda based on racial stereotypes; or physical assault or threats.

• General Harassment is any unwelcome or offensive conduct which would be seen as offensive, humiliating or demeaning by a reasonable person which is based on any of the following: gender, marital or family status, sexual orientation, religion, age, or disability.

However, students are not the only ones who bully in college. In a study conducted in 2004, 1,025 undergraduate students were asked about bullying in college by their peers and teachers*. The study found that more than 60 percent of the students reported that they have observed a student be bullied by another student, and more than 44 percent observed seeing a teacher bully another student. Additionally, more than six percent of the students reported having been bullied personally by another student and almost five percent reported being bullied by a teacher.

Proactively protecting yourself and others on campus:

• Familiarize yourself with the campus’ security department, crisis help center and other emergency resources.

• Know who to call for help.

• Inquire about escort services to get you safely to your dorm, apartment, class or vehicle.

• Learn the campus policies on bullying and violence.

• Do not tolerate bullying or violence. If you see it happening, report it.

• Get involved with student or community groups that take a stand against bullying.

What to do if you’re bullied:

• Depending on the situation, if you are not being physically harmed, you may want to try to work it out by yourself first before involving others. However, a bully may not be willing to change their behavior based on your request.

• Ignoring the bully can be effective, especially if it is a one-time incident. If a bully is looking for a reaction and they are ignored, they may likely lose interest.

• If a bully approaches you, walk in the opposite direction. Do not show fear, but instead, walk with confidence and with your head up. If a trusted individual is near you, walk to them for assistance.

• If you cannot handle the situation, report it and ask for help.

• Utilize your school’s resources including security, campus police and student conflict resolution processes.

Everyone has the right to live, work and study in an environment free from bullying, harassment, discrimination and violence. No one deserves to be bullied. It is vital to seek help if you, or someone you know, is being bullied. If you do find yourself in a hazing or bullying situation, protect yourself and report the problem. If the bullying is happening through a group or organization with a national affiliation (e.g., a fraternity or sorority), do not hesitate to speak to the national office for support. Campus police and public safety officers, a trusted teacher or school administrators can also help.

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