It dates back to prehistoric times. Bullying, discrimination and intolerance have been around for as long as humans have. Fast forward to the 21st century, and it’s a seemingly bigger phenomenon.Since last month, there have been countless headlines about teen suicides, hate crimes, bullying, discrimination and intolerance. It has been on the media agenda for quite some time.
It’s even become a popular discussion between celebrities and public officials. Ellen DeGeneres, Adam Lambert, President Barack Obama, and even employees of Google and Facebook, have mainstreamed their support for the “it gets better” project on YouTube.
“Being a teenager and figuring out who you are is hard enough without someone attacking you,” DeGeneres said. “This needs to be a wake-up call to everyone that bullying and teasing is an epidemic in this country.”
President Obama said, “Things will get better, and with time you’ll see that your differences will be a sense of pride and strength.”
You may recall the story about Tyler Clementi, an 18-year-old Rutgers University freshman, who committed suicide in September after he discovered that his roommate posted a video of his sexual encounter with a man on the Internet. This incident sparked national discussion about bullying in all forms, especially in an educational setting. Clementi’s roommate has been charged with a hate crime and invasion of privacy.
As a result of the Clementi story, colleges have amped up their awareness of and fight against bullying. Though no profound incidents have surfaced at Tech, bullying is a problem everywhere you go.
“This is a University where we should be able to celebrate differences,” President Bob Bell said. “I was probably bullied in school. I was small, red headed and had a number of things that people thought were funny. It’s not uncommon for people to feel a little bullied about some things.”
Tech has no policy against bullying, but many discrimination and harassment policies are in place and carry heavy consequences for misconduct.
“We don’t have a policy on murder either,” Bell said, “but it’s against the law and we don’t have to say much more about it. Our policies on harassment are pretty clear.”
In the online student handbook, under student conduct and disciplinary sanctions, section 2: disciplinary offenses, there are three offenses that cover harassment but have strong ties to bullying, according to Bell. Those offenses include conduct dangerous to others, disorderly conduct and harassment.
In an email to Bell, Ed Boucher, dean of students said he believes “a reading of the language contained within the disciplinary offenses will allow us to effectively deal with conduct which adversely affects the institution’s pursuit of its educational objectives.”
Multiple resources are available to those who feel they have been victimized. Students can go to the Dean of Students office, Tech police, or the counseling center, according to Bell.
“I recommended they contact the Dean of Students first,” Bell said. “But, if it’s an immediate, more hostile problem, then Tech police are the ones to get involved.”
Bell referred to human nature and culture being culprits in bullying and discrimination but said we should embrace our differences.
Bell offered advice to people who are bullied.
“Talk about it rather than internalizing it,” he said. “It often helps.”
The Clementi story is just one of many stories regarding bullying and intolerance that surfaced in recent months. It goes beyond sexual orientation. For instance in Pennsylvania, as many as 30 Asian students were physically attacked at a local high school.
Many analysts are blaming technology and social media, saying that it is a forum for ignorance and a medium for the broadcasting of hate. In almost every story recently, social sites such as Facebook, Twitter and personal blogs have been the starting point for rumors and viral information. The analysts claim that bullies hide behind a persona on the Internet as a way to generate popularity and often times they’re successful.
Rolan Martin, a columnist for CNN, says that it’s the parent’s job to protect their children from bullies. Others claim that educational administrators are responsible for protecting their students from bullies and discrimination, while some say government legislation is responsible.
“I’m not sure we can ever stop [intolerance],” Bell said. “You can’t legislate intolerance, but you can legislate behaviors. It needs to be discussed.”
There are dozens of resources for anyone who believes they are the victim of bullying, discrimination, harassment or intolerance.
On the national level, resources include the Jason Foundation, the Give a Damn project, It Gets Better project, and To Write Love On Her Arms.
“I don’t think [bullying at Tech is] a problem any more than it is in any other human organization,” Bell said.