August 26, 2015

Bullying in Universities: What Are Your Legal Rights?

Written by a Guest Contributor

Bullying in Universities: What Are Your Legal Rights?

In October 2014, a bullying scandal hit the media: two foreign students in the USA were harassed by their classmates due to their ethnicity. The family left Senegal with hopes for a better future in the United States, but that decision backfired. Amadou, 11, and Pape, 13, were beaten and continuously bullied. Unfortunately, this was not an isolated case. Thousands of African students face this reality on a daily basis.

When people think about bullying, the first association that comes to mind is related to younger students. High school bullies are particularly ‘popular’ for their cruelty, but they are expected to numb this behavior as soon as they enter college and university. That does not always happen.

The university, as a synonym of higher education, is supposed to be a safe environment where like-minded people work together to achieve their educational goals. Dr Pauline Rennie-Peyton, an integrative psychotherapist and chartered psychologist, explains that this behavior is present in all generations.

The university, as a synonym of higher education, is supposed to be a safe environment where like-minded people work together to achieve their educational goals
The university is supposed to be a safe environment where like-minded people work together to achieve their educational goals

Why Is Bullying Present at Universities?

1). It’s not linked to students with inferior achievements
Not all high school bullies have inferior intelligence. In fact, many of these students are highly intellectual and they continue their education at college and university. However, their behavior takes a different form. During primary education and high school, bullying is expressed through brutal verbal and physical harassment. At universities, the harassment is more subtle. It takes the form of humiliating and undermining individuals or group.

2). Chat rooms attract sexual predators
Sexual threatening also occurs at universities. University chat rooms are a beneficial environment for cyber stalkers. The fact that most African students are open for new friendships means they can easily fall victims to online harassment when they start communicating with people in these chat rooms.

3). Students are competitive. They don’t like foreigners taking their spots
Natives view international students as a threat. Thus, an African is perceived as someone who has taken their spot in many classes and has potential for landing the job they aim for. Accommodation is another reason for envy and harassment. The number of dorm rooms is limited, so students who don’t get a spot often get frustrated. In the actual dorm setting, there are common disagreements among the students. When a conflict situation arises, the bully gets a chance to express himself in an abusive manner.

4). University professors are bullies
That’s an unexpected fact you’ll recognize as soon as you start attending lectures. These are some of the smartest people you’ll ever meet. However, professors also feed their egos with status and achievements, so many of them try to make students feel worthless.

If you stumble upon this type of professor, don’t take his behavior too seriously. Try to learn as much as you can, craft great academic projects and do your best on the exams. When the university asks you to complete a survey about the quality of education you are receiving, provide your honest feedback and hopefully you’ll be heard.

5). Racism is still present at universities
One of the most devastating reasons for bullying in universities is racism. No one wants to talk about it, but it’s still present at some level. African students are common victims of racial incidents on campuses. The U.S. Department of Education recently published a report that shows the reality: hate crimes on college campuses are slightly increased. In 2012, 791 hate crimes were reported on college campuses in the USA. One of the most common types of reported hate crimes was vandalism, and race-related situations accounted for 46% of the vandalism cases.

Chinese people, for example, consider people with “darker skin” to be intellectually inferior. Students from this country bring their stereotypes on U.S. campuses, so they persistently avoid African students. This behavior can often elevate into bullying. African students are not an exception; they also manifest abusive behavior towards their classmates of African countries. When they become part of the American campus, they want to blend in, so they turn against the people of the culture they belong to.

What Can You Do When You’re Bullied? What Are Your Legal Rights?

First of all, you should not feel helpless. If you find yourself in such situation, you should keep in mind that there is always a remedy. Do not remain passive; when you don’t deal with the bully, he/she will keep harassing you and other students.

1). Get informed about the university’s policies.
The first thing you need to do is find out what policies your university has implemented to protect its students against harassment, intimidation, and humiliation at any level. If you feel that you are being subjected to bullying, look for a harassment adviser and ask him to offer an opinion. You can also rely on a students’ union representative.

Some institutions, such as the University of Exeter, advice students to deal with bullying situations informally. Don’t take this recommendation for granted; your university has a responsibility to protect its students. You should ask for support from the Advice Unit or any other department that’s supposed to deal with these situations.

2). Provide proof!
Your university will not take action if you don’t support your claims with proof. Did anyone witness the harassment? Do you have any messages that prove you were bullied? Note the date, time, and place of the relevant incident. These details are important if you go for a formal complaint.

3). You have the right to make a formal complaint
If you were unable to come to a solution by asking the bully to stop harassing you, you should consider submitting a written complaint to the university. When the matter takes an official form, the responsible staff will investigate it and take disciplinary actions against the offender.

Don’t Allow Bullies to Affect You Too Much!

Bullying victims often feel like they are alone against the world. Do not fall into despair; you are a strong person and you’re capable to stand up for yourself. Silence is perceived as weakness, so the bully will only become stronger if you ignore him.

Remember: the bully needs help as well. His behavior may result from stress, panic, guilt, fear, and other consequences of psychological and physical trauma. He is only human, so maybe he will understand your discomfort and change his approach. If a conversation doesn’t work, then talk to the people you are comfortable with. They will offer the consolation and support you need. If the harassment continues, you are only left with the option of a formal complaint.

Related: List of Scholarships in the USA for International Students

About the author:
Kelly Ray is a writer, student and editor on popular essay writing website TopReviewStars. Writing is her passion since childhood. Now she is studying journalism in Washington University and writes for different educational websites. She truly believes in the power of education and spreads these ideas in her posts. If you what to know more about Kelly, you can follow her on Facebook and Google+.

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