Anti-Bullying Policies in Higher Ed

Clara Wajngurt, Anti-Bullying policies on college campuses

By Clara Wajngurt, Ph.D.
 
Recently the issue of bullying in the professional environment has become more open as many individuals and organizations have been affected by this experience. As a result, by bringing this issue ‘out to the open’ we hope to decrease acts of bullying in the college environment. 
 
Why Anti-Bullying Policies are Important for College Campuses
 
When a college develops an anti-bullying policy, the existence of this policy will ensure that the college will continue to maintain an environment of respect and consideration for others. This means that the anti-bullying policies will apply to everyone on campus, including all students, faculty and administrators.
 
Most colleges in the United States do not have anti-bullying policies written in their college handbooks. People who engage in bullying may not realize how much distress they cause to the person who is being victimized. At least if an anti-bullying policy did exist on campus—then all students, faculty and administrators would take comfort in realizing that their colleges are seriously interested in the welfare of all who work at and attend their university.
 
Discussion of an Anti-Bullying Policy
 
In order to discuss the creation of an anti-bullying policy on a university campus, let us consider the definition of bullying, how to educate others in recognizing the existence of bullying, how to prevent bullying, and look at colleges that have attempted to develop anti-bullying policies at their universities. We’ll start first with a generic example of an anti-bullying policy and we’d like to hear your feedback.
 
Sample Anti-Bullying Policy
A. RECOMMENDED ANTI-BULLYING STATEMENT
Bullying can foster a climate of fear and disrespect which seriously impairs the physical and psychological health of its victims and creates conditions that negatively affect any learning and working environment. Every college and university should be committed to maintaining high standards for behaviors where every member of the College community conducts oneself in a manner which demonstrates proper regard for the rights and welfare of others. This Anti-Bullying statement therefore, seeks to educate the College community about bullying, and to promote civility and respect among all its members, including the administration, faculty, staff, and students.
 
B. DEFINITION
 
1. Bullying is defined as the aggressive and hostile acts of an individual or group of individuals who are intended to humiliate, mentally or physically injure or intimidate, and/or control another individual or group of individuals.
 
2. Such aggressive and hostile acts can occur as a single, severe incident or repeated incidents, and may manifest itself in the following forms:
  1. Physical Bullying includes pushing, shoving, kicking, poking, and/or tripping another; assaulting or threatening a physical assault; damaging a person’s work area or personal property; and/or damaging or destroying a person’s work product.
  2. Verbal/Written Bullying includes ridiculing, insulting or maligning a person, either verbally or in writing; addressing abusive, threatening, derogatory or offensive remarks to a person; and/or attempting to exploit an individual’s known intellectual or physical vulnerabilities.
  3. Nonverbal Bullying includes directing threatening gestures toward a person or invading personal space after being asked to move or step away.
  4. “Cyber bullying” is defined as bullying and individual using electronic form, including, but not limited to, the Internet, interactive and digital technologies, or mobile phones.
C. EDUCATION/PREVENTION
 
Policies on the campus to effectively deal with bullying behaviors are needed. Bullied employees report decreased job satisfaction, lower productivity and create potential conflicts with other employees. Particularly colleges and universities that have experienced recent leadership changes, that have large bureaucracies and a history of tolerant cultures which freely express statements that are not kept in line, have more incidents of bullying. Freedom of expression and thought are essential for the process, however there are rules of conduct that need to be enforced in light of a college’s mission and goals statements. The leadership at the colleges and universities must develop clear statements of organizational values which include a culture of mutual respect. 
 
The colleges must arrange an early-alert program in which administrative/academic departments are coached in bullying behavior. In addition to educating its employees on harassment policies, workshops must be conducted on an ongoing basis to train its employees on anti-bullying behavior. An objective mediator or someone specialized in conflict resolution would be helpful. Grievances, and complaints, and bullying behavior must be taken seriously. Last of all we must introduce specific legislation dealing with anti-bullying bills on the federal and state levels-so that leadership on campuses will be appropriately guided by such federal and state regulations 
 
D. INTERNET SITES
 
 
 
Anti-Bullying Policies at Universities Around the Country
 
COMMITMENT TO END BULLYING AND HOMOPHOBIA: STONY BROOK UNIVERSITY
 
The Stony Brook StandUp charter was founded on-campus in Fall 2011 to raise awareness about the long-term damaging effects of bullying and homophobia. The Charter was formed to highlight the work of the StandUp Foundation, created by former English Rugby superstar Ben Cohen. Cohen started the foundation in response to the death of his father, who was killed while intervening on behalf of an employee who was being harassed for his sexual orientation. Cohen left the sport at the peak of his career to focus his efforts on bringing an end to bullying and homophobia. 
 
The StandUp Charter’s goal is to get every member of the community to sign its “Commitment to end Bullying and Homophobia” pledge and show that Stony Brook is and will always be a “bully-free zone.” During the next academic year the group will focus on bystander-intervention training and planning visits to local elementary and middle schools to show children that bullying is never okay. The StandUp Charter will meet every Monday during 2012-2013 academic year from 7:00P.M. – 8:30P.M. in the Student Activities Center, Room 302. For information on getting involved, please contact Jeremy.marchese@stonybrook.edu
 
We need people from all over the globe to stand up with us against the bullies and to bring understanding as to why bullying occurs.
 
By bringing people together in schools, colleges and groups to concentrate their focus on how they can’ do their bit’, we can literally save lives.
 
Bullying must no longer be tolerated, wherever and to whomever it happens.
 
By signing this, we agree to abide by, and promote, the Mission of the StandUp Foundation. Specifically, to:
  • Promote the inclusion, acceptance and celebration of all people
  • Stand up for acceptance so that bullying has to stand down
  • Create spaces where people can stand up freely Stand up next to those who stand alone
  • Educate ourselves about other peoples’ differences
  • Stand up against ignorance within education
  • Transform the conditions that allow bullying to exist
  • Help put an end to the cyber-bullying of LGBT populations in our  generation 
ANTI-BULLYING POLICY: WEST CHESTER UNIVERSITY
 
Just before the Holiday break, the Office of Human Resources informed the campus community of a new “anti-bullying” resources section on our home page. Since then, I’ve received a number of calls from employees asking me “What’s it all about? Do we have a problem here?” My reply was, “well, we and about every other employer in the country have a problem – in varying degrees.” Our hope is that bringing attention to it here at West Chester and providing some effective resources for employees will have a meaningful impact on its prevalence here.
 
While statistics vary on incidence, a recent national poll concluded that about 27% of our national workforce has been on the wrong side of a workplace bully at one time or another. That’s roughly about 54 million people. Anyone who has ever been a target of a bully or witnessed bullying knows just how devastating the experience can be. Work is difficult enough these days without having to deal with the personal and organizational consequences of a serious bullying problem. In reality, we spend almost as much of our time awake at work as we do at home.
 
When we think of a bully, we generally think of a supervisor riding an employee or employees in a visibly harsh, persistent and publicly embarrassing manner. But in actuality, bullies come in all shapes and sizes and genders, and they can work at any level in an organization. Peer bullying is frankly a bigger problem than “boss” bullying, according to a number of studies. Bullying can be subtle to the casual observer, and bullying can be tacitly tolerated for years by an organization because the bully is highly productive. I can tell you from my experience, as well as my labor relations and organizational development staff’s experience in the past couple of years, more and more of our time is being devoted to managing interpersonal conflicts and controversies which have a genuine dimension of employee aggression, passively or overtly. There are many reasons why bullying is on the rise, so there is no simple solution. But the primary preventive tool we each possess is the ability and means to treat each other with consideration, dignity and a reasonable measure of patience.
 

 
Clara Wajngurt holds a doctorate in mathematics, specializing in the field of diophantine equations. She teaches in the Mathematics and Computer Science Department at CUNY and is involved with many assignments including assessment, accreditation and strategic planning-as well as mathematics curriculum and mathematics anxiety on the department level. She is especially interested in working on projects that deal with the strengthening of procedures and policies in higher education. 

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