American Campus was and is usually idealized to be a sanctum for academic study. However, beneath the semblance of peaceful ivory tower, American campus nowadays is on and off plagued by an alloy of miscellaneous violence which has increasingly become a serous social problem. On the one hand, violence is taking place on American campus on a more frequent basis, and on the other hand, the way the violence is committed tends to be crueler, more violent and traumatically hurtful. In view of the increasingly worsening situation, it would be of enormous significance to look into the nature and scope of current violence on American campus and reveal the root causes for campus violence.
This thesis presents the vandalistic behavior, bullying, sexual violence, hate violence, and mass murder as the typical violence typology on campus. According to the social learning theory, violence is interpreted as an outcome of students appropriating from their environments and popular culture aggressive behavior. Drawing upon the social learning theory, this thesis looks into a complex set of social factors that give rise to campus violence in the U.S., including the violence cult, gun ownership, and social tension factors such as racism, sexism and religious conflicts. Despite decades-long efforts taken by American society to combat violence, the adverse trend has not yet been reversed, or is likely to be in the foreseeable future. The underlying reason in that respect lies in some cultural, political and social forces deep-rooted in the American culture, which make the campus violence disease determinedly intractable, or even ineradicable. In this sense, to understand campus violence is in fact to understand American culture and society.
Key words: Campus Violence, Social Learning Theory, American Society, Causes and RootsContents
Introduction......................................... ..................................................1 Chapter One American Campus Violence: an Overview...................5 1.1 Definition.................................................................................5 1.2 Campus Violence Typology....................................................7 1.2.1 Vandalistic Behaviors....................................................8 1.2.2 Bullying..........................................................................8 1.2.3 Sexual Violence..............................................................9 1.2.4 Hate Violence....................................................................10 1.2.5 Mass Murder/Shooting....................................................11 1.3 Summary....................................................................................12 Chapter Two Causes of Campus Violence............................................. 14 2.1 The Theories on Violence.......................................................14 2.2 Violence Cult...........................................................................16 2.2.1 Violence Cult in American History.................................16 2.2.2 Violence on Mass Media....................................................18 2.2.3 Violence Cult on Campus................................................20 2.3 Social Tension.........................................................................22 2.3.1 Racism...........................................................................23 2.3.2 Religious Conflict............................................................252.3.3 Sexism...........................................................................27 2.4 Easy Access to Gun.................................................................29 Chapter Three The Intractable Nature of Campus Violence...............33 3.1 Cultural Legacy: Radical Individualism..................................33 3.2 Political Clout: Pro-Gun Interest Group..................................36 3.3 Social Institution: Escalated Social
Tension.................... .. .............. .............. .............. ................................38 Conclusion............................... ................................................................40 Bibliography.................................. ..........................................................421 Introduction
For many years, college campuses have been viewed as an ivory tower that is insulated from violence. In actual fact, however, the notion of the campus as a crime-free oasis is a myth, as in the case of the United States. Not only does violence or crime at large affect schools and colleges themselves in America, but in some respects its campuses have become fertile ground for violent or criminal behaviors that permeate beyond campus. The sharp escalation of youth violence from the mid-1980s to the early 1990s led to the descriptions of it as “unprecedented” (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 1992), as “epidemic” (Tolmas, 1998: 483-492; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2001), and “ubiquitous” (Tolan, 2001), respectively. In 2005, the FBI declared 2,712 known violent crimes in the universities and colleges across all states. According to the estimates by the Department of Justice, the number of juveniles arrested for violent crimes will double by the year 2010(Snyder & Sickmund, 2006: 111). With the escalation of campus violence, many scholars have made great efforts to study the problem from different perspectives. Deanna C. Linville, for example, examines how extracurricular activities, such as participation in non-school clubs, religious activities, exercise frequency and number of sports team memberships relate to rural youth violence (2005: 483-492). Ann Bellotti attributes the etiology of violence in the college and university setting to beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors which may predispose, enable, and reinforce violence (1995: 105-123). Thomas W. Farmer and Elizabeth M. Z. Farmer suggest that aggression and school violence involve the contributions of both school social dynamics and the developmental histories of youth who are at risk for involvement in antisocial behavior (2004: 377-396). In these earlier studies on campus violence, there is a tendency to define the scope of the problem of campus violence narrowly, and this is likely to impede the understanding of the phenomenon and its dimensions, and compromises efforts to respond to it. In reaction to such limitation in previous studies, this thesis puts forward an integrated definition of campus violence by encompassing2 not only the violence resulting in physical harm but also the psychological or emotional trauma caused by it. Apart from putting forth an expanded definition to guide a comprehensive recognition of the problem of campus violence, this thesis draws upon the social learning theory to examine and analyze campus violence in the United States from the social, historical and cultural perspectives. In Chapter One, the author points out the conventional definition of campus violence which focuses on the visible physical harm produced by violence but neglects the psychological harm. Moreover, the usual definition ignores the violence driven by institutionalized social practices such as racism and sexism. This thesis puts forth a more integrated definition of campus violence, and based on the definition, presents hate and sexual violence that are driven by racism and sexism in society. Apart from that, campus bullying and mass shooting are two types of campus violence that have come to the forefront of the public’s attention. Chapter Two proceeds to probe into the social factors that give rise to campus violence. Drawing upon the social learning theory, the thesis emphasizes that the social and cultural environment where a person is exposed to plays an influencing part in a person's behavior. Campus is a microcosm of society at large and the violence cult of America constitutes the fundamental cause of American campus violence. In At Zero Tolerance, Ronnie Casella concluded the cause of violence as follows: The United States has yet to view violence as an outcome of a national history that has been violent, of an economic system that creates the social isolation and hopelessness that causes some violence, and a culture that has come to accept and even prosper from everyday forms of aggression against the less powerful in the world. Unfortunately, this context of violence is not even recognized until it is the white and middle-class kids who become embroiled in the mayhem…” (2001:37).3
However, the origins of violence lie in a complex set of influence. No single factor can provide the definitive answer to the question of why students commit violence so often and so casually. In addition to the violence cult, other social factors contributing campus violence need to be taken into account. A sample of 222 African American, Mexican American, or European American undergraduate students completed questionnaires assessing lifetime exposure to interpersonal violence and current levels of psychological distress. The frequency of interpersonal violence was high: 39.2% of the students reported direct exposure to at least one violent, nonsexual life event and 43.7% reported at least one violent sexual experience. 14% of the participants had lifetime diagnoses of post-traumatic stress disorder, with the highest reported rate occurring for the African Americans, who also reported more violent sexual and nonsexual experiences and higher levels of psychological distress. Women reported more direct sexual experiences whereas men reported more nonsexual violent events (Satcher, 2001: 7). Given that the respondents who had been victimized all came from minority groups, and that the female respondents were the easy targets of sexual violence, this sample indicates that racism and sexism are still directly or indirectly causing campus violence. Moreover, the campus simply reflects the greater problem in society, where firearms are used in 60% of homicides, 41 % of robberies, 23 % of aggravated assaults, and 10 % of rapes (Espelage & Swearer, 2003: 365-383). The easy access to gun is another factor that facilitates the prevalence of campus violence.
Chapter Three looks into the forces deep-rooted in American society that makes the eradication of violence on campus difficult or even impossible. This is approached from three aspects: cultural, political and social. First, the thesis argues that individualism, as a highly lauded cultural legacy of the nation, bestows excessive freedom to the individuals. Secondly, with the gun interest group pursuing lucrative profits and backing up the gun ownership, gun acquisition won’t be restricted within a short time soon. Finally, as the social tension resulting from the racial, sexual as well4 as religious conflicts keeps escalating, the malaise of campus violence is likely to remain unchanged in a foreseeable future.
As campus violence worsens off, it is worth attention and serious research work by related scholars and campus authority. This paper is a tentative attempt in this direction, intended to shed some light on the study of American campus violence.5 Chapter One American Campus Violence: an Overview
Campus violence has been present on American campus ever since the existence of campus and it has become one of the trickiest and the most serious issues in American society. Each year the boundaries of violence extend. Many scholars have studied the subject and formulated their own versions of definition for campus violence.
The concept of “violence” literally means physical force used to inflict injury or damage. It connotes an intense manifestation of strength, usually involving some severe physical effects. As Gerald Priestland says, “. . . the essence of violence is that physical power is deliberately employed, with the ultimate sanction of physical pain, and little choice but surrender or physical resistance”(1974: 19). And the archetypal act of violence--the image that we are likely to have of it-is something like punching someone on the nose, or stabbing them, or beating them. Accordingly, campus violence is conventionally defined as the use of force, often “extreme physical force”, by a student toward other people or himself/herself that results in harm. Berg defined violence in the campus setting as “the use or threat of physical force with the intent of causing physical injury, damage or intimidation of another person” (2000:18). However, this kind of definition omits two critical elements of harm. First, it excludes the emotional and psychological pain that results from dominance of some over others. Violence on today’s campus is more insidious, invisible, and psychologically harmful and can be done in a more explicitly civilized manner. Without sustaining actual physical force, one can still fall easy prey to violence, such as the tacit violence, discriminatory trauma and psychological abuse; second, the said definition ignores the violence of social process that produces systematic social injury, such as that perpetuated through institutionalized racism and sexism. According to the theory of social learning initiated by Albert Bandura, individuals imitate as well as interpret and6 interact with the message of society. “[P]eople are not simply reactors to external influences; they select, organize, and transform the stimuli that impinge upon them”(1977: 89). In the case of campus violence, people living in an environment that prescribes certain violence “standards” or practice as normative will be nurtured to accept and come to terms with these acquiesced practices of violence. It should be noted that both racial and sexual violence are not rare across American campus. The implicitly rampant racism, sexism and religious discrimination in society result in hate violence with regard to race, sexuality and religion. The hate violence tends to exert on individuals or groups adverse psychological or mental impact, which might be more harmful than physical harms. For example, gender discrimination has been shown to create harmful effects on female students’ learning experience. When a teacher favors male students over females, because of the former’s seemingly extroverted classroom participation, they disadvantage females and oppress their potential development, which can lead to feelings of inadequacy, anger, and long-term depression. As a result, the conventional definition of campus violence neglects harmful institutionalized social and educational processes, including acts and processes of institutionalized racism or sexism, other discrimination, labeling and tracking, sexual harassment, and predation (Henry, 1999: 18). Based on this analysis, when enumerating the concrete violent acts on campus, it is not adequate to assume that physical violence such as shoving, pinching, hitting, fighting, or aggravated assault cover the whole spectrum of campus violence to the neglect of such hidden violence as verbal and psychological abuse, racially, sexually and religiously driven hate crimes that produce psychological harms other than physical injuries. Moreover, it should be noted that the exercise of the power to harm, as mentioned earlier, can also be accomplished by such factors as sexism, ageism and racism.
The overlook of these broader dimensions of campus violence causes the missing of much of the content and many causes of violence on campus. In order to have a7 more accurate concept of campus violence, a more integrated definition of campus violence is necessary. A more accurate and integrated definition should first of all replace the term “force” with “power” and by suggesting that violence is the use of power to harm another, whatever form that takes. So, the key point here is the use of power and the harm it causes when applied in a wrong way. Power is easy to understand. When broadly defined, it means the capacity to bring about change. It takes many forms, comes from many places and is measured in many ways. What is more difficult is how to define harm. What is harm? Harm, when narrowly conceived, is physical pain and suffering. But an expansive view says harm can also occur along many dimensions, beyond the physical, to include psychological or emotional; material or economic; social or identity; moral or ethical. For example, physical harms produce bodily pain or loss; material harms remove some of the person’s economic standing; psychological harms have destructive effects on the human mind and weaken a person’s emotional or mental functioning; social and symbolic harms lower a person’s social status; moral or ethical harms corrupt standards of concern for the well-being of others (as in hate, pressure to cheat, and the like). With the inclusion of social practices as factors contributing to violence and the expansion on the resultant harm from violence, this thesis defines campus violence as the intentional use of power, threatened or actual, by some individual, or social process, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community that either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, mal-development, or deprivation. Based on this definition, the next section will put forward the representative typology of campus violence that merit attention by campus authority and U.S. government.8
1.2 Campus Violence Typology
Based on the more integrated definition of campus violence as stated above, we can distinguish five modes in which violence may be inflicted: Vandalistic Behavior; Bullying; Hate Crime; Sexual Violence; Mass Murder/Shooting. 1.2.1 Vandalistic Behaviors
Vandalistic behavior refers to the willful or malicious damage to school grounds and buildings or furnishings and equipment. Although it does not necessarily involve or produce either explicit or implicit physical violence, bloody scene or violent confrontation between the youth, it is likely to cause psychological trauma on the targets. Specific examples for school vandalism include glass breakage, graffiti, and general property destruction. In the U.S., these behaviors might be the external embodiment of anti-Semitism, one of the main motivations for the vandalistic behavior on campus. Nazi-related graffiti, such as the swastika, are more often than not found painted on the campus property to remind the Jews of the painful past. There has also been defacement done to numerous campus areas, such as the bobcat face, newly paved sidewalks and commuters’ cars. In other case of vandalism, it is found that students smear petroleum jelly on the school’s windows, throw birdseed and flour against the windows, dump paper in a courtyard and shot the building with paintballs. Arson also qualifies as vandalistic behavior due to its intention. According to the U.S. Department of Education (n.d.), there were 1,098 cases of campus arson reported in 2002 (Joetta L. Carr, 2005: 9). Over the past two decades, concerns about school violence, weapons, drugs, and gangs have eclipsed apprehension and discussion about school vandalism, its causes, and possible responses. However, the alarming fact is that vandalistic behavior continues to occur regularly and to affect a significant proportion of U.S. campus.
Bullying refers to unprovoked physical or psychological abuse of an individual by one or a group of students over time to create an ongoing pattern of harassment and abuse (Batsche & Knoff, 1994:165-174; Hoover, Oliver, & Thomson, 1993; Olweus, 1991:143-150). It is among the largely neglected aspect of low-level American campus violence. Not only does bullying produce physical harm, it also results in psychological detriments. Bullying usually takes place when there is an imbalance of power between aggressor and victim, and moreover, the aggressive acts are deliberate and repeated (Farrington 1993; Olweus, 1993; Smith & Sharp, 1994). Although bullying is largely neglected, its occurrence frequency and coverage are both higher than other high-level campus violence. Bullying victimization is estimated to affect 15% to 20% of the U.S. student population, with verbal teasing and intimidation being the most common form and boys are reported to be victims at a higher rate than girls (Furlong, Chung, Bates, & Morrison, 1995:289-298). Students grow up and leave school-including those mean kids of long ago, but in a certain sense the bully never actually grows up; he or she still bullies, harasses, and intimidates others. Little has changed over the years in this regard, with the possible exception that things may have gotten immeasurably worse-especially within the context of schooling.
The gang is a cause that leads to campus bullying. Like any group of people who engage in socially disruptive or criminal behavior, gangs on campus create an atmosphere of fear and intimidation. To a certain extent, the campus has become a breeding ground for gang, and the juvenile and young adults associate together to victimize, bully and intimidate school members, carry out antisocial activities, such as bomb-making, satanic websites visiting. The presence of the gang on campus undermines the campus climate to a great extent and accordingly, exerts negative impacts on the learning and instruction activities.
1.2.3 Sexual Violence10
The United Nation’s Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women defines violence against women as “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or mental harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life. Kilmartin observes, “[R]ape and other partner violence are the worst symptom of a larger problem: a continuum of disrespect toward women. This continuum includes men’s display of negative attitudes through misogynist jokes, demeaning pornography... and runs to the most extreme form of violence: gender motivated murder. Such an analysis also emphasizes power imbalances between the sexes and the social forces that create and maintain these imbalances.” (2007: 23)
In a country like the United States which finds sexism so prevailing in people’s mentality, sexual violence is not rare on American campus. It mainly includes sexual assault, stalking and dating violence. College campuses host large concentrations of young women who are at greater risk for rape and other forms of sexual assault than women in the general population or in a comparable age group. Stalking is particularly prevalent on college campuses; in fact, more than half of all stalking victims are between 18-29 years old, and 13% of college women have been stalked. In 1981, Makepeace published the first report on dating violence, revealing that one in five college couples are involved in violent relationships. Recent studies show that as many as one in three college couples will be involved in at least one incident of violence during the course of their dating relationship (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2000; Lewis & Fremouw, 2001:80-84).
1.2.4 Hate Violence
Hate violence and its resultant victimization are becoming more prominent on America’s college campuses. Also known as bias-motivated violence, hate violence occurs when a perpetrator targets a victim because of his or her membership in a11 certain social group, usually defined by racial group, religion, sexual orientation, disability, ethnicity, nationality, age, gender, or political affiliation and as a result, it is revealed that sexism, racism, anti-Semitism, anti-Islamism and homosexuality have all induced and would continue to trigger off the occurrence of hate crime, which can take many forms. Incidents may involve physical assault, damage to property, bullying, harassment, verbal abuse or insults, or offensive graffiti or letters. They occur at virtually every type of college and university and in every part of the nation. Perpetrators of these incidents include current and former students and non-students. According to criminologist Dr. Jack McDevitt, hate crime is different from other crimes in that the offender is sending a message to members of a certain group that they are unwelcome in a particular neighborhood, community, school, or workplace. By far the largest determinant of hate crimes is racial bias, with the group of African Americans at greatest risk. Apart from the hate crime against the Black Americans, there are ones committed against Hispanics, because of their immigration status. 1.2.5 Mass Murder/Shooting
The April 2007 massacre of 32 victims on the otherwise bucolic campus of Virginia Tech University sent shockwaves through college and university communities across America. Not only was it the most devastating violent episode ever to occur at an institution of higher learning, it was the largest mass shooting of any kind in the nation's history. Gun violence is the lethal form of campus violence. According to a recent national survey of 26,000 college students on 61 campuses, 7% of the students carried a gun or knife on the previous days. The study indicated that 11% of the men and 4% women surveyed carried weapons. Extrapolated, this means that approximately 1 million (to be exact, 980,000) students carry weapons on campus. 18% of high school students now carry a knife, razor, firearm, or other weapon on a regular basis, and 9% of them take a weapon to school. According to a national survey of 26,000 college students on 61 campuses in 1992, 7% of students carried a12 gun or knife. The outcome of such a “heavily armed students group” has been severe. In 1992, for example, 5,262 young people died from gunshot wounds, and an estimated 23,167 students suffered nonfatal firearm injuries that were treated in hospital emergency rooms from June 1992 through May 1993 (James Mercy & Mark Rosenberg, 1998).
As demonstrated above, the most common campus violence takes forms of Vandalistic Behavior; Bullying; Hate Crime; Sexual Violence; Mass Murder/Shooting. Violence accounts for much of the morbidity and mortality among adolescents in the United States (National Center for Health Statistics, 2003). All the five types of violence are pervasive on American campuses. It was estimated that bullying victimization is calculated to affect 15% to 20% of the U.S. student population, with verbal teasing and intimidation being the most common form and boys reported to be victims at a higher rate than girls (Furlong, Chung, Bates, & Morrison, 1995: 289-298). In the year of 1995, the Federal Bureau of Investigation conducted a study specific to the problem of hate crimes on the college campus. The study included 450 higher education institutions from 40 states. Of the 450 institutions surveyed, 222 or 49% reported an incident of a hate crime. It has been estimated that almost one million college students experience racially or ethnically motivated violence annually. In a study of 1,012 racially, ethnically, and socio-economically diverse students enrolled in various campus in Los Angeles, O'Keefe found that violence in dating relationships was a frequent occurrence: 43% of the females and 39% of the males reported that they had inflicted some form of physical aggression on their dating partners at least once (1997: 546-568). Unfortunately, current epidemiological reports suggest that this form of violence is on the rise. Between 1994 and 1999, there were 220 school-associated violent events resulting in 253 deaths—74.5% of these involved firearms. Handguns caused almost 60% of these deaths. (Journal of American Medical Association, December 2001).13
Such pervasive violence on campus brings about detrimental consequences. School violence has been reported as one of the most important and devastating social problems facing school children and their parents, to the extent that students perceive their school context as an unsafe environment (Astor and Meyer, 2001: 374-399). It is recognized that disruptive behaviors on campus interferes with not only teaching, but also diminishes ability to focus on academic pursuits. The fears about school safety subvert the academic endeavor, and that victimized children experience psychological reactions that interfere with the learning process (American Association of University Women, 2001)14
Chapter Two Causes of Campus Violence
In the previous one, this thesis puts forth a more integrated definition of campus violence vis-à-vis the conventional definition that ignores the psychological facet. Based on such a broader definition, Chapter Two will adopt corresponding theories and probe into the social factors that give rise to the campus violence in American society.
2.1 The Theories on Violence
There are as many theories of violence as there are forms of violence, and these theories have been discussed in exhaustive detail in a number of books and articles. Briefly speaking, theories of violence fall into several categories. (1) Social learning theory interprets violence as “learned behavior,” an outcome of students appropriating from their environments and popular culture aggressive behavior and then considering violence as norm which they replicate in their own interaction with others (David Johnson & Roger Johnson, 1995). (2) Rational choice theories identifies poor reasoning skills as the cause of violence, in which case, individuals weigh the consequences of a violent crime against the possible benefits and make the rational choice to be violent-in a sense, individuals determine that “crime pays”( Jeffrey Fagan & Deanna L. Wilkinson, 1998). (3) Structural theories of violence that focuses on social and environmental conditions such as poverty. Here, violence is viewed as a systemic problem having to do with inequities in the world and a general breakdown of relations between people, which leads to social isolation, frustration, and aggression (Frederic Thrasher, 1927). (4) Biological theories focus on medical conditions and biolo1gical traits of violent offenders and have roots in eugenic explanations of criminal behavior, where criminal tendencies are identified in people's physical and psychological “stigmata” —essentially, in a person's natural makeup (David Green, 1985). (5) Interactionist theory incorporates some combination of social learning and structural theories and view violence in connection to how people15 make sense and interpret their experiences and circumstances (Brandley Levinson, Douglas Foley, & Dorothy Holland, 1996). Although these theories on violence make sense in one way or another, social learning theory has been at the forefront of explaining how external influences affect the way people behave and cited as one of the most relevant and plausible theories regarding the acquisition of violence tendency.
According to the social learning theory, people learn through modeling and imitation. Albert Bandura, who is often considered as the forefather of the theory, explained that “most human behavior is learned observationally through modeling: from observing others one forms an idea of how new behaviors are performed, and on later occasion this coded information serves as a guide for action.” Social learning theory has been at the forefront of explaining how influences such as media affect young children. In his book, Social Learning and Personality Development, Bandura and his colleague, Richard Walters, concluded that “imitation plays an important role in the acquisition of deviant, as well as of conforming, behavior.” They reiterated in their own work the basic explanation put forth several decades earlier by the anthropologist Gladys Reichard, who stated that “children do not do what adults tell them to do, but rather what they see adults do”(Gladys Reichard, 1938: 409-86). In probing into the causes of campus violence, attention must be given to the experiences of young people and how those experiences are interpreted by them. These experiences should include those in the community and school and with others but also experiences that students have with their popular culture, with the military (including JROTC organizations in high schools), and their knowledge of easy access to weapons. Cultures are created in neighborhoods, families, and states, and within a national context. What is easily accepted in the United States, what is produced and used, how individuals view themselves in relation to others, all add up to define what U.S. culture is like and who Americans are as a people. If U.S. society continues to support militarism, to tolerate the mass manufacturing and distribution of weapons16 that have caused what health experts call a national health crisis in the country, and to patronize needless violence in the media, then, those who take part in such activities continue to produce a culture that is partly defined by violence. This violence may, if other factors fall into place, lead to youth and school violence. Campus violence is just one part of violence in the rest of society. According to the influence argument, it can be inferred that America’s violence cult, the dissemination of violence via mass media, and the institutionalized sexism, racism in society all exert influences on the person who is exposed to the context.
2.2 Violence Cult
Revolving around the social learning theory, the following section will discuss the violence cult America practices historically and militarily, how the institutionalized sexism and racism still take foothold in contemporary America, including on American campus, and how these factors contribute to the happening of violence on campus.
Violence is a defining characteristic of U.S. culture. Just like Ronnie Casella said in At Zero Tolerance: “U.S. has benefited from violence. Through violence, the country has sustained economic and political might abroad, has bolstered domestic and international expansions, and has served international interventions.” Violence is so pervasive in America that it symbolizes freedom, masculinity, dominance, and power. To understand America's cult on violence, it is necessary to look at it from the historical perspective, as violence is historically consistent and it has been woven into the very fabric of American personality. The following section will look into American cult of violence from American history, and the contemporary mass media. 2.2.1 Violence Cult in American History
As Howard Smead said, “Americans are an extraordinarily violent people who possess the most violent history of any western nation”(1999: 28). The turbulent17 history was charged with fights from the earliest start with the native Indians to the later English colonizer. Howard Smead summarized that, “violence is our mother’s milk. It has given us an incredible breadth of freedom and personal liberty.” It was exactly by resorting to violent protests and rioting that American won their sovereignty and freedoms from the English colonizers. Violence was seen as the only plausible solution to refuse to bow down to preposterous and extremely cruel reign, to rise up against totalitarian regime. The Independence War to protest the persecution and exploitation by the English colonizer testified to the violence tendency and its victory bolstered the popularized belief in the reincarnating magic of violence. Violent conflict was legitimate because it was potentially redemptive and in this way tied into narratives of progress and “civilization.” The Independence War made up an excuse for the admiring of violence and violence was glorified as a holy and sublimated means to seek salvation, to aspire to freedom, to reclaim the inviolable sovereignty and also to check and contain a government from abusing its citizens and ever since the Independence War, the turbulent history had seen the invoking of violence as a solution to problems. Violence was worshipped as it also symbolized power, an individual's freedom to control one's own fate and violent self-assertion determined social status. “Violence was an integral part of the romantic, hedonistic, hell-of-fellow personality created by the absence of external restraint that is characteristic of a frontier.” What historian Sheldon Hackney wrote about violence on the southern frontier was typical of violence anywhere in America (Sheldon Hackney, 1933: 65-80).
America’s worship of violence can also be reflected from its militarism or military aggression abroad. Since World War II, the United States has become the nation most willing to use worldwide military force against enemies and is the leader in the sale of armaments to the rest of the world. Between 1994 and 1996, the United States exported $ 67.3 billion dollars worth of armaments. This is 55% of global arms exports and is quadruple the share of its closest competitor (Franklin Zimring, 1991). Although the question whether war has directly or indirectly encouraged an American18 predisposition toward aggressiveness and the use of violence or whether it is the reverse has never been satisfactorily worked out by American scholars, yet one thing remains certain. When people have witnessed violence sanctioned in the name of law, order, justice and morality, they find it easy to try using violence themselves as a “just” means to solve their own problems. In so doing, they are merely imitating what their government has behaved-if the cause is just, the grievance real, then unlimited power and force can be used (Gilula & Daniels, 1969:402).
Violence is an integral part of the United States for a very real reason: it has benefited the country immeasurably. Through the Revolutionary War, the massacre of Native Americans, slavery, and all forms of Western and worldwide expansion, the United States has come to be a great world power. The two World Wars, in American’s memories, remained a glorious time when the whole nation got “unified, loyal, efficient, immensely productive, brilliantly and humanely led” (Robertson, 1980: 329). It could also be learned from the past that the United States rose to world dominance not simply because it enjoyed trade or carried noble ideals to the far corners of the world, but because “in the first and last resort, it has applied military force as effectively as its commercial interests and as relentlessly as its democratic ideals” (Garrison, 2004: 88). Violence in the United States, even in schools, is wound up with the entire culture and governance of the country.
Social learning model highlights that it is the socialization experiences that shape individuals to be violent. Social learning theory posits that humans learn social behavior by observing others’ behavior and the consequences of that behavior, forming ideas about what behaviors are appropriate, trying those behaviors, and continuing them if the results are positive (O'Leary, 1988). Throughout American history up to the current ages, the recourse to violence is justified and rationalized. 2.2.2 Violence on Mass Media19
Watching TV, films, listening to music or radio, logging on the Internet comprises an important part of individual socialization and can be a powerful influence in developing value systems and shaping behavior. Albert Bandura believes in the importance of observing and modeling the behaviors, attitudes, and emotional reactions of others especially in films and television. Most human behavior is learned observationally through modeling that is, from observing others one forms an idea of how new behaviors are performed, and on later occasion this coded information serves as a guide for action (Bandura, 1977: 22). Social learning theory explains human behavior in terms of continuous reciprocal interaction between cognitive, behavioral, and an environmental influences.
With the advanced technology, mass media is highly penetrating into the lives of everyone. In 2004, 87% of American households have more than one television, and 88.7% of homes with children have home video game equipment, a personal computer, or both. An average teenager listens to 10,500 hours of rock music during the years between the 7th and 12th grades. More than 248 million computer and video games were sold, almost two games for every household in America. 83% of all video games sold in 2004 were rated “E” for everyone or “T” for Teen (Moffitt, T. 1993). Unfortunately, this high availability of mass media to the average American is taken advantage of to disseminate violence. Much of today’s media programming is violent and saturated with violence image which testifies to America’s culture of violence as reflected in contemporary mass media, and the young audience is experiencing high exposure to violence. As a child watches Saturday morning cartoons, he or she is supplied with 26.4 incidents of violence per hour (Hill & Hill, 1994: 7). An August 1994 report by the Center for Media and Public Affairs reported that in one 18-hour day in 1992, observing 10 channels of all major kinds of programs, 1,846 different scenes of violence were noted, which translated to more than 10 violent scenes per hour, per channel, all day. By the time a child is twelve years old, he or she will have been exposed to 18,000 television murders (Sadovnik, Cookson, & Semel, 2001: 131).They tend to gradually accept violence as a way to solve problems by imitating20 the violence they observe on television; and they identify with certain characters, good or bad. A meta-analysis of 188 studies found a strong positive association between exposure to television violence and antisocial and aggressive behavior (Comstock & Paik, 1990; Paik & Comstock, 1994). For boys media that are both sexually and violently explicit can have the effect of increasing acceptance of violence toward women, and lowering compassion for victims of sexual aggressions (Janet St. Lawrence & Doris Joyner, 1991). Both Harris and Klebold, the perpetuator of the Columbine high school massacre were fans of video games such as Doom and Wolfenstein 3D.
Despite psychologists’ pleas to the television industry to scale back and portray violence realistically, TV programs continue to glamorize shootings, fistfights and pistol-whippings, and much of TV violence continues to be sanitized while much of the serious physical aggression on television is still trivialized. With such considerable exposure to violence in cartoons, movies, soap operas, and especially in the news, with the violence glorified and normalized, with such messages as materialism, easy sex, drug use and violence disseminating far and wide across American cultural environment, young people are nurtured to get accustomed to violence, view violence as normative and subconsciously resort to violence when faced with hazardous situation. That's why extensive viewing of television violence by young audience causes greater aggressiveness and therefore much copy-cat violence takes place on campus (Rosenthal, 1986).
2.2.3 Violence Cult on Campus
Teen-age stage is not only the key period of physiological and mental growth, but also the main stage of conflicts of mind and psychology, the rise of high behavior problem. Jide Zha stated that, “Violent behavior is just one of the manifestations, and it is a kind of reaction produced in consequence of urgent circumstance in socialization” (2004: 3). A male student is socially expected to be able to prove that21 he is a “man” and this is the foremost pressure on a male adolescent. During adolescence and early youth, this pressure is particularly acute. It is the core of male peer pressure, which is now a recognized adolescent concern. It is often a matter of life and death for boys/ men and a failure to prove one’s manhood may even drive an isolated young man to suicide. This “masculinity” pressure can turn this otherwise beautiful period of a man’s life into a nightmare.
Virtues such as aggression, strength, courage and endurance have repeatedly been defined as natural and specific characteristics of men and embodiment of masculinity. Violence is perceived as the only available technique of expressing and validating masculinity. Some young men see fighting as a proof of manliness, because in fights they can control both themselves and their opponents. Even if they lose a fight as such, it is seen as proof of their ability to control pain. It can be found out that violence is worshipped and campus students in their adolescent age practice violence cult. As a matter of fact, violence cult on campus proves to be backed up by the same rationalization as that justifies the violence cult in American history. Violence is deemed as a chivalrous and gallant way of settling conflicts; violence is the means to assert one's power, rough individualism and masculine manhood. It is believed by some male students on campus that “violence, is in a way, power—the power to rule people. If people are afraid of you, you have power over them. You can make them do what you want” (John Chapin & David Gleason, 2004: 360). This perspective accounts for the motivation in resorting to violence for the perpetration of violence on campus. This is the predominate ideology that justifies the use of violence among campus students. When surrounded in a group that cult violence, the desire for fitting in or conformity leads one to imitate or acquiesce with violence. Violence is also adopted as a means to seek dominance. For example, bullying among school students manifest a cultural misunderstanding of the use of power, as suggested by Espelage (Orecklin, Pelligrini and Bartini, 2000), who reported that school student resorted to bullying to establish dominance in this new school grouping.22 Too often, youngsters perceive that denigrating others is the surest route to achieve prominence within a new school. Pollack emphasized that boys actually admire aggression and violent behavior (2000:28).
2.3 Social Tension
According to a study specific to the problem of hate crimes on the college campus conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation on a scale of 450 higher education institutions from 40 states, it was found that 222 out of the 450 higher education institutions reported 241 incidents of hate crimes in 1998. These hate crimes included 137 racially motivated hate crimes, 43 anti-Semitic hate crimes, 39 sexual orientation hate crimes, and 22 hate crimes committed for other reasons. The study demonstrates that racism, sexism as well as religious affiliation constitute one of the major factors contributing to campus violence. In an increasingly diverse United States, demographers anticipate that by 2020, students of color will comprise 46 % of the nation’s total student population. International students, representing more than 185 countries, constitute a very heterogeneous group of individuals in the United States (Institute of International Education, 2004). They differ markedly with respect to nationality, race, ethnicity, cultural norms and customs, physical appearance, and linguistic background. Notwithstanding the remarkable heterogeneity of the international student population, some researchers have argued that international students are stereotyped by their American peers, university faculty, university administrators, and members of the general community (Leong & Chou, 1996; Mestenhauser, 1983; Pedersen, 1991). As discussed by Spencer-Rodgers (2001:23), a number of specific characteristics are commonly ascribed to international students as a whole. Scholars have suggested that international students in the United States are viewed as handicapped, deficient (Mestenhauser, 1983), or bewildered (Pedersen, 1991) and lacking English-language ability and familiarity with the U.S. educational system (Paige, 1990). Although racism in twenty-first century America is harder to see than its previous incarnations, subtler racialized patterns in policies and23 practices permeate the political, economic, and socio-cultural structures of America. As a result, the presiding sentiment of discrimination against the minority group tends to breed racism among college students.
The racial mosaic in American higher education is complex. Among college freshmen in 1985, the largest racial minority group was Afro-Americans, who constituted about 10 % of the total student population. Hispanics represented somewhat over 2 % of the student population, with Asian-Americans another two percent. Native Americans were under one percent. Foreign students, largely from Asia and Africa, made up another 2 % of the student population. In such a racially diverse environment, the hatred against non-whites is spawn. Prejudice and discrimination looms over and wafts all around the campus. American is not as open, tolerant, receptive and racially accommodating as it has claimed and American campus is no exception. The following description by an African student reflects the implicit racism on campus.
Race affects every facet of my life, man. I can’t get past race because White folks won’t let me get past it. They remind me of it everywhere I go. Every time I step in an elevator and a White woman bunches up in the corner like she thinks I wanna rape her, I'm forced to think about it. Every time I walk into stores, the suspicious looks in White shopkeepers’ eyes make me think about it. Every time I walk past Whites sitting in their cars, I hear the door locks clicking and I think about it. I can’t get away from it, man. I stay so mad all the time because I’m forced to spend so much time and energy reacting to race. I hate it. It wearies me. But there’s no escape, man, No escape. (McCall, 1994: 346)
Just as Nathan McCall (1994) confides in the above epigraph, race still matters in the 21st century of the United States. McCall’s work recounts firsthand observations24 of Black men in contemporary U.S. society and challenges the validity of the claims of a color-blind society. Integration of students of diverse colors is far from enough. Over 90% of students agree that students predominantly cluster by race and ethnicity on campus. At the same time, however, only a small majority (52%) said that students rarely socialized across racial lines. In an ethnographic observation of students in the cafeteria at a major northeastern university, researchers concluded that Blacks and Whites generally treated each other with “indifference in public places” (Asante & Al-deen, 1984: 514). Ethnic clustering in the cafeteria is the rule, rather than the exception and is viewed differently by the races. Whites see it negatively, as racial segregation, but minorities valued it as a source of support within an unsupportive culture (Loo & Rolison, 1986). School policies may also contribute to re-segregation. When teachers and administrators segregate students into honors, regular, vocational, and remedial classes that create racially or ethnically homogeneous groups, the classes often magnify already existing stereotypes and discrimination (Schofield, 1995).
On campus, specific types of racial acts include racial harassment or hostility, racial discrimination or avoidance and discriminatory harassment, aversive hostility. The racism or discrimination against the Black is the most predominant among all the forms of racism and it is materialized through hate speech and face-to-face slurs against the Black: mails containing such libelous information as of “stinking black monkeys” from “a white society” would be addressed to Black targets with a signature of K.K.K.; threatening phone calls to blacks are on and off made; vandal graffiti sending hate message are painted on campus walls. The racist white group, hoping to disseminate the sentiments of white supremacy, white pride and white power, even go so far as to advocate racial cleansing and the deportation, if not extermination, of blacks and Jews. This subtle racism might actually be more, not less, damaging than the plain antipathy of yesterday, sapping more mental energy. In the Phantom Menace or Why College Campus Racism and Intolerance Will Outlive Us All, Hinda Adele Barlaz has remarked that violence is not far from the surface in25 matters of racism and ethnic differences, everywhere we turn, basic human differences beget “violence.”
Quoting from Janis V. Sanchez-Hucles, it can be argued racism is a significant source of emotional abusiveness, psychological stressor and trauma for people of color. The racism hidden in American campus has resulted in psychological and emotional effects on those victims. Apart from causing extreme emotional stress, such as anger, sadness, depression, it also leads to avoidance and hyper-vigilance. 2.3.2 Religious Conflict
A moment’s reflection attests that religion and violence are often woven together in history’s tapestries. Any number of religions has justified violence under certain circumstances, and others have become caught up in its processes. In the ancient world, Zoroastrianism transformed earlier combat myths into a theology of eternal apocalyptic struggle between good and evil (Cohn 1993: 114), and ancient Judaism forged a confederacy under conditions of war (Schluchter 1989:185). Early Christianity had its martyrs, and the medieval Roman church, its crusades and Inquisition. As for Islam, the close association between rulership and religion with the principle of jihad (or holy war) as a vessel of reformation infuse politics with enduring potential for violence.
Although no modern religion promotes violence in its central tenants, and certain religions —Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism— leave little room for violence in either theology or practice, the disparity in religious affiliation can be a big source for campus conflict. Many surveys have noted that there has been a particular growth in the level of intolerance and discrimination against those of the Muslim or Jewish faiths, and the ‘Islamophobia’ (Fear and dislike of Islam and Muslims) has been on the rise in some parts of the world, particularly since the events of 11 September 2001 and July 2005. The problem has been exacerbated by inflated warnings in the media about Islamic fundamentalism on campuses. This negative climate can affect the lives26 of Muslims on HEI campuses. Muslim students have, in a number of cases, been victims of hate crimes and intolerance on campus. Six years on, many American Muslims complain that they continue to face discrimination and stereotyping because of their Islamic attires or identities. In August 2006, a USA Today/Gallup poll showed that 39 % of Americans said they feel prejudiced toward Muslims, estimated to number nearly seven millions. Besides the anti-Muslims, there is also the hatred against the Semitism, which is hostility towards or prejudice against Jews or Judaism and has also been on the rise globally over the last few years. Examples of Jewish or Muslim students victimized abound on American campus, for example, James Samar, a college student, was indicted of using threats of force to interfere with the federally protected rights of three students attending a small Massachusetts college. Samar used anti-Semitic slurs, threatened two fellow students, and threatened to kill one fellow student. In addition, he delivered photographs of holocaust victims to one student and stated, among other things, that the photographs were “a reminder of what happened to your relatives because they too made a mockery of Christianity.” Not only are Jews and the Muslim the separate targets for there religions affiliation from the American students, but also on and off either the Jews or the Muslim is the reason why there is protest against one or other by some American students taking exclusive sides with Jews or Muslim. Because of the Israeli-Palestinian historical conflict, the political situation on the international arena or the state-to-state relationship, anti-Semitism finds the motivation on American campus in the name of vindicating the cruelty of the Israel in the treatment of the Palestinian, and demonstrations by pro-Palestinian groups fueled by hatred of Israel and Jews are not rare. On campus, there are posters such as “Stop the Illegal Occupation of the West Bank,” and “Stop the Killing of Palestinians.” as well as denunciation of “venom from mouth,” “suicide vest,” and “peg-leg for smuggling children and heroin” hanging to indicate the sentiments of opposition and hatred against the Israel and the Semitism or the Judaism.27
In year 2007, there was a protest campaign called “Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week” held on more than 200 American campuses. It was thought that the communist and Islamic plots to take over America were lurking on every campus and the according witch-hunts against progressive academics had been organized. The protests—including rallies, meetings and letter-writing campaigns—devolve from legitimate criticism of Israel into ugly, hateful attacks against Jews and the Jewish State. In some cases, the protest efforts have led to on-campus demonstrations where outright anti-Semitism rules the day. In several instances pro-Palestinian activists have embraced Nazi imagery such as swastikas and the use of other anti-Semitic images and stereotypes. It can’t be assured that this kind of demonstration or conflict will not lead to violence among the college students.
Sexual harassment in school is a reenactment of the larger sexism in U.S. society. American is not unfamiliar with sexism. Sexism and discrimination that favor men are not entirely a thing of the past in North America. Sexism is defined as a system of prejudice, discrimination or oppression based on gender differences that involves cultural and institutional policies and practices as well as the beliefs and actions of individuals. (Tatum, 2000: 80). Society is seen as essentially patriarchal. Males are seen as generally having more power than females and as a consequence of pervading social beliefs that they should be the dominant sex. This masculine culture and the according belief that “force and coercion are legitimate ways to gain compliance and specifically that they are legitimate in intimate and sexual relationships” lead to the fact of the male being always the perpetrator of violence against the female who is the recipient of violence. For much of recorded Western European and American history, wives had no independent legal status; they were basically their husbands' property. The right of a husband to physically chastise his wife was upheld by the Supreme Court of Mississippi in 1824 (Bradley v. State 1 Miss. 157) and again by a court in North Carolina in 1868 (State v. Rhodes, 61 N.C. 453, 353; cited in Pleck, 1989).28 From the perspective of social learning theory which does not view aggression as inevitable, but rather as a social behavior that is learned and shaped by its consequences, continuing if it is reinforced (Lore and Schultz, 1993), male violence against women endures in human societies because it is modeled both in individual families and in the society more generally and has positive results: it releases tension, leaves the perpetrator feeling better, often achieves its ends by cutting off arguments, and is rarely associated with serious punishment for the perpetrator. By sexism, it means women are treated differently from men, usually in a negative sense. There is no exact record as to when the sexism takes root, yet it has already had itself reflected in people’s daily life. Some men in our society view women as sex objects, so it’s ok for them to rate a woman on a scale of one to 10 as she walks by, to call her ‘Sweetie’ or pinch her.” This view of women is what often leads to sexual harassment. Women also experience overt negative labels, such as “bimbo,” “slut” and “bitch.” There are few, if any, such negative labels for men who are less intelligent, sexually promiscuous or lose their tempers. The conceptualized differentiation of man and woman passes on to behavioral differential treatment of women. Sexism justifies the interpersonal violence against women, which invariably exerts traumatic impact on women and this has been widely acknowledged and documented (Harvey & Herman, 1992; Kessler, Sonnega, Bromet, Hughes, & Nelson, 1995; Resnick, Kilpatrick, Dansky, Saunders, & Best, 1993). In order to maintain their dominance boys feel justified in oppressing girls. Numerous studies have, in fact, indicated that boys are more likely than girls to initiate bullying (Olweus, 1993, Smith and Sharp, 1994). Moreover, it is clear that boys are more likely to bully girls than vice versa. According to an online survey, each year in America, between 1 and 4 million women experience serious assault by an intimate partner and young women between the ages of 16-24 in dating relationships experience the highest rate of domestic violence and sexual assault.. 47% of men who beat their wives do so at least 3 times per year. Each year, an estimated 3.3 million29 children witness their mothers or female caretakers being abused. 40-60% of men who abuse women also abuse children. 26% of pregnant teens reported being physically abused by their boyfriends-about half of them said the battering began or intensified after he learned of her pregnancy. Despite the grim and unfriendly situation facing women on the whole, for most women, subtle and covert sexism are more prevalent in their lives and, therefore, more important as formative experiences. The most important thing we have learned about violence against women over the past 20 years is that violence is gendered and learned and can only be understood in the context of gender inequality. Most violence is male, and although some violence is done by females, it is far from equal and often done for very different reasons.
2.4 Easy Access to Gun
The second amendment to U.S constitution stipulates that a well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a Free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed. The right to own gun by American citizen is protected by American constitution and the history also underscored the indispensability of the role of guns.
Historically the gun was symbolic either of the soaring pioneering sprits or the assertive individuality. When the immigrants first came to the America which was a boundless expanse of uncharted, beasts-haunted, desolate land, they had to arm themselves against a variety of menaces ranging from the vagary of weather, the beasts on ambush to the battles against the Native Americans. Gun was necessary to explore the unknown land and defend their lives. Gun had maintained an indispensable status throughout the history. The late Independent War, the Westward Expansion, and the Civil War had all consolidated the position of the gun.30 By necessity Americans are heavily armed. Their lives often depend upon their skills with the long gun. Either for procuring food, defending the family or community, firearms formed a vital link in the chain of being. Even when kids are at the age of two, they would be given guns as gift which would then keep the kid company almost as their pets. In some areas, American people love hunting and the gun would be an indispensable instruments and the skill of how to handle and operate a gun is also deemed as a must. Teenagers are encouraged to practice using guns and the best shooter would be presented award as incentives. For girls, gun is the means a girl confronted with menace would resort to. Gun is what a solider would rely upon to defend his country with. Gun is thought to be the means that could aid the American citizens in deterring the American government from expanding into totalitarianism and dictatorship and help them revolt against a degrading governorship or even overthrow it to protect themselves from exploiting and persecuting them. That's why the 2nd Amendment of the US Constitution states that the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed and a well regulated Militia is necessary to the security of a Free State. And ironically this constitutional stipulation has thereupon one and off invoked by the pro-gun interests group as a supporting argument for the sale and free ownership of gun.
With the constitutional endorsement, gun is highly available to every citizen as long as he or she can afford to buy one. The gun industry marketing statistics could reveal the fact of popularized ownership of guns by almost every citizen. In 1997, America’s gun industry domestically produced 3.6 million guns—1.4 million handguns, and 2.2 million rifles and shotguns. In addition, the United States imported 980,000 guns and exported 272,000 guns. There are now approximately 70,000 dealers. According to a 1996 Police Foundation study, in 1994, 44 million Americans owned 192 million firearms, 65 million of which were handguns. Every year, there are 5,000 gun shows taking place each year in the United States. This legitimate and huge sale of guns assures every citizen can own guns.31
There is almost little restriction on the sale of guns. In some states of the American, there is practice that if one opens an account in a designated bank, the person would be given a gun as incentive. Guns are virtually the last consumer products to remain federally unregulated for health and safety. While federally licensed gun dealers must perform Brady background checks on all gun sales, in most states, a private gun owner may legally sell his or her gun without proof that the buyer has passed a criminal history check. This loophole has made gun shows a key source of crime guns. “Corrupt dealers” make it easy for criminals and juveniles to buy guns by allowing practices like “straw sales”, in which an individual buys a gun on behalf of someone who is prohibited from purchasing a gun because of a criminal conviction or his age. The law in Virginia is most lenient in allowing citizen to own guns and stipulates that any resident who is over 18-year-old and pass the criminal history investigation could purchase guns including the attack weapon. Besides, no gun ownership license is required if only one gun is purchased. However, what is the advantage of gun ownership over the situation of the reverse is that the holder can purchase more than one gun in one month and he doesn’t have to wait long for the arrival of the gun. The gun-related regulation is quite lax in Virginia State in that even the purchase of Ak-47 firearm and UZI mini firearm require no gun ownership license. Moreover, there are a variety of channels to acquire a gun, such as the gun show, advertising, newspaper. Underground transaction waste no time, require no background check and difficult for the police to track down the illegal transaction. Surveying the campus crime across the United States, it is found out that almost every campus crime finds the gun the ubiquitous accomplice. Teens say it’s easy to get guns. A nationwide survey about teenagers’ attitudes toward guns, conducted in 2003, found that: 39% teens said they know someone who has been shot; 37% of teenagers could get a handgun “if I really wanted to” and 27% know of a handgun kept in their house, apartment or car. Proliferation of weapons, as well as their availability and use, influences both the frequency and seriousness of campus violence and crime. Because of the lethality of guns, especially newer higher caliber32 and automatic weapons, when guns are available, violent incidents are more likely to end in death than when guns are not available (Franklin Zimring, 1991). In 1992, for example, 5,262 young people (ages between five and nineteen years) died from gunshot wounds, according to the estimation by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. It is arguable that people would not die from gun shot wounds if guns were not available. Because of the lethality of guns, especially newer higher caliber and automatic weapons, when guns are available, violent incidents are more likely to end in death than when guns are not available. As a result, the mass production and distribution of handguns should not be tolerated so as to curb gun violence created in streets and on campus.
In this chapter we have looked into the social factors that have given rise to campus violence in the U.S. The origins of violence appear to lie in a complex set of influence. No single factor can provide the definitive answer to the question of why students commit violence. In the light of the social learning theory, the social and cultural environment where a person is exposed to plays an influencing part in a person's behavior. Apparently, the violence cult of America constitutes the fundamental cause of American campus violence. While gun ownership can be directly responsible for violence on the American campus, the gun-related popular culture creates a pernicious atmosphere where the youngsters learn violence through modeling and imitation. By the same token, social factors such as racism, sexism and religious conflicts also contribute to campus violence, in both an explicitly and implicitly fashion.33 Chapter Three The Intractable Nature of Campus
For decades in the past, great efforts have been taken by federal governments and campus authority to come up with a variety of measures or strategies to either prevent or reduce the level of campus violence. The zero tolerance policy is one example in point and it sends to students the message that violence will not be tolerated in school and student must fear the consequences that may befall them if they do “act out.” Besides, the campus authority has formulated a wide range of campus violence prevention programs, such as the peer mediation, pro-social, and peace-oriented programs; such psychosocial and psycho-educational programs as counseling, teaching, coaching, and training; threat assessment & crisis response strategies, and discipline policies. Apart from violence prevention programs and strategies, the campus is equipped with technological apparatus such as surveillance cameras and metal detectors to assure security.
However, no evidence proves, as demonstrated in Chapter One, that such adverse trend has been checked thus far, or is likely to be in the near future. The underlying reason for such a failure, as I understand, lies in that the roots of violence are too deeply entwined in American culture and mind to be eradicated once and for all. In this chapter, the thesis will explore these very deep-rooted forces, which make the campus violence disease determinedly intractable. These forces can be examined from three aspects: cultural, political and social.
3.1 Cultural Legacy: Radical Individualism
Although campus authority has taken much more efforts to curtail and prevent violence ever since the severity of the issue is aware of, the ills of campus violence is not to be eliminated in a foreseeable time, for many factors contribute to campus violence. Analogy can be made that a tree won’t die just because one of its trunks is34 plucked off so that it can’t go on with photosynthesis. Apart from racism, sexism, and religious conflict rampant in American society, the radical individualism accounts for the invasive violence on campus.
At the onset of American history, the American was infatuated with rugged individualism, which was most assertive on the Western frontier. There was the myth that believed in Western lawlessness and violence, and that the West was a place of self-discovery and freedom from social restraint. The frontier mentality continues into the contemporary times and is embedded deeply in the American psyche. It's pervasive in every form of popular entertainment, from sports to TV to comic books. How many times has the lone hero, a James Bond or Luke Skywalker, defeated the forces of evil against insurmountable odds? Nevertheless, although individualism conjures up heroism and believes in the virtues of self-reliance and personal independence, it leads to excessive freedom, anarchism and individual pursuit over the interests of the state or social group. Juan Gonzalez remarked about how the excessive freedom was manifested in America as well as the justification for the excessive freedom as follows:
To a large degree the culture of the United States is that this is a people destined to do great things. So if you occasionally have to take somebody’s land or exterminate a population, it was God’s will (Juan Gonzalez, 2001). If the hero wasn’t a singing or shooting cowboy, he was an analog in a related field. The cop, the detective, the secret agent, the soldier, the pilot, the spaceman, the adventurer, even the gangster—all were variations on the gunslinger. The American icon wasn’t a kind grandfather, an enterprising merchant, a patient farmer, or—heaven forbid—a prim schoolmarm. Like John Wayne, he was the brave and bold man of few words but much action.
The freedom is longitudinally and latitudinally so lax that this freedom has been abused and as a result, there are racist actions, homophobia, Islamic-phobia, and35 anti-Semitism emerging on campus and this opposition or aversion takes on extreme forms to let out in some violent manners. One famous scholar has said that, “Violence is the dark reverse of its coin of freedom and abundance” (Courtwright, 1996; Herbert, 1999) and this shed an insight into the relationship between excessive freedom and violence.
The self-centered, inward-turning individualism causes the atomized society and the disintegration of social networks. Foreign scholar had also pointed out that disturbing hyper-individualism was at the root of the U.S. violence and America’s excessive individualism had led to the lessening of social networks. Roberto DaMatta said as follows:
Instead of socioeconomic deprivation, these crimes occur in the richest society on the planet have a lot to do with the fragmentation and pulverization of social relations in the American world, in which people follow schedules and live in bubbles, communicating little, even with relatives. In a society of individuals, confrontations are daily, and the solitude is immense (Roberto DaMatta, 1999).
The stereotype of the individual as solitary gunslinger and society as a hostile frontier is recurrent on minds. U.S. culture encourages the “ideological illusion that we are each of us an autonomous unit capable of living like Robinson Crusoe, without a society” (Roberto DaMatta, 1999). Even seemingly political acts of violence in the United States—such as the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City and the August shootings at a Jewish day camp in Granada Hills--tend to be committed by one or two people with loose ties to a marginal extremist ideology. As a result, the American individualism breeds too much freedom for individuals, resulting in self-centered, inward-looking, irresponsible qualities featuring the American. The extreme individualism causes the disintegration of social network, including that of the family, friends and acquaintance. The general breakdown of relations between people in turn leads to social isolation, frustration, and aggression.36 3.2 Political Clout: Pro-Gun Interest Group
Although the danger of easy access to gun and popular gun ownership is fully realized, it remains hard to put an end to the gun ownership. Debate about whether to put an end to the citizenry access to gun last long and on one hand, the pro-gun contend that the existence of gun could to some extend deter the violence happening in campus and protect oneself, otherwise, the victimization degree would be much greater in face of a murderer who has the assistance of gun. Besides, the gun interest group constitutes a strong force in holding back the gun restriction petition. As the largest leading gun interest group, NRA—National Rifle Association assumes the role of spokesman for the gun industry. Through lobbying and money sponsorship, it has turned many attacks on gun ownership to its advantage and thwarted a variety of motions of legalization of gun restriction. The NRA and other gun rights groups wield an enormous amount of influence in Washington. The source of that influence is money. Gun rights groups have given more than $17 million in individual, PAC and soft money contributions to federal candidates and party committees since 1989. The National Rifle Association is by far the gun rights lobby’s biggest donor, having contributed more than $14 million over the past 15 years. The political elite are too indebted to big business, and, in this case, NRA lobbyists, to expect radical changes in any legislation on gun purchase. For example, in 1999, Atlanta filed suit against fourteen manufacturers of handguns. Unfortunately, the NRA had financed many politicians in the state, including Georgia Governor Roy Barners, so legislators bedded with the NRA and other pro-gun groups. The state senate passed the first bill in the nation designed to block lawsuits against gun manufacturers, and the NRA expects to add another twenty-five to thirty states to its roster in the next year (Michael Firestone, 1999). Gun control advocates, meanwhile, contribute far less money than their rivals -a total of nearly $1.7 million since 1989. The National Rifle Association has an additional advantage over all other groups in the debate. As a membership organization, the NRA can spend unlimited funds on communications to its 4 million members that identify pro-gun candidates. Those members also37 contribute millions of dollars in limited donations to the NRA’s political action committee. Since 1989, the NRA has spent more than $22 million on communications costs and independent expenditures, with more than $18 million spent in support of Republican candidates.
Gun rights groups, led by the National Rifle Association, argue that limit ownership of gun to populace infringes on the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens. They maintain that bans on the sale of certain types of weapons have not proved effective in reducing violent crime, and that proposals for stricter background checks at gun shows are designed to eliminate gun shows themselves and the gun registration infringes upon the property rights and the second amendment. Some gun manufacturers have volunteered support for safety locks, but the NRA has criticized safety locks for placing an undue burden on gun manufacturers without a proven benefit to the public. Thanks to the power of the gun lobby, the gun industry also manufactures and markets the only widely available product for which there are no consumer product safety standards. Guns are specifically exempted from the CPSC’s jurisdiction.
While it may be utopian (and some would say, downright un-American) to hope that guns would be nonexistent in the United States, legislation that prohibits gun purchases by individuals with felony convictions has been determined effective in curbing violence. Criminal background checks now prevent handgun purchases by nearly 80,000 individuals each year. According to one research report, this decreases the likelihood of later criminal activity by 20 to 30 % (Mona Wright, Garen Wintemute, and Frederick Rivara, 1999: 1583-1589). A California law that preceded the Brady Bill, which required a waiting period and background check, reportedly prevented the sale of 11,000 handguns to convicted felons, including 71 convicted murderers in 1991-1992 (Zuckerman, 2003: 386). As a result, certain measures can be taken to curtail the sale and purchase of gun so as to prevent gun violence on campus as well as in American society. As criminologist Michael Tonry explained, “America38 has the highest rates of gun crime of any developed country…the problem lies not in underlying rates of crime but in underlying rates of gun ownership. The long-term solution lies not in sentencing policy, but in gun control policy”(1995: 201). 3.3 Social Institution: Escalated Social Tension
Violence is the product of the tensions within a multiethnic, multiracial, multicultural society continuously undergoing great social and economic change, and producing “different forms of violence with widely varying patterns of motivation, aggression, and victimization.” Moving toward a more tolerant and accepting America appears not to have taken hold as firmly as many had hoped. American society and the campus are also responding to that situation. Anti-Semitism sentiments run high and about 15% of Americans hold views about Jews that are unquestionably anti-Semitic. Racism has become institutionalized and covert. Racism is still one of the most pervasive social evils in the world. In fact, racism, as one of the most important and persistent social evils throughout the world today, is on the rise in manifold ways. Whether we are talking about ethnic cleansings, tribal conflicts, warring factions, group hatred, subtle discrimination, or retraction of equity laws under the guise of fairness, it is racism that prevails and exudes. The White American threatened by a perceived loss of power, exercises social, economic, political, religious, and physical muscle against the non-white to retain privilege by restructuring for social advantage. Part of the problem is that attempts to eliminate racism have focused on surface differences of race, color, and biological supremacy. Such attempts do not get to the root of the problem, for there are still plenty of the deep-level value and belief systems that undergird racism, but American society and the media don’t overtly ignore it or embrace it. Sexism on the other hand in its overt forms is still more socially acceptable. People don’t yet have the same kind of universal social agreement that calling women bitches, whores, c***s, or saying that they just “get like that” or how we wouldn't want a “moody, irrational woman” in positions of power, or saying that a woman’s place is in the home raising kids, or that39 a woman should be confined to certain roles or certain places - is unacceptable. These things are still much, much more acceptable in society and in the media. Sexism hasn’t evolved as far as racism has, where it makes the transition “underground” into the subtext of our society while we pat ourselves on the back for “overcoming racism” because it is not right to be overtly racists on television anymore, even while institutionally, racism continues to be a dire problem. As a multicultural society that is ethnically, racially, sexually and economically diverse, America often than not finds itself embroiled into conflict throughout the public sphere of American society, and America will find violence still creep around.40
Campus for many years is viewed as idyllic, peaceful, serene, and separated from the violence in society. But evidence makes clear that the notion of campus as a crime-free oasis is a myth. Not only does crime affect colleges, in some respects America’s universities have become fertile ground for criminal behaviors. With recent steady deterioration and increase in the severity of this issue, campus violence has attracted more and more scholars, school administrative staff, parents as well as the federal government to address the huge and tricky problem. This thesis is a tentative effort to probe into the nature and root causes of campus violence in the USA, examining and analyzing it from the perspective of the social learning theory. As a working definition for this research, this thesis defines violence on campus setting from an inclusive and integrated point of view, including not only the violence that causes visible physical harms but also the invisible psychological or emotional trauma. Based on such expanded definition, the thesis categorizes campus violence as vandalistic behaviors, bullying, sexual violence, hate violence and mass shooting as the typical violence on campus. The expanded definition and the typology of campus violence lead to a multilevel causal analysis and take account of a full