The Scarlet Letter. The Crucible. So You've Been Publicly Shamed. All of these books capture the dynamics of groups ostracizing and punishing those who fail to conform to a group's ideology. In colleges and universities throughout the country, students are reenacting their own versions of these tales in a practice known as hostile solidarity.
Students may call out or boycott a professor on the basis of disagreeing with an action, comment, or belief. These public shamings often stem from students believing they are standing up for a cause or somehow making a difference. In many cases, any form of disagreement may result in the mob then turning on that person.
Little regard is paid to the long-term consequences of their actions or nuance. A faculty, staff member, or another student who finds themselves a target for hostile solidarity, does not risk being ostracized and publicly shamed as well as having their academic or professional career and reputation derailed.
Belonging and Punitive Measures
A recent article highlights the sociological and psychological underpinnings of hostile solidarity. Social media has made it easier to call out those with whom people disagree. Most people now carry around a camera, able to record any moment or event and post it online. They may edit a video to take a conversation or joke out of context.
Others will then join in the calls for punishment. Society's desire for punitive action, to see the “bad guy” gets his just desserts, harkens back to John Wayne and a desire for a clear line between “good” and “bad.”
Joining in these mobs allows individuals to feel part of a community. This can especially be the case for college students, who are often on their own for the first time and in a new environment. Eager to belong and still develop their emotional and intellectual maturity, students demanding the removal or censure of a faculty member can create a sense of belonging and gain a sense of accomplishment from punishing others.
Don't Rely On the Administration
College and university administrators often side with students. This is partially out of fear of having the mob turn on them. It may also be out of concern of being called out as being out of touch or enabling an unsafe or hostile campus environment.
Social media can twist a few facts and misrepresent a situation. A clever headline can distort events, especially if people don't read beyond the headline or a Tweet. Attempting to explain may make a situation worse or a refusal to believe your version of events. University administrators may be more concerned about ending bad press than protesting a faculty or staff member. They may reply before understanding the entirety of events.
Build Your Own Team
Cooler heads do not always prevail when a mob trains its focus on an individual. People have had their personal lives, reputations, and careers destroyed in the name of punitive punishment and the mob mentality. If you're being shamed or ostracized at your school with demands for suspension or termination of your employment, Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm can help. Contact us at 888.535.3686 or online.