Majority of harassment committed on social media

A majority of harassment on campus is via social media such as Facebook, Twitter and even text messaging, said Kim Greenway, director of student conduct.

“It’s not as public, but it is still harassment,” Greenway said.

Greenway said the Department of Student Conduct fully investigates every case that is reported to her office.

Examples of reports include negative comments made on official UNA Facebook pages, individual students’ Facebook pages and domestic harassment between couples via texts, Greenway said.

“Sometimes it’s not malicious intent, just ignorance,” she said. “It is our duty to investigate each report. Our goal, however, is more educational than punitive.”

Greenway said there is a specific process followed during an investigation of harassment.

Once a report has been made, it is determined to be either harassment or not. Once decided, the alleged violator will be sent an email from the department explaining the situation and alleged report. A meeting is then arranged between the alleged violator and Greenway or the University Student Conduct Board, Greenway said.

Alleged violators determined guilty of breaking UNA’s Code of Conduct rules face consequences in a range including an official reprimand from the university, suspension, workshop attendance, official apologies to respective parties and writing reflection papers, Greenway said. The student can even be arrested if the charges are serious enough.

“The key component is how it affects the community as a whole and to educate the student for the future,” Greenway said.

Kevin Jacques, director of the Department of Residence Life, said students are using social media more than actually talking out their problems, which leads to unresolved issues.

“We have had instances of students passively-aggressively posting stuff on Facebook instead of actually confronting each other,” he said. “Social media has made it easy to complain about stuff.”

Jacques said he emphasizes working on communication skills during the community-building process of training community advisors for dorms.

Jacques said there are two ways to typically handle confrontations between students on campus—especially those living in the dorms. The different ways of communication resolutions come from the relationships of the students.

If the students have a pre-existing relationship, they should just try to talk, face to face, about the issues they are encountering.

The second method is for students who have no relationship established. They are advised to seek out their community leader to mediate the situation.

“You have the right to free speech, but you also must accept the repercussions,” Jacques said. “We all make mistakes in college, but we learn from them. It is a really important piece for the four-years students while here.”

Kaci Savage, a community adviser for Residence Life, has seen her share of social-media-related conflicts.

“I came into a situation between four girls that had issues,” Savage said. “They had no problems voicing their issues via Twitter. It was like a Twitter war. After so much social media, it would escalate, escalate, escalate, until it erupted in person.”

Savage said most of the people on her dorm floor would use Twitter as a “therapist.”

“That’s how we are now as a generation,” she said. “We don’t know how to have confrontations. We are losing our communication skills.”

The Code of Conduct for UNA applies to confrontations in the residence halls.