Friday, March 30, 2012
This Friday, the important and controversial movie "Bully" comes out. If I wasn't a scholar of bullying, it would be exactly the type of movie I would avoid: painful, honest, and scary. A review of the movie focused on the ignorance and complicity of adults that allowed bullying in schools, which reminded me of how much bullying behavior is allowed in law schools. In ASP, we are the adults that students are most likely to turn to when they are in pain and struggling. It is our job to address the problem, and not ignore the source of the pain. Like in elementary, middle, and high schools, bullying can be caused by classmates. In this job market, it is increasingly likely that students are responding to stress by belittling and demeaning classmates. More insidious, and more dangerous, is the bullying that comes from professors and administrators, which is sometimes unintentional. I have heard of law professors blaming students for being unable to find post-graduate employment ("you didn't work hard enough to get the grades for a job" and "if getting a job was why you wanted a law degree, you should have spent more time studying"), as well as professors who have blamed students for the crushing debt they acquire to finance a law degree (insidious, because debt is far more complicated for many students than just signing up for loans). These professors may not intend to be bullying law students, but the message received by many students is the same as if a professor called them names. Even in the most charitable light, this sort of behavior is ignorant and cruel, and undermines our students.
The emotional and mental health of our students has an impact on their grades. Students who feel bullied and belittled are less likely to succeed academically. It is important for ASPer's to listen carefully to what students tell them about bullies in law school, and to believe students when they say the feel bullied. Bullying doesn't go away when students graduate from high school, and the pain and anguish caused by bullies isn't diminished because the target is a young adult. (RCF)