Anti-Bullying Laws Have No Place on the College Campus

Today, I reviewed Emily Bazelon’s book on bullying for The Huffington PostHere is my bottom line on the move to apply anti-bullying laws to higher education:

Plainly stated, anti-bullying laws have no place on the college campus, where almost all students are adults. During their college years, students must be free to explore new ideas without the fear of being punished for controversial speech. To some, the distinction between K-12 and higher education seems somewhat arbitrary, as, they argue, some freshman are the same age as high school seniors, but this misses several crucial points.

First of all, while there are a small number of minors in college, the institution of higher education ranges from teenagers to senior citizens, from freshman year to the completion of PhDs on important and taboo topics that might make most people squeamish. Take law school, for example. While there may be some superficial similarities, I can assure you that law school and high school are different ball games, with law school requiring much more intellectual rigor, resilience, and tolerance for topics and issues that can and probably should make many people uncomfortable (for example, a well-written criminal law exam is a study in the grizzly, dark side of human nature. It’s a topic that cannot be handled with kid gloves).

The roles of high school and higher education are fundamentally different. We do not rely on high schools to be our engines of intellectual innovation, bold thinking, and change; we rely on higher education for that. And research indicates that students already feel somewhat nervous about expressing unpopular views on campus. Applying a new legal anti-bullying regime will, I can all but guarantee, make matters much worse and, I can further guarantee, will be used to justify strange forms of censorship that ultimately have nothing to do with bullying.

  1. Valiuth

    Lets be honest here I don’t think most collage undergraduates are really adults. The problem with these kind of bullying rules is that it just further reinforces the infantile nature of these fools. Who seem incapable of behaving themselves in a respectable and professional manner. 

  2. mikesixes

    Anti-bullying laws are just bullying by the establishment for the purpose of suppressing anti-establishment speech. 

  3. Guruforhire

    Yes, John Hopkins, I forgot the school.  I am aghast at the school newspaper.

    Greg Lukianoff

    Guruforhire: A pro-life student group was not allowed on campus because pro-life displays made some girl feel unsafe and attacked.

    Indeed that is happening right now at John Hopkins: http://thefire.org/article/15618.html 

    And check out what the student newspaper thinks of free speech! · 2 minutes ago

  4. Kofola

    This approach seems to me just part of the continued effort to devolve university undergraduate education into extended  high school.

  5. Valiuth
    Kofola: This approach seems to me just part of the continued effort to devolve university undergraduate education into extended  high school. · 46 minutes ago

    It is extended high school already. Certainly the first 2 years are very high schoolish.  

  6. Zafar

    Can’t adults be bullied?

  7. Foxfier
    Zafar: Can’t adults be bullied? 

    Yes.  The kind that matters is called “assault” and is already illegal.

  8. Foxfier
    Zafar: 1  Yes, but it works. (And I think addressed one aspect of bullying though it may not use the actual term.)

    2  So are universities. (not public ones, but they’re still businesses)

    3  That’s a good thing.

    Doesn’t matter if it “works,” it’s a totally different thing.  If that’s all you want, then you’re not arguing for anti-bullying laws, you’re arguing for low level, simple Code of Conducts that are hard to game.

    Which colleges already have.

    They want to change it to bullying laws because you don’t have to defend something if it’s targeting “bullying.”

    On colleges being a business, that folks aren’t forced to pay for them is a very, very important point.

    *****

    It doesn’t matter that it could, arguably, be defined differently– the meaning of the word “bullying” has moved from the assault-and-criminal-harassment stuff it was to “makes me feel bad.” 

    Let’s take a page from the liberals: if someone is bullying you?  Pee on yourself to disgust them so they’ll leave you alone.

  9. Zafar

    Actually adults can be verbally harrassed and intimidated – it happens quite a bit in the workplace.  Should it be limited on college campuses? Imo somewhat.

    Ricochet’s CoC allows free discussion of any and all subjects, but functionally prohibits bullying people with different points of view.  What’s wrong with that?

  10. Foxfier
    Zafar: Actually adults can be verbally harrassed and intimidated – it happens quite a bit in the workplace. 

    The obviously bad sorts are illegal– the “just being a jerk” to “doesn’t fully agree with me” types of “verbal harassment,” no. 

    I notice that “verbal harassment” and “intimidation” vary quite widely in the behavior they describe; frequently, they’re being wielded by actual bullies, because it’s a source of power.

    Ricochet’s CoC allows free discussion of any and all subjects, but functionally prohibits bullying people with different points of view.  What’s wrong with that?

    1) That something happens as a side effect does not make it the same, 2) this is a private, voluntary business 3) the rules are simple and fairly enforced

    (not going to quibble about the “freely allows any and all,” I’d consider it acceptable hyperbolic expansiveness) 

    Incidentally, some of the stuff that happens here would be considered “bullying,” from being openly religious, disagreeing with the morality of a wide range of liberal-approved things and disagreeing with the paid guys through showing pictures of weapons.

  11. Zafar

    1  Yes, but it works. (And I think addressed one aspect of bullying though it may not use the actual term.)

    2  So are universities. (not public ones, but they’re still businesses)

    3  That’s a good thing.

    Foxfier

    Ricochet’s CoC allows free discussion of any and all subjects, but functionally prohibits bullying people with different points of view.  What’s wrong with that?

    1) That something happens as a side effect does not make it the same, 2) this is a private, voluntary business 3) the rules are simple and fairly enforced

    (not going to quibble about the “freely allows any and all,” I’d consider it acceptable hyperbolic expansiveness) 

    Incidentally, some of the stuff that happens here would be considered “bullying,” from being openly religious, disagreeing with the morality of a wide range of liberal-approved things and disagreeing with the paid guys through showing pictures of weapons. · 1 hour ago

    I guess it comes down to how you define it – a more carefully thought out definition may be better than throwing the baby out with the bath water.

  12. Sisyphus
    Foxfier

    Incidentally, some of the stuff that happens herewould be considered “bullying,” from being openly religious, disagreeing with the morality of a wide range of liberal-approved things and disagreeing with the paid guys through showing pictures of weapons. 

    And watch how you eat your pop tart. But this is a serious forum, not the usual controlling and brainwashing exercises in authority from the usual cults. I suspect that most of the people here, like me, found a very large number of ways to make the martinets’ lose their deodorant. 

  13. Guruforhire

    A pro-life student group was not allowed on campus because pro-life displays made some girl feel unsafe and attacked.

    Yeah, anti-bullying rules are just a weapon for enforcing ideological conformity.

  14. Greg Lukianoff
    C
    Guruforhire: A pro-life student group was not allowed on campus because pro-life displays made some girl feel unsafe and attacked.

    Indeed that is happening right now at John Hopkins: http://thefire.org/article/15618.html 

    And check out what the student newspaper thinks of free speech!

  15. Greg Lukianoff
    C
    mikesixes: Anti-bullying laws are just bullying by the establishment for the purpose of suppressing anti-establishment speech.  · 52 minutes ago

    That is certainly the way so many of these supposedly well-intentioned rules get used!

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