Bullying and Hazing, on the Internet and Otherwise, at Colleges and Universities

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In the increasing discussions that are being conducted on bullying, we have mentioned here that bullying is a phenomenon that can occur “across the entire lifespan.” Bullying occurs not just in schools but in career and employment situations, volunteer organizations, churches, and families.

It should be no surprise that bullying occurs in colleges and universities. Here are the thoughts of one college instructor who is also a mother of three children:

“The recent suicide of Rutgers student Tyler Clementi has reignited discussion about bullying. Clementi’s roommate and another Rutgers student used hidden cameras not only to humiliate Tyler, but also to share that humiliation with the rest of the World Wide Web. This young man’s torment and his family’s indescribable loss may serve to bring about changes in how our culture looks at bullying.

“In addition to the focus on cyberbullying, Clementi’s suicide demonstrates that bullying is not just a function of middle school or high school. Bullying is alive and well on college campuses.

“As a university faculty member and a parent, I have seen it myself. Students using Facebook to denigrate their peers. Use of websites, such as the now-defunct JuicyCampus.com, to identify who are the sluts of each sorority or which fraternity brothers might be gay. A personal e-mail or text message that’s forwarded to a student’s social group to embarrass and humiliate.

“These are not 12-year-olds on a playground, picking on the nerdy kid during a kickball game. These are educated, young adults at a major university who are acting out their own insecurities through the Internet.”

In Massachusetts, an anti-bullying law has been put into place and school districts are developing procedures for the implementation of the law. Interestingly, there has been an “anti-hazing” law applying to college campuses, one that was enacted following the death in 1984 of a college student who died of acute alcohol poisoning after a forced hazing. As the Massachusetts anti-bullying law is put into place, one writer has noted how the anti-hazing law in some ways fell by the wayside. You can read more about this on my blog at AMERICA magazine.

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