N.J. lawmakers overwhelmingly passed the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights, with a unanimous vote in the Senate, on Nov. 22.
According to The Star-Ledger, the bill, which would require schools to have a more pro-active bullying and harassment policy, is now headed to Gov. Chris Christie’s desk to be signed into law.
With its full passage, the bill will require training of school administrators in anti-bullying and harassment policies and techniques.
According to Dr. Laura Wankel, vice president for Student Affairs, the University has kept up with policies enforced by the state and will continue to do so if and when the bill passes.
“The University routinely reviews its policies and practices in light of changing laws, technologies, conditions or needs of the community,” Wankel said. “We naturally adjust training and development based on our assessment of need within the community.”
According to Wankel, in a Nov. 1 broadcast e-mail which highlighted the University’s policies regarding bullying and harassment, the Seton Hall community must always be ready to “reaffirm our ideals” in the wake of bullying and harassment.
“The University, by virtue of our Catholic and educational mission, must be a place that shows no tolerance for harassing or bullying behavior,” Wankel said.
Director of Housing & Residence Life Tara Hart said HRL supports University community standards, which directly prohibit bullying and harassment behaviors such as “physical abuse, threats, intimidation, harassment, coercion and/or other conduct which threatens or endangers the health or safety of any person.”
In addition, and to coincide with the guidelines of the bill, University resident assistants are trained in conflict resolution and mediation.
“Our license agreement references the expectation of behaviors which respect the individual and balance the needs of the community,” Hart said. “Residents also complete roommate agreements as to how they will successfully live together and resolve conflict. These discussions are facilitated by the RA and we use the agreement as a reference point in the event of a conflict during the year.”
Hart said that HRL respects and references the statement made by late Rutgers freshman Tyler Clementi’s family, when they said that the bill “recognizes the need for a renewal of values of respect for human dignity.”
“This respect for human dignity is certainly intrinsic to what we in Housing & Residence Life work to create at a Catholic university,” Hart said. “The philosophy behind our roommate agreements is based in this fact.”
As for training, Hart said the professional staff – residence hall directors – are trained in August for a week, as well as throughout the year in “ongoing professional development.”
“We will likely be participating in a webinar in the coming weeks on the topic of bullying,” Hart said.
On the student level, according to Hart, resident assistants and tutors-in-residence engage in two weeks of training in August and a three day refresher course in January, prior to the start of the spring semester. Each refresher session has a focus, with this year focusing on bullying and how to respond and report it, all in an effort to decrease bullying behaviors.
Still, Wankel calls on all members of the Seton Hall community to behave in ways which reflect the Catholic roots of the University, and make Seton Hall a safe place for work and study.
“Every member of our community must be ready to oppose harassment that is directed towards anyone else, regardless of whether such harassment is based on race, ethnicity, disability, religion, gender or sexual orientation,” Wankel said.
Samantha Desmond can be reached at Samantha.firstname.lastname@example.org.