The old saying “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me,” finds students once again trying to ease the emotional and mental hurt caused by bullying. I’m not speaking of the elementary school playground where kids call names, nor the middle and high schools where preteens wrestle money from and threaten harm on each other. No, we’ve been through all of that. We have all sat through the seminars telling us that councilors are there to help, that replying to the taunts will only encourage the bullies. Today, we are adults and what I am speaking of is the bullying that occurs on college campuses, or in other words, the criminal act of harassment.
We can all remember the recent suicide of Tyler Clementi, a student at Rutgers University who took his life due to bullying. Yes, the cause was specifically gay bullying, which is a hot topic these days, but does anyone stop to consider the fact that it was bullying nonetheless, and on top of that, on a college campus? Are we truly adults? Yes, bullying does occur in the adult world, albeit under different labels- hate crimes, theft, extortion, abuse; however, this is not the run-down streets of a crime-filled city. This is a college where we are expected to be learning about the world, improving ourselves, preparing for future jobs, and widening our views. Yet bullying does occur on college campuses and can become a serious problem for the students involved.
While members of the LGBT community are often targets, many other college students find themselves targets of bullies on our very own college campus. A sophomore student told me of hearing from a friend that a guy in her class had insulted her intelligence and slandered her because of her race on a day she was absent from class. In an attempt to solve it she told me, “I didn’t talk to the person. I went to the professor and he said, ‘I’ll have to think about this,’ and we never spoke about it again.” She didn’t feel the need to contact campus safety because, “In this case, it was just a stupid comment by an immature person.” Luckily, her single incident never occurred again, but for some students minor insults can turn into a serious problem.
“On campuses across the country, [bullying] is becoming an important issue,” said Megan Hearron, a full-time clinical social worker at the Wellness Center. “Our campus isn’t immune to bullying.”
Often times bullying turns into harassment and then the students have to learn how to deal with the harassment.
“We work with students on harassment and bullying-type situations just like other campuses,” said Campus Safety Supervisor Joshua Bronson. “A lot of bullying is borderline harassment and stalking.”
When bullying or harassment occurs, there are four resources on campus for student use. The first is the professor or faculty who is in charge of the class in which such problems occur, or a person whom the student trusts. The second is Residence Life, although this office and the professors are likely to direct students to the other two resources for serious problems: the Wellness Center and Campus Safety.
“Basically, the services we provide to all the students [at the wellness center] are assessment and short-term counseling as well as referral to services off campus for long-term counseling or specialized treatment that we don’t do here,” stated Hearron.
The fourth resource, the Department of Campus Safety, can handle the legal aspect of solving harassment cases, as well as directing students to counseling services.
“Generally, the best way to handle a bully, going back to the grade school definition, is to just ignore them because they’re looking for attention,” said Bronson.
The college takes bullying incidents as serious issues and classifies such incidents as harassment in order to avoid making light of the situation. In the event that a student needs help, Bronson said that anyone can come down to Campus Safety, located in Winslow, to ask questions, get information or discuss a problem, even if it is a theoretical problem.
In our futures, we will encounter harassment, hate, and slander. The best way to combat the problems of the future is to fix the ones of today. Whenever you see a student being harassed, step forward and offer your assistance. If you want to avoid conflict, listen to Bronson, who said, “I would encourage somebody to report anything if they feel it is a problem, even if it’s a third party.” We are always told that we can make a difference. If this is true, then surely we can march into our future by learning how to put up shields against the rain of sticks and stones that people throw at us.