Cyber bullying made national headlines recently after it was said to be the cause of the suicide of Rutgers student Tyler Clementi. Like most universities, George Mason University is not immune to the bullying problem.

Two recent reports to the Mason police department Involved threats against students made through the internet. One case involved a student who was receiving threats through Twitter and the other was a case of a student receiving death threats through Facebook, according to Maj. George Ginovsky, assistant chief of police.

“[Cyber bullying] makes people more vicious, often,” said Kenton Johnston, a junior and the publicity chair of the Mason chapter of Pride Alliance, a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning student organization. He said cyber bullying can be worse than normal bullying because students who are being bullied often don’t know who is targeting them.

“People are terrible online,” Johnston said. He said he stopped frequenting certain online forums because of the bullying he experienced against members of the LGBTQ community. His bullying, however hasn’t always been online. He said that growing up he was constantly bullied throughout elementary school, middle school and high school.

“The first real bully I had in elementary school came up with some really creative, outlandish insults,” Johnston said. He said that compared to his bullying in elementary school, other insults were not as cutting. “When people called me gay or said I had long hair or looked like a girl, that was nothing.”

He said those new insults seemed minimal. “It was just stupid so I just brushed it off,” Johnston said.

For the most part Johnston had to face bullying in school without any help from adults.

According to Johnston, his school administrators never did anything to stop the bullying. “I mean there is only so much they can do, but they didn’t even do that.”

As a student at Mason now, Johnston said that he has found more acceptance on campus.

“Mostly around here people are really accepting or they keep it to themselves,” Johnston said. “It’s a pretty safe place.”

Mason is looking at strengthening its current policies to make people more aware of the issue of bullying and cyber bullying, said Dan Walsch, Mason’s press secretary.

“This is an important issue to all of us,” Walsch said. “The university is doing everything they can do to stay on top of it.”

“Mason is responding in the aftermath of the heightened media attention to anti-LGBTQ bullying, and it’s potentially devastating consequences, in several ways,” said Ric Chollar, associate director for LGBTQ resources at Mason, in an e-mail.

He said the university created two groups, one which is responsible for looking specifically at cyber bullying and increasing awareness of the issue. He said the other group is the LGBTQ Campus Climate Task Force, which will assess the environment on campus for the LGBTQ community.

“This group will propose steps Mason should take in becoming even more safe and inclusive for all students,” Chollar said.

Chollar said that bullying is not just an LGBTQ issue, and depending on the situation, students can contact University Police, Fairfax County Police, the Dean of Students Office or the Office of Equity and Diversity Services.

“We will at first work with the student to assess their immediate safety and if there is a need for immediate medical or police assistance,” Chollar said in the e-mail. “Our goal will be helping the student be safe, as well as what’s best for them in responding to the incident.”

Any students who witness “bias, discrimination, harassment, violence or criminal offense” can also file a bias incident report.

Another resource for students to address bullying is the Office of Judicial Affairs.

Brian Papajcik, assistant director for community standards, recently worked on mediating the cyber bullying case that involved death threats on Facebook. It is not clear if the case involved a student in the LGBTQ community because Papajcik could not comment on the specific case. He said that although the Mason judicial code for student conduct does not address cyber bullying specifically, cyber bullying violates other university policies and any student who has agreed to attend Mason is bound by the policies.

“We do have policies regarding harassment, threats of physical harm, intimidation, and those sorts of behavior could fall under bullying. So we would go ahead and use those charges…to address what may be considered bullying behavior,” he said.

Papajcik said cases are looked at individually using the Judicial Affairs process, and students can be given an order of “no contact.” In other words, they can be separated if they live in the same dorm and sent to other residential neighborhoods. Students can also be suspended or expelled from campus.

Just because bullying is done online, it does not mean the university would be more lenient, he said.

“Students should realize that we treat interactions that occur online just as if they occurred in person. And students need to know that just because you said it on Facebook or Twitter doesn’t mean that the university is going to ignore it,” Papajcik said.

Criminal charges can also be filed by Mason Police in conjunction with the university’s administrative procedures, he said.

Papajcik encourages students who are being bullied to come forward.

“Let us know about it. The sooner we know about it the sooner we can help you address the behavior.”

For Johnston, the recent media attention surrounding the issue of cyber bullying might have come a little late for his situation growing up. He said that he has looked at many of the “It Gets Better” videos online, and he thinks they would have helped him. The videos are a project founded as a response to the recent suicides of LGBT students across the nation “to tell LGBT Youth that – it gets better,” according to the project website.

Johnston said that Pride Alliance at Mason has even taped some of their own videos which they plan on putting on the Mason Pride Alliance YouTube Channel.

“It probably would have helped me to some extent, when I was coming out … to be able to see people say, “Hey it gets better, I know how you are feeling now, I felt that way too.”

Johnston said he had to develop a thick shell in order to be able to brush off bullies.

“I survived. I’m strong for it,” Johnston said. But in retrospect Johnston said he doesn’t think he should have had to be put through all that bullying.

Johnston said that bullying, online and in person, is not a recent problem.

“I’m pretty tough to that sort of thing, and I think it’s because I’ve dealt with that sort of thing for a long time,” he said. He said he is disappointed it took several suicides in order for people to pay attention and start addressing the issue.

“It’s sad that people have had to kill themselves, for this problem to take on weight … I wish it didn’t take this much terrible stuff to get it all started,” he said.

Students who want to file a bias report can do so online at