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Don't Be a Doormat

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Intimidation is a tricky thing. It could mean that someone is threatening you or being verbally or physically abusive in order to “keep you in line.” It might make you feel so belittled that you’re willing to keep your mouth shut just to avoid embarrassment. No one should tolerate threats or abuse, but keep in mind that some forms of intimidation may work to your benefit. For example, if you’re intimidated by the thought of failure because you don’t want to feel disappointed, you may push yourself a little harder than usual in order to guarantee your own success.

College can be a time of frustration in more ways than one, but it’s important to notice if you’re being intimidated or bullied. Bullying is an intense form of aggressive intimidation that can occur in any environment, often in a school setting. We all deserve the right to feel safe and it’s important to realize that you don’t have to be pushed around by others due to your age or any other reason.

Dan Olweus, a researcher and bullying expert, has been conducting systematic investigations of bullying in since the early 1970s. He has surveyed bullying behaviors in hundreds of thousands of Norwegian and Swedish primary and secondary school students over the last 30 years, and similar studies have been conducted around the world. For more information about Dan Olweus please visit www.olweus.org

In 2001 and 2002, The National Center for Educational Statistics suggested that bullying and being bullied in school is a common experience for children and adolescents across very different cultures. The Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act is part of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. It provides federal support to promote school safety but does not specifically address bullying and harassment in schools.

Bullying is commonly mistaken as a rite of passage among young people, but it can (and does) exist in colleges.

During a study conducted by Olweus, students were interviewed about bullying in college. One student volunteered “that a teacher regularly abused (with ageist taunts) a much older classmate. Other students related similar accounts of having witnessed bullying or having been bullied by college teachers.”

I have memories of a professor that was so sarcastic and cynical toward certain students whenever they spoke up in class, I’d feel embarrassed for them. It was almost as if the teacher had some kind of personal grudge against those few people and wanted to make it well-known to everyone in the room. Fortunately, I only had one class with this instructor during my years in school. At the time I passed it off as rudeness, but now I realize that it was bullying. Anyone in a position of authority, such as a professor or boss, has no right to treat anyone that way.

According to Olweus’ findings, it appears that a substantial amount of bullying by both students and teachers may be occurring in college. At the time, over 60% of the students reported having observed a student being bullied by another student, and over 44% had seen a teacher bully a student.

You should never let yourself be bullied or intimidated by a professor or by another student. If this is happening to you, feel free to report the incident(s) to an advisor, a department head, or even the dean of students. You may be embarrassed or think that you deserve these comments, but you do not.

I was assigned several group projects in various classes during college, and you may run into the same thing. Occasionally some students seemed to “take advantage” of the others by not doing their fair share of work and letting the rest of us make up the slack. This is common in situations where older and younger students are grouped together. The younger students may have different cares and concerns, and they know that you’ll be worried about your own grades and do what has to be done. Don’t feel embarrassed to talk with the professor about the situation at hand.

According to Dr. Edward S. Beck, Professor, School of Social and Behavioral Sciences at Walden University, “Academic free expression without fear of intimidation on college campuses is a fundamental right, which must be supported.”

Some people may argue that the workplace is intimidating, so who cares if it’s happening in colleges? After all, college is supposed to prep us for the real world, whatever that is. That may be true, but you’re also spending money to earn an education and a degree: you should not have to put up with bullying. Don’t be a doormat and let others walk all over you.

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Melissa Rhone+

Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.

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