Is bullying happening in Irish Universities?

By Megan Gorman

Bullying is a behavioural problem that affects the lives of thousands of young adults and their families. The humiliation, fear, social isolation and loss of self esteem which young adults face when bullied can result in absenteeism from college, deteriorating work, personality changes, depression and even suicide.

National and international research shows that bullying knows no boundaries. Bullying can cause a lifetime of pain to soemone, no matter how big or small. The question is, is bullying an issue on university campuses across Ireland?

According to the Anti-Bullying Research Centre, 1st year students are most likely to experience bullying as they are making a move from school to college and taking on a lot more responsibility.

The spoke to Lian McGuire who works with the Anti-Bullying Research Centre based in DCU on St Patrick’s Campus. Ms McGuire said that more in-depth study is needed: “I don’t think the colleges are doing enough because they are not aware of what is actaully happening or how serious it is.”

Almost 400 third-level students took part in an online questionnaire, set up by the Anti-Bullying Research Centre and promoted through the Union of Students in Ireland website.

The results indicated that, 14% of students said they were bullied while studying at college, 21% said they have witnessed bullying during their time in college and a quarter of students received unwanted sexual attention.

“We are hoping to do a follow up with the college councillors to see if we can do more. We are trying to educate people about the extent of the bullying happening on our campuses across Ireland. I feel a lot of people don’t actaully think of bullying as happening in universities.”

Lian feels that universities need to see more research before they are actually able to act on it: “I think what is out there is confusing and there are often no dedicated areas to help with bullying. The students often don’t know where or who to go to and that’s the problem and it causes the students to isolate themselves.”

Almost two thirds of the students that took part in the study had no idea if their college had a policy on bullying, which Ms McGuire said highlighted that a poor job was done advertising such policies. Students were more likely to seek help from friends or parents or sometimes not speak about it until it becomes too much for them to handle.

“The study showed that some students actually named academics or administrators as the ones doing the bullying and that makes it difficult,” said Lian. “Some colleges are open to try dealing with it and some don’t know the extent of it.”

“In rarer cases, it could suit some people for it not to be dealt with as it will open up a can of worms”

It’s fair to say that bullying is taking place in universities across Ireland and for the most part it is not getting the same treatment as schools and the workplace and that needs to change. Universities need to set up dedicated areas for students to feel comfortable talking about their experiences and make them feel safe.

Leave a Reply