Today, there was a symposium in Vancouver, Canada to discuss papers on the increase in cyberbullying in university campuses across Canada. It is hosted by Simon Fraser University and presenters included Dr. Wanda Cassidy, an SFU education professor, Margaret Jackson, a criminology professor emerita, and Chantal Faucher, a post-doc fellow at SFU Centre for Education, Law and Society, and Dr. Terry Waterhouse, Chief Safety Officer at SFU.

“Many universities are lagging behind in addressing this problem in effective ways. We want to provide an opportunity for key stakeholders to learn what we have discovered through our research and begin to discuss ways to curtail the problem and better assist those who have been negatively affected,” explains Dr. Cassidy on the necessity of raising more awareness through this symposium.

The research included survey of 2,000 people, and 30 different interviews in four Canadian universities – two of which are located in British Columbia, one in Prairies and another in Atlantic Canada. One of the interviews cited in the papers include a student who was called a “spoiled little rich kid,” mocked of her bulimia, told that her boyfriend was cheating on her, and was labeled “a clingy bitch, slut and loser.” Other examples include reports of even instructors being harassed by students and fellow colleagues.

The research, which also examined 465 policies in 75 Canadian universities between November of 2011 and January of 2012, yielded that although schools had harassment policies, they were not specific to cyber incidents. In addition, according to Professor Jackson, many universities did not consider online harassment to be cyberbullying.

She commented, “the connotation seems more applicable to younger individuals. I think we’ve moved through that now, so there is an appreciation that if this isn’t cyberbullying, it might be cyber harassment,” and recommended the implementation of clear-cut policies and counselling and prevention resources to reduce cyberbullying. “I think there needs to be an appreciation on the part of faculty and students that there is an impact to their behaviour and they should be acting respectfully,” Jackson said.

One of the papers derived from the study will be published in the Canadian Journal of Higher Education later this year while two other ones are currently being peer-reviewed.