Eastern New Mexico University senior Jarret Lovelace stumbled upon the fact that October is Bullying Prevention Month.
Shocked at what he learned — 30,000 young adults and teenagers attempt suicide each year due to cyber bullying, according to one website — Lovelace has started an anti-bully campaign, asking students and faculty members to have their picture taken with anti-bullying signs he created. He asks the individuals to use the picture as their profile picture on their online social network sites.
“Using social networking sites is the best way to get anything out,” Lovelace said. “It’s really nice to see that people are saying ‘Yeah, it’s a really big problem’ and showing their support.
“I didn’t realize it was such a big deal. Growing up in a small town, you deal with bullying but on a much smaller scale and small town people are usually really close-knit and supportive. But across the nation, it baffled me that people could be that cruel, so I just wanted to give awareness in eastern New Mexico and build from there.”
ENMU Chair of the Communications Department Patti Dobson agrees with Lovelace’s philosophy that awareness is an important part of stopping bullying.
“I think it’s kind of sad that we have to have a campaign to tell people to not bully each other,” Dobson said. “I think it’s more powerful if it comes from someone who tells their story or is just willing to stand up and say this is wrong. It’s one thing for a teacher like me to say don’t do it, but it’s another for a student to do it. That carries a different kind of peer authority.”
Dobson said she became interested in the subject of bullying when she was working on her doctorate dissertation on gender bias.
“When I did my dissertation, what people often talked about wasn’t a gender-biased incident but it was a bullying incident. And the more people I talked to, the more common I realized it was,” Dobson said. “And the truth of the matter is probably more of us than not have been bullied.”
Dobson said she recently gave a research presentation to ENMU graduate students on bullying and she plans to begin a study on bullying at the college level.
Dobson said most bullying studies focus on bullying amongst students K-12th grade and the work place, so she believes it is important to circulate more awareness among college- level students.
Lovelace said he has also started a blog on anti-bullying and plans to update it regularly. He said his goal for the next year is to work toward bringing speakers from anti-bullying organizations, such as The Trevor Project, into New Mexico to bring awareness to high school and college level students.