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Panel analyzes bullying on college campuses

Kiera Johnson | Monday, October 14, 2013

Two Saint Mary’s and Notre Dame students discussed the definition of campus bullying and how to deal with the issue in a panel titled “Addressing Bullying on Campus: Seeking Justice, Solidarity & Personal Dignity” on Friday in Spes Unica Hall.
Adrienne Chockley, interim coordinator of the Justice Education program and Visiting Assistant Professor in Philosophy, said the program was designed to empower students to make a more just and peaceful community and to help foster solidarity.
 “I first heard about bullying on campus last spring,” Chockley said. “I teach philosophy, and in an introduction to philosophy class several students came up to me and said they had been bullied on campus … this panel discussion comes out of my experience in the classroom with people saying they had been or knew people who had been bullied.”
Chockley said part of justice education is addressing and standing up for marginalized populations.
“I’m committed to the well-being of this community and part of justice education is addressing marginalized populations and standing up for vulnerable and marginalized populations,” she said. “So if students on our campus are being bullied, we need to stand up for them. We need to address it and fix it.”
Samantha Grady, a junior at Saint Mary’s College, began the panel. She said in order to understand why bullying is wrong we need to understand the role of personal dignity, justice and solidarity.
“Personal dignity, in my own words, is something that we all have and its not something you are given or that you receive. Its something we have just by being human, and if we understand that than it’s easier to understand how we should be treated and how we should treat other people,” she said. “It really ties closely to justice and justice is a response to human dignity. It’s an obligation to treat others in a certain way, because we understand that they have dignity.”
She said she believes humans have an obligation to work together in solidarity and recognize that just because a person is not a victim in a bullying situation doesn’t mean they shouldn’t stand up for their peers.
Christine Shiba, a Notre Dame sophomore, said it can be difficult for victims to identify they are being bullied because bullying does not always present in the way we imagine it to.”Girls twist themselves into something completely different just so they can fit in with a group of girls who they think they should be friends with,” she said. “That’s something people don’t think is bullying because we think of bullying as being kind of intense, but if you are unhappy or you’re upset and you feel like you have to convince someone or persuade someone to be your friend than they’re not accepting you for who you are and that’s not treating yourself with the respect you have a right to.”
Amy Porter, a senior at Notre Dame, said in modern times social media is used to cyber-bully students. She said the Internet often gives people empowerment to say things they would not in a face-to-face conversation.
“When someone is on social media, because its not face-to-face contact, there are a lot of people who are more willing to say things they would not say face to face over a text,” she said. “That’s become a huge issue, someone who would never say that to their face feels like they have the power to say whatever they’re feeling through social media.”
Porter said its important to expand the definition of bullying and realize that, in reality, bullying exists in a much greater realm than what people see it as.
“I think it’s about expanding your definition of bullying,” she said.
Porter said when teaching kids about bullying, she has found they think of bullying in a physical realm instead of an emotional one.
“It’s all fighting, hitting, pushing into lockers, all the cliché things you hear about when you are younger,” she said.
She said people think there is no more bullying once they arrive at college, but the reality is the bullying transitions with us.
“We think we’re adults and we’re more mature,” Porter said, “[but] it’s a whole new level of bickering and gossiping.”
Elizabeth Kenney, a junior at Saint Mary’s, said bystanders can have a powerful role in bullying situations as well, but it can be difficult and uncomfortable because different situations call for different kinds of responses.
“As a bystander you have an equally substantial role in a situation,” Kenney said. “You can choose to respond actively or passively. By responding passively you ignore what’s going on you ignore the situation but through that through how you ignore the situation you are allowing it to continue.”The panel was presented by the Saint Mary’s Justice Education Program and cosponsored by the Saint Mary’s Cross Currents Program. This panel was in collaboration with the TAKE TEN program as a part of the “Voices that must be Heard” series.