By Alison Rogers | Contributor
One in four students are bullied in college, a statistic higher even than the rate of sexual assault among students. Yet because bullying can at times not be perceived as a serious issue, victims are often unable to seek help. By making a documentary on the effects of bullying, one Baylor film class is trying to change that.
“Once I reviewed the research, it was clear that bullying is a topic we don’t talk about enough in college, and we should,” Dr. Sarah-Jane Murray said.
Murray teaches Filmmaking for Social Change, a class which combines practical film experience with an ethics-based understanding of the power of stories.
After a semester of watching films and studying their social impact, Murray asked her students to come up with a social issue they believed needed to be addressed.
Students suggested food insecurity and general mental health before settling on a less-discussed topic: bullying.
“It seemed like the time had come for an ‘It’s on Us’ style campaign to end bullying on university campuses – and our class had the opportunity to launch that kind of campaign,” Murray said.
As the class began filming, Murray said it became evident that this was not just a conversation about bullying but about its effects on mental health.
“It fuels shame. It makes people doubt themselves and feel like they don’t belong,” Murray said.
Murray said she is concerned that the lack of publicity around bullying at Baylor may further isolate victims, and that she hopes this project can be an opportunity for them to speak out, and in doing so, to feel less alone.
“Most of all, I hope the 60% of students who stand by and watch think about taking a stand the next time they see something like this happen,” Murray said.
Lander, Wyo., junior Catherine Marple is directing the film project, and said she views it as an opportunity to raise awareness about an important issue.
“This project is a unique opportunity to shed light on something almost entirely ignored both by the people who perpetrate it and the people who suffer from it,” Marple said. “Nothing about the situation is healthy and anything we can do to change it may make a world of difference for the people involved.”
Marple said one of the common misconceptions about bullying is that it is limited to middle and high school settings. She said that nothing about college students makes them automatically better at dealing with it or less able to be hurt.
“College is a pivotal state of identity formation and bullying by nature undermines a person’s identity,” Marple said.
Friendswood senior Joseph Davis, a film major and class participant, said he agrees with Marple. Davis suggested the issue of bullying as a topic for the film because he said he thinks the issue is more widespread than most people realize.
“They’re not particularly identified as bullying, many of the things I’ve seen, but they really are,” Davis said. “Many people just think, ‘Oh it’s just trash talk.’ But it’s bullying. We need to call it what it is.”
The issue is personal for Davis, who decided to share his own story as part of the project. He said he was bullied for years, and that he is particularly concerned with the ways that bullying can damage mental health long-term. He found sharing to be cathartic and said he thinks that more survivors should do the same.
“I think the purpose of the project is to really raise awareness of this issue so people will speak out on it rather than suppressing it for years, because if you internalize it than you’re just going to get worse and that will lead to depression, anxiety, self-image issues,” Davis said.
If you have experienced bullying on campus and you want to share your story as part of the film, email Alison_Rogers1@baylor.edu.