Academic Bullying

A shocking 14% of students have reported being bullied at college in Ireland.  This unsettling statistic emerged from research conducted by Ms. Lian McGuire at Trinity College Dublin and was reported in The Irish Examiner. Responding to an online questionnaire it was found that 24% of those bullied reported teaching staff as the perpetrators.  The Irish Examiner, documenting Ms. McGuire’s findings,  listed the culpable actions by college staff as unfair marking, hostile reception when bringing a problem to a tutor, work being ignored by tutors and persistent unwarranted criticism of work.

Simpson and Cohen (2004) in a paper addressing bullying in higher education listed similar examples of bullying such as work overload, unfair criticism and excessive monitoring. There is a fine line which students at third level institutions will be treading between keeping quiet in the hope of avoiding further bullying and being able to finish their education out, or, speaking out and stepping in to a potential legal minefield.  In 2016 why is this still an ongoing issue?

From time to time I will receive enquiries about whether hypnosis can help college students who are experiencing bullying. The answer is yes. Hypnosis can help in a variety of ways such as the student being able to cope better, staying calm throughout their ordeals or finding confidence to address the issues with external parties if they choose to. However, even when students can remain positive while dealing with unacceptable behaviours at the hands of staff or other students the elephant remains in the room. Surely as a society we should be dealing with these problems at source and work to prevent bullying from arising in the first instance. Additionally, shouldn’t the consequences of academic bullying carry the same penalties as workplace bullying?

Academic bullying is nothing new and the emotional and physical consequences of bullying incidents at third level institutions remain largely undocumented. Whether this is due to lack of precedence in terms of positive outcomes for students, lack of financial means to pursue the perpetrators or any other reason isn’t it time we lifted the lid on academic bullying and, as Simpson and Cohen (2004) describe it, start ‘addressing the secrecy that has often surrounded the subject’.

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