media release

Higher-ed cyberbullying symposium

February 26, 2014
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Contact:
Wanda Cassidy, 778.782.4484, best reached at Cassidy@sfu.ca
Chantal Faucher, 604.764.1693, cfaucher@sfu.ca
Margaret Jackson, 778.782.4040, margarej@sfu.ca
Terry Waterhouse, 778.782.9208, twaterho@sfu.ca
Carol Thorbes, PAMR, 778.782.3035, cthorbes@sfu.ca

Photos: http://at.sfu.ca/ZjXdzY

Believing knowledge is power, three Simon Fraser University researchers hope their presentation of new studies they’ve generated on cyberbullying in higher education will inspire action on the relatively unknown issue.

Wanda Cassidy, Chantal Faucher and Margaret Jackson will discuss their findings at a free, national symposium for post-secondary students, faculty, staff and administrators, and policymakers on Wednesday, March 12.

The offices of the VP Academic and Safety and Risk Services, the Faculty of Education and the Centre for Education, Law and Society (CELS) at SFU are hosting the 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. event. Cyberbullying at Canadian Universities: Linking Research, Practice and Policy will be held at SFU’s Morris J Wosk Centre for Dialogue in Vancouver.

As well as providing a platform for the presentation of pioneering research funded by a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council grant, the symposium aims to inform higher education stakeholders nationally about cyberbullying.  

“As a university, we have a responsibility to tackle challenging societal problems and cyberbullying at the post-secondary level has become a serious issue, affecting students, faculty and staff and the wider university culture,” says Cassidy.

“We can’t stick our heads in the sand thinking the problem will magically go away. This symposium will provide a foundation of knowledge to better equip colleges and universities nationally to take short and long term action to prevent or curtail cyberbullying.”

Cassidy, an education associate professor and CELS director, and Faucher, a CELS postdoctoral fellow, are presenting as yet unpublished papers. They are, respectively, The Dark Side Of The Ivory Tower: Cyberbullying of University Faculty and Teaching Personnel and Cyberbullying among university students: Gendered experiences, impacts, and perspectives.

Jackson, a School of Criminology professor emerita, will present her paper When on-line exchanges byte: An examination of the policy environment governing cyberbullying at the university level. The paper will be published this year in The Canadian Journal of Higher Education.

The papers were based on data collected from four Canadian universities, two of them B.C.-based. The names of the institutions are withheld under research ethics regulations. The papers’ key findings collectively are:

  • Survey data collected at one Canadian university in 2012/13 reveals that 17 per cent of faculty/teaching personnel respondents had experienced cyberbullying either by students or colleagues. Most of the victims were women, and primarily students had targeted them. Only women experienced cyberbullying by colleagues. Faculty members of racial minority status appeared more vulnerable to being bullied.
  • 1,500 student surveys at four participating Canadian universities reveal that 20 per cent of respondents experienced cyberbullying mainly by other students, friends and acquaintances at the institutions. Most of the victims were women. More than a third of victims said cyberbullying negatively impacted their ability to do assignments and their mental/emotional health, relationships and sense of personal safety.
  • A scan of 465 policies relevant to the handling of cyberbullying at 74 Canadian universities reveals that few of them were designed specifically to deal with cyberbullying and address the issue of prevention. Only one third made reference to cyber behaviours, possibly suggesting that the university policy environment may not be appreciative of the current information and communication technologies that characterize students’ and faculty members’ lives.

Backgrounder:

Kris Magnusson, Faculty of Education dean, and Terry Waterhouse, Chief Safety Officer, at SFU will open the Cyberbullying at Canadian Universities: Linking Research, Practice and Policy symposium.

Waterhouse, who first proposed the idea of having four SFU groups host the event, says: “I’m going to talk about our commitment at SFU to engage our post secondary community nationally in dialogue to strengthen understanding and enhance capacity to respond proactively to cyberbullying.

“Research, dialogue and policy development are rarely seen as interlocking aspects of understanding what we do and we rarely have opportunities to bring the community together in these types of endeavours.”

In addition to the paper presentations, the symposium will feature the following speakers:

  • Carman J. Overholt, QC., senior litigation lawyer presenting: The Legal Framework for Addressing Cyberbullying in Post-Secondary Education;
  • Aynsley Pescitelli, SFU School of Criminology doctoral student presenting: MySpace or Yours?: An exploratory study of homophobic and transphobic bullying in cyberspace;
  • Natalie Sharpe, University of Alberta ombudsperson, mediator and advisor presenting: No more Cyber Invasions: Learning Responsible “Digital Citizenship” – A University Ombudsperson’s Perspective;
  • Robyn Durling, B.C. Human Rights Coalition communications officer and advocate, and BullyFreeBC spokesperson and board member. He’ll make a legal presentation on the importance of post secondary institutions internally resolving human rights/mental health aspects of cyberbullying rather than turning to WorkSafeBC or external human rights boards.

Guided morning and afternoon roundtable discussions will give symposium participants an opportunity to share their thoughts on cyberbullying in higher education against the backdrop of the day’s presentations.

Simon Fraser University is consistently ranked among Canada's top comprehensive universities and is one of the top 50 universities in the world under 50 years old. With campuses in Vancouver, Burnaby and Surrey, B.C., SFU engages actively with the community in its research and teaching, delivers almost 150 programs to more than 30,000 students, and has more than 125,000 alumni in 130 countries.

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Simon Fraser University: Engaging Students. Engaging Research. Engaging Communities.

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