It is tragically easy to sit behind a computer and lob shameful insults across the digital universe. Leveraging the tools of connectivity, meant to bring us closer together, cyber bullies use the Internet as a means to be hurtful, while never having to look their victims in the eye.
The old adage of “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me” is not true in today’s world of social media. Words have meaning. Precise and acute, delivered with the force of the entire internet, with only the effort of a mouse click. The time has come for me to speak up for myself, for Adams State University, and for the many others who find themselves targets of an Internet mob.
I am saddened to see how vicious people can be when protected behind the anonymity of a screen name. From cruel Facebook posts to a 140-character insult, the culture of shaming and cyber harassment has become intolerable — and the victims are most often women, minorities, and members of the LBGTQ community. (Report by Data & Society Research Institute & Center for Innovative Public Health.)
I say, enough.
I, and others in our community, have consistently been the target of these bullies for more than a year. They have attacked my character and gone after my reputation and credibility both professionally and as a private citizen. Anyone willing to stand up for me and for Adams State finds themselves the next victim of these cyber bullies.
I am disgusted by what I’ve seen. These attacks have been the weapons of cowards, safely hiding behind a website to exercise their aggression. They try and take the moral high ground that they are “fighting” to save the University. But it is anything but high ground, and it is anything but helping save this University. These attacks are demeaning, and they constitute an act of violence not just against me, but also against people everywhere who have been the victims of such intimidation.
I am making this statement today to call them out for the cowards they are, and say that I am speaking out to protect my dignity and the reputation of Adams State University and our Valley. I am speaking out to change the negative narrative created by a very few that overpowers the positive energy and dedication to our mission of the many. I am speaking out to set an example to our students that cyber bullying and harassment are not acceptable and that compassion is needed to overcome this culture of public shaming.
I am speaking out for other women in leadership positions who find themselves targets, like me, for making tough decisions. I am speaking out in hopes that our community will rally together and say that enough is enough. Disagreements are welcome, but this level of malevolence is unacceptable. I will fight to protect the freedom of speech until my last breath, but alongside it I will fight for the preservation of civility. These cyber bullies, hiding behind freedom of speech, have in essence taken away the rights of others to speak freely by intimidating them into silence. Words have the power to misinform the public and the power to ruin lives.
I believe that stronger laws are needed to protect victims of Internet mobs and cyber bullying. I hope others will join me in the effort to support these laws at the state and federal level. We cannot continue to allow Internet mobs to stifle the free speech of others.
Dr. Beverlee J. McClure
President, Adams State University