by Rachel Remington
The students of the Queer-Straight Alliance club at Whatcom Community College have a vision: find ways to prevent and cope with bullying. From this vision stemmed an even bigger idea, with the help of other clubs at Whatcom. The idea is to work with students to help them understand and discuss bullying, and how it correlates with diversity.
Bullying is a huge issue, and in recent weeks has been causing devastating results to gay teenagers. There have been several reported cases recently of teenagers committing suicide due to the taunting they received from peers about their sexuality.
Tyler Clementi, a Rutgers University student, jumped off a bridge after a video of his sexual experience with another man was posted all over the internet. This is just one of many tragic stories of teens that were pushed to the edge.
Andrew, 19, a student at Whatcom, has experienced bullying due to his sexuality. In his senior year of high school, another student threw a rock at him from the window of a car and yelled “We don’t have space for faggots here!” He feels that people bully others due to their own insecurities. “It shows that they’re insecure being around me,” said Andrew.
On November 17, Whatcom welcomed Jeffrey King, director of cross-cultural diversity at Western Washington University, to teach a workshop for any interested students that wanted to learn more about bullying and diversity. “It’s about respect and building relationships,” said Laura Singletary, student progams and leadership coordinator.
King explained that “bullying is a use of power on another person”, meaning that those who bully others do it to feel empowered and superior to another person. “In order to oppress, a person has to see themselves as more powerful than the other person,” said King.
Someone who feels like they are above another person occupationally, spiritually, etc. may want to taunt another person or put them down to feel more empowered and confident about themselves, said King.
Devyn Nixon, president of Whatcom’s Phi Theta Kappa club, is one of many students working to organize upcoming bullying/diversity events at Whatcom. She explained that she hopes students will learn to understand what bullying looks like as an adult.
To Nixon, a big issue with diversity at Whatcom is that students form social groups that others may not be accepted into. The lack of acceptance that some students give to others is concerning to her.
Nixon described a situation in which a female member of the Queer Straight Alliance was in class, and upon being called after raising her hand, was referred to as “yes sir”, which was a mistake by the teach. But moments later, the class burst into laughter, and the student felt too humiliated to raise her hand after that. This is just one example of the kind of mistreatment Whatcom’s students don’t want to see anymore.
The Ethnic Students Association, Phi Theta Kappa, the Queer-Straight Alliance, Campus Christian Fellowship, and the Communications Club have joined together to try to stop mistreatment and raise awareness about bullying. “We all came together and said, ‘Let’s do something’,” said Nixon.
The clubs are hoping to have a submission event soon at Whatcom, allowing any student to submit a story of an experience they’ve had with bullying, whether it’s a video, a letter, or an audio recording. It’s a good opportunity for students to voice their concerns and experiences with being bullied.
The Ethnic Students Association meets every Tuesday from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in Syre 217, and they encourage students to come join the meetings so they can voice their opinions on bullying, and how it relates to them.
“There’s diversity on campus,” said Nixon, “To act like there’s a norm is silly. There’s just not.”
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