UNA officials discuss issue of bullying

UNA officials said the university doesn’t appear to have any issues with bullying on campus. If students do see bullying taking place at UNA, police urge them to call 256-765-4357 for help.

With the recent release of “Bully,” a documentary by Lee Hirsch following young adults as they face lives filled with verbal assault, harassment, beatings and isolation, people should be aware that bullying can happen anywhere at any time, said Dr. May Takeuchi, a UNA sociology professor.

Bullies are typically formed when people have no options to resolve problems in their own lives or lack the proper leadership to help them with their problems and find human targets to relieve the stress built up from the lack of resolution, Takeuchi said.

Takeuchi said there are three parts of a formula that make up the social structure of bullying: the bully, the scapegoat and the audience.

The bully’s target is labeled as his or her scapegoat. Takeuchi said this scapegoat, normally, is picked based on two factors: being different and being physically weak.

“This person tends to characterize what is considered to be negative in society, and the bully expects less retaliation from this person,” Takeuchi said.

She said that, to a bully, the scapegoat becomes a symbol for all the negative things that a bully may experience in his or her life. After a person becomes labeled as a scapegoat by a bully, other bullies will also target that person to torment, pick on, harass and embarrass.

“By destroying the person they are destroying their problems,” Takeuchi said.

The audience is made up of people who surround situations of bullying who either intervene to help solve the bullying problem, indirectly or directly tease the target or remain voiceless after witnessing acts of bullying, Takeuchi said. The audience plays an important role in the structure of bullying because it has the power to change the situation.

UNA, however, does not appear to have a problem with bullying on campus.

“Personally, I have not observed anything, but the risk exists everywhere, and UNA is no exception,” Takeuchi said.

“I’ve never experienced bullying and have never witnessed bullying while on campus,” said Megan Thompson, sociology major at UNA. “It seems everyone is friendly, or at least they don’t go out of their way to be mean like in high school.”

UNA police should be alerted if acts of violence are witnessed or experienced on campus.