Benjamin Krimmel: Combating bullying at GW

Bullying is a troubling national issue.

For the 13 million young people, according to the documentary film “Bully,” who are taunted and harassed each year, ignoring nasty comments and their tormentors is not an option.

But contrary to the perception of bullying as a problem that exclusively plagues middle and high school students, the abuse does not stop there.

And in many ways, it gets even messier as bullying moves online.

In college, bullying is often propagated virtually, and students are able to hide behind the anonymity the Internet provides. The taunts are just as nasty, but now, through remarks made on sites such as College ACB, Facebook and even Ironic GW Memes, they can continue at all hours.

Assistant Dean of Students Tara Pereira is searching for the balance between censoring beliefs and stopping bullies. She told The Hatchet in March she wants to cut down on “uncivil” behavior by potentially changing the Code of Student Conduct to stress positive online behavior and interactions.

GW has the power to extend a stronger policing arm against bullying, but it’s good that the University has decided against it. Ultimately, the onus to end bullying is on us as students.

That said, the University can make efforts to foster a more positive culture on campus through some small institutionalized steps.

And that culture can begin from day one. P.M. Forni’s “Choosing Civility: The Twenty-five Rules of Considerate Conduct” could become required reading for all students starting with the Class of 2016. It might seem small, but steps such as these emphasize to the student body that maintaining at least a basic degree of courtesy is crucial to the community.

And this is something the University’s namesake would surely endorse. George Washington himself transcribed “Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation,” an outline of 110 ways to maintain respect and positive interactions with others.

If it was good enough for Washington, it should be good enough for GW.

While the University can attempt to protect students from harmful or hate-driven actions, it’s our role as students to halt bullying.

Standing up to harsh words and petty comments is the only way to truly rid the community of this toxic culture. And if we want to promote ourselves as members of a progressive, inclusive community, it’s a step we have to take.

In March, the University’s Student Athlete Advisory Council produced an anti-bullying video that reached out to bullied students to tell them it gets better, and called on students to stand up for victims. This is a great step. Students need to step up and make a culture where harmful words aren’t exchanged.

In his book, Forni explains, “To be fully human we must be able to imagine others’ hurt and to relate it to the hurt we would experience if we were in their place.”

A little more appreciation for this rule might do some good for the community.

Benjamin Krimmel, a sophomore majoring in international affairs, is a Hatchet columnist.

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