A Christ Church society leader has called for more discussion around in-house society bullying.
Emma Cussens, the head of the eco-society, told Unified that she believes there needs to be more of a conversation about bullying within societies.
“I think that there needs to be a greater discussion around bullying within societies,” she said.
“There’s this food-chain mentality in some societies, where you have to work your way up from the bottom.
“There is an issue with underhand comments within group chats – one girl told members of her society in a WhatsApp group: ‘I know we all have depression & stuff, but training is a must’.
“People with anxiety and depression can really struggle to leave the house sometimes, and comments like this can affect them pretty badly.
‘It’s more than just [bullying on] social media’
“But it is more than just social media. There was incident where a girl turned up for a charity sports event – a mental health event in aid of suicide prevention.
“The event invited players of all skill to play, but when she arrived, she was asked multiple times: ‘Why are you even here?’”
A spokesperson for the students union told a Unified reporter that there are steps in place to deal with bullying.
“We deal with these situations on a case by case basis,” the spokesperson said.
“If someone reported to us that they were being bullied within a society we would speak to the parties involved to try and find out what was happening, and if possible resolve the situation informally.
“We would encourage anyone experiencing bullying to speak to us, and also the society president if you’re comfortable.
“If the situation could not be resolved informally, depending on the situation we may take action under the Members’ Code of Conduct (section 23 of the CCSU Byelaws), which applies to all students; or we could refer the matter to the university to take action under their disciplinary procedures.”
Students enrolled in a society at Christ Church also have a well-being team to turn to for help with bullying, which Emma says is working well. But she also says that more can be done.
“I think that sometimes there is too much trust with the students,” she continued.
“If a student chooses to leave a society because they feel they were bullied, they have to go through their society leader to get a refund.
“Members of societies should have emails of people outside of their own socials to report bullying.
In response to the reported social media comments, Emma said that the SU could play an important role within the groups.
“The SU could introduce social administrators for each society, who keep an eye on their social media.
“It could also introduce members of staff who keep an eye out for red flags within societies – things like people not turning up for an extended period.”