Bullying and Harassment at University

Going to university is a big deal and can be exciting as well as nerve-racking. It is a unique experience for many students as they move away from home, learn to become independent and develop necessary life skills. Freshers can often find it overwhelming at first but soon seem to settle into student life. Unfortunately, bullying can and does happen in many walks of life. So what happens if you experience bullying at university? Where do you go for advice and support? Student Advice is always happy to listen to you and if it's something we cannot help with, we can direct you to the right place.

Types of Bullying

Although there is no legal definition, bullying is a repetitive behaviour which is intended to hurt someone either emotionally or physically, and is often aimed at certain people because of their race, religion, gender or sexual orientation or any other aspect such as appearance or disability. Bullying can take many forms including:

Social and emotional - This form of bullying is also called relational bullying. This can include excluding someone out on purpose, encouraging others not to be friends with them, spreading rumours and gossip, humiliating someone in front of others, making someone the butt of their jokes constantly.

Cyberbullying - This form of bullying takes place online via social networking sites, messaging apps, gaming sites and chat rooms. This can be fake profiles, negative comments intended to cause distress, sharing personal information without permission, stalking, harassment, trolling and spreading fake rumours. Click here for more information on cyberbullying.

Name calling - Verbal bullying is one of the most common forms of bullying and can include teasing, making derogatory remarks about appearance, taunting someone, making threats and using insults as a way of humiliating the other person.

Physical – This form of bullying is when someone physically hurts another person. This can be through pushing, punching, kicking, biting, scratching, spitting and any other form of physical violence.

This list above is not exhaustive and there can be plenty of other examples of bullying that can happen at university.

What is harassment?

  • Harassment is behaviour which can be seen as unacceptable, offensive or upsetting to those it is done to.
  • Anyone can be subjected to harassment.  
  • You can encounter harassment from any other person or persons, such as; fellow students, housemates, neighbours, work colleagues, members of University staff or landlords.
  • A single incident or repeated incidents of unwelcome behaviour may constitute harassment.
  • Even behaviour which was not intended to cause offence or distress can constitute harassment if the recipient is upset by it.
  • Health, physical characteristics, personal beliefs, sexual orientation, gender and age are common harassment issues.
  • Harassment can occur between people of the same or different gender, nationality, sexual orientation, age etc.
  • Harassment can take place in person or electronically.
  • Differences in language, culture or attitude may mean that what is perceived as offensive behaviour or language by one person may not by another.
  • If something makes you feel uncomfortable and you ask that it stop and the individual(s) continues to do it, this may be harassment.

Bullying vs Banter

Do we know the difference between when banter can become bullying? It can be confusing for someone to try and work out whether the name calling is banter or bullying. A person experiencing this might feel intimidated or feel under pressure not to make a fuss because others are saying it is just banter.

Student A comes to the lecture and every day student B insults him, when student A challenges student B, he defends himself and says “I’m only joking, it’s just banter” … now we need to ask ourselves is this banter if student A feels targeted or anxious about being called this insult?

If it is one off incident then it may be that it is banter. But, if it becomes persistent and regular, then this is bullying. Banter is when you are joking between friends and you both know when not to cross the line or cause offence to the other person.

It is about how you feel too, if it makes you uncomfortable and you have told them to stop but they are still name calling, then this is verbal bullying. Banter becomes bullying when it is:

  • Intended to insult and humiliate the other person
  • If it becomes regular and persistent
  • Even after they have asked someone to stop, it continues

In the hopes of helping to ensure that Cardiff University is a positive and inclusive place the Students’ Union have run a campaign called It’s No Joke to promote this. This aims to reduce harassment and any discriminatory behaviour on campus.

Click below to find out more: