Local university works to prevent bullying

by Rodney Dunigan
WTVF NewsChannel 5

Watch the video from this story here.

Navigating the rough waters of college can be tough for any student, especially when you're away from family, friends and home for the first time. For some, the experience can be overwhelming, especially when pushed over the edge by bullies.

It's not a problem we usually consider students will run into on a college campus, but just like high school some students fall victim to bullies.

Just recently, Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi committed suicide after his sexuality was revealed by two classmates. Local universities take the issue seriously and are doing all they can to protect students.

"Many people are bullied because of their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity," Nora Spencer told NewsChannel 5.

Spencer is the director of Vanderbilt University's office of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex life. Their mission is to be a place of comfort for students.

"We try to make it so that students feel supported and nurtured in all of their identities so they can really get down to the business of learning cause that's why we're here," said Spencer.

They work to educate the campus community. It is an effort to prevent discrimination, bullying or worse.

"As we know it can be life and death for some students. This isn't just about LGBT issues but essentially bullying on a campus can create a culture where many people don't feel comfortable to be fully themselves," Spencer told NewsChannel 5.

Spencer also told NewsChannel 5 the LGBTQI office at Vanderbilt was created three years ago after a gay couple was assaulted on campus. She believes they've really been able to reach the campus community and have been a real help to students working through issues with their sexuality.

In the Rutgers University case, the two students involved with were charged with invasion of privacy for posting a sexual encounter involving Clementi online. The university has condemned the students' actions.

Tyler Clementi is at least the third homosexual teen's suicide to be blamed on bullying in just the past week. 13-year-old Asher Brown of Texas, and 13-year-old Seth Walsh of California also took their own lives, after suffering the taunts of classmates.

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