Over the past several years, the subjects of bullying and school crime have drawn much attention in the United States, especially as they relate to the increasing incidents of violence recently seen at both the high school and collegiate levels. Studies have shown that one important precursor to potentially lethal incidents of school violence was whether the assailant had been bullied in school during some period and thus wanted to seek revenge. Research into this issue in relation to violent incidents taking place on college campuses is particularly limited, however. Several reports have stated that, contrary to popular belief, bullying occurs among adults of all ages, especially in the workplace. In the college setting, it has been shown that the act of taunting or verbally abuse is not just reserved for students, but is also engaged in by professors or other educators.
In a study carried out by Chapell et al., approximately 33.4% of undergraduate college students reported actually seeing one student bully another one to two times, while 29.4% of the sample population reported seeing a professor bully a student one to two times. Nearly 19% of the college students surveyed stated they had personally been bullied by a fellow peer sometime during their undergraduate career. Regardless of age, bullying at any level has been shown to have negative and long-term mental health consequences on a number of levels. Although those persons who are bullied are not always easily identified, it is essential that research and academic communities take the initiative to try to better understand this population.
There are currently more than 16 million college students enrolled in approximately 4,200 universities and colleges in the United States. Within this population, bullying and acts of violence do not take place solely within the “typical” peer relationships found among individuals that were discussed earlier. Instead, these acts have been seen more frequently in recent times within the romantic or dating relationships found between students. Both physical and sexual violence, which have drawn much more attention in the research community as compared to the general topic of bullying, have been shown to be very common on college campuses regardless of size or location.
The incidence of physical dating violence among undergraduate students tends to range anywhere from 16.7% of this specific population to nearly 48% according to past studies. Sexual dating violence rates among college students have been shown to be relatively high as well; indeed, many researchers have claimed that, on average, nearly one in three college women and one in 10 college men has experienced sexual violence at some level. In particular, young women with a family history of physical or sexual violence are more likely to become involved similarly violent intimate relationships during their collegiate years as compared to their adolescent years.
Having a productive and nurturing college climate is essential to the success of all students. Without this support, feelings of stress and anxiety on campuses across the nation will continue to increase exponentially. Currently, many students are in a state of crisis due to the climate or environment found at their respective institutions. For example, 90% of college students have reported feeling stressed, 40% stated that they are stressed so much that it often interferes with both their social and academic functioning, and 10% stated that they have contemplated suicide sometime during their collegiate career.
Approaches such as putting more emphasis on early identification of suicidal and depressive symptoms and increasing social support are essential to enhancing the culture found on college campuses. Another approach that could be efficiently utilized to enhance the climate found at this institutional level includes increasing the communication among those in leadership at the college or university so that they can better serve their student population.
Once supportive approaches, such as those mentioned previously, are deployed, the classroom environment becomes one that encourages learning instead of limiting it. Along with this positive outcome, student motivation may be increased. It might benefit educators to begin to change the mentality that they are the ultimate authority in the classroom as well. If they allow their students to actually have choices and more decision-making privileges, that flexibility can create a self-regulated learning environment during the duration of the course.
Professors should also be aware of the additional needs of minority of students and understand how they relate to the college. In the past, studies have consistently shown that students of color view the general campus climate more negatively than their white counterparts. A closer look at these data reveals that Latinos and African Americans actually have the most negative views. These feelings often surface in minority students who believe that their particular college or university is not doing enough to recognize and celebrate diversity on the campus as well as in those who contend that their administrators are not committed to creating policies to increase diversity. To create a more welcoming college campus, these sensitive issues must be addressed in an in-depth manner.
- Carr, J. L. (2005, February). American College Health Association campus violence white paper. Baltimore, MD: American College Health Association.
- Chapell,M.,Casey,D.,De La Cruz,C.,Ferrell, J.,Forman,J.,Lipkin, R.,etal. (2004). Bullying in college by students and teachers. Adolescence, 39, 53-65.
- Chapell,M.S.,Hasselman,S.L.,Kitchin,T.,Loman,S.N.,MacIver,K.W.,& Sarullo, P. L. (2006). Bullying in elementary school, high school, and college. Adolescence, 41(10), 839-855.
- Flannery, D., & Quinn-Leering, K. (2000). Violence on college campuses: Understanding its impact on student well-being. Community College Journal of Research and Practice, 24, 839-855.
- Graves, K. N., Sechrist, S. M., White, J. W., & Paradise, M. J. (2005). Intimate partner violence perpetuated by college women within the context of a history of victimization. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 29, 278-289.
- Murray, C. E., & Kardatzke, K. N. (2007). Dating violence among college students: Key issues for college counselors. Journal of College Counseling, 10, 79-89.
- Pettitt, J., & Ayers, D. (2002). Understanding conflict and climate in a community college. Community College Journal of Research and Practice, 26, 105-120.
- Reid, L. D., & Radhakrishnan, P. (2003). Race matters: The relation between race and general campus climate. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 9, 263-275.
- Young, A. J. (2007). The challenge to change: Shifting the motivational climate of the college classroom for enhancing learning. College Teaching, 51, 127-130.