Student Association members unanimously voted Monday to pass a cyberbullying resolution, which calls for Syracuse University to explicitly mention cyberbullying as a form of harassment in the Student Code of Conduct.
The resolution, which is a joint effort by SA, the Residence Hall Association, Pride Union and the Pan-Hellenic Council, also calls for SU to take a stand against cyberbullying, said Student Life Committee chair Taylor Carr. Carr said SU needs to educate the student body about cyberbullying and how to become active in stopping it.
At SA’s meeting, Assemblymember PJ Alampi also presented the results of a student survey about meal plans, and SA announced a recognition program in which student organizations can be nominated for a $100 prize.
SA President Neal Casey called the cyberbullying resolution “unprecedented” and said it affects each of the four organizations involved in a different way.
The U.S. government defines cyberbullying as any harassment that occurs via the Internet, cellphones or other communication devices, Carr said. Thousands of people are now witnessing bullying online, he said.
“It’s not just the people on the playground seeing it. It’s the thousands of passive viewers who can view it online,” Carr said. “It’s the anonymity of it — of posting something, of sending something where you don’t have to know who’s doing it. And combating it is much tougher.”
In the current Code of Conduct, a potential case must meet four criteria to be considered harassment. Something written or spoken must go beyond the bound of free speech, be interpreted as “fighting words,” be directed at a specific individual or individuals and be likely to cause an immediate breach of speech, Carr said.
Carr said an act of cyberbullying may fall under harassment as defined by the Code of Conduct, but the lack of any explicit mention of cyberbullying makes it difficult for students looking for help.
“The problem is, if it happens to you, you have no real outlet to say, ‘Well, this is where in the Code of Conduct it said that you can’t do this, and this is what needs to happen,’” Carr said.
He also speculated it may be more difficult for cyberbullying to meet all of the criteria of harassment. This is because the idea of it causing an “immediate breach of the peace” is a little more unlikely than with face-to-face harassment, given the anonymity of online bullying, Carr said.
Carr cited Caldwell College, which has a statement about cyberbullying on its website, as a school taking steps in the right direction. The college’s definition of cyberbullying resembles the U.S. government’s definition, and its statement says such action is punishable by suspension, loss of housing or mandated community hours, Carr said. SU needs to have a statement like this to recognize cyberbullying as an issue, he said.
“We just want the Office of Judicial Affairs — and thus, the handbook — to acknowledge the existence of cyberbullying, define what it is and say this is a type of harassment that we won’t tolerate, just as we do with the other forms: that it’s punishable just as other forms of harassment are,” Carr said.
Assemblymember David Woody raised concerns about the resolution’s lack of specific suggestions on what wording to include for the changes to the Code of Conduct. He noted the possibility that the resolution may slow down within the administration.
But Carr said he felt the university would start looking into the resolution after receiving it.
Outside of the cyberbullying resolution, Assemblymember Dylan Lustig announced that SA has created a recognition program in which people can nominate organizations for a $100 prize. The prize would go toward an organization’s miscellaneous funds for something like a celebratory pizza party, he said. This money will come from SA’s operating budget, Lustig said.
At Monday’s meeting, Assemblymember Alampi also presented a survey about meal plans.
He found that 50 percent of the respondents had a 14-meal plan and that 80 percent of those people eat 12 meals or fewer per week. Seventy-six percent of students surveyed said they were concerned about the money they were losing by paying for these meals and not eating them, Alampi said.
If a student with 14 meals per week in the dining halls uses only 12 meals per week, they are paying for $780 of meals per academic year that go to waste, he said. Alampi suggested creating a rollover program for meals and raised the possibility of receiving SUpercard money for unused meals or having a store on campus where students can use meal swipes to shop. This is currently possible at The Warehouse, but it is not on campus, he said.
Other business discussed:
• SA President Neal Casey has changed his stance on the “smoke-free campus initiative” and is now in favor of a full smoking ban on campus.
• Freshmen Sean Dinan, Kyle Coleman and Shane De Vreese and sophomore Amy Snider were elected to be undergraduate senators in University Senate.
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