Offensive tackle Jonathan Martin left the Miami Dolphins last week after bullying from a teammate became too much to bear.
The “Bullygate” scandal is a painful reminder that bullying can occur after high school and well into adulthood.
Bullying has been a serious problem in Minnesota schools for years. Incidents of bullying-related suicides in the Anoka-Hennepin School District incited nationwide debates on bullying in schools. State legislation protecting high school students from harassment and bullying failed this past session, but it will again be debated this upcoming spring.
Sadly, bullying does not stop when students graduate from high school.
Back in November 2011, Robert Champion of Florida A&M University died during a hazing event for the drum line. Before a band member could become drum major, the highest honor within the marching band, one would have to complete the “crossing over” ritual. This entailed walking through a bus while being beaten by his peers in the seats. Champion didn’t survive the ordeal. His story is a harrowing reminder that bullying into adulthood is a very real, very serious topic.
The University of Minnesota doesn’t have a reputation for hazing. However, bullying in the workplace is common nationwide. The Workplace Bullying Institute found more than a third of respondents had experienced some kind of bullying at work.
A 2009 study of Loyola University-Chicago shows 36.6 percent of faculty experienced bullying over five years. Researchers defined bullying as harassing, offending, socially excluding, or negatively affecting someone’s work tasks regularly and repeatedly.
Cyberbullying is also a problem with college students. University of Texas-Arlington researchers surveyed hundreds of University of Minnesota students on cyberbullying. Students reported that harassment via social media, text messages and even educational technology infrastructure is a problem. Students also reported that cyberbullying justified a response from administration.
In the 10th grade, I found out the damage bullying can do when one of my classmates took her own life. I can’t even imagine what kind of pain she must have gone through, but I wish her bullies would have realized the hurt their words caused before it was too late.
I’m lucky, insofar as I can’t recall more than a few instances I’ve been bullied since middle school.
I can only hope that our University, the state and the country as a whole will see less bullying in grade school and beyond.
Perhaps the biggest shock in Martin’s case is that he works in a physically dominating and powerful industry. Even if you’re a big, strong football player, you can still be bullied, which might be a disconcerting thought for some.
We are all obligated to prevent bullying when we see it, before someone is hurt, or worse. As adults, we may feel too mature, too old or “above” bullying, but that shouldn’t mean we let it slide. Whether bullying takes place in the workplace, the classroom or online, we can’t allow it to dominate the lives of others.