Chances are that most people in the world will have experienced bullying of one form or another at some point in their lives. Whether it be at work, or in secondary or primary school, almost everyone will have felt harassed and victimised by a peer. Bullying can have a massive effect on a person’s feeling of self-worth, their self-esteem and their academic or professional performance. In extreme cases bullying can be so sustained and severe that it can lead a person to harm themselves or even take their own lives.
One place where one might not expect to encounter bullying is at university. Lots of people may view student life as a sort of sanctuary, where like-minded scholars gather to socialise and learn about their chosen subjects. The reality however is that universities are just as much a fertile ground for bullying as anywhere else. Students can be bullied for any number of reasons, be it race, sex, intellectual jealousy or something else.
So, why is it that people do not see university as a place where bullying exists? It could be that a lot of the bullying at university goes unreported. Students who are the victims of this abuse may feel that it will go away by itself. Or maybe they feel that their complaint may not be taken seriously as they see bullying as a juvenile issue and not one that “grown-ups” should be bothered by, which leads to a lack of confidence in the system.
It is always better to attempt to resolve any issue related to bullying or harassment in an informal way whenever possible. However, the very nature of bullying behaviour can often mean that a peaceful or amicable resolution is not possible or just plain inappropriate.
Whenever possible however, you should attempt to talk to the perpetrator/s of the abuse first. Let them know the effect that their behaviour is having on you and ask them to stop. In modern culture, people can often think that their behaviour is just “banter” and could be completely oblivious to the offence that they are causing. However, bullying is not about intentions, it is about impact, and if someone is getting upset, then it is not a joke.
For the best chance of resolving things this way, it is best to approach the person as early as possible after their behaviour has begun upsetting you. The longer you leave it, the more (completely justified) bitterness and resentment will build and it will be more difficult to have a civil conversation about it. However, if you have the courage to do it, a simple conversation can be enough to make the person rethink their actions. You may want to keep a note of the incidents to help you articulate your grievances better.
It may be that the bullying has been so prolonged or unpleasant that a face-to-face resolution simply is not possible. You must know that, if this is the case, it is not your fault. Often bullying can be so deeply affecting that you just cannot confront the person responsible. They can instil such fear and a lack of confidence in their victims that a confrontation is out of the question.
If this is the case, then the best thing to do is to make a formal, written complaint. All universities should have a Student Cases Office (or similar department) that deals with cases such as this. Your university should have a form available that you can fill in or you may have to write a letter. Your complaint should include full details of what has been happening to you, including dates and times of specific incidents if you have them. Also detail the effect that the abuse is having on you as well as any witnesses or other evidence you may have gathered.
Upon receiving your complaint, an officer will consider it thoroughly and may ask you to provide further information. You will likely be called in for a face-to-face meeting so that the case can be discussed properly. It should be mentioned that you may be expected to give evidence at an official disciplinary panel. Universities will normally deal with these cases sympathetically and confidentially, however, your allegations may not remain anonymous. Your abuser will probably be entitled to full details of the allegations against them.
It should be noted that individual universities may have slight variations on the above procedures in their official policies. However, they should all follow roughly the same steps. If you find yourself the victim of bullying you should find out your specific institution’s information as soon as possible.
We hope that this assists in some way should you be unfortunate enough to find yourself on the receiving end of this sort of behaviour. Bullying can be so very debilitating and it is sadly not uncommon for students to give up on their degrees as a result. We hope that this will not be the case with you and that you can resolve things before they get so bad. Please let us know in the comments below if you have had any experiences of bullying at university and how you overcame them.
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