Students take cyber safety seriously

By Eric Butler: PNT staff writer

The avenues of communication between men and women have widened considerably with the advent of the Internet and cellular services.

For those overly persistent in amorous pursuits, the phone and in-person contact have been supplemented by e-mail, Twitter and Web pages such as Facebook and MySpace.

It’s no wonder, then, the New Mexico State Legislature has widened the definition of “stalking” in a recently passed bill.

Senate Bill 166 “expands the definition of pattern of conduct by which an alleged stalker may stalk to include the use of a computer,” according to a synopsis released on the legislature’s Web site.

Many students at Eastern New Mexico University, however, have been in the habit of using their own measures of cyberspace protection.

“I have both of my profiles blocked on MySpace and Facebook, so there’s usually no way for them (to make contact). I’ll usually block them or delete them — or report it if they keep bugging me,” said Karol Rodriguez, 18, who just finished her freshman year at ENMU.

“I had one person who tried to add me several times. I just denied him and reported it,” Rodriguez added. “There was nothing after that.”
Erika Lujan, 20, of Portales attends Eastern and also has a spot on MySpace. Though she wasn’t stalked in a traditional sense, she said she experienced on-line harassment from someone persistent enough to contact her through the Internet.

“I just blocked the guy. You can permit certain people or block certain people from viewing your information,” Lujan said. “It was actually a personal issue. He looked up my name and found me. He’d had a problem with my husband and then looked me up.

“I blocked him and haven’t heard from the guy again,” she said

Both Lonnie Berry of the Portales Police Department and Dr. Patrice Caldwell, Executive Director for Planning and Analysis at ENMU, said complaints about cyberstalking have been few and far between.

Berry actually said he couldn’t recall a single instance of the sort in the community reported to city police.

But he thought that the new expanded definition of stalking would benefit in the prosecution of certain cases.

“People make themselves fairly vulnerable when they put themselves on the different groups,” Berry said. “They put a lot of information out there.”
Caldwell said the administration at ENMU has received complaints from students, although rarely, about other students’ directed use of the Internet toward them.

“It does constitute harassment when the recipient asks that no more messages come and they continue to come,” said Caldwell, who added that the most usual solution was to remove campus-based e-mail privileges from the offending student.

“If it continues, from another e-mail account, then that becomes an issue of student discipline,” she said. “Student-on-student harassment, in any form, cannot be tolerated.”