YR 47 Issue 1 2011
  SWDB imposes sanctions against escalating
                   cyber-bullying cases
The technological innovati ons posed by modernizati on give both advantageous and disadvantageous effects to humanity. For instance, the new media are considered benefi cial for the overfl owing informati on they provide their users. However, negati ve eff ects also hound the people as they indecently abuse technology. This negati ve implicati on is manifested by the sudden rise of cyber-bullying cases that mostly aff ect today’s youth.

CASES of cyber-bullying at the University have gradually increased over the years as a result of the present generation’s unmediated and unguided use of modern technology.

The sudden rise of social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter among others have contributed to this phenomenon where incidents of cyber-bullying are rampant.

This alarming increase of cases reported to the different colleges and faculties of the University pushed the administration to finally lay certain sanctions to address this problem.

According to Faculty of Arts and Lett ers (Artlets) Assistant Dean and Artlets Student’s Welfare Development Board (SWDB) coordinator Nancy Tabirara, complaints of bullying involving the use of Internet have been present since 2010.

“During the last semester, complaints on cyberbullying have been continuous particularly towards the last two months. It was as if we receive the complaints involving the internet on a weekly basis,” Tabirara said.

The same reason motivated the UST-SWDB Director Attorney Antonio Chua to revise the student handbook and include sanctions for cyber-bullying.

“Sanctions on cyber-bullying have been indirectly present before it was included in the student handbook. But this ti me, we just want to make it clear that the actions of students in the electronic media will be covered,” Chua said.

Chua explained that the provision on the student handbook pertaining to politeness indirectly covered incidents of cyberbullying. “Remember that in your handbook, it is stated that as a student, you are supposed to be courteous to your classmates, teachers, and the administrati on,” he added. “But since there are a lot of students complaining about classmates uploading or posting degrading content on Facebook, we just want to emphasize that you are not only liable for your acti ons inside the University, but in the electronic media as well.”

The policy guidelines and conditions writ-ten in the old student handbook pertaining to courtesy stated that, “Thomasian students, must, at all ti mes, be courteous and respectf ul of others. Any act of disrespect, either in words or in deeds, done toward University authorities, faculty members, employees, fellow students, and visitors consti tute an un-Christi an behavior; likewise, the unreasonable refusal to comply with lawful orders of University authorities and/or their agents consti tute an un-Christi an behavior.” Chua said the new handbook will now include the provision regarding cyber-bullying which reads as follows: “In the use of electronic media, (eg. Facebook, Multiply) the student shall avoid doing acts of indecency through using indecent words and uploading indecent picture(s) or images reflecting un-Christian behavior of himself or of any persons.”

Although Tabirara said that “the matter is really becoming a concern not only of Artlets but all the other colleges at the University,” Chua pointed out that “there has been no formal complaint for cyber-bullying” that has reached the Offi ce of Student Affairs (OSA).

According to Tabirara, a complaint will only be elevated to the OSA once an involved party, aft er a decision has been made by the local SWDB, makes an appeal because they fi nd the decision incorrect or if the case involves students from two different colleges.

As of this writi ng, no concrete and specific plan of acti on toward this issue was made in Artlets. However,
Tabirara assured that “in the coming semesters, we should be able to meet with the coordinators of the different departments, different disciplines, and come up with a definite decision as to how we would deal with this kind of matter.”

Penalti es and sanctions

Meanwhile, concrete penalties and sancti ons remain vague on how to address reported incidents of cyber-bullying, but Tabirara said that they “have issued warnings and undertakings that if similar off enses are committ ed again—whether it is cyber bullying or whatever kind of off ense—will already mean parental admission and/or suspension.”

On the other hand, Chua explained that until such ti me that there is a case, the penalty that would be applied would depend upon the gravity of the act. According to Chua, cursing each other in the internet will only be considered as a mild incident, while acts involving grave threats will be considered severe.

“When students just blurt out bad words, we do not penalize that. But if you do it in writing and there is a record, or if somebody uploaded an indecent picture and the victim was scandalized, then probably the penalty would be suspension or dismissal depending again on the gravity of off ense,” he added.

“Of course there is always an excuse that it is really a private thing. But the moment that there is an admission, that already entails penalty,” Tabirara said.

Vague defi niti on

Chua noted that the exact range and scope of cyber-bullying in the University policy remains unclear. “The truth is that we are not yet exactly defining what cyber-bullying is, but it will be covered by the provision concerning courtesy.

So as a person, as a student, you are supposed to be courteous toward your teachers, the administration, and student classmates. By posting indecent words you are becoming discourteous,” Chua said.

According to Artlets Guidance Counselor Maryfe Roxas, elements such as the intention to hurt, hurtful perception of the act, repeti ti ve patt erns of negati ve messages, and power imbalance are necessary for a
certain act to be considered cyber-bullying. She defi ned cyber-bullying as “an aggressive, intenti onal act to harm somebody” with the use of technology.

Quoting a book by social worker and psychotherapist John Sharry, Roxas said that it is “an age-old societal problem” that evolved from a simple “face-to-face” bullying into online harassment because of the present day technology. Roxas explained that people resort to bullying because of the so called “strain theory” that they were also victi ms of violence in their own homes.

Interventi on than punishment

Tabirara said that cases of cyber-bullying are usually decided upon by a committee created by a particular  college or faculty.

“The moment a complaint is made, we follow the usual procedures, asking the suspects to explain or to respond to the complaint given. Generally, if the supposed respondent admits, then we give the necessary penalty,” Tabirara explained.

“Basically, that is the procedure used all the time. In a way, it does not differ from the other offenses. We follow the same procedure of investi gati on and the giving of penalty,” she added.

On the other hand, Roxas said that as a psychologist, they see the issue as a behavioral problem for students who result to bullying, and that interventi on is more appropriate than punishment.

She noted that bullies see it as a “strained relati onship” so they fi nd the internet as an avenue where they can express their anger.

Responsible use

In an eff ort to strengthen the campaign on the responsible use of the new media, Tabirara said that student movements for cyber media awareness and consciousness will be given emphasis starti ng next semester. She stressed that users of social networking sites must bear in mind that “Facebook is not a private thing. It is meant for everybody to read whatever you put in there.”

“What is important is to raise the consciousness of the students regarding their responsibilities in the use of these media,” she said.
Year 47 |  Issue 3 |  2011
Irresponsible use of new media
Year 47 |  Issue 4 |  2012