CUNY colleges, along with representatives from local private colleges, came together on Tuesday, November 23rd, to discuss a serious issue affecting students nationwide—bullying.
BMCC hosted the NYC Higher Education Taskforce on Student Wellness and Anti-Bullying in Richard Harris Terrace. BMCC President Antonio Pérez was in attendance at the meeting, which was spearheaded by Christine C. Quinn, Speaker, New York City Council.
Presidents, provosts and directors from New York colleges, including Kingsborough Community College, Lehman, The Julliard School, Pace University, New York University (NYU) and more attended the forum, in which ways of dealing with bullying, as a community, were discussed.
This meeting came about in response to recent cases of bullying and harassment against the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) community. In mid-October, Speaker Christine C. Quinn announced a comprehensive plan to combat bias, prejudice and hate, particularly among youth by teaching young New Yorkers about tolerance and what to do when faced with bullying.
The unfortunate suicide of Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi raised serious concerns about the deadly consequences vicious bullying can have. In October, Speaker Quinn, CUNY Chancellor Matthew Goldstein and New York University President John Sexton invited leaders of the City’s higher education institutions to meet at NYU’s Kimmel Center for University Life for a discussion about how to ensure that campuses are safe and supportive environments for all students.
“The recent deaths across the country that have happened as a result of anti-LGBT bullying are truly heartbreaking,” said Speaker Quinn in an official press release on her Web site. “As the loss of these innocent young lives reminds us, we must remain diligent in our efforts to combat bullying and promote tolerance. We also want to discuss what steps other institutions, civic groups and government leaders can take to help advance our efforts.”
Quinn, along with Goldstein, and Sexton, opened the roundtable, and Linda Mills, Senior Vice Provost, New York University, facilitated group discussions/brainstorming sessions about suicide prevention, education and awareness about bullying, community building and attitudinal change.
“There is no issue that gets a stronger and more positive reaction than bullying,” said Quinn at the roundtable. Discussing ways to help future students, and current students, who feel bullied or have experienced bullying, “gives us a tremendous sense of hope about an issue that is easy to be hopeless about. We want to give adults and young people hope that this issue is being addressed.”
Currently, the draft mission statement of the NYC Higher Education Taskforce on Student Wellness and Anti-Bullying reads as follows:
The mission of the NYC Higher Education Task Force on Student Wellness and Bullying is to increase community awareness of discrimination, harassment and bullying as a common serious problem for young people, particularly those belonging to the LGBT community and for those dealing with emotional health issues and to advocate for the implementation of effective prevention and response strategies at all our institutions as well as on a larger scale for the City of New York.
Awareness within the community
It is the goal of the NYC Higher Education Taskforce to increase community awareness about the dangers of harassment and bullying. “It’s important that we all come together, in the private and public sector, to work on this issue,” said John Sexton. “It’s one we take serious and Matthew [Goldstein] and I want students to know that we care about their well-being and their capacity to live as their higher selves.”
The roundtable held at BMCC is only the beginning of more meetings to come.
Lisa Mills of NYU outlined the goals of the Taskforce committee, which includes President Pérez. The committee aims to meet three times over the next three months, to focus on important anti-bullying issues and set goals in place to combat—and address—these issues throughout New York City colleges.
The committee will then meet every six months to “touch base” and talk about implementing a city-wide platform for ideas such as increasing student awareness about bullying, ways counseling centers can help students, and so on.
Mills also mentioned that The Jed Foundation is a helpful resource for the private and public sector when it comes to dealing with ways to combat suicide, bullying and harassment.
The Jed Foundation works with university leaders and professionals to prioritize campus-wide prevention and intervention strategies as well as advise on best-practices of mental health services. Jed representatives sit on the board of the NYC Higher Education Taskforce.