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Chancellor, students speak out against bullying

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Take a Stand Against Bullying

Chancellor Paula Allen-Meares: “Bullying will not be tolerated on this campus.”

Photo: Kathryn Marchetti

Chancellor Paula Allen-Meares was bullied.

So was President Barack Obama.

Leading off a “Take a Stand Against Bullying” forum last Wednesday in Student Center East, the chancellor stepped to the lectern wearing one of the T-shirts handed out to all who attended.

The front of the gray garment announced in red letters, “Take a Stand Against…”

And the back listed “Intolerance,” “Oppression,” “Homophobia,” “Racism,” “Bigotry,” “Transphobia” and 13 other phobias and isms.

“As an African American I have been bullied,” Allen-Meares said. “It was a means of social control.

“I’m delighted this nation has decided to take this issue seriously. Bullying will not be tolerated on this campus.”

And Obama? He was one of the celebrities quoted in a slide show preceding the session.

“When I was a young adult, I faced the jokes and taunting that too many of our young people face today, and I considered suicide as a way out,” the president said.

The slide show also pictured young bullying victims who’d taken their own lives.

Moderating the session was Stacey Horn, associate professor of educational psychology, who has a $750,000 Ford Foundation grant to study bullying in schools.

“It can take many forms — physical, verbal, social and relational, and sexual,” she said. “There is cyber-bullying — email, texting and so on.

“Victims of bullying are more likely to carry a gun to school, use drugs and alcohol, [suffer from] depression and attempt suicide.”

A study showed that 60 percent of children in grades 6 through 9 who’d been bullied committed a crime by age 24, and 20 percent committed three or more, Horn added.

Four students at the event talked about their own experiences with bullying.

Before high school, Tito Catuncan said, he was picked on for being Asian American. In high school he was bullied for being gay.

“I had suicidal thoughts as early as second grade,” he said.

He said he recovered through therapy, joining an Asian organization at UIC (where “people appreciated me for who I am”) and coming out to his parents and sister.

In elementary school, Kristina Reis was picked on by a group of girls because her feet turned inward.

“I would come home from school in tears,” she said.

But in junior high “I learned to accept my condition and am stronger because of it,” she said.

Camille Clement began receiving threatening emails. On campus, her tormentor “got in an altercation with me and started shoving me,” she said.

The problem ended after, on a friend’s advice, she told the girl she would call the police.

Krupa Patel said her classmates in Schaumburg didn’t want to hold hands because of the darkness of her skin.

“They compared me to monkeys and lions because of my hair,” she said. “I hated everything about myself.”

When Patel joined the Asian American Resource and Cultural Center at UIC, she “found a community that accepted me for who I was,” she said.

The program was coordinated by the Chancellor’s Committee on the Status of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Issues.


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