UW-Madison launches anti-bullying efforts

Oct. 11, 2010

by John Lucas

The University of Wisconsin-Madison's LGBT Campus Center (LGBTCC), a department in the Division of Student Life, is launching "Stop the Silence," an anti-bullying campaign designed to support LGBT students on campus.

The center is aiming to raise awareness of harassment and bullying across the country after a tragedy at Rutgers University, along with numerous others across the country in recent weeks, says interim LGBTCC director Robin Matthies.

In addition to "Stop the Silence," Dean of Students Lori Berquam is initiating a campus conversation on bullying, harassment and respect issues as they relate to all students, faculty and staff.

Berquam says that bullying and harassment can take many forms, including emotional, verbal, physical and even electronic. At its core, it is aggressive, uncivil behavior designed to hurt or marginalize others, she says.

"This is an issue of concern to everyone in our community," agrees Chancellor Biddy Martin, who endorses the efforts. "The suicide rates for gay and lesbian youth are appallingly high. Hatred, harassment and bullying have serious consequences. Let us re-commit to a safe, respectful and welcoming community for everyone."

"Bullying toward students identified as LGBT, or those perceived to be, is a long-standing issue for students," says Matthies. While a number of LGBT students have committed suicide in the last few weeks, this is by no means a recent phenomenon, nor does it truly reflect the pervasiveness of bullying that students face on a regular basis, she adds.

Campus Pride's 2010 State of Higher Education for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender People reports the following national statistics:

  • One-third of LGBTQ (33 percent) and transgender (38 percent) students, faculty and staff have seriously considered leaving their institution due to the challenging climate.
  • More than half of all LGBTQ faculty, students and staff hide their sexual identity (43 percent) or gender identity (63 percent) to avoid intimidation.
  • More than a third of all transgender students, faculty and staff (43 percent) and 13 percent of LGBTQ respondents feared for their physical safety.

To address the issue, the Stop the Silence Glow Vigil will acknowledge recent suicides and provide a forum for talking about the ways bullying has impacted students. The event will be held from 8-10 p.m. on Library Mall on Wednesday, Oct. 20.

In addition, today (Oct. 11) is National Coming Out Day. A schedule of campus events is posted.

The LGBT Campus Center has started a Facebook group that has received national attention.

LGBTCC will launch a Web site that will provide resources, testimonials and other content that pertains to issues surrounding LGBTQ bullying issues.

The Division of Student Life is strongly committed to promoting respect among students and the members of the university community.

In the coming weeks, Berquam will convene a larger group to broadly examine issues of bullying and respect in the classroom, labs, residence halls and workplaces of campus. To become involved or share feedback or a story, e-mail dean@studentlife.wisc.edu.

A meeting to discuss planning will be held from 5:45-6:45 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 26, in Room 165 Bascom Hall.

The division manages a bias incident reporting form, which provides a mechanism for students to deal with an intentional threat or act of harassment or intimidation — verbal, written or physical — that is personally directed against or targeting a UW student because of an actual or perceived characteristic of that student, such as sexual orientation.

For more information, visit the Division of Student Life website, or call 608-263-5700 to speak to a dean on call.