Understanding and Preventing Campus Violence . MICHELE A.PALUDI ( ED .). Westport , CT : Praeger , 2008 . 256 pp., $44.95 (hardcover) ISBN: 9780313348280 .
As Michele Paludi points out in her introduction, violence on college campuses takes many forms and leads to a number of consequences for college students and employees. This book tackles the ambitious goal of addressing all forms of campus violence, emphasizing prevention and intervention. Using a multidisciplinary approach, Understanding and Preventing Campus Violence consists of chapters written by psychologists, lawyers, college administrators, human resource policy experts, and campus security. The feminist spirit of the book is illustrated by the integration of various perspectives on campus violence. In addition, some authors incorporate an explicitly feminist approach. Ranging from the Virginia Tech tragedy to sexual assault, bullying, and hazing, the book discusses multiple forms of violence and, most notably, offers specific, practical solutions.
The book is organized into three sections. Part one includes empirical research on campus violence that is designed to increase the reader's understanding of different types of violence. A thorough overview is provided by Martin, including definitions, incident rates, and the negative impact on victims. This section includes information on bullying, sexual harassment, relationship violence, and stalking (with specific information on cyberstalking, a growing problem). Martin explicitly addresses how some groups may be more at risk for experiencing violence—women; students of color; and lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender students. Feminist readers will appreciate her exploration of gendered violence and her argument that cultures of sexual harassment on campus can keep women in positions of fear and powerlessness. Using qualitative research that explores students’ reactions to violence and their perceptions of their safety, Neidermeyer and Terjesen examine the needs of international students and how they are affected by campus violence. Consistently, the book calls for colleges to increase efforts to educate students and employees, to develop and implement policies regarding various forms of violence, and to focus on prevention.
The second section of the book focuses on pedagogical techniques. It provides specific simulations and exercises that instructors can use to get students thinking about issues of diversity and violence on campus. The authors recommend that institutions include students in the process of developing university-wide policies and create field placement opportunities where students can work to prevent campus violence. A feminist perspective is well illustrated in Martin's discussion of the role of institutional power in preventing campus violence. She argues that, if those in power do not intervene when they hear degrading comments, students will assume that certain behaviors are condoned. She also makes a case for assessing how a campus climate may be perceived differently by male and female students. Men and women may have different perceptions about the occurrence of prejudice, what constitutes harassment, and ways to intervene. Suggestions for ending campus violence include empowering students; addressing hegemonic ideologies that promote discrimination based on gender, race, class, sexual orientation, and other identities; and providing systems on the campus that promote and support change. Also included in this portion is a discussion of stalking as a form of campus violence. Although this chapter accomplishes the important task of legitimizing stalking as a form of violence, the brevity of the chapter and its lack of theory probably will leave readers wanting a more thorough discussion of how to address this topic in classroom dialogues. Overall, though, instructors of courses focusing on diversity and campus violence will likely find the activities outlined in the book helpful and practical.
In part three, procedures, laws, policies, and training programs are outlined for working with students, faculty, and staff. Included is a discussion of laws related to student admissions, privacy and disclosure of information, and prohibiting certain activities on campus. This information may be particularly beneficial for professors, mental health counselors, and administrators, helping them to better understand the limitations of sharing information about struggling students. Part three also includes a number of sample policies that address different forms of campus violence. Many of these examples are consistent with feminist literature regarding prejudice and violence. For example, Paludi, Paludi, and Santos include a sample policy specifying that domestic violence is a workplace concern, and they argue that universities should assist victims by screening their calls and visitors, by accompanying them to their cars, and by supporting the enforcement of restraining orders. Their recommendations about sexual harassment policies and reporting procedures also fit with research findings that indicate victims often do not report harassment if they are required to meet with the perpetrator. As such, the text emphasizes the importance of allowing anonymous reporting. However, in other areas, the recommendations seem less focused on effectively preventing or intervening with violence and more focused on meeting legal requirements or limiting legal liability.
The broad reach of this book makes it a good resource for those affiliated with college campuses, although teachers and administrators may find it more useful than student affairs personnel. Although we applaud the editor for taking on multiple types of campus violence, especially the emphasis on forms that have typically been ignored or dismissed (such as bullying, hazing, and stalking), the goal of covering so many different topics makes the book disjointed at times. Additionally, it is unclear how some of the chapters fit into the overall specified aim of preventing campus violence. Nonetheless, this book is very accessible to a wide audience. It moves beyond the coverage of theory and statistics to the provision of sensible and specific recommendations, which will make it a useful tool for any who work with college students.