Bullying in college: Does it still exist?

Kenny Gerling | Legacy Senior Writer

Senior Christy Mason claims to be a victim of bullying, which has lasted over a year. The experience has raised serious questions in her mind as to the effectiveness of Lindenwood’s harassment policies.

Mason felt she was wrongly punished for what was self-defense after an altercation on school property that resulted in the police being called.

Dean of Students Terry Russell declined to comment on any specifics regarding the incidents with Mason but did say that the issue was investigated thoroughly, and it was determined to be best left up to the court system.

None of the parties involved were expelled. “The university takes into consideration all mitigating circumstances regarding altercations,” Russell said.  “Our responsibility is to look at everything involving the incident and make the decision that is best for the students and the university.”

Mason was concerned that those involved did not receive proper punishment from the sports team they were members of or from the university.

Russell said that though his office can suggest disciplinary action, it is ultimately up to coaches to proceed how they see best for the athletes and the team. Mason said she acted in self-defense but that was not taken into account. She was told that she could have been expelled.

“The message they are giving students is that if you get hit let them keep hitting you and don’t report it in or else you will get kicked out of school,” Mason said.

Russell said that he would consider self-defense getting out of a threatening situation as quickly as possible, though this sometimes may include eliminating an immediate threat.  A definition of self-defense is not outlined in the Student Handbook.  Likewise, bullying falls under policies regarding harassment but is not specifically defined.

The alleged bullying against Mason began with rumors and hurtful texts but quickly escalated last Oct.  She said that at 2 a.m. six people arrived at Mason’s campus house, insulting her and trying to get in.  Though they eventually left, she said that she felt physically threatened.

Russell said his office does not receive many bullying complaints, though the ones they do receive are taken seriously and investigated thoroughly. LSGA President, Dan Bedell, said the LSGA has looked into Lindenwood’s policies regarding fighting but has not pursued any action due to lack of student interest.  He said if interest increased the LSGA would be quick to formally address the issue.

After investigating bullying or harassment claims, Russell said the process can be as simple as mediating a discussion between the parties involved; however, if a student feels his or her safety is immediately threatened, then police may be called.

Mason said that she felt administration did not treat her like an adult, going as far as calling her parents whom were involved throughout the process.  Russell, not speaking specifically about the case, said in rare cases parents are involved.  The university can freely contact parents for such an issue if the student has signed the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) Waiver.  This waiver allows the university to release grades to parents as well as enabling the university to contact them. “We treat our students like adults and try to handle it within the framework of them being an adult,” Russell said.

Mason contacted the NCAA about the university’s conduct.  She received a response that said it was determined Lindenwood responded to the situation and the NCAA would not pursue anything further.
“[Lindenwood] didn’t look out for the well-being of the students which is what all school policy should be enforcing,” Mason said.

Russell said anyone who feels like he or she is being bullied should feel free to contact the Student Development office.

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