Bullying still a problem at university

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(Graphic by Taylor Gayowsky)

As bullying prevention week begins to teach elementary students about ‘being a friend,’ it is apparent that university students can also learn from these lessons.

Taking place from Nov. 12-17, elementary schools will be conducting workshops and various group activities to teach students about bullying and the negative impact it leaves on children.

The theme for this year’s bullying prevention week is “Stand Up”, as the children will be encouraged to break the bystander effect.

Although all of these efforts are being put towards educating elementary school kids about bullying, the reality of bullying can still apply to the life of a university student.

Fourth-year University of Waterloo (UW) archaeology student Brianne Acker remembers the astonishment she felt when she realized that as a first-year student, her former roommates were bullying her.

“Even saying now that I was a victim of bullying at the age of eighteen still sounds strange, but it is something that happened,” Acker explained.

“When my former roommates teased me, I just kind of thought it was playful teasing so I didn’t think much of it or tell them to stop. But when I realized how their remarks made me feel about myself, I realized that they were bullying me very mildly.”

Acker dealt with the situation by standing up for herself and expressing how her roommates’ words had hurt her. Acker never approached an authority figure because she felt that she had to deal with it on her own, as she was a legal “adult”.

“I felt that it was embarrassing to turn to my don because I didn’t want to look like a tattletale,” Acker explained.

“That label is supposed to go away when you leave elementary school. Why would I want to bring back childish ideologies in university?”

Alexandra Russell, the VP internal for the UW Federation of Students, confirmed that bullying is still a reality in university, for example through incidents such as roommate conflicts and discrimination.

“They don’t happen publicly for the most part, but they happen on a day-to-day basis with their roommates and their professors,” she acknowledged.

However, Russell assured that universities are trying to diffuse the problem by promoting awareness throughout the year. UW, along with most universities across Canada, provides a plethora of services to accommodate the needs of students who are going through these issues.

“Bullying still happens in all stages of life, including university, but that is where we work to create a welcoming environment on campus,” Russell explained.  “We work to prevent bullying through orientation welcome week and we run a diversity campaign called ‘One Waterloo’ which works throughout the year to promote diversity and tolerance and acceptance.”

Russell also stated that most universities have a variety of support services for students to turn to regarding these issues. UW provides students with a gender and diversity centre as well as a women’s centre. These channels help to prevent bullying from escalating on campuses.

“I think it’s a big issue that we have to work on and you can always be doing more in terms of awareness and education,” she said.


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