Cyberbullying may be a growing problem but officials at local colleges said they seldom hear about it from students.
Over 20 percent of children aged 10 to 18 were victims of cyberbullying in their lifetimes, according to a 2010 report by the Cyberbullying Research Center. However, safety experts at Lehman and Manhattan College said cases of online harassment are rarely reported.
Jose Magdaleno, who has been vice president of student affairs at Lehman College for 14 years, said he has never had to take legal action against a student for online harassment and has dealt with “five or less” cases of students sending inappropriate e-mails to their teachers or peers. Facebook has never been a problem, he said.
Richard Satterlee, who has been vice president for student life at Manhattan College since July, said he has not yet had a cyberbullying case.
They said increased use of technology and ease of communication may be making cyberbullying more common but thought students, used to inappropriate language, probably ignore many forms of harassment.
“It probaly is under-reported,” Mr. Satterlee said. “What we might consider bullying is what they view as commonplace.”
“I think in some cases they don’t feel a sense of urgency to report,” Mr. Magdaleno said.
Manhattan College student Daniel Schiller confirmed this. He said although he has never been cyberbullied, he probably wouldn’t report an incident.
“I’d probably just ignore it for the most part,” he said. “I think people probably wouldn’t report it.”
Lehman and Manhattan College have policies that prohibit the use of computers and electronic devices to stalk, threaten or harass. Students who think they are being bullied can report the incident. Experts said even those who aren’t students on campus can face consequences, although police would likely deal with their behavior. Personal devices like cell phones are also subject so scrutiny if they aren’t being used in accordance with college rules, experts said. Mr. Satterlee and Mr. Magdaleno both emphasized that discrimination and hate speech are not tolerated.
Discussion and debates about bullying came to the forefront when a Rutgers University teen jumped to his death off the George Washington Bridge after being humiliated on the Internet for being gay.
“It’s a very tragic incident that has really gripped all of us,” Mr. Magdaleno said. “Of course this incident has also reverberated in colleges and universities across the country because of the unusual set of circumstances that led up to this tragedy. There was a clear invasion of privacy using technology.”
Although local colleges are not revamping their policies in light of the suicide, CUNY, which governs policies at Lehman, recently updated its student code of conduct. The new dean of students at Manhattan College, Michael Carey, is currently revisiting policies.