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Minnesota State University, Mankato
Minnesota State University, Mankato

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Panel discusses culture of bullying

The solutions to bullying are prevention and intervention, a panel told audience members Feb. 15.

By Tanner Kent, Free Press Staff Writer [published in The Free Press, Mankato, MN, 2/16/2011]

During Tuesday’s panel discussion on the culture of bullying, evidence of that culture was close at hand.

During the question-and-answer portion, an audience member asked about Minnesota State Mankato's own culture of intimidation.

She referenced the 2008 Workplace Behavior Project Survey, which detailed a "climate of fear" among Minnesota State Mankato's faculty and staff. The report took two years for a pair of outside researchers to complete, included 1,185 participants and concluded that: 68 percent of participants experienced some form of workplace aggression, 45 percent experienced bullying as a victim or witness, and 89 percent of those with experience felt helpless to respond.

The audience member then asked what advice the panel would give to the “powerless” victims of such workplace intimidation.

“I don’t think we are ever truly powerless,” responded Josh Maudrie, a graduate student who serves as the higher education director for the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe. “When we believe that, then the problem starts.”

Fellow panelist Jessica Flatequal, director of Minnesota State Mankato's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Center, countered by saying that feelings of helplessness are a reality for victims of bullying. In such cases, she said, victims need to have reliable systems in place to find advocates.

The question seemed to illuminate a key issue raised by the panel during “Exploring the Culture of Bullying,” the 2011 installment of The Dr. Truman Wood Memorial Alumni Lecture: That bullying is reinforced, either directly or indirectly, in a variety of social institutions.

Panelist Walter Roberts, a counseling instructor who consults with lawmakers and schools on bullying, said the problem is widespread. Not only are youth susceptible to the kinds of bullying that take place on a domestic level, but are also susceptible to what he called an “osmosis of violence” through the media.

Flatequal said assigning blame to the bullies can be problematic because they, too, can be victims.

Maudrie said the impulse to bully is ingrained in the American psyche. He said the mentality played out during the country’s often violent clashes with Native Americans and is being replicated today in its foreign policies.

The panelists agreed the only solutions to bullying are prevention and intervention.

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