February will see University of Saskatchewan students donning something other than their regular green and white; there is a pink wave on the horizon as part of a larger Canada-wide movement.
Feb. 24 is Red Cross Pink Day and coming with it is a chance for students and faculty alike to speak out against bullying and associated negative behaviour. In anticipation of this event, the Red Cross Students’ Association Usask has been selling pink shirts in the Arts Tunnel that can be worn to show support for the initiative.
Part of the day’s events will include a rally in the Education Gym for elementary students. This event also serves as a volunteer opportunity for U of S students interested in the cause. Those looking to volunteer can contact the office of Patti McDougall, vice provost teaching and learning and psychology faculty member at the U of S.
McDougall speaks to the effects that bullying can have on adolescents, which can continue through young adulthood and beyond.
“One of my own areas of research is to look at the long term effects of victimization. When you follow young people … into young adulthood, what we see is that there are oftentimes evidence of, if someone has a history of bullying, being victimized, that they will, in young adulthood, be experiencing mental health challenges,” McDougall said.
According to McDougall, who also studies life transitions such as beginning university, events of bullying that occur in elementary school can translate into hardships later in life, although she claims the bullies themselves are not entirely to blame.
“The majority of children who bully are figuring out the social hierarchy and trying out different behaviours. Then there’s probably a smaller portion who are are bullying others because of the knowledge that it hurts other people. So they’re probably fewer, who are in that sort of pathological sort of place,” McDougall said.
McDougall explains why some people continue to bully into adulthood, something that U of S students may experience in class and across campus.
“One of the reasons [is that] it gets them what they want. So they start to recognize that the use of power in that way is actually effective, so they continue to do it unless the behaviour is brought to an end,” McDougall said.
Recognizing bullying in its many forms and learning how to deal with it is the main focus of Red Cross Pink Day. Moreover, McDougall insists it is just as important to define what bullying means.
“The way we characterize bullying in the literature is that it has to be intentional. That it involves negative actions of some kind and that it involves power imbalance. So when you’re in childhood, that power imbalance can be one of physical size. But it can also be a power balance when it’s a group of people and they’re ganging up on an individual,” she said.
“What we say, it’s less fitting in adulthood, but what we say in childhood and adolescence is that bullying is not a fight between two friends that are equals. The textbook definition speaks to that power imbalance.”
According to McDougall, repetition of these scenarios and negative actions are also a big part of what constitutes bullying. She reminds students that bullying is not a simple problem between two people, but a social issue that involves role models within the institution.
“People who are part of the institution, part of the school, they can set the tone for behaviour. They can communicate to people around them what they consider to be acceptable or not acceptable,” McDougall said.
The idea of role models setting an example for how to deal with instances of bullying is at the core of Pink Day, as McDougall explains:
“The first guy to do this, to wear the pink shirt, was setting a tone in his [high] school that basically said, ‘We’re not gonna allow someone to be ridiculed because of the colour of their clothes … we’re gonna stand with this person.’”
Graphic: Jeremy Britz / Graphics Editor