The topics of bullying and cyberbullying have been in the awareness of the general public with regard to middle school and high school students for some time. However, more recently, a number of high profile incidents that resulted in negative consequences for college students, including loss of life and prosecution for cyberbullying, have taken place on the college campus. Therefore, it has become important for college students to be fully informed about these topics in order to avoid becoming a perpetrator, and in order to know how to get help if you become a victim.
What is bullying?
Bullying involves the deliberate infliction of psychological or physical harm aimed at an identified target. It can include deliberately and repeatedly making negative and demeaning comments, intentionally shunning , avoiding and/or excluding an individual, deliberately destroying their property and, ultimately, the infliction of physical harm.
Students who live on or near the campus with roommates should take care to distinguish between roommate conflicts and bullying. In general, roommate conflicts tend to arise from genuine differences in lifestyle habits, values, daily routines, and the need for privacy that may cause friction when individuals occupy the same relatively small space.
In cases of roommate conflict neither party has set out to intentionally harm the other. Students who are experiencing roommate conflicts can seek assistance from their Resident Assistants, Resident Hall Director, the Counseling Center or the Office of Off-Campus Housing. In most cases, mediation or just talking it out can resolve these conflicts.
Actual bullying, on the other hand, is far more serious and demands a higher level of assistance.
What is cyberbullying?
On the college campus one of the most common forms of bullying is cyberbullying or cyber harassment. This involves the use of information and communication technologies for the purpose of engaging in deliberate, repeated and hostile behavior with the intention of harming another person. A perpetrator may seek to demean, humiliate or intimidate an intended victim through the use of Facebook, twitter, Skype, e-mail, gossip sites, cellphones, text messages, and other communication technologies.
Disturbing misuses of communication technologies includes cyber-stalking for the purposes of meeting a person that one intends to victimize, embarrassing a person, or obsessively monitoring them. For college students, electronic media can be used to control, threaten or intimidate a partner in an unhealthy relationship. For example, a student can use constant text messaging to control a partner's whereabouts. He or she can invade the privacy of a partner by monitoring their use of cell phones, e-mail and social networking sites. The internet can also be used to intimidate or coerce a partner or to threaten exposure of embarrassing information. In the case of a breakup, electronic means can be used to make it frightening or unsafe for an individual to leave a relationship.
Another particularly disturbing misuse of technology for the purpose of deliberately humiliating or embarrassing college students involves the violation of their privacy. For example, victims may be surreptitiously audio or video taped during private moments and then discover that this private materialhas been shared or broadcast widely. In addition, private and personal information, photos, and other materials can be exposed in ways that are not only humiliating, but also damaging to the victim.
At times, students inadvertently put themselves at risk for violations of privacy by engaging in such behaviors as "sexting," in which photos or text messages with sexually suggestive content are sent to others. In addition, college students may post compromising photos or information about themselves on Facebook or other social media. Students should be aware that material of this nature is often forwarded to many unintended recipients; once your private material is out in cyberspace you have no control over how it is used.
How can you keep yourself safe in cyberspace?
- Keep your password private, there is no reason to share this information with anyone, including a romantic partner.
- If you have shared passwords will a romantic partners and you end the relationship, change your passwords; neglecting to do so will give an "ex" unlimited access to private information.
- Do not post or send images or comments about yourself that you would be reluctant to share in real life or that you do not want unintended recipients to see.
- If you suspect that your privacy has been violated, you are advised to let someone in authority at the College know about it, for example, a Resident Hall Director, the Office of Campus Safety and Security, a Coach, the Vice Provost for Student Life, or the professional staff of the Counseling Center.
- Do not forward sexually suggestive materials to unintended recipients. You should know that if you send sexual images of a minor, you can be charged with child pornography.
What can you do if you have been the victim of bullying or cyberbullying?
- Be aware that these activities constitute a very serious violation of the Student Code of Conduct.
- Report the behavior to a campus professional, for example, Residential Life professional staff, Campus Safety and Security or the Vice Provost for Student Life.
- You have a right to expect that a full investigation be conducted and that sanctions and consequences be imposed based upon the findings of the investigation.
- If you suspect that you are being cyber stalked, cyber harassed or cyberbullied, save all e-mails, text messages, or other evidence that will substantiate your claim.
- Be aware that cyberbullying and egregious violations of privacy may be criminal acts. Therefore you have the right to consult law enforcement and to press criminal charges against the alleged perpetrator.
What can be done to prevent or decrease incidents of bullying and cyberbullying on the campus?
- Bystander Intervention Training is a promising initiative that teaches college students how to intervene in instances of bullying, cyberbullying and other types of violent or unsafe behavior (for example, domestic violence, binge drinking, sexual assault, bias incidents).
- Support peers who tell you that they have been the victims of bullying or cyberbullying; take their claims seriously and do not minimize the impact of these behaviors.
- Support peers who have been victimized in reporting the behavior and insisting that these behaviors be consequated on the campus.
- Participate in creating a campus culture in which students harming other students will not be tolerated.
- Know your rights as a student to be free from bullying, cyberbullying and violations of privacy.
- To learn more about Bystander Intervention Training, contact Ms. Jacqueline Ripepi, Coordinator of Alcohol and Other Drug (AOD) Education Services at (914) 633-2026.
- You can also learn more about Bystander Intervention Training at www.stepupprogram.org
- To learn more about safety and privacy in cyberspace, go to www.athinline.org
- To get online support if you have been bullied, including as a member of the LGBT community, go to www.loveislouder.com
- To learn about how to stop bullying and cyberbullying in school, in the community and in the workplace go to www.antibullying.net
- For LGBT youth who have been victimized and need support, please visit www.trevorproject.org
If you have been victimized you can turn to the following on campus resources:
- Campus Safety and Security - (914) 633-2245
- Counseling Center - (914) 633-2038
- Vice Provost for Student Life - (914) 633-2360
- Assistant Vice Provost for Residential Life - (914) 633-2336
- Office of Off-Campus Housing - (914) 633-2243
- You can also report incidents of cyberbullying (including cyberstalking and invasion of privacy) to the New Rochelle Police Department - (914) 654-2300