Campus Ministry Corner discusses bullying panel and its importance
Published: Monday, November 21, 2011
Updated: Monday, November 21, 2011 19:11
On October 25, an event sponsored by AC Allies, Assumption Disability Awareness Promotion Team, the African/Latino-Hispanic/Asian/Native American Network and the Electronic Harassment Education Committee took place in the Hagan Campus Center Hall. The event, "The Playground and Beyond: The Effects and Experiences of Bullying" was a panel presentation made up of faculty and students discussing the serious issue of bullying.
Senior Mark Mulligan of AC Allies and junior Megan Evangelista of the Electronic Harassment Education Committee opened the panel with information on definitions and statistics of physical, verbal, indirect and cyber bullying across different demographics of students.
The panel representatives consisted of Dr. Neil Castronovo of the Student Development and Counseling Center, Professor Cinzia Pica-Smith from the Human Services and Rehabilitation Department, Professor Paul Sanderson of the Psychology Department, Brian Ake representing ADAPT, Christina DeSario representing AC Allies and Caitlin Zimyeski representing the Electronic Harassment Education Committee and Residential Life. The panelists addressed questions by moderator junior Holly Rivard of AC Allies pertaining to the effects, prevention, intervention, causes and personal experiences of bullying.
The closing speakers, senior Leanna Hartnack and junior Caroline Knowles of the Electronic Harassment Education Committee, ended the program with empowering statistics and stories of students who ended their lives due to bullying and discrimination across the country.
At the beginning of the event, surveys were distributed asking the audience members about their experiences with bullying prevention programs, their own personal experiences with bullying, what Assumption could do to prevent bullying and what people thought of the idea that bullying "builds character," especially when used to excuse it.
After collecting the surveys, the AC Allies executive board read through most of the answers provided. An alarming amount of people expressed that their previous schools either didn't have programs to prevent or address bullying or that such programs were ineffective or not taken seriously. One person claimed that her school had a zero-tolerance policy against harassment, but she wished that it had been more proactive in preventing bullying rather than just punishing the bullies after the fact.
It was shocking to see how many students could come up with an experience in which they themselves were bullied, they bullied a peer, or where they witnessed bullying. Examples ranged from inappropriate texts and emails to verbal threats and daily ostracizing by peers. Clearly, it is a commonly shared experience for many students.
In response to the question on the use of the phrase "bullying builds character," most of the people surveyed felt strongly that bullying is not a normal part of growing up and does not build character. In other words, not only are there many other positive ways to build character, but the attitude that excuses bullying diminishes the seriousness of the issue. Some of the student panelists also addressed this issue saying that though they were able to overcome and learn from the bullying they experienced, for some students, the situation can end much more poorly.
Many also expressed that Assumption could implement more programs to address bullying. Students had insightful and creative ideas for what Assumption could do to address bullying on our campus. Many people suggested that Resident Assistants are crucial in preventing and intervening in harassment and discrimination that happens in residence halls.
DeSario shared that a good friend of hers at another college, who is gay, had male genitalia drawn on his whiteboard. A student at Assumption wrote in our survey, "RAs can actually take action against people writing and drawing stuff on whiteboards. [Male genitalia] on whiteboards are more common than you'd think." Much of the harassment on the Assumption campus happens in residence halls. However, many surveyed also expressed that student clubs and organizations could do more to address the issue. One student even wrote, "Have panels like this." Of course, RAs and student clubs and organizations are already attempting to spread awareness of, and take action against bullying. However, there is much more work to be done.