Monday, February 22, 2016

Cyberbullying prevention at Utah State University

By Braden Clark
Utah State University is in the midst of student officer elections, and USU faculty and officers are realizing how difficult it is to actually eliminate potential public shaming for the nominees.
“We can’t really control what’s being said, because there aren’t any repercussions for students choosing to say, or act a certain way online,” said Madison Maners, Utah State University’s student director of public relations and marketing. “We are always concerned with the wellbeing of the students who are involved in any kind of interaction.”
Last fall, Utah State University dealt with a cyber-attack of one of its students during the school’s Mr. USU pageant. The student was competing in the event, and during the talent section he made comments about another race. During the event students took to social media to let out their discomfort, and opinion on the matter.
“Any student that pays fees, or attends classes on our main campus, they’re members of the student association,” Maners said. “That being said, obviously our membership is very diverse, so we have zero tolerance policy for any one person online bullying, racism or degradation of any kind.”
This week Utah State is having its student association elections, and with the hashtag #AggiesVote some of the USU staff are asking students to be cautious of what they post online.
“There are times when free speech devolves into negativity, public shaming and bullying,” said Amanda DeRito, the Utah State University’s social media and marketing coordinator. “Social media is also very tricky because we have no ownership of any social media platform, nor do we have any rights to the hashtags we or our students use. I should also point out we don't have the resources to monitor every discussion between students on social media.”
On Monday, Utah State had its Greek Town Hall meeting where hopeful candidates talk with the Greek Community and other students about the upcoming election. During these meetings it is popular for students to comment on the event through social media, and usually with anonymous apps such as “Yik Yak” is usually when conversation turns offensive.
The university can’t really prohibit the use of these apps, but DeRito said, “if a student is ever wronged or personally attacked online they are asked to report comments to the respected sites.”

“That being said, harassment is covered in the USU Student Code. If students feel they are being harassed online, they should talk to the Office of Student Conduct,” DeRito said.

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